Free Speech, Then And Now


Back in 2005, Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen set the gold standard on defending free speech when, on being approached by perpetually aggrieved Islamic ambassadors hoping for official redress against Jyllands Posten (Cartoon Rage was just kicking in), he refused to hear their plaints, explaining to them and the world that it was not his place, as prime minister, to interfere with free speech in Denmark.

“This is a matter of principle. I will not meet with them [the ambassadors] because it is so crystal clear what principles Danish democracy is built upon that there is no reason to do so...As prime minister, I have no power whatsoever to limit the press – nor do I want such power.”

In other words, as Al Jazeera noted in reporting subsequent Islamic opposition to Rasmussen's eventual nomination to head NATO, the Danish leader had "infuriated some Muslims by speaking out in favour of freedom of speech."

Apparently, he won't make that mistake again. Now NATO honcho, Rasmussen has condemned the proposed burning of Korans at a Florida church as "disrespectful," saying this week at the White House: "I think such actions are in a strong contradiction with all of the values we stand for and fight for. Of course, there is a risk it may also have a negative impact on the security for our troops."

Isn't that exactly what was said about publishing the Danish cartoons?

While burning Korans at a church and caricaturing Mohammed in a newspaper are indeed two different things, the Rasmussen principle should still hold true. It is not the prime minister's place -- or president's, or secretary of state's, or military commander's place -- to limit and in any way discourage lawful speech, cartoons, demonstrations. Would that such a leader would say so, something like:

This is one pastor's response to the 9/11 attacks, which need I remind you, were carried out in accordance with the Islamic teachings on jihad as sacralized in the Koran and other authoritative Islamic texts. It is this pastor's right under the Constitution to express himself thus, and it is certainly not my role, nor the role of anyone else in the government, to try to stop him, or in any other way limit his freedom of expression, so long as it is lawfully expressed. I would ask that our Islamic friends in Pakistan, Indonesia and elsewhere, do their utmost to make their citizens aware of the fact that in the West, in America specifically, citizens have free speech rights that are inviolable, and indeed, form the basis for our Constitutional form of self-government. Even as our government has been engaged in a massive effort since 9/11 against jihad terrorism at home and in the Islamic world, in what has been an often tenuous partnership with Islamic allies, American citizens are understandably skeptical about the fact that the same Islamic ideology that animates our foes also animates our friends.
I suspect that this pastor's demonstration springs in part from this same skepticism. His is a symbolic act that I must remind everyone harms no human being -- which is not something we can say about horrifyingly frequent church burnings, persecutions of apostates, honor killings, attacks on metros and pizzarias and the like that we see go largely unremarked upon inside the Islamic world.    
Coming up on this ninth anniversary of 9/11, I must be frank: It becomes particularly difficult to justify massive aid, both military and civilian (even including flood relief), to Islamic countries where, nightly, the TV news shows Americans footage of mobs burning American flags and effigies of this pastor and also myself. (Such incinerations, I must add, provoke no threat of violent American retaliation.) Please remember: The United States lost 3,000 citizens on 9/11 to jihad; since then we have seen more than 4,000 brave soldiers fall in Iraq and well over one thousand in Afghanistan, all in the same fight against this same ideology. To date, we have not seen reform within Islam that has in any eliminated, ameliorated or even acknowledged  this continued threat. In truth, it strikes me as quite extraordinary that this small church in the Florida hinterlands is the only church whose pastor has chosen to stage this sort of  symbolic demonstration. And in truth, as we mark the calamitous events of this week nine years ago, it would not surprise me to see more of the same if the continued reaction in the Islamic world is violence and mayhem coupled with demands for acquiesence and silence on a law-abiding American, well within his rights as a citizen of this Constitutional republic.

Free Speech and the Crusades

I find myself in agreement with all three of you Mpresley, KO, and shockingly KA.

The subject has probably been broached before on TBJ, but I couldn't help but feel at the time when W ran away from the term Crusades early on in the post 9/11 world that it was a major defeat for the West and demonstrated a remarkable naivite and child like reaction by the young Bush administration, in that, they almost wet themselves in trying to disown the reference, to a Free Speech issue that demanded that they stand firm in defense of the Crusades from a perspective of Just War theory. This did not mean that it had to defend every aspect of the Crusades, but it was imperative that they not concede the principle of self-defense.

