Can We Talk?
The really big news this week for many would be voters is who won the least dressed award at the Metropolitan Museum’s Gala opening -- Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, or Jennifer Lopez?
Fortunately for people like me who are sick of this stuff, a new app is being developed called KardBlock which disappears from every story and feed you read online any mention of the Kardashians. Take that, Luddites who claim technology doesn’t really improve our lives.
This new development got me to thinking about how best to respond to those pundit morons on the left and right who attacked Pam Geller for hosting a Mohammed cartoon contest in Garland, Texas which resulted in the shooting deaths of a two man would-be jihadi homicide squad.
The Law on Free Speech
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the first because free speech is the most essential element of a free society. Professor Volokh provides a handy short form guide to its scope for those who never knew or forgot it or who, unfortunately, get their schooling from the media:
I keep hearing about a supposed “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment, or statements such as, “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech,” or “When does free speech stop and hate speech begin?” But there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas. One is as free to condemn Islam -- or Muslims, or Jews, or blacks, or whites, or illegal aliens, or native-born citizens -- as one is to condemn capitalism or Socialism or Democrats or Republicans.
To be sure, there are some kinds of speech that are unprotected by the First Amendment. But those narrow exceptions have nothing to do with “hate speech” in any conventionally used sense of the term. For instance, there is an exception for “fighting words” -- face-to-face personal insults addressed to a specific person, of the sort that are likely to start an immediate fight. But this exception isn’t limited to racial or religious insults, nor does it cover all racially or religiously offensive statements. Indeed, when the City of St. Paul tried to specifically punish bigoted fighting words, the Supreme Court held that this selective prohibition was unconstitutional (R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992)), even though a broad ban on all fighting words would indeed be permissible.
The same is true of the other narrow exceptions, such as for true threats of illegal conduct or incitement intended to and likely to produce imminent illegal conduct (i.e., illegal conduct in the next few hours or maybe days, as opposed to some illegal conduct some time in the future). Indeed, threatening to kill someone because he’s black (or white), or intentionally inciting someone to a likely and immediate attack on someone because he’s Muslim (or Christian or Jewish), can be made a crime. But this isn’t because it’s “hate speech”; it’s because it’s illegal to make true threats and incite imminent crimes against anyone and for any reason, for instance because they are police officers or capitalists or just someone who is sleeping with the speaker’s ex-girlfriend.
For this very reason, “hate speech” also doesn’t have any fixed legal meaning under U.S. law. U.S. law has just never had occasion to define “hate speech” -- any more than it has had occasion to define rudeness, evil ideas, unpatriotic speech, or any other kind of speech that people might condemn but that does not constitute a legally relevant category.
Of course, one can certainly argue that First Amendment law should be changed to allow bans on hate speech (whether bigoted speech, blasphemy, blasphemy to which foreigners may respond with attacks on Americans or blasphemy or flag burning or anything else). Perhaps some statements of the “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech” variety are deliberate attempts to call for such an exception, though my sense is that they are usually (incorrect) claims that the exception already exists.
In the guise of protecting the delicate sensibilities of college students who can’t study calculus or gender studies without terror because of "microaggressions" (speech by those with whom they disagree) and need blankies and safe rooms, universities often clamp down on free speech. These restrictions are incompatible with civil liberties and often discarded after court challenge, but the notion that we need regulatory earmuffs seems a popular one with the journalist class. This seems odd because you’d think if they were doing their jobs they’d most respect the constitutional protection. Perhaps all they really want is an unchecked monopoly on what we can speak. Or maybe they are just cowards afraid they’ll face the Moslem extremists they are pretending don’t really exist.
Here are some of the journalists who failed their mission this week:
MSNBC said that Geller purposely set out to trap Muslims
NBC’s Chris Matthews claimed Geller “caused” the Garland shooting: (Ed Driscoll quotes him and reminds how at odds this was when he spoke about the French right to free speech. He obviously thinks the French have a greater right to it than we do):
[quote] Past performance is no guarantee of future results:
“[Regarding] the attack in Texas, we’re learning more about the gunmen who opened fire at an event where an anti-Islamic group held a contest on who could be the nastiest -- draw the lastiest [sic] the nastiest cartoon of Mohamed. Do you believe that people set that kind of a mousetrap?
…I remember the old days when the Nazi Party and the Communist Party would sort of team up in a weird, sick, symbiotic way. One would have an event, and the other would attack it, you know? Well, I think she caused this trouble, and whether this trouble came yesterday, or it came two weeks from now, it’s going to be in the air as long as you taunt.”
— Chris Matthews: Pamela Geller CAUSED Texas shooting by setting a TRAP for Muslims, compares to Nazis,” transcription of video at The Right Scoop, tonight.
