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Today, content is increasingly the explicit justification for restricting speech.The argument used, especially in colleges, is that “words hurt.” Thus, universities, parliaments, courts and various international bodies intervene promiscuously to restrict hurtful or offensive speech—with the results described above.

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As legal restraints on obscenity fell away, however, freedom of political speech began to come under attack from a different kind of censor—college administrators, ethnic-grievance groups, gay and feminist advocates.While the principle of free speech cannot justify racism any more than it can disprove racism, it is the only principle that can allow us to judge whether or not particular speech is racist.Thus the censor’s argument should be reversed: “Accusations of racism can never be an excuse for prohibiting free speech.” Meanwhile, the narrowly legal grounds for restricting speech changed, too.Yale University Press especially distinguished itself by publishing a major study of the controversy in 2009—without the actual drawings. and the European Union have entered into a dialogue in recent years with the 56 states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which is seeking an international law prohibiting blasphemy.Governments began to treat those threatened for their opinions almost as harshly as those attacking them. In 2006, Tony Blair’s government passed the Racial and Religious Hatred Act—a kind of “blasphemy lite” law—ostensibly designed to protect all religions against threatening expression but generally understood as intended to limit hostile criticism of Islam. In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the OIC that, while the First Amendment prevented the U. from prohibiting speech, the administration might still “use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming so that people don’t feel they have the support to do what we abhor.” Admittedly, it is difficult to draw a clear line between criticism of an Islamic belief and an attack on Muslims who believe it.Today, hurtful speech is more likely to be political speech than obscene speech. I recall, alas, making a very poor joke about literary deconstructionism. The literary, media and political worlds rallied in defense of Mr. He became a hero of free speech and a symbol—even if a slightly ambivalent postcolonial one—of Western liberal traditions.

My colleagues, though more sensible, were baffled and hesitant. But he also went, very sensibly, behind a curtain of security that was to last many years. Rushdie’s life but the lives of his publishers, editors and translators might be threatened—his base of support in the literary world thinned out.The right to be offended, which is the other side of free speech, is therefore a genuine right.True belief and honest doubt are both impossible without it.The Saturday Essay No Offense: The New Threats to Free Speech The U. and Britain have long considered themselves the standard-bearers for freedom of expression. We said most of the right things about defending freedom of thought and the imagination.Can this proud tradition survive the idea that ‘hurtful’ speech deserves no protection? 14, 1989, I happened to be on a panel on press freedom for the Columbia Journalism Review when someone in the audience told us of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s religious edict for blasphemy against the British novelist Salman Rushdie. But the death sentence from Iran’s supreme leader seemed unreal—the sending of a thunderbolt from medieval Qom against modern Bloomsbury—and we didn’t treat it with the seriousness that it deserved.Before the 1960s, arguments for censorship tended to focus on sexual morality, pornography and obscenity.