by Deborah Weiss and Andrew Harrod
….Rose stated that self-censorship in Europe has worsened since the Jyllands-Posten’s publication of the cartoons. Rose was confronted with numerous anti-free speech arguments. “Isn’t it hurting the religious feelings of people with deeply held beliefs?” “Isn’t it a smart business decision not to use language in newspapers that might offend readers?” “Isn’t is just good manners not to insult someone’s beliefs?” (paraphrasing) But Rose, without missing a beat, had an articulate and persuasive answer for each point. He insisted that the omission of language regarding Islam did not constitute simply a business decision, as all readers occasionally face offense. Nor did it stem from good manners, as the motivation was not to be polite. Rather, it was self-censorship based on fear and intimidation.
Rose ardently advocated for the equivalent of a worldwide First Amendment, arguing for a free marketplace of ideas including religious doctrine. “Religious feelings cannot demand special treatment” he proclaimed, noting that people might have other deeply held beliefs where they could claim equivalent offense.
European laws balance freedom of expression against other rights such as the right to privacy and the right not to be offended. Therefore, European countries have various laws prohibiting hate speech, religious denigration, and racism. However, “almost absolute” freedom of speech, with exceptions for incitement to violence and defamation of individuals, “makes America unique.” Free speech is “not a balancing test” against the so-called right not to be offended. Offensive speech is constitutionally protected if it’s true or mere opinion.
Rose aptly noted that hate speech restrictions have not reduced violence. Indeed, riots have always erupted in countries where hate speech, blasphemy laws and other speech restrictions exist, but have been violated. Proponents of hate speech laws claim that hate speech leads to violent acts, but there is no evidence to support their claims. In countries where freedom flourishes, offensive expression incites minimal violence.
Rose also noted a seeming paradox: where immigration rises causing an increase in diversity of race and religion, there’s a decrease in the diversity of ideas allowed expression.
When asked if he thought there is a proper role for government censorship, Rose answered with a resounding “no!” Rose noted that while Kurt Westergaard, cartoonist of Mohammad with a bomb in his turban, became victim of an assassination attempt, some believe he deserved his fate. And, the Netherlands’ Minister of Justice professed, “if we had hate speech laws, then Van Gogh would be alive today.” Rose thinks both of these positions are outrageous because they condemn speech while justifying the violence in response to it.
Rose explained that many people fail to distinguish between words and deeds. And, “America is becoming more isolated” as tyrannical countries tighten speech restrictions. While American laws allow freedom, increasingly the citizens are plagued with peer pressure and political correctness, pushing for self-censorship.
Yet, “the right not to be offended” is the only right Rose believes individuals should not have in a democracy. Freedom should be paramount.
Refusing to be silent in the face of Islamist intimidation, Rose exercises that freedom courageously and without qualms.