Donald Trump

Can Free Speech Flourish in the Age of Trump? Nick Gillespie, Flemming Rose at Cato (New Reason Podcast)

The publisher of the "Mohammed cartoons" and the editor of talk about threats to free expression in America and beyond.


On December 6 at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., Reason's Nick Gillespie and Danish journalist Flemming Rose discussed "Free Speech in the Age of Trump." That conversation, moderated by Kat Murti, is the newest Reason Podcast (subscribe at iTunes).

In 2005 while working at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Rose commissioned and published what became known as the "Mohammed cartoons," a dozen images of Islam's founder. Rose quickly became the target of death threats from Islamic radicals and jihadists and at least 150 people by his count have been killed in violence related to demonstrations against the cartoons. Earlier this year, Rose was awarded The Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, given every two years by Cato, who has also hired Rose to work as an analyst based in his home country. Rose is the author of, most recently, The Tyranny of Silence, now out in paperback from Cato. (In 2014, in response to death threats against cartoonist Molly Norris, Reason held its own "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" competition.)

Rose talked about the response to the Mohammed cartoons and what he sees as a failure on the part of many countries to uphold Enlightenment values of open inquiry and peaceful toleration of dissent. Gillespie described last year's attempt by a federal prosecutor to subpoena for information about blog commenters who joked about attacking the judge in The Silk Road trial of Ross Ulbricht.

With a president who has pledged to "open up" the country's libel laws while shutting down parts of the internet, what are the prospects for a free and flourishing marketplace of ideas in Donald Trump's America? Throw in the ongoing idiocy of political correctness on college campuses and coporate HR departments, and it turns out that there's plenty to worry about.

The event was livestreamed on C-SPAN (watch here) and at (watch here). Click below to listen right now via SoundCloud.

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  1. “Reason held its own “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” competition”

    RIP Deleted Thread

    1. Working here.

      However, Reason endorsed a candidate who was decidedly against free speech. See the Johnson position on refusal to decorate cakes, or even for solemnizing binary relationships.

      1. I meant the comments

        1. SHIT! I finally read an article and the important part is the comments?

          This is the most precious passage on the page:

          Update: Due to the high, server-crushing volume of comments and the gratuitously insulting imagery of many of them?it seems that if there’s one group of folks more obsessed with gay sex than Islamic terrorists, it’s critics of the same?we’ve decided to shut down comments to this post.

          Wow, what a fag.

          1. Yeah, they got some grief about it at the time. Some great material on that thread as you can imagine.

            1. And they shoved the comments section into the memory hole before the Wayback Machine could archive it.

      2. Reason endorsed *two* candidates who were decidedly against free-speech.

        See the Clinton position on . . . just about everything.

    2. It was the woodchipper thread that was deleted, of course.

  2. I don’t get all these references to The Age of Trump.

    Is this inaugurating some great new change in the status of mankind?

    Did N?menor sink into the ocean and signal the end of the previous Age?

    1. Silly, that was not the end of an age, it was in the midst of the Second Age.

      I mean, what are you talking about?

    2. These are the new dark ages. Only slivers of light, hero’s in our midst, like Nancy Pelosi can bring us back from the abyss.

      1. Nancy is in fact a reasonable woman, who agrees with us that our nation’s libel laws must be opened up, particularly with respect to those offensive email “parodies” that went around a little while ago in her “name.” We have made some headway in New York in this regard, but it’s only a small start, and more is soon to come. Who here would dare to defend the outrageous “First Amendment dissent” of a single, isolated judge in America’s leading criminal “satire” case? See the documentation at:

    3. “The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”

      “In what is called the Third Age by some; an Age long ago and not yet born, a great windbag blew from the North. His breath swept across the Ohio Valley into the Deep South, across the Great Plains, over The Rocky Mountains before finally yealding to the deanse smug clouding the West Coast. Only manifesting itself as a cold chill up the spine of a Prog. It was not the beginning, but it was A beginning.”

      1. * dense.


      2. Between the time when the oceans drank Georgetown, and the rise of the sons of McAfee, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, TRUMP! Destined to wear the jeweled crown of Nacirema upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!

        “My fear is that my sons will never understand me… Hao! Dai ye! We won again! This is good. But what is best in life?”

        “A border wall, two Supreme Court picks, drones at your beck and call, and Harry Reid’s retirement.”

        “Wrong! TRUMP! What is best in life?”

        “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!

        “Trump! …That is good.”

        1. RIP, RJ.

          1. Ah, shit. I forgot he didn’t write that. Jordan still wrote several Conan book in the 80’s and 90s. Or maybe that’s what you were alluding to.

