American Left vs. First Amendment

Norm Stansfield

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Mar 17, 2009
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#1
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_...es_the_u_s_overvalue_free_speech_.single.html
The vile anti-Muslim video shows that the U.S. overvalues free speech.
by Eric Posner

The universal response in the United States to the uproar over the anti-Muslim video is that the Muslim world will just have to get used to freedom of expression. President Obama said so himself in a speech at the United Nations today, which included both a strong defense of the First Amendment and (“in the alternative,” as lawyers say) and a plea that the United States is helpless anyway when it comes to controlling information. In a world linked by YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, countless videos attacking people’s religions, produced by provocateurs, rabble-rousers, and lunatics, will spread to every corner of the world, as fast as the Internet can blast them, and beyond the power of governments to stop them. Muslims need to grow a thick skin, the thinking goes, as believers in the West have done over the centuries. Perhaps they will even learn what it means to live in a free society, and adopt something like the First Amendment in their own countries.

But there is another possible response. This is that Americans need to learn that the rest of the world—and not just Muslims—see no sense in the First Amendment. Even other Western nations take a more circumspect position on freedom of expression than we do, realizing that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order. Our own history suggests that they might have a point.

Despite its 18th-century constitutional provenance, the First Amendment did not play a significant role in U.S. law until the second half of the 20th century. The First Amendment did not protect anarchists, socialists, Communists, pacifists, and various other dissenters when the U.S. government cracked down on them, as it regularly did during times of war and stress.

The First Amendment earned its sacred status only in the 1960s, and then only among liberals and the left, who cheered when the courts ruled that government could not suppress the speech of dissenters, critics, scandalous artistic types, and even pornographers. Conservatives objected that these rulings helped America’s enemies while undermining public order and morality at home, but their complaints fell on deaf ears.

A totem that is sacred to one religion can become an object of devotion in another, even as the two theologies vest it with different meanings. That is what happened with the First Amendment. In the last few decades, conservatives have discovered in its uncompromising text— “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech”—support for their own causes. These include unregulated campaign speech, unregulated commercial speech, and limited government. Most of all, conservatives have invoked the First Amendment to oppose efforts to make everyone, in universities and elsewhere, speak “civilly” about women and minorities. I’m talking of course about the “political correctness” movement beginning in the 1980s, which often merged into attempts to enforce a leftist position on race relations and gender politics.

Meanwhile, some liberals began to have second thoughts. They supported enactment of hate-crime laws that raised criminal penalties for people who commit crimes against minorities because of racist or other invidious motives. They agreed that hate speech directed at women in the workplace could be the basis of sexual harassment claims against employers as well. However, the old First Amendment victories in the Supreme Court continued to play an important role in progressive mythology. For the left, the amendment today is like a dear old uncle who enacted heroic deeds in his youth but on occasion says embarrassing things about taboo subjects in his decline.

We have to remember that our First Amendment values are not universal; they emerged contingently from our own political history, a set of cobbled-together compromises among political and ideological factions responding to localized events. As often happens, what starts out as a grudging political settlement has become, when challenged from abroad, a dogmatic principle to be imposed universally. Suddenly, the disparagement of other people and their beliefs is not an unfortunate fact but a positive good. It contributes to the “marketplace of ideas,” as though we would seriously admit that Nazis or terrorist fanatics might turn out to be right after all. Salman Rushdie recently claimed that bad ideas, “like vampires … die in the sunlight” rather than persist in a glamorized underground existence. But bad ideas never die: They are zombies, not vampires. Bad ideas like fascism, Communism, and white supremacy have roamed the countryside of many an open society.

So symbolic attachment to uneasy, historically contingent compromises, and a half-century of judicial decisions addressing domestic political dissent and countercultural pressures, prevent the U.S. government from restricting the distribution of a video that causes violence abroad and damages America’s reputation. And this is a video that, by the admission of all sides, has no value whatsoever.

Americans have not always been so paralyzed by constitutional symbolism. During the Cold War, the U.S. foreign policy establishment urged civil rights reform in order to counter Soviet propagandists’ gleeful reports that Americans fire-hosed black protesters and state police arrested African diplomats who violated Jim Crow laws. Rather than tell the rest of the world to respect states’ rights—an ideal as sacred in its day as free speech is now—the national government assured foreigners that it sought to correct a serious but deeply entrenched problem. It is useful if discomfiting to consider that many people around the world may see America’s official indifference to Muslim (or any religious) sensibilities as similar to its indifference to racial discrimination before the civil rights era.

The final irony is that while the White House did no more than timidly plead with Google to check if the anti-Muslim video violates its policies (appeasement! shout the critics), Google itself approached the controversy in the spirit of prudence. The company declined to remove the video from YouTube because the video did not attack a group (Muslims) but only attacked a religion (Islam). Yet it also cut off access to the video in countries such as Libya and Egypt where it caused violence or violated domestic law. This may have been a sensible middle ground, or perhaps Google should have done more. What is peculiar it that while reasonable people can disagree about whether a government should be able to curtail speech in order to safeguard its relations with foreign countries, the Google compromise is not one that the U.S. government could have directed. That’s because the First Amendment protects verbal attacks on groups as well as speech that causes violence (except direct incitement: the old cry of “Fire!” in a crowded theater). And so combining the liberal view that government should not interfere with political discourse, and the conservative view that government should not interfere with commerce, we end up with the bizarre principle that U.S. foreign policy interests cannot justify any restrictions on speech whatsoever. Instead, only the profit-maximizing interests of a private American corporation can. Try explaining that to the protesters in Cairo or Islamabad.
 