The consequence of that concession all but insured W's own Crusade for Freedom would turn out to be nothing more than Children Crusade II, how ironic that the first Children Crusade is also now thought of as being mainly nothing more than a crusade of poor misguided adults.


@Capo: Yes, to be called a "Crusader" is a very high compliment indeed, which one can only strive to be worthy of. Not that, as you say, there was no bad with the good. (With respect to the good, think of the ending of Brideshead Revisited: the sacred flame burns on.)

RE: Free Speech

I don't understand what Ms. West's issue is here.  Mr. Rasmussen's statements are certainly not contradictory, however, they were made in very different contexts.  Although Muslims are responsible for their own collective and individual actions, and should be accountable for them, in the real world, we must deal with what is rather than what should be.  As Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Rasmussen would be remiss not to oppose the Quran burning.  Even the threat of it was enough to cause a violent Afghan demonstration that place German soldiers in Afghanistan at risk, which resulted in a civilian death.  Similarly, Mssrs. Obama and Gates et al, have a duty to protect Americans and American soldiers from harm.  The pastor's right to burn the Quran was not unlawfully hindered in any way, to my knowledge. 


I agree with most of Ms. West's "speech", however, it is one thing to uphold the law and quite another to argue against Islam, as this speech does.  The West is in conflict with Islam, as much as it was with two other totalitarian social movements in the preceeding century.  This does not mean that we are in conflict with each and every Muslim, anymore than each and every German, Japanese or Russian was our enemy.  But just as we put the onus on Germans, etc., to overthrow their totalitarian governments, we must take the same line with these so-called "moderate" Muslims. 

"There are ways"?

So is the Socratic method a way, a tenable solution, or not?

Was I wrong in thinking I was referring to a dead Jew and his Way, rather than a dead Greek?

What do I do with Matt 28:19, Go forth...?

Pretty straight forward instruction, no?

I understand "the way things are," but isn't the great failure in the West today - not understanding from whence we came and the way we want to go?

in reply

Submitted by Capodistrias: So is the Socratic method a way, a tenable solution, or not?

Submitted by KO: St. Augustine concluded that in certain circumstances, coercion could lead people back to the truth...

Both comments can, I believe, be related to an essay found on-line, somewhere, written by Thomas G West: Thomas Aquinas on Natural Law: A Critique of the Straussian Criticism. I want to mention the latter (KO) first:

West writes that Professor Strauss, in agreement with Machiavelli (and Hobbes, too), argued that Aristotle in the hands of Christianity turned philosophy into something less than it should have been (i.e., the search to replace opinion--one form of faith--with knowledge, or science*). Also, in fostering a pious cruelty (Ch 21 the Prince), the church became a temporal tyranny. The implication being that philosophy as a tool to uncover the boundaries of natural theology (what can be known by reason) was subverted, then compelled and maintained by an ecclesiastical authority more interested in upholding revelation.

Regarding the question of whether the Socratic method (i.e., the method practiced by Socrates) can provide worthwhile solutions when the dialogs often don't seem to be going anywhere, but wind up unresolved, West discusses the hierarchy of ends and the different means necessary to achieve these goals. Here, for instance, justice cannot be understood as something static to all circumstances, but one must always be ready to adapt principles of "natural right" (which, as West reminds us, is derived from to phusei dikaion or whatever is "the just by nature") to a multitude of varying circumstances. To use a modern advertising phrase, it is not one size fits all. This, however, is not the same as a relativism, and my brief comment does not do the topic much justice (no pun intended).

*Strauss would not mean a moral philosophy or even a social science should (or could) take for itself the method of modern day empirical or experimental science. He was not an advocate of scientism.

in reply 2

Thanks for your 2 replies, mpresley. Lev Shestov has the opposite complaint to West's, Strauss's, and Machiavelli's. He says that Christianity under the spell of philosophy became something less than it should have been. Taught by Aristotle, he says, the church made revelation and God Himself subordinate to science, the realm of repeating and measurable things, thus nullifying the uniqueness of divine manifestations. In that view, the church became a rationalistic tyranny, not a theocratic one. That would probably be the view of the neo-populists Kaardal and Dahlberg, who urge us to put Reason in its proper place (book in progress). (

L Shestov

KO: Lev Shestov has the opposite complaint to West's, Strauss's, and Machiavelli's...

