Free Speech

Inspired by Mr. Hiteshew’s waving Danish flag, let me also add this ancient Latin tag to our deliberations:

Ruat cúlum, fiat voluntas tua

This may be freely translated as “may the right be done, though the sky should fall.” Free speech, is an absolute and non-negotiable principle in a free society. It is at the foundation of our civilization and all that is of value in our civilization.

Let us be blunt about what the assertion of this principle may mean. If in this instance free speech should lead to a war of civilizations, I say, bring it on. Better that, sooner rather than later, and all its consequences. We should never, ever, sacrifice our freedom for expediency, least of all in the face of threats, from anyone. And if they deliver on their threats, the worst they can do is kill some of us. So be it. By the way, I am typing this overlooking the grand skyline of downtown Chicago on a cloudy Sunday. If certain of our enemies get a nuclear weapon they are certain to use it, and I am sitting at one of a few potential “ground zeros”. So be it. Free people die but once, slaves die every day. And, anyway, in a true contest of arms, those who believe in freedom will prevail. At great cost, perhaps, but prevail they will.

Let the sky fall.

Liberty or death.

Fortunately, we’ve got some good law on point:

… a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest. There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups.

Terminiello v. City of Chicago, 337 U.S. 1, 4 (1949) (speaker was improperly arrested to prevent disturbance by crowd of approximately 1000 protesters) (From this site.)

6 thoughts on “Free Speech”

  1. Just to be pedantic, what you’re looking for is fiat iustitia, ruat caelum.

    (Your fiat is the Bibical “Let it be done according to your will,” which fits oddly into the quote whether or not the “your” is assumed to be God.)

  2. Craig, pedantic readers are the glory of this blog. Yes, you are probably right that the later, non-theocentric version is more apt. But, let it stand.

  3. Flags are funny symbols. Just this weekend people came into my yard, took down the flag I was flying, and carried it off. Free speech and private property mean little to some people–bloody shame, really.

  4. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Muslim fundamentalists are attacking free speech. Their goal is for the West to censor itself. We are in an ideological war and self-censorship amounts to unilateral disarmament.

    If Islam is beyond debate, the terrorists, extremmists and fundamentalist gain the upper hand. The obvious purpose of the cartoon jihad is undermine free speech, rather than express outrage over a supposed offense.

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