            Piss off! I just lost my FF championship game. :/

  3. On the plus side, you’ll see a return to glory of the Fourth Estate. Unfortunately, that glory will take the form of wild-eyed moonbattery rather than reasoned opposition.

    1. And Reason does not want to be left behind in that competition.

  4. Progs will act like they are suddenly for free speech, but remember they are not. They only care about rights when they are not in power. When they are it is perfectly fine to shut down speech and wield the heckler’s veto.

    1. The market-progressive Cato Institute is pretty solid on free speech.

      1. National Review shut off comments from Disqus a few months ago. Now you have to go through Facebook, the bastion of free speech. At least Reason can brag they didn’t do that, yet.

        1. If/when they do that, I am outta here!

      2. Over-under until they decide that speech, like guns, should be compromised on?

    2. Progs don’t give a shit about free speech when they are in power either. They only care about their speech at the moment, and will ban it in the next moment if their speech whims change.

  5. Can Free Speech Flourish in the Age of Trump?

    It wasn’t exactly getting the red carpet treatment before The Age Of Trump, President Elect, the First 100 Seconds.

  6. Free speech that criticizes the president will be just fine. Speech that is deemed to have cost Clinton the election is under fire, however, eg “fake news.”

  7. What’s funny is it would be nice if we could talk about things like the Bill of Rights in terms outside– above any given administration. Ie, those rights are supposed to be administration-proof.

  8. With a president who has pledged to “open up” the country’s libel laws

    By giving “public figures” the same burden of proof to meet as regular people. Hardly the end of the world, you know. In fact, there is a question about the due process implications of imposing a higher burden of proof and different legal standards on people based solely on court decisions, and a standard that is vague and ambiguous. But, moving on . . .

    while shutting down parts of the internet

    Yeah, right. This would be bad if it happened, but it ain’t gonna happen.

    , what are the prospects for a free and flourishing marketplace of ideas in Donald Trump’s America?

    What with the DemOp stranglehold on the mainstream media being threatened by Trump’s rendering them ineffective to irrelevant, I would say the prospects are improving by the day, honestly.

    Throw in the ongoing idiocy of political correctness on college campuses and coporate HR departments, and it turns out that there’s plenty to worry about.

    If you want the PC plague afflicting colleges and HR departments to go away, Trump is pretty decent bet to make things better, given his apparent determination to remake the culture of the DC agencies which are at the root of these problems.

    1. ^As usual, R C Dean is a voice of sanity around here.

      1. Which is why he has been shunned by many.

  9. Funny how Reason is more concerned over Trump being mean to the press than they are the free speech assault by leftists / SJWs.

    I remember seeing the press bitch to Trump during his press conference, and he just looks at them like ‘I notice you arn’t going after Clinton, who hasn’t even had a press conference with you in a year’

    1. I’m gonna have to disagree and give Reason credit for going after SJWs on their speech policing which they do all the time.

      1. You won’t be laughing when Reason installs a “Report to Department of Speech” button next to the “report spam” button…

        1. What do you think ‘report spam’ button is?

        2. Well they did delete the comment thread on the drawl Muhammed day article.

          1. The woodchipper incident was by far the worst. Reason, who has lawyers, or at least access to other people’s money, rolled right over on the commenters. They should have told the government to go fuck themselves. Instead, they passed the information right over to the government Jackboots and left the commenters to fend for themselves. A clear case of non-threatening speech and an absurd over-reach of government and Reason got down and sucked government ass. Another opportunity to stand up for “Free Minds and Free Markets” and they did nothing. Don’t get me started on their absolute silence on Mark Steyn vs. Michael (hockey stick) Mann.

      2. “I’m gonna have to disagree and give Reason credit for going after SJWs on their speech policing which they do all the time.”

        That’s true, but the incessant pants-shitting over what Trump might do some time in the future is getting downright pathetic.
        Welsh needs to read this:

        “Nevertheless, a word of neighborly advice to our more genteel media friends, the ones who sit at the high table in their pristine white dinner jackets and ball gowns. You’ve been barfing all over yourselves for a week-and-a-half, and it’s revolting to watch.
        For your own sake, and that of the republic for which you allegedly work, wipe off your chins and regain your composure. I didn’t vote for him either, but Trump won. Pull yourselves together and deal with it, if you ever want to be taken seriously again.”…

        When he actually does something, report it. Until then, quit acting like some whiney 5YO who’s afraid of getting a lump of coal from Santa.

        1. I concur

  10. Can Free Speech Flourish in the Age of Trump?

    If, in asking this question, they are implying that progtard professors are going to double-down on rightthink policing in their classrooms and on their campuses to root out and destroy any potential Trump supporters among their student body, then probably not.

