I would encourage PBC readers to jump over to FIRE’s blog and read Azhar Majeed’s response to Yale professor Anthony Kronman’s defense of the university press’s now-infamous decision remove “offensive” Mohammed cartoons from a book about . . . those very cartoons.
While I can’t improve on Azhar’s critique, I do want to highlight what should be an obvious point. Responding to threats of violence with self-censorship only rewards threats. Azhar is correct that the “age of the internet” has made such threats virtually “ubiquitous.” How many news stories begin with some variation of, “When Jane Smith published her blog, she had no idea that she would one day be on the receiving end of threatening email.” Censorship based on “threats” could be all-consuming.
But what if there is good reason to believe that publication will lead to more than mere threats? What if people have already died because of similar (or identical) speech? Then, there is an even greater need for the speech. If we cannot reward threats with self-censorship, how much more critical is it to deter actual violence?
Let’s meet violence with speech, but not with speech alone. Use lawful authority to protect the speakers, protect the public, and protect the rule of law. Sometimes, blood must be shed to defend liberty.