Privileged speech

“If defending free speech doesn’t get you into trouble,” Peter Hitchens writes, “then you are not in fact defending free speech. The only speech worth defending is unpopular and very often it comes out of the mouths of people nobody likes.”

This is a view that, oddly, Hitchens was not stating for the first time in human history. But as John Milton adds, in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates:

“No man who knows aught can be so stupid to deny that all men were naturally born free, being the image and resemblance of God Himself, and were, by privilege above all the creatures, born to command, and not to obey.”

(The American founders were familiar with this text.)

The freedom of speech originates in the larger privilege of freedom, claimed by this famous white man on behalf of all the human creatures, “ere the base laws of servitude began,” among primitive savages. I hate the manoeuvres to put me on the side of these latter. (Does this make me guilty of a “hate crime”?)

And a certain lecturer in Königsberg: “Freedom is that faculty which enlarges the usefulness of all other faculties.”

I superadd this quote with some hesitation. As an Idler, I try to avoid arguments for usefulness.