Dr. Yaron Brook: Free Speech and the Battle for Western Culture
Thursday, 07 September, 2017

On September 7, ISET hosted the president and executive chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute, Dr. Yaron Brook, for a presentation. The topic of the presentation was Free Speech and The Battle for Western Culture. During the presentation, Dr. Brook explained why and in what ways free speech is under attack and why it is important to defend this fundamental right.

At the beginning of the presentation, Dr. Brook highlighted that free speech is a core value of civilization, and is what Western civilization stands for. One of the most important events in the history of civilization was the adoption of the Declaration of Human Rights, the first political document that recognizes human rights. However, he claimed that there has been years is an obvious restriction of free speech in recent years: Newspapers cannot publish cartoons relevant to the news, just because they fear violent reprisals; Dr. Brook also claimed there were even greater restrictions of free speech at universities, which cannot invite speakers if the guests do not hold common political views.

Dr. Brook briefly reviewed how mankind came to the idea of free speech. Before the 18th century, what was allowed or not, what was acceptable, what to like or what to dislike, were all dictated by the two main sources of authority – the church and the government. However, step by step people started recognizing that society itself is the only real authority that has the right to decide such matters. They understood that if someone knows the truth, it is important to act on this truth, and for this, it is necessary to discover the reasons behind it.

During the second half of the presentation, Dr. Brook spoke about the modern world.

If someone says today that media is biased, it is his/her right to free speech. However, if the President of the USA says that one media outlet is good and another is bad, it already threatens free speech, because the president has the power of the state behind him, and he should not give directions to the society on what to like or not.

Another issue is that sometimes new ideas face strong resistance from society because they always offend someone (e.g. Newton’s ideas during his own period of history offended the church); for instance, new technologies often offend the people who use older variants. However, the only way to truly progress is to develop new technologies, and nobody has the right to fight against new ideas.

As a conclusion for his presentation, Dr. Brook stated that everybody has the right to tell whoever whatever they want; anyone can talk nonsense, but they cannot impose on minds. People themselves have to decide if what he/she says is true or not. This is the principal difference between violence and free speech. Every individual has the right to pursue their own life, their happiness, and goals, but when the right of free speech is violated, all of these values are lost.