“There is a history of retaliation for perceived slights to Islam. Back in 1989, a fatwa, or death sentence, was issued for Salman Rushdie because his book Satanic Verses was considered offensive to Islam. In 2004, we all know this story, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered on the street by a killer who considered van Gogh’s work anti-Islamic. In 2005, when a Dutch newspaper published cartoons lampooning Muhammad, the artists and publishers were met with death threats.
I want your view because you’re so optimistic on this. What do you make of what happened today? Do you think it is an odd occurrence? Or is this the start of something that we’re going to have to live with for decades? Where people -- this whole thing being disaffected. Tough luck you’re disaffected. You’re living in France. The country is called France. It’s French. Liberty, equality, fraternity. Get with it. If you don’t like living there, move! This idea that somehow France has to adjust to your thinking about what constitutes blasphemy is outrageous.”
—Chris Matthews: This Idea That France Has To Adjust To Your Thinking Is Outrageous”, Real Clear Politics (with video), January 7, 2015.SCOLL
Versus? Ugh. The progressive stupidity about free speech is actually getting dangerous. So-called “hate speech” -- which is defined by progressives as speech they deem “hateful” (i.e., which disagrees with their worldview) -- is fully protected by the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court said in the Westboro Baptist Church case, Synder v. Phelps:
Such speech cannot be restricted simply because it is upsetting or arouses contempt. If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment , it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable. Indeed, “the point of all speech protection… is to shield just those choices of content that in someone’s eyes are misguided, or even hurtful.”
Exactly. But the NYT editorial is just the tip of the progressive iceberg to roll back free speech. That’s what totalitarians do.
Had you any doubt that Foley is right, remember the vigor with which these same journalists defend “Piss Christ” exhibits in publicly funded museums or reprint propagandist BDS and Israeli “apartheid” and “war crimes” tripe which contributes to growing anti-Semitism; who give great coverage to priestly sexual misdeeds and downplay the same thing in public schools; brush under the carpet news of schools having kids learn Moslem prayers while they attack any non-Moslem religious education in these same schools. Indeed, it is the same press that resurrected Al Sharpton after the Brawley fiasco and airbrushes out his incitement to pogrom and murder in Crown Heights.
CNN’s Chris Cuomo ignorantly tweeted: “hate speech is excluded from protection”.
The Associated Press suggested Geller was wrong in not expressing regrets for the deaths of the jihadis who were trying to kill her.
Laura Ingraham contended Geller had gone too far and insulted Moslems.
Greta Van Susteren scolded Geller for putting police lives in jeopardy.
Bill O’Reilly seemed preposterously to be arguing that Jesus wouldn’t have sponsored the Mohammed cartoon contest (ignoring that Mohammed was not alive when Jesus lived) and just as ridiculously asserted that we shouldn’t offend Moslems because we need their support to kill Moslem jihadis.
Even Facebook, which purports to be a vehicle for free speech briefly blocked the account of the winner of the Geller cartoon contest. Other conservative posters, notably including Thomas H. Lipscomb, had their accounts cancelled this week without reason and without appeal. Perhaps Facebook’s founder ought to pay more attention to what his staff is doing and why.
Much of the defaming of Geller originates from the George Soros funded quarter-billion dollar outfit called the Southern Poverty Law Center which is the phalanx of the progressive effort to detract from any person or organization which holds views contrary to theirs.
SPLC characterizes Pamela Geller as “anti-Muslim” in a screechy profile covering her long writing career. Ready to Get Informed?
Pamela Geller is the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead. She’s relentlessly shrill and coarse in her broad-brush denunciations of Islam and makes preposterous claims, such as that President Obama is the “love child” of Malcolm X. She makes no pretense of being learned in Islamic studies, leaving the argumentative heavy lifting to her Stop Islamization of America partner Robert Spencer. Geller has mingled comfortably with European racists and fascists, spoken favorably of South African racists, defended Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic and denied the existence of Serbian concentration camps. She has taken a strong pro-Israel stance to the point of being sharply critical of Jewish liberals.
Geller uses her website to publish her most revolting insults of Muslims: She posted (and later removed) a video implying that Muslims practiced bestiality with goats and a cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammad with a pig’s face (observant Muslims do not eat pork).
Media outlets dutifully took notes and called Geller “anti-Islam” after she and attendees escaped death at the hands of Muslim jihadis. Geller is just as bad as madmen who tried to kill her, you see.
Reuters, the New York Daily News, Slate, Vox, Raw Story, NPR, and the Washington Post all hopped onboard the SPLC smear-Geller train.
At first, I was furious at the easy way the journalists left and right were willing to undercut what the Founding Fathers so brilliantly conceived in the Constitution. Then it occurred to me, if we can disappear from all our online reading any reference to the Kardashians, why couldn’t we do the same for those publications, news outlets and pundits who participated? Let’s call this DUPEBlock.
Correction made: Metropolitan Museum, not Metropolitan Opera openeing gala referenced.