J. K. Rowling made international headlines this week by defending free speech in an address to the PEN Literary Gala in New York. She referenced the much-discussed public petition that was circulated at the end of last year calling for Donald Trump to be banned from entering the UK over “hate speech,” arguing that someone like Trump should, if fact, have the right to say things she (and others) find bigoted or offensive:
“His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot,” Rowling continued. “His freedom guarantees mine. Unless we take that absolute position, without caveats or apologies, we have set foot upon a road with only one destination. If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed a line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justification.”
Rowling’s forceful and categorical defense is a welcome reminder that freedom of expression still has many prominent defenders. Here at CEI, we are in the midst of our own dispute over politically disfavored opinions, specifically our work on climate change policy. As many readers know, we have been the subject of legal proceedings by government officials seeking to silence and intimidate us. We will continue to defend ourselves vigorously, and are more resolved than ever to produce the best policy analysis on the science, economics, and politics related to the climate debate.
The swirl of praise around Rowling’s comments is especially welcome given how widely it was reported and commented upon—from the proudly left-wing pages of The Guardian in the UK to the enthusiastically conservative Daily Caller here in the U.S. But it is a reminder that we should also be vigilant in standing up against attempts to suppress speech when agreement is less universal and the threat is more immediate. That’s why CEI has also been part of numerous coalition efforts to limit the powers of federal agencies and allow the free flow of information and expression, unhampered by illegitimate government searches and surveillance. We hope you’ll support our efforts – we need as many allies in fighting the abuse of government power as we can get.