Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Can the West Stand Up for Free Speech?

False moral equivalence and blatant cowardice threaten our tradition of free expression.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

 

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

20 Thoughts on “Can the West Stand Up for Free Speech?

  1. Ed Murphy on January 15, 2015 at 9:45 am said:

    Restriction of speech is a key component of the leftist agenda. Otherwise, critics can easily expose the left’s incessant lying. So, only a fool looks to the left side of the political spectrum to join the charge to defend free speech. Given also that the cowardly left never takes on a foe that may physically harm them, they’d surrender to radical Islam rather than fight for an America they largely detest.

    • Michael Fine on January 16, 2015 at 6:16 pm said:

      I second your excellent remarks. Examples of this illiberal liberal behavior are seen clearly on our campuses. i.e. the disgraceful treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali by Brandeis or the shouting down of conservative speakers such as Anne Coulter or Michelle Malkin. The irony is inevitably lost on these “liberal” totalitarians.

  2. WERFREE on January 15, 2015 at 12:01 pm said:

    ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men…’

    Appears to me we are on a wave of autocracy violently crashing around in civil discourse. It behooves the West to pay attention to the grave danger it presents for its future ordering of its free peoples and institutions.

    If the West goes to sleep on this we have ourselves to blame for not speaking up and confronting the threat which is legitimate to democratic societies. There is no such thing to ‘dream’ on this perhaps so that it will ‘go away’ or melt into nothngness or such. Really that’s surely the way of nightmares.

  3. Interesting discussion. I have listened to the interviews with Bill Donohue. My take away was that he was condemning the violence, and was offering a explanation as to “why” the response. May I use an example. For instance: If a white person(or anyone for that matter) walked into a bar, filled with only black men or women, and starting yelling insults of “the N word, “jungle monkeys” or other such insults, he/she should not be “appalled” if someone hit him/she over the head with a beer bottle, or a well placed punch in the nose. Such a blow with a beer bottle can kill you. Even the most naive “free speech” advocate might observe,” well he/she asked for it” and not be appalled. To paraphrase and modify an old adage, “sticks and stones may break your bones, and sometimes words can hurt you”. Note that the publication was one of many satires to many groups, and whose “sole” purpose was to “sell” magazines, not to correct some social “injustice”, but to exploit peoples prejudices.

    • empiricist on January 15, 2015 at 2:28 pm said:

      I suppose if the editors of a satirical magazine decided to publish their musings on radical Islam and hawk them in downtown Tehran then you might have a point. But they didn’t and you don’t.

    • Let’s enlarge, rather than make puny, the discussion.

      Imagine a free state of America, with concealed carry allowed in this bar, say for example: Nevada. Said white gentleman is playing poker with said black gentleman. Both are armed, carrying concealed.

      White man calls black man by the “N” word. Black man calls the white man a “Cracker.” They can both shoot each other, but instead they play poker.

      What has happened here? The West has won, Western values, Western precepts, Western Tragic View.

      Both men, for a moment in time, became somewhat uncivil, a bad thing for society. However, by each’s mutual respect for each other’s God-granted power of self-defense, they restrained further insults.

      At the high end of understanding, Liberty is pledging mutual allegiance to self-restraint. Liberty is also believing God grants full Natural Rights to the individual, and it includes free speech and self-defence arming outside and inside the home. A dumbed society robbed of arms, is also robbed of self-restraint and manners. An armed society is a polite society. A society that’s civil is civil because there is good reason.

  4. cause1 on January 15, 2015 at 1:13 pm said:

    The Peisistratid and Chief ever vigilant to usher in Energy Serfdom, Universal Poverty and National Discontent will undoubtedly secure all speech and expression discomforting to the enemy. The Collective derives it power from the threat and use of violence.

  5. Free Speech is not the virtue to defend. Truth is.

  6. TheTooner on January 15, 2015 at 3:27 pm said:

    Can the West stand up for free speech? Yes, certainly it can. Will it do so? Perhaps, but on that I will bet no more than I can afford to lose, and it will depend on the bookmakers offering odds in my favour. I think most of us are still too comfortably insulated from the threat to make the necessary change to our mindset. As terrible as some of these events are, I really fear that it is too gradual and people can become accustomed to things. I hope things get spectacularly bad really quickly because I think we need the shock.