    If you are worried about Trump cracking down on free speech in light of his thin skin and penchant for bullying… then I hope you are wearing your brown pants.

  11. Did free speech *flourish* under Oooo-bama?

    1. Only to the extent he didn’t get his way. He berated the Supreme Court for doing its job and protecting the 1A.

  12. “Gojira|12.12.16 @ 5:00PM|#”
    I don’t get all these references to The Age of Trump.”

    Well, he’s not even Prez yet, but according to the Reason staff he seems to have suspended A-1, outlawed the minimum wage, installed robots in every fast food outlet, defunded government schools, started several wars!
    You have to keep up!

  13. In 2014, in response to death threats against cartoonist Molly Norris, Reason held its own “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” competition.

    And that’s why the story had a happy ending…oh wait, it really, really didn’t.

    Archive can’t tell me, so anyone who was a Reason sub in 2005, did they publish Mohammed Cartoons in the print edition? Because if so, then preen away for your fearless free speech support! I know Ezra Levant’s now-defunct magazine was the only one in Canada to do it, and I want to say The Stranger from Seattle did it but could be wrong…

    1. The Stranger did, with a rather shockingly blunt article that sounds like something from the alt-right.

      Europe, you see, isn’t the liberal paradise you think it is, or knew it to be 10 or 20 years ago. At this very moment, European liberalism is caught in a steadily intensifying struggle with fundamentalist Muslim censoriousness?call it creeping Sharia.

      Most of the cartoons, frankly, were lame and witless. A couple (notably one depicting Muhammad as a terrorist) were provocative in the way editorial cartoons are supposed to be. But compared to the lusty Christian baiting in movies like Life of Brian?or in various artworks by Gilbert and George, among others?they were pretty tame stuff.

      When artists bait Christians, the Christians (at most) wave signs and send out press releases. When Danish Muslims saw the Muhammad cartoons, they went ballistic. Thousands protested in Copenhagen. Death threats were issued. On October 12, a group of Muslim ambassadors demanded a meeting with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He refused. “It is so self-evidently clear what principles Danish society is based upon,” he said later, “that there is nothing to have a meeting about.”

      1. On the contrary, what’s happening here is that a gang of bullies?led by a country, Saudi Arabia, where Bibles are forbidden, Christians tortured, Jews routinely labeled “apes and pigs” in the state-controlled media, and apostasy from Islam punished by death?is trying to compel a tiny democracy to live by its own theocratic rules.

        1. Damn, that’s some strong language.

          Also, this

          In December, Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, promised that “action” on the cartoons would be forthcoming. (Apparently free speech was not on her list of human rights.)

          made me rage. First she completely botched the war crimes tribunal for Yugoslavia, now I saw this. Fuck, she’s worthless and it’s to Canada’s shame she’s a not a persona non grata here.
          At least Mark Steyn and Nigel Farage gave her a lesson (she probably forgot by now) in Toronto earlier this year….

        2. Do we still have neutron bombs?

        3. Oh shit, I just noticed it was written by Bruce Bawer. No wonder. And no way in hell would The Stranger give him a column today!

  14. Can free speech flourish in the age of Trump? Yes, and it will.

    1. LOL. It was fun while it lasted.

  15. Flemming Rose is a patsy for Danish Secular Caliphate.


  16. If Trump pressures Europe to stop Islamic lebensraum, then maybe that will be a victory for free speech.

    1. You cant save people from themselves. Only Europeans can do that.

      1. Eh, we saved them from themselves in ’44.

        1. If by “themselves” you mean “Red Army” then, half-yes.

          1. I was going to put such a disclaimer. But I had a big dinner and I’m feeling lazy.

        2. And throughout the Cold War.

          1. That was parts and service after the sale.

  17. I find that the pants-shitting about Trump being bad for free speech is not only wrong, but inaccurate. In the aggregate, Trump is IMO the best thing to happen to free speech this decade, especially at the university level. It’s not necessarily about anything that he has said or done, but rather it’s about everyday folks finally realizing just how repressive and lunatic the progressive religion really is.

    1. Trump didn’t just “happen”. He was one version of an inevitable gag reflex to a puke worthy ideology being rammed down otherwise docile people’s throats. When you’re coughing up a chicken bone you don’t really worry about the strain it puts on your esophagus.

      1. Now that I read that, I notice I simply rephrased your comment. Still a little sleepy.

        1. But you rephrased it in a very colorful and entertaining way.

          1. Agreed. I thought it was rather poetic.

          2. I used to try to phrase my comments in a clever way, but I found that I could never compete with that, so I let others rephrase me instead. I’ll learn eventually.

