Great article, but I have to say I have some reservations about these lines:
If People are Not Responsible for What They Believe, Then We Need to Rethink Freedom of Speech. […] The problem with freedom of speech is that it permits people to lie and misinform, and when this is done to entire populations, countries can be destroyed.
I think we have to view free-speech rights as involving a trade-off: yes, sometimes we’ll be exposed to hideous and even harmful ideas, but that is still a worthy price to pay for freedom, for not subjecting ourselves to the tyranny of being able to express only “approved” opinions. Leaving aside that no one (certainly not the masses) has the wisdom required to unfailingly determine which ideas are good and which ones bad, I think that limiting freedom of speech is more detrimental to society than being exposed to bad ideas, however terrible and influential they may be (even if we magically had the wisdom to always know which ideas are good).
For that reason, I don’t agree with many of the European restrictions on free speech. As an example, I find this 2018 European Court ruling limiting criticisms of the Prophet Muhammad wholly misguided, to put it mildly…
Maybe it’s become a bit of a cliché to quote this phrase misattributed to Voltaire when defending free speech, but I couldn’t agree more with it, so I’ll quote it anyway: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
There’s also the benefit of learning what people really think. How can we combat bad ideas if they’re not allowed to see the light?
The biologist Jerry Coyne expressed this very well here:
You must allow all speech, however odious and hateful, unless it makes violence happen immediately thereafter, and in a predictable and specific way. […] But why allow people to call for the extermination of others at all? My response would be that it accomplishes several things. First, it outs one’s opponents rather than having this kind of hatred fester underground. Second, it can inspire discussion. For example, if someone says in a speech, “We should exterminate all the Jews” (this is indeed illegal in several Western countries), then you can ask them “Why?” and answer with counterspeech. If no violence occurs from the statement, then one has a potentially teachable moment.