  7. Here is a thought experiment. Newsweek renames itself “Newsweek and Concealed Carry.” It could mock a certain religion, and have less fear doing so. Because all of its staff would be carrying concealed arms, with lots of 14-20 round magazines, naturally. Yes, Naturally, because self-defense against Jihadists so requires.

    The Grey Lady renames herself the “New York Times and Concealed Carry.” It could be impartial regarding Islamic shenanigans, since if it was true to its name, its new name, it could have answers that go bang under siege of Jihadists, or any other forms of “running amok” circa 1770, James Cook, explorer & explainer.

    After a decade of spine-stiffening that keeping guns warm provide, Newsweek and the NYT could give themselves new monikers: “Newsweek and the Tragic View” and the “New York Times and the Tragic View.”

    After another decade of that, the magazines could go back to simply “Newsweek” and the “New York Times,” except they would now be restored unto sanity and keeping the “whole package” of the Western Flame lit.

  8. Steve camp on January 16, 2015 at 8:50 am said:

    Islam is being by-passed… Who wants what they have? No one. They want everyone to submit to them… Sad as our leader is a Islamic Terrorist sympathizer, and much of the world is watching…

  9. Joe D'Agostino on January 16, 2015 at 9:40 am said:

    Another disappointing column that takes a contemporary event and translates it into another opportunity to beat a dead horse. How much longer will you waste your time criticizing the President?

    I was hoping that you might discuss how lucky we are in the West to have developed a community that can criticize religion openly. I thought you might understand that graphic portrayal of a holy symbol might translate to something like child pornography. Freedom of speech and expression is precious but not simple. As we use community standards to restrict distribution of pornography, perhaps it makes sense to restrict distribution of images that are similarly offensive to communities in those communities.

  10. David Park on January 16, 2015 at 10:35 am said:

    Rabid political correctness in the U.S. and Europe is Ebola to free speech. It equates merely offending someone with actually killing them. The infection isn’t being staunched even now.

  11. Rocco Pirro on January 17, 2015 at 10:13 am said:

    Political correctness is nothing more than censorship. Orwell’s word for PC was “newspeak”.

  12. John Lewis on January 17, 2015 at 5:52 pm said:

    Freedom of speech is a fundamental right. It is the main guarantee of the other rights.

    However, that is only part of it, and even Mark Steyn has not really got into the other and very important reason. Free speech is important if good decisions are to be reached. Many heads are usually better than one. There are a few (Bismarck, perhaps) who can think about public affairs in such a profound way that they need no counsel. These are few indeed.

    The second reason is that a decision reached after public discussion carries with it the conviction that it is supported by many. In short, it is probably a sound decision and is seen to be sound.

    The suppression of discussion about climate by the main stream media is a casebook in the evil consequences of lack of free speech. Many feel that governments are basing their policies, their regulations, and their expenditures on corrupt practices (CRUgate etc.) and wilful misinformation. The results are expensive and harmful (supposedly many Britons who can’t afford the high fuel costs imposed by the UK governments died in previous winters and will die this winter; the toll on “protected” species of bird and bat from wind turbines is
    impressive; etc.).

    Now it well may be that the warming believers are right; as David Goldman wrote, “climate is a complicated matter on which honest men may disagree.” But many think that they (including BarackObama) are wrong, and that they are doing us all much harm.

    Indeed, confidence in the scientific establishment has largely been corrupted and destroyed by the way in which “global warming” has been promoted. It can be predicted that that will have evil consequences, in times to come.

  13. James in Perth on January 19, 2015 at 8:53 am said:

    I find the criticism of Bill Donahue misplaced as well. Charlie Hebdo sought to offend Muslims and succeeded. It is not surprising to me that there are a sizable number of fundamentalist Islamists that are willing to die to defend the honor of their prophet. So why was Charlie Hebdo surprised?

  14. “Islam wins no special exemption.” I am sure you can see why I have highlighted this quotation. Muslims quite rightly think we are hypocrites.

  15. jason taylor on June 7, 2015 at 8:36 pm said:

    If they think insulting Mohammad is worth killing over surely one of them should give challenge and see if he cares enough to risk his own life for it. Oh dueling is barbaric, and illegal, not to mention anachronistic? Well so is assassination.

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