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December 11, 2016 / Congau

The Meaning of Free Speech

The freedom of speech is restricted in the Netherlands, the country of freedom. Geert Wilders is convicted of discrimination for saying that his country would be safer with fewer Moroccans. I don’t agree with Wilders and I think his xenophobic views are unhealthy for the Dutch society, but if freedom of speech means anything, he should be allowed to express his distasteful opinions.

Once you start excluding certain opinions because they are not good for society, there is no longer a limit to what speech can be outlawed and the fundamental difference between a totalitarian and a liberal state disappears. (There is still a difference of course, but it becomes one of degree, not of essence.)

Admittedly the issue is complicated by the fact that certain forms of expression are not and should not be protected by the freedom of speech. Personal insults and meaningless noise should not necessarily be allowed, but that is not essential to this freedom anyway. What it is meant to protect is the right to have any socially relevant opinion.

Wilders utterance about Moroccans (which I by chance happen to find disturbing) clearly expresses an opinion about the state of his society, and it is exactly that kind of speech that the freedom of speech is meant to protect. Opinions that are in harmony with the general view of the government of a country don’t need protection, any totalitarian state allows that, but when an opinion goes against the established authorities it should be shielded from prosecution.

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