Freedom of Speech and the Thrash of Globalizing Cultures: Lessons from Ancient Athens for the 21st Century

I recently attended the History conference of the Athens Institute of Education and Research. Even the organizers admit it’s something of an occasion to visit Athens. I decided to praise the ancient Athenians for their notion of parrhesia (despite their brilliantly self-destructive flaws) and criticize our current pusillanimous academic scene’s dhimmi behavior vis-a-vis Arab and Islamic efforts to bully us into curtailing our freedom of speech so we can “respect” their thin skin. No one challenged me, and later, singly, a dozen people came to tell me how glad they were I had spoken up. I wonder how deep the politically-correct consensus goes, or is it as fragile as the crowd’s praise of the emperor’s new clothes? Below, my talk.

Freedom of Speech and the Thrash of Globalizing Cultures:
Lessons from Ancient Athens for the 21st Century

The so-called “Democratic West” today faces significant challenges both from other cultures, and from critics generated from within. Some of these challenges involve typical competition from rival societies, and helpful self-criticism from members of our own societies. But some represent lethal attacks, both from the outside and from within, and we seem to have exceptional difficulty telling the difference between beneficent and malevolent discourse. This talk is both about the Athenian principle of Parrhesia (“free speech”), and an illustration of it.

Let’s begin with why speech is almost universally not free. In most cultures it is allowed, expected, even required that alpha males shed blood for the sake of honor… if not another’s blood, then one’s own blood (as in seppuku). If you criticize those in power, they will make you pay; if they do not, they lose face and their power immediately begins to wane. People self-censor to avoid suffering the inevitable consequences. In such cultures, violence and intimidation pervade; indeed in tribal warrior cultures, one is not a “man” until one has killed another man. And you’re surely not a man if another demeans you publicly and you do not respond.

But the free tongue is silenced not only by political violence, but by group solidarities. Here we also find the working of a deep-rooted solidarity that insists on silence: “my side right or wrong.” Here we have community pressures in punishing violators: failure to side with “one’s own,” brings shame, and effectively excommunicates the offender. If I do not avenge my relative, I am not a man. Thus any breaking of ranks, even if done on principle, will bring accusations of cowardice not only from the opposing clan, but more devastatingly, from relatives.

And finally we silence ourselves: if one will shed blood to counter unwanted criticism, how much the more will one not reveal embarrassing things about oneself. As a principle, one might describe public self-criticism – admission of fault, sin, failure – as something people avoid whenever possible. As a French friend of mine said, “in France no one admits they were wrong; it’s a sign of weakness.” Public self-criticism is like chewing broken glass; virtually no one does it voluntarily.

The overall point I want to make here is that given these cultural and personal dimensions, the principle of “freedom of speech,” or differently put, the art of giving and receiving public criticism, is actually opposed by an extraordinary array of forces. Its accomplishment, therefore, takes far more than merely legislating free speech or a free press. If the cultural dimensions, both individual and group, are not addressed, no legislation will make a significant difference. Obviously and thankfully, we all self-censor, but the degree of self-censorship, especially in political issues, makes a key difference in the cultural “atmosphere.”

Which brings me now to one of the crucial accomplishments of Athenian society in the middle of the first millennium BCE: the extension of the right of parrhesia, to the public as a whole, or isegoria.

The Athenians, as they developed their democracy increasingly identified Parrhesià with courage. Notes Foucault: “the parrhesiastes says something which is dangerous to himself and thus involves a risk.” When the Chinese courtier, in a famous legend, brings his coffin to court the day he intends to tell the emperor he disagrees with him, he is a parrhesiastes; so was Diogenes when took on Alexander the Great. If a teacher tells a student the truth, it is not Parrhesià; if a student tells a teacher the truth, it is. By the end of this talk, I’ll let you decide whether I have exercised Parrhesià.

