Interviewed by Prince Harry in September, former President Barack Obama took a praiseworthy stand for free speech.
In the interview released by the BBC on Wednesday, Harry asked Obama whether it is better for government to "educate or regulate" when it comes to internet speech. Obama had a good response.
"I'm big on education, as I said earlier, just because the notion that we're going to be able to corral – that we're going to be able to contain – what's said and what's not on the internet seems unachievable. And contrary to the values of an open society that both the United States and Great Britain and most of the advanced world adheres to. I don't want to live in a world in which the state is making decisions as to who says what."
Obama is absolutely correct.
Moreover, his words represent a subtle but much-needed rebuke to the growing chorus of Western voices who want more regulation of speech. These individuals are rendered by the usual suspects: Judith Butler, the LGBTQ-Gestapo, the art critic Taliban, the "speech is violence" crew, but also by otherwise democratic governments.
The British government, for example, wants Twitter to ban speakers who do not intend to but might upset certain audiences. Indeed, Germany is already taking aggressive legal action to enforce social media compliance with authoritarian speech laws. And here at home on campuses and in political debates, it's clear the liberal intelligentsia wants to redefine the broad speech protections afforded under the First Amendment.
Unfortunately, it's not simply the Left that bears culpability here. As he has frequently tweeted out, President Trump wants to limit free speech protections for the media.
Such arguments must not meet our silence. Ultimately, if we value freedom, the right to live in a society in which individuals are free to air their grievances and participate in public debates, we must give preference to the right to use one's mouth over the right to shield one's ears.
That divergence makes America exceptional, but as 2018 approaches, it is under increasing threat.
If Barack Obama wants to take a stand for freedom, good for him.