Today, FIRE presents a timely new video featuring Brookings Institution senior fellow Jonathan Rauch. In the wake of last week’s horrifying attack on Charlie Hebdo in France, Americans and Europeans are rediscovering the importance of unfettered expression. In the interview, which was taped last year but not released until now, Rauch explains how the Salman Rushdie affair of the 1980s and the West’s “watery, weak” response to it inspired him to write his landmark book, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. Rauch also sheds light on the damage hate speech laws (which are common in Europe, including in France) can do to minorities, and he argues that free speech is their best weapon against oppression.
“The way minorities get real rights and real freedom is by fighting hate and bigotry, and that’s grounded almost uniformly in ignorance and fear,” says Rauch. “And if we’re forced underground, if we can’t show who we are, if we can’t make our arguments, we are literally helpless.”