But Parrhesià also has a non-political dimensions — you admit the truth to yourself even if it threatens your self-image, or, more dangerously, offends your community. The ancient Cynics practiced a style of Parrhesià that on principle flaunted convention, and spoke provocative truth no matter what the social consequences. (According to one version, they got their name because, like dogs (kyon, kynos), they behaved without any shame (anaideia), sleeping and making love in the street.) As Janis Joplin put it to a generational revolt kicked off by the “Free Speech movement” in Berkeley: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Or as Diogenes put it, combining his lack of shame with his sharp and free tongue: “other dogs bite their enemies, I bite my friends to save them.”

My fifteen minutes do not allow me even a short survey of how this idea played in history, but I want to emphasize three interlocking issues that made this extraordinary development possible. First, as opposed to cultures of consensus, ancient Greece was one of Agon, competition on all levels including verbal, producing it exceptional literary achievements – philosophy and theatre. Second, Isegoria, or the extension of parrhesia to every member of the polity, including – most exceptionally – manual laborers. Without this, no democracy. To quote Thucydides, one of the great practitioners of Parrhesià, slightly out of context: “to be happy means to be free and to be free means to be brave.”

But above all, isegoria calls for an exceptional level of trust in the collective and individual abilities – and courage – of the demos to exercise Parrhesià wisely. For that to happen, the strongest must exercise a quiet courage, not that of the boastful warrior, but of he who submits to verbal disputes, resolved by the public consensus. Parrhesià as a common right demands that alpha males develop an exceptionally thick skin; it means that people must endure not just criticism but even ridicule without striking back violently. It means an exceptional level of psychological security. This is perhaps the least explored and most significant dimension of the problem, but I think it fair to say, that many Athenians of the fifth century BCE possessed this quiet if exhilarating courage.

Of course there’s an enormous payoff to self-criticism: it allows exceptional learning curves because it permits one to examine and avoid past mistakes. It makes meritocracy possible since all public figures are subject to criticism and, if necessary, to replacement. It makes any kind of science and history possible. So this combination of self-criticism, free speech, and public dispute play a critical role in the emergence of modern society, with its scientific disciplines, its historical consciousness, its egalitarian and meritocratic principles, its tolerance, its free press. And in the astonishing success that democratic culture has experienced in the modern world, free speech and press have become “universal human rights.”

Demopaths and Parrhesiaphobia

But for all the pleasant and accomplished pictures one can draw of ancient Athens, or the modern world, it remains true that the price for these accomplishments is something highly painful and unpleasant: as I said, tolerating Parrhesià and engaging in the public self-criticism it demands, is, on both an individual and collective level, akin to chewing broken glass. Most cultures don’t tolerate parrhesia, on the political or on the social plane; and they all have elaborate ways of enforcing the silence they demand on behalf of the powerful.

One of the major errors that we, the products of modern culture, make – and most especially academics who are raised in a culture of public self-criticism – is to assume that the benefits so outweigh the costs that everyone understands and accepts the principles of Parrhesià. But I want to argue today that the opposite is true, that despite widespread legislation on freedom of speech and press, most societies manage to throttle those freedoms in “informal” unofficial ways. My own experience with the French media over the al Durah affair suggests that even one of the modern birthplaces of democracy has problems with a free press.

Perhaps the culture that has reacted most powerfully to the spread of Parrhesià in the world today is the Arab world. Indeed, from an historical point of view, comparing the Arab world today with the situation in the 12th cn, one might even argue that it has regressed in its encounter with the modern world, indeed it seems to have developed a form of parrhesiaphobia, in which the existence of free speech constitutes an existential threat – to culture and to religion. And the most acute expression of this parrhesiaphobia is found in the neo-Islam that has gained increasing strength over the last generation.

Since 1989, with the Salman Rushdie affair, Jihadi Muslims have engaged in a series of assaults on the principles of freedom of speech in the West. In every case these efforts at bullying the West have succeeded. The two most striking came in the 21st century: the Muhammad Cartoon Affair, and the Pope’s comments on violent Islam, both of which provoked violence intended to silence the critics of Islam. As the signs carried in a violent demonstration outside the Danish embassy in London read: “Slay/Behead/Butcher those who insult/mock Islam.”

Clearly these folks do not believe in freedom of speech. But they do demand freedom of speech, and we provide it. In the case of the Danish embassy protest, British cops defended the rights of Muslim extremists who announced the forthcoming European Holocaust: “Europe you will pay; extermination is on its way.”

