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Supporting Democracy,
Freedom of Speech,
and Political Rights

Quotations on Freedom of Speech


"If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
- George Orwell, in his proposed preface to Animal Farm, see

"Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom."
- Benjamin Nathan Cardozo, American jurist (1870-1938)

"Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one's thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down. ...
Equally clear is the right to hear. To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker."
- Frederick Douglass, American abolitionist, author, orator (1817-1895), in his famous plea for free speech in Boston 1860

"To speak his thoughts is every freeman's right, in peace and war, in council and in fight."
- Homer, The Iliad, principal figure of ancient Greek literature (before 700 B.C.)

"It is clear that the freedom of expression and opinion is a fundamental right, the mother of all rights."
- Abid Hussain, speech in Sri Lanka, 1999, UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Information

"Free speech is a bourgeois prejudice."
- Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, in an explanation to Emma Goldman in 1920, Communist Russian revolutionary (1870-1924)

"Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties."
- John Milton, Areopagitica, English poet (1608-1674)

"A people which is able to say everything becomes able to do everything."
- Napoleon Bonaparte, French general and emperor of France (1769-1821)

"Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself."
"What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist."
- Salman Rushdie, Indian-born British novelist (1947-)

"Governments that suppress freedom of speech because they find the truth spread by it troublesome are like small children who close their eyes in order not to be seen."
- Börne

"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security"
- Benjamin Franklin

"None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free."
- Goethe

"The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak is to support the rights of people you don't agree with."
- Eleanor Holmes Norton

"Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be."
- James Baldwin, African-American author

"For those who stubbornly seek freedom, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination. These are easy to perceive in the totalitarian societies, much less so in the system of 'brainwashing under freedom' to which we are subjected and which all too often we sere as willing or unwitting instruments."
- Noam Chomsky

"If we do not believe in freedom of speech for those we despise we do not believe in it at all."
- Noam Chomsky

"A right is not what someone gives you; it's what no one can take from you."
- Ramsey Clark

"We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still."
- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

"Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime".
- Potter Stewart

"The test of democracy is freedom of criticism."
- David Ben-Gurion

"Censorship cannot eliminate evil, it can only kill freedom."
- Unknown

"We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."
- John F. Kennedy

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
- attributed to Voltaire

"Political correctness is just another form of authoritarianism."
- unknown

"Free speech is intended to protect the controversial and even outrageous word; and not just comforting platitudes too mundane to need protection."
- Colin Powell, African-American general

"The community which does not protect its humblest and most hated member in the free utterance of his opinions, no matter how false or hateful, is only a gang of slaves. If there is anything in the universe that can't stand discussion, let it crack."
- Wendell Phillips

"By academic freedom I understand the right to search for truth and to publish and teach what one holds to be true. This right implies also a duty: one must not conceal any part of what on has recognized to be true. It is evident that any restriction on academic freedom acts in such a way as to hamper the dissemination of knowledge among the people and thereby impedes national judgment and action."
- Albert Einstein


People Against Nazism, Communism, and Authoritarianism