Paul Greenberg

Freedom shouldn't be confined to those whose opinions we approve. That's not freedom but its opposite.

And the more freedom others may exercise under the law, the more secure our own.

The greatest threat to liberty may come not from tyrants who would burn books or gag speakers, but from those who would curtail freedom out of fear that letting others exercise it might invite some theoretical violence. So they find a way to censor displays that might offend one group or another.

That's how good people turn into collaborators with evil. Out of fear they do the censors' work for them. By appeasing the violent, they encourage them.

Look at supposed citadels of academic freedom like Yale University's academic press, which published a book not too long ago about the furor over the publication of cartoons displaying the likeness of Mohammed -- but declined to reproduce the very cartoons that had set off the furor.

So much for academic freedom. So much for academics, period. It was like publishing a medical textbook but tearing out the illustrations. What a betrayal of the very freedom our universities are supposed to exemplify.

The spirit of liberty is more often lost in little ways -- a censored cartoon here, a prohibitive price for an expression of opinion there -- than all at once through some draconian decree. The spirit of liberty slips away a little at a time.

Whether it's a bus line in Arkansas or an Ivy League university, the same craven impulse is behind all such censorship: the fear that exercising our freedom will offend some mob somewhere. So we had better hush.

The spirit of liberty is always in danger, for there will always be fearful souls who don't see that courage is, was, and always will be the first requisite for liberty. When courage is shown in its defense, let all cheer -- believers and non-believers alike, all God's chillen.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.