Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Powerful words...

“I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Evelyn Beatrice Hall (S. G. Tallentyre), The Friends of Voltaire.

I believe the phrase above is what we should feel about freedom of speech (the concept of being able to speak freely without censorship). This freedom is important because
  1. Free speech promotes the free flow of ideas essential to political democracy and democratic institutions and limits the ability of the state to subvert other rights and freedoms
  2. It promotes a marketplace of ideas, which includes (but is not limited to) the search for truth
  3. It is intrinsically valuable as part of the self-actualization of speakers and listeners
  4. It is justified by the dangers for good government of allowing its suppression
But freedom of speech means allowing people to say things you don't like to hear. Everybody, including Hitler and Stalin (and probably Satan too), allow people to say things they want to hear. If you're in favor of freedom of speech, that means you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. In other words, if we don't believe in free expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.

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