  18. Throw in the ongoing idiocy of political correctness on college campuses and coporate HR departments, and it turns out that there’s plenty to worry about.

    Except this, which really is the most prominent threat to free speech strikes me as having nothing whatsoever to do with some hypothetical “Age of Trump”. It was in full swing well before Mr. Trump indicated he was running. If anything, the most plausible outcome is that a Trump administration will be, if anything, hostile to that political correctness.

  19. Related: revanchism continued…..backfired/

  20. Can Free Speech Flourish in the Age of Trump?

    Does a certain attorney fuck sheep?

  21. One safe bet: it will flourish compared to the Age of Hillary. Dodged that bullet.

  22. “With a president who has pledged to “open up” the country’s libel laws while shutting down parts of the internet, what are the prospects for a free and flourishing marketplace of ideas in Donald Trump’s America?”

    And you have the candidate of the party that lost the Presidential election calling for giving the government the power to police the news for being “fake”. That would seem a more chilling proposal to free speech than making it somewhat easier to prove libel.

  23. Reason you need to come up with new adjectives. Take a shot everytime free speech is ‘chilled’, like when the media talks about ‘crumbling’ infrastructure

    1. Well, it’s a pretty common term in First Amendment jurisprudence. A lot of the government’s frankly illegal restraints on speech come by means other than laws banning this or that. Merely threatening action can be just as unconstitutional as enacting a law. However, if you insist, might I suggest “thrilling” effect?

      1. Does the thrill run up one’s leg?

  24. Trump gains votes after conclusion of WI recount

    Proof that Russia hacked the election to try to make Hillary the winner!

    1. At this rate, it may actually be good for the liberals that the PA recount was rejected by the judge. If any place practices in voting irregularities, it’s Philly.

  25. Today in pants shitting:

    Med students: ‘racism’ is a ‘public health crisis’

    “The election this week has left us angry, upset, and afraid,” the group wrote in a statement shortly after Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton. “The racism, misogyny, xenophobia, transphobia, and homophobia that catapulted Donald Trump to the White House have pervaded our country and our health care system for hundreds of years.”

    1. No, “separate but equal” would mean having ‘whites-only’ course offerings alongside the ‘blacks-only’ courses. This is just straight-up racial inequality.

    1. “Social” “Justice” “Warriors” are neither social, nor about justice, nor have enough spine to be warriors.

  26. It’s official: Second City is now a Safe Space

    I’m sure this will eliminate heckling once and for all. I’m super cereal you guys.

    1. You found some premium grade derp today!

      1. There are no extraordinary people. Just ordinary people who do extraordinary things.

        [salutes while jets trailing red, white, and blue smoke streak overhead]

      2. Not trying to underestimate the value of Derp’s efforts, but there is a real surplus of it right now.

    2. Lenny Bruce is spinning in his grave. It seems like the advances that comedians made regarding free speech in the ’50s and ’60s are in danger of being reversed.

      I just finished this book, which I recommend: The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff. (Part of my election bet winnings from Suell.) Quite interesting. I did not know that both Jack Benny and Bob Hope started out doing comedy in blackface. Or about Rodney Dangerfield’s 1954 arrest by the FBI (he was part of a “veterans do your home repair” scam). Or what happened to Vaughn Meader after his The First Family comedy album, which was such a hit that some stores stayed open late to sell it, and copies were sold with coupons for the missing cardboard sleeves, which they could not print fast enough.

  27. May I add some to this high mountain of derp?

    The Tainted Election

    So, the election is now not only ‘hacked’, but also ‘tainted’.

    “The C.I.A., according to The Washington Post, has now determined that hackers working for the Russian government worked to tilt the 2016 election to Donald Trump.”

    This is the esteemed NYT. Now let’s break down that sentence. The CIA ‘according to the Washington Post’. Ok, let me get this right. According to the NYT, the Washington Post is now in charge of saying what the CIA has determined, not the CIA. Because I can tell you right now, and please feel free to check, there is NO statement about this on the CIA website and NO ONE from the CIA has made any statement about his whatsoever.

    I have to assume that the mainstream media are rushing at breakneck speed to destroy what tiny little bit of credibility they have left.

    And don’t read the the rest of the article unless you are prepared to cringe a lot.

    1. the brave, valiant WaPo and NYT are saying the hard truths that need to be said when the silent warriors must remain silent.

  28. The Left is a far greater threat to free speech than President Trump. Progressives are openly hostile to free speech as a concept and actively working against it. I’m much more concerned with their explicit attempts to destroy the most important and foundational values of the West than what Trump might or might not try to change regarding libel laws.

    real things happening right now > worries about shit that might not happen

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