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"What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist." -Salman Rushdie
"If you’re offended, it’s your problem." -Salman Rushdie
I met Salman Rushdie once. It was nearly 20 years ago. He had emerged from hiding, but there were still all sorts of security precautions. I remember being surprised at how short he was, because he was such a towering figure in my mind’s eye.
Salman Rushdie was, and is, and always will be, an embodiment of free speech. If you do not support Rushdie, then you do not support free speech. Period.
Bari Weiss has written a must-read essay detailing some of the attacks on those who dared to publish, sell, distribute, and translate “The Satanic Verses." All those who died in these attacks (and there were many) were martyrs for free speech.
These martyrs did not put their lives at risk to defend “The Satanic Verses,” they did it to defend freedom.
They knew that by protecting Rushdie’s freedom, they were protecting everybody’s freedom.
As Rushdie himself has explained:
“Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself."
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Here are some other Rushdie quotes:
“One of the problems with defending free speech is you often have to defend people that you find to be outrageous and unpleasant and disgusting.”
"If somebody's trying to shut you up, sing louder, and if possible, better."
“I don't dictate to anyone what to believe and what not to. And I don't want that to be dictated to me either."
Here is one final quote, one that I have ben thinking about for the past couple of years, long before the recent attack on Rushdie:
“The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it's a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible."
“The Science” is a secular ideology. Because of “The Science” a discrete set of ideas have been declared to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt by powerful members of the government, the media, and Public Health.
They have said that “The Science” is a sacred idea system. The ideas that they have thereby tried to immunize include the claims that lockdowns were the only option, that school shutdowns were necessary, that mask mandates save lives, and that the unvaccinated endanger the health of others.
These powerful members of the government, the media, and Public Health want to make freedom of thought impossible. We cannot let them get away with it.
The brutal attack on Salman Rushdie should serve as a reminder of what the stakes are.
There is no freedom without free speech.