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Ramesh Ponnuru

How Outrage Became a Growth Industry

Silencing your opponents won't help your cause.
Status update.

Status update.

Photographer: Ute Grabowsky/Photothek via Getty Images

A concern about national character runs through the Supreme Court's free-expression cases. In 1927, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that free speech could rarely be a threat to "courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning." In a 1989 decision striking down laws against flag-burning, Justice William Brennan quoted that comment and explained that the court was striking a blow for the country's "resilience."

An important reason that we celebrate free speech, then, is that -- to put the point negatively -- we don't want to be fearful and brittle people, or a fearful and brittle people.