“Free speech is being challenged by two fundamental processes that are a fact of life in a globalized world.
The first thing is globalization, the fact that people move across borders in numbers never before seen in the history of mankind, and it makes every society more diverse in terms of culture, ethnicity, and religion.
The other factor has to do with communication technology and the internet. Everything is being seen everywhere when it’s published.
People may be offended by what their co-citizens are saying, and there are basically two ways to solve this challenge. One way is to say if you respect my taboo, I’ll respect yours. If you do not criticize my religion, I will not criticize your religion. If you do not criticize my ideology, I will not criticize your ideology.
I believe that that will lead to a tyranny of silence.
The other way is to ask ourselves what are the minimal limitations on speech in order to be able live together in peace and enjoy that very fundamental right. And I believe that the only limitation we need on speech is incitement to violence; we should not be allowed to call for the killing of other people. But the price we have to pay for living in a democracy is that from time to time people may say something that we find offensive.
You have many rights in a democracy — a right to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and so on and so forth — but the only right you should not have is a right not to be offended.”
From the Cato Institute’s series “Why Liberty”: Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published the infamous Muhammad cartoons in 2005. He is also the author of the new book The Tyranny of Silence.
- Louis Brandeis reflects on how central free speech was to the American founding
- Salman Rushdie argues that it’s alright to be offended
- Neil Gaiman asks a simple question, Why defend the free speech of others?