Recently Steve Simpson, Director of Legal Studies at the Ayn Rand Institute, gave a talk at Clemson University about free speech and the threats to it. He discusses not only the obvious attacks on free speech such as the attack on Charlie Hebdo but the less obvious, and to my mind more dangerous, threat posed by the failure to properly defend free speech in the wake of such attacks.
He brings special attention to what those that Salman Rushdie calls the “but brigade,” those people who say that yes free speech is good, but there should be limits, we shouldn’t offend people and etc. He makes a good case for the fact that any new knowledge or ideas will certainly offend somebody and we must have the freedom to do that.
If we are actually going to follow reason where it leads, if we are going to pursue knowledge and truth we have to be prepared to offend other people. Indeed, if we are not prepared to offend people, we’ll ultimately be bounded by the thin skin of others, by the emotions of others. And necessarily we essentially hand a veto to anybody who is willing to be offended by what we think, what knowledge we want to pursue.
This issue was brought even more to home with the attack in Garland, TX at the location of the Draw Mohammed contest. (It should be noted that the same location hosted a “Stand With the Prophet” event earlier this year with no such incidents.) It will be interesting to see what the response is to this attack though I have already heard various news reports that the organizers of the event are “anti-Islamic.” Onkar Ghate on The Yaron Brook Show pointed out that The Daily Mail in their coverage of the incident blacked out the images of the cartoons from the event but did not hesitate to show images of the organizers and participants.