Many Quotations on Free Speech and Truth

Many Quotations on Free Speech and Truth

  • Free speech is offensive speech.
  • Truth hurts — especially if it’s funny.
  • The reason men are silenced is not because they speak falsely, but because they speak the truth. This is because if men speak falsehoods, their own words can be used against them; while if they speak truly, there is nothing which can be used against them — except force.
  • A good writer should be both insightful and inciteful.
  • The best ideas are those alive with manly vigor, which rape each virgin mind and fill it with the seed of unborn thoughts.
  • You will know you have spoken the truth when you are angrily denounced; and you will know you have spoken both truly and well when you are visited by the police.
  • Things are interesting to the extent that they arouse controversy; and things which are the most interesting are those which are cursed and consigned to Hell.
  • Free speech is an act of desperation. It is a last resort, an onslaught of quiet fury, and — in most cases — an insult to, and abandonment of, vital social norms. Men who murder have usually lost their inhibitions only for a moment; but men who speak freely have lost them forever, and are thus as dangerous to a society as a mad dog.
  • To be taken seriously, you must first offend. If you do not, people will say, “Oh, he’s just like so-and-so, with perhaps a touch of such-and-such”, and forget about you entirely; while if you touch a raw nerve, you at least know that you are on the pathway to the brain. The point is, men will rarely think new thoughts without a jolt, and if you expect them to think the ones you have, then you must first crash your way into their consciousness.
  • Truth has no manners. It is no respecter of persons. It wounds kings as deeply as commoners. It cuts down the high, and confirms the lowness of the low. It may dress up for formal occasions, but it does so only in order that it may more shockingly expose itself in front of the assembled company. And just as it respects no one, likewise there are few who respect it. But those who do are granted many favors — power, understanding, dominion, and of course the honor of the unswerving hatred of the ignorant millions.
  • What I say may seem outrageous and outre, but my purpose is to push the envelope of discourse to its outer limits on the theory that freedom of speech, like both mind and body, requires vigorous exercise to remain healthy. Beyond this, the act of pushing the free speech envelope will embolden others to speak, and their acts of boldness reinforce the perception that free speech is tolerated, thereby increasing the probability that it will be. But as I embolden others to speak, so I embolden them to act; and in this way I help insure that free speech is more than a sounding gong or a tinkling symbol. Put another way, I hope to make the world safe for bigotry, ie, safe for the opinions to which — in Ambrose Bierce’s words — others are intractably and vociferously opposed. But if I advocate free speech, I also advocate and impose upon myself the harshest and most demanding discipline on speech: I acknowledge my critics and call attention to their criticism, and I always respond seriously to any serious criticism they may offer. What this means is that I accept and impose the discipline of truth: If someone is right in their criticism, I have an obligation to acknowledge the error — publicly if possible; and with as stringent a discipline as this, I am forced to be careful in what I say. For all its stringency, however, this discipline offers some very distinct advantages: It ultimately disarms my critics — not infrequently turning them into friends — and continually reinforces my reputation among both friends and foes as one who is as intolerant of error in himself as he is intolerant of it in others, and as morally incorruptible as any man who walks the earth. By this means, then, I retain as enemies only the evil and the stupid; and these are those who would be my enemies no matter what. Thus my fights are few, easy and usually small, while my victories are often grand; and in the process I accomplish one of the most desired goals of any man anywhere — I can sleep at night.

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