This has made us, rightly, a joke to those radical Muslims who want to reinstate Sharia law. When the pope said Islam is inherently a violent religion and Muslims rioted around the world, the joke – and the shame – should have been on them. Instead, the very people who illustrate the pope’s remarks get to laugh when our intelligentsia pressures him into making an apology.

Indeed, I think our excessive adherence to a kind of post-modern political correctness in which we dare not judge the “subaltern” underdog, in which we grant a kind epistemological priority to the “other,” has created a new phenomenon, what I’d like to call “demopathy,” a variant on the ancient Greek plague of demagogy. Demopaths demand democratic and human rights even though they have no intention of granting those rights to others. As one Muslim put it on Belgian radio: “I demand from you according to your principles, the freedom of speech that I will deny you according to my principles.

Most are less honest: like the Muslim Brotherhood front, CAIR, they loudly demand that Muslim rights be respected, even as they protect and foster Muslim radicals. As long as we are dupe to these hypocrites, we undermine the precious heritage that we retrieved from ancient Athens and have so admirably enshrined as the normative standard in the world today.

Let me conclude by noting three things: First, I suspect that much of our misplaced “respect” for offended Muslims has less to do with genuine respect than with fear, and that rather than defer to his or her rage by going out of our way not to provoke them, we need to tell them to get a thicker skin. If you do a Venn diagram of what we would do were we generous to a fault and what we would do if we were afraid, the two circles would overlap almost entirely. The Muslims who intimidate us are not fooled by the conceit: they know we are afraid. And in showing this fear we strengthen the radicals and undermine the genuinely moderate among them.

Second: beneath our exaggerated deference lies not only fear but contempt, a kind of racism of low expectations in which we fail to rebuke Muslims – whether for engaging in the violence or justifying it – because we do not think they can handle it. And just as they know we’re afraid, not respectful, they also sense our contempt. What a combination of traits designed to provoke the enduring hatred in that “other”!

Third: as the ancient Athenians noted, Parrhesià is defined by courage, something of which our intellectual elite today around the world is in sore need. I firmly believe that this cultural clash between Islam and the West need not be a clash so much as a thrash of civilizations, that if we show some respect for ourselves and our values, and for Muslims as human beings capable of rising above honor-driven sensibilities, we can resolve many of these issues in the realm of the discourse rather than weapons. The Athenians taught us both that Parrhesià is the key to democracy, and that “the secret to that freedom is courage.”

And to any Muslims who hear or read these words, and might take offense, let me add to Diogenes comment about biting my friends, William Blake’s Proverb of Hell: Opposition is true friendship. Don’t walk away hurt; let’s talk.

40 Responses to Freedom of Speech and the Thrash of Globalizing Cultures: Lessons from Ancient Athens for the 21st Century

  1. […] here to see the original: Augean Stables » Freedom of Speech and the Thrash of Globalizing … Share and […]

  2. Diane says:

    One thought re: your friend’s claim that the French never admit they were wrong (ie, never self-criticize.)

    This is surely a new trend. Consider Rousseau’s Confessions, which led Edmund Burke to publicly excoriate the French philosopher’s morals. (It is an ad hominem attack, but powerful nonetheless.) Burke wrote that Rousseau had led a life of “obscure and vulgar vices” that was not “chequered, or spotted here and there, with virtues, or even distinguished by a single good action.” Burke contrasted Rousseau’s theory of universal benevolence and his sending his children to a foundling hospital: “a lover of his kind, but a hater of his kindred.”

  3. E.G. says:

    Live demonstration of freedom of speech and some of its consequences.

    It’s in Hebrew, too hard for me to do a transcript, but I’ll try to translate/transcript a few parts of the exchange later – unless someone else volunteers.