This is interesting and I will investigate, so I appreciate the introduction. These are, to me, interesting angles, but they cannot be done much justice when writing inside a small box. It's too bad, really, but one has some obligation to stay closer to the topic, I suppose.

Thanks to all for the replies and ideas for further thinking.

L Shestov 2

A kindly professor gave me a volume of Shestov years ago, doubtless to help me escape the influence of Nietzsche.

Ways and Means

These different ways are not mutually exclusive. The secular power has the duty to wield the sword. For some Moslems, the sword will provoke curiosity as to whether it is worth remaining Moslem when the historic faith of the Middle East is beckoning, and Christians can show them how to satisfy that curiosity. What were the greatest cities of early Christendom? Alexandria, Antioch, then Rome. Arabs were present at the first Pentecost. St. Augustine concluded that in certain circumstances, coercion could lead people back to the truth, thus saving them. Bede and Alcuin seem to have rejected coercion, Alcuin criticizing Charlemagne's forcible conversion of the Saxons, but the Poeta Saxo thanked the Lord for sending someone willing to convert his stiff-necked nation.

If we take only the "liberal" view of human beings as autonomous rational creatures with unlimited equal rights to the satisfaction of every whim, we will never solve any of our problems.


If we take only the "liberal" view of human beings as autonomous rational creatures with unlimited equal rights to the satisfaction of every whim, we will never solve any of our problems.

This is quite true. Whenever one starts with rights, especially equal rights, and if rights are seen as merely conventional, things get muddied quickly.

Burning Issue #4


Funny, you should mention it, Mass conversion is exactly what I had in mind. The Pope's visit to Atlanticist's fair isle will offer an ideal opportunity:

All Brits from the Queen to the lowest most ridiculous figure on Albion's shores, i.e. Prince Charles, can welcome His Holiness, the Pope, the head of the Catholic,  the Universal Church, in unison, in total angelic harmony : "Go Pope! Go Pope!"


His Holiness can respond with a trip long Tridentine Mass and the Pope will never have to look back. Albion is redeemed and once again embraced in the loving bosom of Mother Church.


(For other fantastic tales and unbelieveable events see the postings of one Kappert on this very same TBJ.)


Burning Issue #2


That would take some of the byte out of the source of the critics' concern.  I wonder who will come after your computer first, the Revolutionary Guard, the Saudi security services or the FBI, MI5?


@Mpresley and KO


I appreciate the sentiments, but since the starship Enterprise and its transporter is off on another mission, how about we just start converting the bloody heathens among us to the true faith?

what is (or what is not) possible

@Mpresley and KO: I appreciate the sentiments...

The question is, I suppose, whether a solution can be a solution if it is untenable? If it is just talk, then what is the point? I'm reminded of the Socratic dialog:

When Socrates was asked whether his "Republic" was in fact possible he indicated that it was not. At the same time, we must understand that his teaching was esoteric, and not really meant as an "open" discussion of what could ever be done.

Socrates was originally held by Cephalus, never agreed to remain and speak (it was Glaukon who made the agreement to stay), and then only spoke after Cephalus, who represented the established order, left to "go to church." [In the end it did him no good, as he was put to death for this sort of thing.]

With this in mind, to even breach the "solution" to the Islamic problem is to be openly declared as an enemy of the liberal order. And who, with jobs and families to protect, is very willing for that?

To expect Muslims to convert in any number, or to doubly expect Western governments, as they are, today, to limit their interactions with and immigration from Muslims would be foolish, and a naive expectation. On the other hand, just as Republic can be read as a means to achieve "individual justice" (remember, the original discussion turned on the just man), the individual can take steps to deal with the problem as they can. There are ways.

