It takes a calm sense of security to be willing to let each person have his say in speaking and writing, regardless of the content thereof. The security may arise out of the conviction that in the free conflict of ideas, truth and sanity will prevail, even if that takes a little time, or out of an abstract devotion to free thought, whatever the outcome.
The trouble is that few people have the strength to cling to this conviction if it appears to them that some view, dangerous to their beliefs or to themselves, is gaining ground. For that reason, the impulse to censorship is insidious in its origin, arising among good and honest people, for reasons that seem irreproachable.
People with some sense of decorum find blatant pornography unpleasant and even disgusting and fear its effect on the young, the uneducated, and the mentally unstable. People with firm belief in traditional values are distressed at iconoclastic views expressed with eloquence and conviction. People who consider themselves oppressed fear views that they interpret as designed to continue or intensify that oppression.
In every case, it seems reasonable to suppress or circumscribe the free expression of ideas; and it is exceedingly difficult for many, in the name of abstract freedom, to condone blatant displays of sexual perversity or to defend the right to express views that can only be described as cruel and ignorant bigotry.
And, yet, however laudable and respectable the first steps toward censorship may appear, they must be viewed with fear and trepidation. Censorship feeds upon itself. Once it is established as a legitimate governmental activity, the pressure is always toward a broadening of the shutdown. Wipe out the more blatant examples of pornography, and of what remains some