The edition explores multiple dimensions of attacks on free speech: repression by governments, non-state actors enforcing censorship by assassination, the colliding of the American mind on campus, and the idea that certain people and groups have a right to not be offended.
The lead article makes the important link between threats to free speech in Western countries and justification of censorship by despots:
The threat to free speech on Western campuses is very different from that faced by atheists in Afghanistan or democrats in China. But when progressive thinkers agree that offensive words should be censored, it helps authoritarian regimes to justify their own much harsher restrictions and intolerant religious groups their violence.
When human-rights campaigners object to what is happening under oppressive regimes, despots can point out that liberal democracies such as France and Spain also criminalise those who “glorify” or “defend” terrorism, and that many Western countries make it a crime to insult a religion or to incite racial hatred.
Free speech is the “bedrock of all liberties,” The Economist explains:
Free speech is the best defence against bad government. Politicians who err (that is, all of them) should be subjected to unfettered criticism…
In all areas of life, free debate sorts good ideas from bad ones. Science cannot develop unless old certainties are queried. Taboos are the enemy of understanding.
The article’s conclusion is important final reminder to all those who seek to limit free speech:
Never try to silence views with which you disagree. Answer objectionable speech with more speech. Win the argument without resorting to force. And grow a tougher hide.