  4. E.G. says:

    Found a transcript in Hebrew of one part:
    Dan Margalit (DM): Seen that impudent? Says about him, of Barak, that he’s a child killer…
    Zahalka (in the background): Don’t say impudent…
    DM: Go away already…
    Zahalka (in the background): don’t say go away already
    DM: Can you let me (go on with) my work?
    Zahalka (in the background, shouting): Here it’s Sheih Munis
    DM: What do you… WHAT? This is Sheih Munis?! Here comes out the truth. Here’s what you want you want to conquer Sheih Munis (hits the table) You want to occupy Sheh Munis
    Zahalka (in the background, shouting): Because you tell me to go away from here
    DM: You want to occupy here (this place)…You want to occupy here (this place)…
    Zahalka (in the background): I want you and me to live here together… in a real democracy, in equality, real equality
    DM: You talk about democracy?
    Zahalka (in the background): You tell me to go away from here…Who’re you anyway?
    DM: Good-bye, Good bye (Shalom Shalom) Zahalka
    Zahalka (in the background): I’m a native, you’re an immigrant
    DM: What are you saying (turns head back) What are you saying? I’m an immigrant? You’re impudent!
    3:08 DM to Bergman: You start (the next item)

  5. Pococurante says:

    Great speech – a message that needs to be said more often and more loudly.

  6. Margie says:

    That is quite some interview. At one stage Zahalka upset said,”Barak loves classical music and murdering children” and then a bit later,”Barak murdered 1400 children.” Freedom of speech doesn’t always mean that the truth emerges.

    Incidentally, the word ‘Farhesia’ (F and P use the same letter in Hebrew) is used to denote anarchy in Hebrew.

  7. E.G. says:

    I always thought Parhesia was an Aramaic word introduced into Hebrew (the word being most often preceded by Be – like the in in “in public”, which is its signification, and the necessary grammatical modification, P substituted with F/ph).
    Thanks RL!

    Margie, aren’t you confusing Parhesia with Andrelamussya (to the best of my knowledge, of Aramaic origin)?

  8. Margie says:

    Thank you E.G. and apologies to anyone I misled.

  9. E.G. says:


    Ah, those foreign words! ;-)
    You were right in connoting trouble-making to that Parhesia Hebrew notion: it is very often associated to acting inappropriately in public. Like “doing one’s (dirty clothes) laundry in public” – going public with compromising, private, allegations.

  10. Paul Freeman says:

    “And to any Muslims who hear or read these words, and might take offense…”

    My respectful advice is, don’t waste your breath. When it comes to the “offense” taken by Muslims we ought just remember Humphrey Bogart:

    “I never knew a … who didn’t understand a slap in the mouth or a slug from a forty-five!”

  11. Lorenz Gude says:

    Remarkable, but especially striking is the matter of fact handling of the linked phenomena of unacknowledged fear and contempt. Also critical is your point about courage – there is a conspicuous lack of that virtue in academic life. Things have gotten badly out of balance. It is good to hear that you got some positive reaction to your talk. As has become clear from the recent terrorist attacks upon the US this problem permeates our institutions – not just academia.

  12. Cynic says:

    RL, E.G., Margie,

    There is the Greek word Parrhesia. Is it related to what you are discussing?

    The Meaning of the Word “Parrhesia”

    First,there is a pejorative sense of the word not very far from “chattering” and which consists in saying any or everything one has in mind without qualification. This pejorative sense occurs in Plato, for example, as a characterization of the bad democratic constitution where everyone has the right to address himself to his fellow citizens and to tell them anything – even the most stupid or dangerous things for the city.
    Most of the time, however, parrhesia does not have this pejorative meaning in the classical texts, but rather a positive one. “parrhesiazesthai” means “to tell the truth.” But does the parrhesiastes say what he thinks is true, or does he say what is really true?

    Pikuach Nefesh

    3. Parhesia – even in normal times, if the transgression is to be performed publicly (before ten Jews), even the slightest obligation must be fulfilled, even at the cost of one’s life.

    Please explain.

  13. Cynic says:

    “And to any Muslims who hear or read these words, and might take offense…”

    If the shoe fits ……

  14. E.G. says:


    Yes, Parhesia is used in the Talmud to refer to the public sphere (as opposed to the private one). That’s why I thought it was Aramaic.
    You don’t expect a Talmudic exegesis, do you?

