“If You Say We Are Violent, We Are Going to Kill You”

Here’s a transcript of the dialog among Steve Simpson, Dave Rubin and Flemming Rose on whether government protection of free speech should depend on the value of its content:

Questioner: What about speech that has no idea content whatsoever? Things like insults, racial slurs, and maybe, a picture of the prophet Mohammed?

Steve Simpson: I don’t think it’s true that they don’t have any idea content. But it is not ultimately up to government to decide what has idea content versus what doesn’t. It’s ultimately up to government to enforce laws against, in my view, against, you know, the initiation of force and to protect rights. So the issue isn’t: Are your ideas good, one, or do they qualify as ideas as opposed to just blabber? Are they racist? Do they have a lot of substance or are they hollow? That’s not ultimately the question. The question is, you have the right to speak, you have the right to speak your mind, you have the right pretty much to say anything you want, so long as you don’t violate the rights of others. It can be a complicated question, what constitutes a violation of rights, but it doesn’t turn on the content of the idea. And I think it’s wrong to say that racist speech has no ideas, it’s not really true. They’re bad ideas, but they’re ideas.

Dave Rubin: And even the cartoons, real quickly, even the cartoons — if right now we had a piece of paper, and I drew a stick figure and on the bottom I wrote Moses, nobody would care. If I wrote Jesus, nobody would care. If I wrote Mohammed, you guys would be looking for the exits! So this shows you it’s not about the thing, it’s about the idea behind the thing. So you have to just not give those ideas — if that doesn’t offend you, then don’t give someone else’s offense power over your own mind and actions. – as he draws a stick figure right now. . .

Flemming Rose: — I would say that — Dave Rubin: Come on! I’m going to step off stage for a moment.

Flemming Rose: But the most famous of those cartoons, that is, of the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban — is very specifically expressing an idea. It says that there are Muslims who are committing terrorist acts in the name of the prophet. And that’s an idea. But I think one of the beautiful things about the U.S. First Amendment tradition is that here you can never criminalize speech exclusively because of its content. I would love us to have that kind of principle in Europe. You can talk about the effect of speech, but you cannot say just because of the content that something should not be allowed to be said.

Steve Simpson: I by the way think that cartoon is brilliant. I think it’s a brilliant example of political cartoons — so-called political cartoons at their height. I mean, it conveys precisely — everybody knew what that meant the moment they looked at it.

Flemming Rose: The irony is that there are some Muslims who are saying, you know, if you say we are violent — we are going to kill you.

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