Then They Came For Free Speech

Free speech is fine, as long as no one is offended.

Jack Engelhard,

OpEds Jack Engelhard
Jack Engelhard
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The forces of suppression are at it again. They keep coming. The fight for free speech is a fight without end.

Opponents to liberty never rest. They will always be with us, those who seek to muzzle our thoughts and opinions.

They favor complete freedom of expression, they say, unless it offends. 

This means that they do not favor free speech. They are simply embarrassed to say so. They stutter, they sputter. They equivocate.

Yes, they say, we love the First Amendment and we respect and support these liberties, BUT!

Their tongues get all twisted up as they make the case for one, but then the other.

Their warped arguments put them on the side of censorship and tyranny.

Their dithering connects them not to Jefferson ("Our liberty cannot be guarded except by the freedom of the press”) but to Stalin. Boris Pasternak’s “Dr. Zhivago” was banned in Russia. Other bold voices in the Soviet Union were forced to whisper through the under-the-table clandestine format Samizdat. Is this coming?

Book banning is book burning and any wishy-washy defense of freedom of expression is still an Inquisition.  


The Quislings spoke up. Better to hush up, they said. Cherish your liberties but fear the mobs. The mobs are given carte blanche to be violently sensitive.
The right to be offended extends not to all. Christians did not take to the streets when Jesus was mocked. Jews did not riot when the Hollywood movie “Meet the Fockers” depicted a dog named Moses. Jews did not stampede when in the same movie this dog named Moses was flushed down a toilet.

An offensive anti-Jewish display in Israel provoked only a request – not a demand – to take it down. Yes, both sides have the right to express an opinion.

This is not complicated. We have the right to speak our minds or we don’t. Britain’s leading novelist Martin Amis is still being asked to apologize for heated remarks he made after an Islamist attack on the London Underground took the lives of 52 civilians and left 700 wounded in 2005. Amis reportedly favored deportation, adding: “The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.”  

Why apologize (as reportedly he has done). In a moment of anguish, has he no right to spill his guts and have we no rights to express our pain at the injustice of it all?

Soon after part of the world gathered in Paris to insist on unalienable rights, another part of the world answered with doubts and objections.

The Quislings spoke up. Better to hush up, they said. Cherish your liberties but fear the mobs. The mobs are given carte blanche to be violently sensitive.

We thought we won the war after a series of landmark rulings. D.H. Lawrence was tested. James Joyce was tested. Henry Miller was tested.

After grueling court trials, their books were finally free to be published and read. But then it starts all over again. Here they come to shut us up.

I can testify to this personally about a book that American publishers tried (but finally failed) to hush up because it was “too strong” and “too far ahead of its time” and might offend. (Even the bestselling novel “Indecent Proposal” had to jump through hoops for being “too pro-Israel.” Hollywood washed all that out.)

Salman Rushdie faced censorship of a similar kind.

Rushdie faced the censorship of Jihad, the same Jihad against free speech we face this terrible moment amid times that demand our surrender. 

We have two ways to go. One road leads down the darkened path of tyranny. The other road glitters from King David’s Lamp for our Paths.

Jack Engelhard writes a regular column for Arutz Sheva. The new thriller from the New York-based novelist, The Bathsheba Deadline, a heroic editor’s singlehanded war on terror and against media bias. Engelhard wrote the int’l bestseller Indecent Proposal that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. Website: www.jackengelhard.com




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