    I gladly leave Foucault to RL.

    P.S. Recall that Oxfordian definition that cost me the complete dictionary raining over my head?

  15. E.G. says:

    Re- offended Moslems.
    The Danish cartoonist just avoided a beheading.
    The fat Lady hasn’t yet sung.

  16. Cynic says:

    The ancient Cynics practiced a style of Parrhesià that on principle flaunted convention, and spoke provocative truth no matter what the social consequences.

    At least they did not smother themselves in a web of lies, practice Politically Correct censorship and end up deceiving themselves and the community.

    As for
    (According to one version, they got their name because, like dogs (kyon, kynos), they behaved without any shame (anaideia), sleeping and making love in the street.)
    Is that the truth (Parrhesia) or just a biased political extrapolation?

    From the link I provided in #13 above:
    parrhesia is a kind of verbal activity where the speaker has a specific relation to truth through frankness, a certain relationship to his own life through danger, a certain type of relation to himself or other people through criticism (self-criticism or criticism of other people), and a specific relation to moral law through freedom and duty.

  17. Cynic says:


    P.S. Recall that Oxfordian definition that cost me the complete dictionary raining over my head?

    The dogs of war?

    There must have been lots of embittered Greeks about
    like dogs (kyon, kynos), they behaved without any shame (anaideia), sleeping and making love in the street.)
    just like those writing for todays MSM – long on extrapolation and short on parrhesia.

    Could we name those parrhesiasites?

  18. E.G. says:


    Could we name those parrhesiasites?

    Too long, and hard to pronounce.
    How about Phleas? (Ph for the Greek origin)

  19. Rich Rostrom says:

    “The Muslims who intimidate us are not fooled by the conceit: they know we are afraid.”

    The western response to Moslem “rage” is two-fold. Even after 9/11, very few Westerners believe that jihadism is an actual physical threat to them personally, or that political Islam will conquer any presently non-Moslem state.

    Moslem states are almost devoid of modern industry or technological capability; their one great asset is oil money.

    Yes, there is fear – but it is the fear of an adult intimidated by a willful child: he might throw a tantrum and break something. Or “create a scene”: college administrators are terrified of a “riot”.

    Your metaphorical comparison of “political correctness” to “the emperor’s new clothes” echoes this WSJ column by Shelby Steele. Steele notes that in the legend, the swindling tailors said the “beautiful robes” were invisible only to the stupid. So the emperor and his courtiers pretended to see the robes, lest they appear stupid.

    Today, politically correct courtiers praised the genius and competence of Barack Obama – because only racists denied his qualities, and they were afraid to appear racist.

    The same sort of mindset afflicts scholars and pundits discussing the Middle East and Islam. There are obvious truths no one wants to utter, for fear of being marked down as a bigot or yahoo.

  20. Cynic says:


    Well I did consider that but as I wanted to show how they take the facts, suck the juice out of them and then create another “genre” I thought an appropriate name for the perjurers to be as close to its homophone, parasite, as possible hence parrhesiasites.
    Not toooo hard to pronounce once one has thought about it a bit. :-)

    Phleas sounds ok as a nuanced form of parasitical sucking but fleas don’t confuse it with the Machiavellian politics of the Goon Show “The Flea”.

  21. E.G. says:


    I also had Fleet Street in mind.

  22. E.G. says:

    On his blog, Ben-Dror Yemini’s Blog discusses the distinction he makes between the power of speech and the freedom of speech.
    (in Hebrew)

    I’ll try to translate a few parts later on.

  23. Eliyahu says:

    Rich R, you are very right about obama and his media toadies a year ago and well into his reign [presidency?]. However, it seems to me that now it is less politically incorrect to criticize him. After the rather milktoasty remarks about the Fort Hood massacre, his latest remarks about the underwear bomber were mainly factual.

    However, he still managed to throw the issue of poverty into the story when referring to Yemen. Yes, Yemen is poor but the undies bomber was from a wealthy family and had lived in an elegant very posh apartment building in London [with a white doorman and all]. So poverty is a red herring in this story. The bomber was not motivated by poverty.