Burning Issue #3

Ho ho, Capo, your advice is well taken, but are the exclusion of new Moslem immigrants, deportation of Moslem non-citizens, close supervision of subversive mosques, and disengagement from nation-building in Moslem countries, inter alia, any more far-fetched than mass conversion of Moslems? All these things are possible. Unfortunately, our multicultural mainstream churches (including the RCC) revere Islam so devotedly they would rather praise it than convert people from it, just as the dominant opinion in government opposes treating Islam as anything other than a religion protected by the free exercise clause. Hopefully, we can eventually change opinions in both the clerisy and the bureaucracy, and turn the merely possible into fact. The alternative is national "submission," given the way the Koran requires Moslems to dominate (i.e., convert, oppress, enslave, or exterminate) us infidels.

The 'Burning' Issue

I wonder how critics would have reacted if, instead of threatening to hold a physical Qur'an burning event outside his small church in Florida, the pastor had called upon people worldwide to download a copy of the Qur'an from the internet and, at a specified time and date, delete it, thus rendering said item in question 'destroyed'?


In my previous comment I wrote of the "liberal mind." To prevent confusion, I do not mean liberal in the usual popular sense of "conservative v. liberal." In fact, most conservatives (as witnessed by the conservative radio talk-show mafia, and the boys at Fox News) are simply a variant of left liberals.

You can tell if you listen, and not even too closely.

1) They go out of their way to be "inclusive" (we don't mind Muslims, we just don't like the radical ones);

2) They tell anyone who will listen that they're non-racist (whatever that means, today, but it usually means they don't mind massive Third World immigration as long as it's done "legally");

3) They never question liberal spending as long as it's in the interest of maintaining the empire (troops in Korea, no problem; troops in Europe, good idea; troops along the Pacific Rim, fabulous).

4) and generally see Israel as the 51st state, but at the same time wouldn't mind it if a few Arab states also signed on since we don't want to discriminate (see #1), and we can always use the oil.

speech v. actions

First, it is interesting how speech has come to mean symbolic actions that may or may not be associated with spoken words.

These actions frighten elites since they are "grass-roots" and represent something very unsettling: that is, a threat to the continued popular expression of their world-view; a view that, in turn, supports their power.

The solution is obvious, but dissonant to the liberal mind. Separation from Islam is the only solution. We now understand, first hand, the basic contradiction of liberal democracy: it allows and in fact encourages the other, even when that other's goal is the destruction of the host. To warn against it is illiberal, and, of all things, that is what we can never be.

The fact that a book-burning is so troubling to Western liberal elites, to the point that the US Afghan commander, and even the POTUS speak out against it, shows 1) how tenuous the basis for our Afghan war is; and 2) how threatening the common people are to elected and non-elected decision makers.

It is finally beginning to occur to many citizens that Islam is the pretense for turning their own home country into a police state. One where it is impossible to board an airplane without a body search. Where it is impossible to conduct an economic transaction without notifying the government. Where it is impossible to criticize a religion without being accused of "endangering the troops" (i.e., treason).

All the while, Islam more rapidly changes the very nature of the indigenous country to the point that it must adapt to the Muslims, but never the other way around.

Yes. I believe people are beginning to dimly wake. Islam is one problem. But it is not the main problem. The main problem is our embrace of a multi-cultural liberalism that holds the "other" to be more important than nation-hood in the traditional sense. The ultimate goal transcends any one nation; it is, in fine, the destruction of traditional Western civilization.

speech v. actions 2

Well said, mpresley. "Separation from Islam is the only solution." We shouldn't tolerate conditions that force us to create a police state unnecessarily. It is like living in a slave society, when the whole society must be ready at short notice to pursue escaped slaves or suppress an insurrection. Such conditions make everyone a slave. We used to hear that if we didn't go to shopping malls, it would mean the terrorists had won. Well, having to be searched to board a plane or to enter a public building means the terrorists have won, and until we abandon our liberalism and take common-sense steps to free ourselves from the onus of the sham-security state, they will keep on winning.

There is only way to avoid Moslem provocations, and that is to avoid Moslems. There should be none on Western soil.

where credit is due...

Thanks, but it was never my original idea. I first came upon the argument at L. Auster's VFR site. Is it not the Dutch politician, G. Wilders' (himself a liberal in many ways) argument, too? It is a non-violent solution, but one that makes total sense to all but the liberal mind (both left and conservative) that would view such a course as discriminatory and, hence, untenable. Meanwhile, Rome burns.