Thursday, July 7, 2016

J.K. Rowling Laudably Defends Free Speech On Principle

It's rare but refreshing to hear a prominent person defend free speech on principle. But that is what Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling did. In the face of rampaging pseudo censorship-by-“political correctness,” Rowling said at the Pen Literary Awards Gala in New York City:

I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But, he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there.

His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine.

Unless we take that absolute position without caveats or apologies, we have set foot upon a road with only one destination.

If my offended feelings can justify a travel ban on Donald Trump, I have no moral grounds upon which to argue that those offended by feminism, or the fight for transgender rights, or universal suffrage, should not oppress campaigners for those cause.

If you seek the removal of freedom from an opponent simply because they have offended you, you have crossed the line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture and kill with exactly the same justification.

I don’t know Rowling’s political leanings, and I don’t support Donald Trump. But she is spot on here. Enemies of liberty always exploit the most objectionable examples of the exercise of a right as a wedge to establish anti-rights precedents. The principle usually attributed to Voltaire applies: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”

The question is, is Rowling consistent? For example, the same argument she uses to defend Trump’s right to spew offensive speech applies also to freedom of association as it relates to anti-discrimination laws targeted at private citizens and businesses. Every fundamental right, including rights to freedom of religion and conscience, the press, association, and property, requires an “absolute position without caveats or apologies,” within the context of the universal inalienability of political rights; i.e., so long as one’s actions don’t violate the same rights of others. In other words, the original American system, which gave rise to laissez-faire capitalism.

Related Reading:

Protecting Rights vs. Sanctioning Action

Related Listening:

Yaron Brook on Censoring Offensive Speech

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