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ABC News George Stephanopoulos: Flemming Rose about free speech

“In my view there are two possible responses to a free speech challenge that maintain the principle of equality before the law. The first option would avoid any possible offense by equally protecting the right “not to be offended” for all groups: if you respect my taboos, I’ll respect yours. If one group is to be protected from emotional violation, then all groups must be. If it is against the law to deny the existence of the Holocaust or the crimes committed in the name of Communism, then it should also be forbidden to publish drawings of the Muslim prophet. But this thinking quickly spirals out of control—in such a world not much could be said at all.
The other response is to say that in a democracy no one can claim the right not to be offended. Because we are as different as we are, the challenge then becomes to work out a minimum limitation on freedom of speech, only making restrictions which are absolutely necessary in order for us to live together in peace. It would seem logical to suggest that a more diverse society should be allowed greater freedom of expression than a homogeneous one; however, the opposite is a widely spread conviction. This is where the tyranny of silence lurks. Faced with growing diversity, Europe has recently tended to increase restrictions on the freedom of expression; the majority of laws criminalizing the denial of the Holocaust have been passed since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. The United States, with its tradition of upholding absolute freedom of expression, stands more and more alone on this issue. In my opinion Europe should learn from our friends on the other side of the Atlantic.”
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ABC News George Stephanopoulos: Excerpt: ‘The Tyranny of Silence’ by Flemming Rose

“...If we believe in equality, it seems there are two available responses to threats against freedom of speech. One option is, basically, “If you accept my taboos, I’ll accept yours.” If one group wants protection against insult, then all groups should be so protected. If denying the Holocaust or the crimes of communism is against the law, then publishing cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet should also be forbidden. Butthat option can quickly spiral out of control: before we know it, hardly anything may be said.
The second option is to say that in a democracy, there is no “right not to be offended.” Since we are all different, the challenge is then to formulate minimum constraints on freedom of speech that will allow us to coexist in peace. A society comprising many different cultures should have greater freedom of expression than a society that is significantly more homogenous. That premise seems obvious to me, yet the opposite conviction is widely held, and that is where the tyranny of silence lurks. At present, the tendency in Europe is to deal with increasing diversity by constraining freedom of speech, whereas the United States maintains a long tradition of leading off in the other direction. Following the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, many European countries have outlawed Holocaust denial, for example, and it appears that the United States will increasingly stand alone with its tradition of upholding near-absolute freedom of expression on that issue.”
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