The Strangeness of Free Speech

The Strangeness of Free Speech

To pursue a steady commitment to freedom of speech is a difficult choice. It entails a suppression of the desire to silence or somehow restrict the opinions of people with whom you disagree, a decision to allow their speech in spite of your disagreement, and in spite of the evil effects which may come from their exercise of the freedom. Self-sacrifice, it has been said, enables us to sacrifice others without blushing, and those who are for restricting speech certainly have this kind of consistency: the pleasure they ask others to give up, they mean to give up themselves. But it is hard to imagine anyone who ever felt the impulse and used the chance to speak his mind or to speak her mind could feel that this was merely a negotiable pleasure. To have known what free speech is, not lazily but vividly, for oneself, with the urgency of a practical need, is to see it as a necessity. Many kinds of people have felt this necessity, and some generalizations about them are possible.

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Lima