  24. RickD says:

    An old Jewish joke goes:

    The story concerns Eleazar, a Jew in Roman times, 100 B.C.E., who finds himself before the gates of heaven, ready to meet his maker, when he is stopped by the patriarch Abraham, who tells him that to meet the Lord he must be worthy of the honor and must recount an instance of bravery.

    Eleazar relates that once he found himself before the Roman emperor, and to his face he told him he was a camel’s behind, an oppressor of the Jews of Jerusalem and spat in his face.

    Abraham is impressed: “When did that occur?” he asks.

    Eleazar responds: “About 10 seconds ago.”

  25. E.G. says:

    Here’s Ben-Dror Yemini’s last Dec. 12 2009 blog entry paragraph (link above, author’s emphases)

    Power of Speech vs. Freedom of Speech

    Power of speech is power to damage. Power of speech is the private property of journalists who believe they have a monopoly. Power of speech is reflected in the claim that the right to expression is in the hands of those who deal with media and press, editors and journalists, but not in the public’s hands.

    Freedom of speech is a different story. It belongs to the public. Reporters are supposed to report fairly. The opinions are supposed to reflect, as much as possible, the [full] range of people’s opinions. In practice, the situation is different. Nearly any journalist, public media included, has an agenda that s/he pushes in the most despicable way. Worse still, it’s usually exactly the same agenda.

    For many years I was the [Maariv] opinion page editor. I published [also] articles written by infuriating writers that annoyed both readers and myself. But I did my best to keep balance, fairness and integrity. It’s not clear whether I succeeded. The problem is that many think they’re present there, as journalists and editors, only to preach their own views. They call it freedom of speech and difficultly understand that, in fact, what they exert is the power of speech. The Israeli High Court of Justice, as I’ve once written, has often strengthened the power of speech while using concepts of freedom of speech.

    If it isn’t yet clear, this post has a purpose: to introduce the power of speech concept. So that the next time someone tries to sell us arguments about freedom of speech we can notice the manipulation. Freedom of speech deserves strengthening. Power of speech needs restraint.

  26. E.G. says:

    Sorry, the date should be Dec. 31 2009

  27. Houyhnhnm says:

    Thank you Professor Landes and E.G., and the rest of those making comments. The assault on Parrhesià and isegoria by the “power of speech brokers” is at this time our most serious threat.

  28. Cynic says:


    Mark Steyn doesn’t mince words:

    a href=””>The Joke’s on Us

    But by then the president of the United States had also taken to the airwaves. For three days, he had remained silent — which I believe is a world record for the 44th president. Since Jan. 20, 2009, it’s been difficult to switch on the TV and not find him yakking —……………..
    “Here’s what we know so far. . . . As the plane made its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a passenger allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device. . . . The suspect was immediately subdued. . . . The suspect is now in custody and has been charged.” Etc, etc, piling up one desiccated legalism on another: “Allegedly . . . ” “suspect . . . ” “charged . . . ” The president can’t tell an allegedly alleged suspect (which is what he is in Obama fantasy-land) from an enemy combatant (which is what he is in cold hard reality).

  29. rl says:

    response to E.G. on Ben Dror Yemini

    thanks for the translation. the response of the french media to the decision of the court for karsenty against france2 was that this was an infringement of their right of free speech.

    Il nous inquiète, car il laisse entendre qu’il existerait désormais à l’encontre des journalistes une “permission de diffamer” qui permettrait à chacun, au nom de la “bonne foi”, du “droit de libre critique” et de la “liberté d’expression” de porter atteinte impunément “à l’honneur et à la réputation des professionnels de l’information”.

    Au moment où la liberté d’action des journalistes est l’objet d’attaques répétées, nous rappelons notre attachement à ce principe fondamental, pilier de la démocratie et nous renouvelons à Charles Enderlin notre soutien et notre solidarité.

    English translation:

    It worries us, because it gives permission in the future for a “permission to defame” journalists, which would permit anyone, in the name of “good faith” and “the right of free criticism,” to strike with impunity at the “honor and reputation of information professionals.”

