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InsiderOnline Blog: September 2012

If Speech Is Never Supposed to Offend, Then It Isn’t Really Free

“The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” said the leader of the free world on Tuesday at the United Nations in a speech that was partly an attempt to explain why free speech is an important American value.

President Obama also said, in reference to the film The Innocence of Muslims, which the administration has variously claimed provoked a mob to attack the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on 9/11/12: “I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.”

The value of free speech, in case the leader of the free world doesn’t know it, is not that it’s the best way to make everyone feel good about himself. The value of free speech, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes explained, is that it’s the best way of discovering truth:

If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition […] But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas.

By suggesting that certain belief systems should be beyond criticism or that it’s anyone’s responsibility to reject certain movies, the President failed in his defense of free speech.

Posted on 09/26/12 05:11 PM by Alex Adrianson

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