Salman Rushdie defends the absolute right to free speech against 'the but-brigade'
Salman Rushdie, (andersphoto /

In a speech at the University of Vermont, The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie defended the absolute right of free speech.

"Frontiers, as we know, are dangerous places, and also, there are plenty of people, powerful people in the world who don't want the universe opened up a little more, who in fact would rather prefer it to be shut down," he began.

"What we see from this is that art has incredible resilience and strength. But artists are weak and vulnerable and need protection, and often suffer terribly for this attempt to push against the forces of darkness and limitation."

"Charlie Hebdo attacked everything," he continued. "It attacked Muslims, the Pope, Israel and rabbis, black people and white people, gay people and straight people -- it attacked every single kind of human being, because it was making fun."

"Its strategy was to make fun of people. It was seen as that, and it was very loved. These cartoonists were beloved in France."

"The moment somebody says, 'I believe in free speech, but,' I stop listening," he said before lampooning what he referred to as "the but-brigade."

"'I believe in free speech, but people should behave themselves. I believe in free speech, but we shouldn't upset anybody. I believe in free speech, but let's not go too far.'"

The problem with that logic, he said, "is the moment you limit free speech, it's not free speech."

"You can dislike Charlie Hebdo," Rushdie concluded, "because not all their drawings are funny. But the fact that you dislike them has nothing to do with their right to speak."

"The idea that within days of these murders, sections of the left, as well as the right, have turned against these fallen artists to vilify them, is I think disgraceful."

Watch the Associated Press video below via YouTube.