Neon

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#2
So Slate is officially trolling now?


- Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk. Probably while shitting.
 

Norm Stansfield

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Mar 17, 2009
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#4
So Slate is officially trolling now?
Meh, they're not the only ones looking to censor this type of stuff. Various justifications for censorship pop up whenever the Muzzies get upset at something. If you look around, there are plenty of mainstream outlets running opinion pieces saying pretty much the same things. Maybe less overtly, but the general message is "insulting Islam is not a right".
 

Neon

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I had a huge fight with a friend of mine over this story. His Israeli and very anti radical Islam and shit, but I just can't get him to accept that even speech that he sees no value in should be protected. People think they can set arbitrary lines for what speech is acceptable and what is not. "Oh, South Park is OK because it's satire. Piss Christ is OK because it's art. But Innocence of Muslims has no value other than to offend, and hence should be banned." How can intelligent people think like that? The law doesn't work that way. You can't assign an arbitrary metric of "inherent value" to certain kinds of speech. Of course his counter attack is: "Well, should Holocaust deniers be allowed to spout their shit?" YES. Of course they should. And their right to say it didn't happen is the same right I invoke to call them moronic assholes.

Another argument of his was that the law lacks "common sense." WHOSE common sense? Some people's common sense dictates that abortion is murder and that offending Jesus should be criminal. Should we trust them to make the decision? It's just stupid and I'm frustrated that they don't understand this.
 

Psychopath

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No matter what you do or say, these assholes are gonna burn shit.
 

Neon

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#8
Looks like he has some support!

ARAB LEAGUE CALLS FOR CRIMINALIZATION OF BLASPHEMY
BY MATTHEW LEE
ASSOCIATED PRESS


UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The head of the Arab League is calling for the international community to criminalize blasphemy, warning that insults to religion pose a serious threat to global peace and security.
Nabil Elaraby's comments to a special session of the U.N. Security Council put him at odds with the United States and many of its western allies, which are resolutely opposed to restrictions on freedom of expression. However, Elaraby said that if the west has criminalized acts that result in bodily harm, it must also criminalize acts that cause "psychological and spiritual harm."

He condemned the violence that erupted throughout the Muslim world in response to an anti-Islam film produced in the United States. But he said that unless blasphemy laws are enacted and enforced, similar incidents could happen again.
 

Begbie

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#9
Looks like he has some support!
This would be a great idea. Finally getting around to imprison those who merely "offend" those with their words and actions. Don Imus, Kramer, and O&A would be serving life sentences right about now...because even race (blacks, namely) falls in that psychological harm category. Even our words on this message board would be illegal.
 

Lord Zero

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Aug 25, 2008
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#11
But there is another possible response. This is that Americans need to learn that the rest of the world—and not just Muslims—see no sense in the First Amendment.
We call those people "dumbfucks". Tough shit for them
 

KRSOne

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#13
The trendies set this precedent by giving up privacy rights because of the scary muslims. Now so called right wing trendies are crying because the left wing trendies want to end free speech to protect us from the scary muslims.
 

jrsaint

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#15
Is this ok? All wackbag members mothers' sucked a dick at least once in their life and took a batch of baby batter in the cunt. hows that for free speech. I bet it is true too
 

Buster H

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#16
The trendies set this precedent by giving up privacy rights because of the scary muslims. Now so called right wing trendies are crying because the left wing trendies want to end free speech to protect us from the scary muslims.
i'm instituting a new rule..... you use the word trendy outside of your playpen and you get a vacation. this post alone would get you 3 all expense paid ones as it is.
 

fletcher

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i'm instituting a new rule..... you use the word trendy outside of your playpen and you get a vacation. this post alone would get you 3 all expense paid ones as it is.
I like it.
 

KRSOne

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#19
i'm instituting a new rule..... you use the word trendy outside of your playpen and you get a vacation. this post alone would get you 3 all expense paid ones as it is.
Question: Is that word banned in all variations such as "hipster"?

BTW I do love the irony of banning words in a free speech thread.
 

KRSOne

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#21
Who is surprised that the left is against free speech?
Is this new? They try to use every tragedy to silence free speech. They tried to blame right wing speech for the shooting in Arizona but the guy turned out to be an atheist commie.
 

fletcher

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Question: Is that word banned in all variations such as "hipster"?
Dude, just follow orders. You use trendy to be cunty and its annoying. Not to speak for Buster or any other mod but cut the shit.
 

Begbie

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#24
i'm instituting a new rule..... you use the word trendy outside of your playpen and you get a vacation. this post alone would get you 3 all expense paid ones as it is.
Hear, hear, Mr. H!

PS - No more clappy hands? And I still want :icon_cool back...
 

KRSOne

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#25
Dude, just follow orders. You use trendy to be cunty and its annoying. Not to speak for Buster or any other mod but cut the shit.
The same could be said about negative speech about Islam, some are doing it just to be cunty and it annoys some people. Surly you must see the irony of banning words in a free speech thread.