    At a time when the freedom of action of journalists is the object of repeated attacks, we invoke our attachment to this fundamental principle, pillar of democracy and we renew our support and solidarity with Charles Enderlin.

  30. Eliyahu says:

    RL, you point to a very definite elitist arrogance among the French media:
    Since we are “information professionals,” we are above reproach and must not be criticized. After all, professionals do not make mistakes. On the other hand, Monsieur Karsenty does not have freedom of speech since he is not an information professional.

  31. E.G. says:


    Indeed, and the petition was not only the French media’s response: it was the French chattering class’ response. They actually protest against the court’s decision implying a public restraint of their power of speech, while abusively using the concept of freedom of speech.

    Luc Rosenzweig, in a recent article (in French), exposes some of the ways in which The TV chain protects its power.

  32. Lianne says:

    Could someone please translate the part on the Ilana Dayan case in Ben Dror Yemeni’s piece? (Dayan combined the image of a girl’s body from the scene of the shooting with a segment of field radio communication recorded on another occasion: the officer involved was later cleared) I understand that unlike Amos Harel, Yemeni supports the decision against Dayan?

    Google for some reason is switching back and forth between ‘expression’ and ‘speech’ although it’s clear the same word is being used in Hebrew.

  33. E.G. says:


    Freedom of expression is a more accurate translation than freedom of speech (expression is not limited to speech). I preferred to use speech a. given the thread’s title and b. I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) it’s loosely used in English and understood as including freedom of expression.

  34. E.G. says:


    The gist of the Ilana Dayan part is that at an extraordinary meeting of the Press Committee, the president – retired justice Dalia Dorner – supported the idea of the committee joining Dayan’s appeal as “friend of the court” because there is some suspicion that the court’s decision harms the freedom of expression. Justice Dorner argued that the committee should not side with either part, merely ensure that the freedom is unharmed.
    Yemini forcefully opposed this move/motion, arguing that there is no such thing as neutral joining. The High Court will interpret such a joining as expressing support for the journalist (Dayan). And since Yemini (who’s got a legal academic education) read the verdict and found no hint of harming that sacro-saint freedom in there, but rather some harm done to the freedom to manipulate, he voiced his opposition.

    Can you link to Amos Harel’s position?

  35. Lianne says:

    Thanks for the explanation and the summary E.G.
    I think for the purposes of this discussion ‘speech’ is fine, there’s enough overlap. And I can now add a few more words to my hebrew.

    Here’s the link to Harel

  36. E.G. says:

    Yemini’s penultimate paragraph:

    An opportunity for soul-searching

    At any rate, the verdict (Dayan-R.) is an excellent occasion to take stock with the media. Not with judge Sohlberg who, for some journalists, has turned into the nation’s and the freedom of speech’s enemy.

    Sohlberg puts a mirror before our eyes: look, he tells us, you’ve got a lot of power. But you can’t keep hiding behind the wall of “freedom of speech”. This freedom is not a permit to fraud, to libel, or to manipulate, even if the editor or the journalist’s intention is “to raise an important issue to on the public agenda”. Why, Dayan’s report did not contain even one authentic minute. It contained a smelly assemblage of things. There was an incalculable number of misleading items. Practically all of what actually happened on the ground, differs from what was presented in the broadcast. Yes, there were also grains of truth. Yes, a girl got killed and it’s terrible. But even that tragedy did not justify the manipulation.

    So between the two options – barricading on one hand and reckoning on the other – better chose the second. Because it’s time we, journalists, understand that there’s an enormous difference between the power of speech and the freedom of speech.

  37. E.G. says:


    Harel essentially argues “fake but accurate”. Yemini argues that such a claim is inadmissible.

  38. Eliyahu says:

    Ilana Dayan’s middle name is manipulation. She cannot do three minutes of a TV program [her so-called documentaries] without manipulating. If she can’t manipulate, it’s as if you’ve cut off her hands and legs. How can you be so cruel, Judge Solberg?

  39. […] to grant that freedom to people who say things you don’t like. The ability to allow others freedom of speech, to be willing to admit public criticism, to even admit mistakes and wrongdoing publicly, is a […]

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