John Pilger: Does that right of free expression, in your view, extent to everybody?
Noam Chomsky: I mean, if we don’t believe in free expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.
John Pilger: Would you support the right of terrorists calling for murder of Salman Rushdie to speak in that way?
Noam Chomsky: To speak yes, but I think that Bentham’s standard is the one that should be observed… Suppose you and I walk into a store and you have a gun and I tell you to shoot the store owner. Well, that’s speech but it’s not protected because that’s speech which is part of a violent act.
John Pilger: But shouldn’t that be, as in the case of the racist being allowed to speak, shouldn’t that be simply, and indeed it is in this country, illegal. I mean it’s incitement to murder.
Noam Chomsky: You have to ask whether it is incitement to imminent violent action. Now you know there’s no precise litmus test that tells you where to draw the line. But freedom of speech is an important enough to value so that you need an extraordinary argument to overcome it. I think there are such cases. I gave one. For example, somebody who says ‘shoot' when someone else has a gun. OK. That’s crossing the line. But I don’t think there are many cases that cross the line.