Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions that differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
It is an ancient truth that freedom cannot be legislated into existence, so it is no less obvious that freedom cannot be censored into existence. And any who act as if freedom’s defenses are found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America.
Ideas are indeed the most dangerous weapons in the world. Our ideas of freedom are the most powerful political weapons man has ever forged.
But our society — unlike most in the world — presupposes that freedom and liberty are in a frame of reference that makes the individual, not government, the keeper of his tastes, beliefs, and ideas; that is the philosophy of the First Amendment; and it is this article of faith that sets us apart from most nations in the world.
The history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable. To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, for whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views also deprives others of the right to listen to those views.
One of the most pathetic — and dangerous — signs of our times is the growing number of individuals and groups who believe that no one can possibly disagree with them for any honest reason.
It is a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own.
Printers are educated in the Belief, that when Men differ in Opinion, both sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Public; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter: Hence [printers] cheerfully serve all contending Writers that pay them well, without regarding on which side they are of the Question in Dispute.
The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.
Everybody is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.