The Cost of Security for Lars Vilks

Lars Vilks, one of many artists threatened over a Muhammad drawing, finished his lecture at Uppsala University in Sweden yesterday.

Total cost for 130 police officers and additional guards? Nearly 800,000 SEK (or $120,125.60 US dollars).

According to reader Richard:

The basic law is something like this: if someone is threatened for expressing themselves (in whatever way they may choose) the state will protect that persons person in all of her/his actions.

Trivial conclusion: There’s a cost to these threats even if we refuse to give in. If we give in, we lose the morals which makes our society great. If we don’t, we’ll have to pay for it by increasing security.

The cost of free speech is not just in our minds — people aggressively trying to stop free speech also cost us in tax money.

It raises an interesting question:

How much should the government and universities pay before we either take some sort of action against the terrorism or give in and not speak?

  • Gavin Millar

    How much should the government and universities pay before we either take some sort of action against the terrorism or give in and not speak?

    The question isn’t how much should we pay, but what action should we take?

  • Matt

    I can see terrorist groups potentially using this as a tactic to try to bankrupt governments that spare no expense in protecting their citizens’ rights.

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com/ Transplanted Lawyer

    Before you respond to this rather interesting question, bear this in mind too — free speech may and likely will include speech that you personally find distasteful and will only ever be an issue this way when it is controversial.

    So for instance, how much money would you be happy to see the government (like a university, or a police force) spend to protect the ability of Fred Phelps to say what’s on his mind at any given moment? When you’re willing to spend scarce, hard-earned taxpayer dollars to protect speech like Phelps’, that is the true measure of your commitment to free speech.

    I say, Phelps and Vilks and anyone else who is making a public statement about an issue of public concern and who is otherwise in compliance with the law should get sufficient protection to ensure that there is no violence at the time and place when the speech is to take place. If that takes 130 cops and $125,000, so be it.

    I do not believe that terrorist groups are clever and well-organized enough to pull off a campaign of bankrupting governments this way. Besides, we’ve proven more than competent at bankrupting ourselves without any assistance from the bad guys.

  • Miko

    TL:

    When you’re willing to spend scarce, hard-earned taxpayer dollars to protect speech like Phelps’, that is the true measure of your commitment to free speech.

    No it isn’t. This would only make sense if you think that providing security to the populace is a legitimate function of government. (Personally, I don’t think that government has any legitimate functions.)

    Free speech issues within the context of statism typically center around the government trying to take free speech away, and so are cast in the light of a negative liberty issue rather than in a positive liberty form such as “government as champion of free speech.” (Yeah, right.)

    Social libertarianism has a great deal to say about other attacks on free speech outside of the context of statism, mainly in the scenario of how workers can protect themselves against bosses that would fire them based on comments made when not at work (or how students can protect themselves against university administrations that claim they violated “speech codes”) as a component of a more encompassing criticism of capitalism. As issues like this in the last couple of decades indicate, more research is needed into how people in a free society (i.e., anarchy) could go about protecting themselves from non-state actors that would use violence to stifle speech. We’ve already said a lot about resistance to violence from state actors, but the fact that non-state actors typically don’t care about preserving the illusion of legitimacy means that the same tactics are unfortunately not applicable.

    I do not believe that terrorist groups are clever and well-organized enough to pull off a campaign of bankrupting governments this way.

    I agree. Terrorists can do a better job of making the governments bankrupt themselves by threatening attacks against infrastructure (actually carrying out the attacks isn’t necessary).

    By the way, let’s be a bit more careful when throwing around the term “terrorist.” Not everyone who wants to bankrupt the governments is a terrorist. Indeed, this is a fairly common goal among non-violent libertarian groups and one of the areas in which we have been most successful, as Toronto’s decision to spend 1.2 billion dollars in an attempt to oppress anti-G20 demonstrators exemplifies.

  • http://reanhouse.blogspot.com Sarah

    I think Phelps and co are disgusting and despicable but I wouldn’t want to see harm come to them. I’d rather them spew their hatred and have it met with calm, kind, irrefutable arguments.

    I say spend what we have to spend to defend our right to free speech and send the bill to the people making the threats against our citizens. If the baddies don’t want to pay then they’re welcome to reap the rewards of that choice – prison time. (Probably not even remotely feasible but if I ruled the world that’s how it would be). Freedom of speech is far to valuable to put a price tag on.

    I may not agree with what you have to say but I will defend to my death your right to say it.

  • cranium

    There is a difference between offensive behavior such as that displayed by Westboro, and threatening behavior such as that expressed against Vilks.

    I think we should spend whatever it takes. These people NEVER back down. If we back down over a simple thing, ultimately our lives will be threatened if we don’t kneel and pray five times a day. What would we do then?

  • Ben

    How much should the government and universities pay before we either take some sort of action against the terrorism or give in and not speak?

    The real question is: what sort of action do you suggest? I’m not playing devil’s advocate here, I think this is a legitimate question, one which has the leaders of our countries stumped. It’s not that they don’t want to do something about terrorism, it’s that doing something (i.e. doing things that make the situation better rather than worse) is harder than it sounds.

  • Rollingforest

    A third option is to allow Lars Vilks and volunteers to carry weaponry to protect themselves and give them legal cover so that they won’t be charged if they are defending themselves. This could help make up for any shortage of police forces.

  • Valhar2000

    Indeed, this is a fairly common goal among non-violent libertarian groups and one of the areas in which we have been most successful, as Toronto’s decision to spend 1.2 billion dollars in an attempt to oppress anti-G20 demonstrators exemplifies.

    Libertarianism: the cancer in the atheist movement.

  • Valhar2000

    A third option is to allow Lars Vilks and volunteers to carry weaponry to protect themselves and give them legal cover so that they won’t be charged if they are defending themselves. This could help make up for any shortage of police forces.

    Or, more likely, they’d end up dead, along with a couple of their attackers a few bystanders. But, hey! Let’s not let reality get in the way of a libertarian wet dream, right?

  • VXbinaca

    @Valhar2000

    Or, more likely, they’d end up dead, along with a couple of their attackers a few bystanders. But, hey! Let’s not let reality get in the way of a libertarian wet dream, right?

    I don’t mean to shit on your progressive wet-dream but:

    Because Britain had destroyed it’s gun culture of thoroughly, it had to beg the US for guns during WWII, to the point our government solicited it’s citizens to send it’s spare guns to a P.O. box in New York City, so they could be shipped to there. Their training times for firearms were high too since the only ones in the country were meant for birds and only owned by the rich. This is costly and hurt the nations ability to defend it’s self. It also lead to them using spears out of museums, and smelting musical instruments to make crude firearms like the Sten SMG.

    When you have a population that has access to a weapons for self defense you have a population that has:

    A): A chance to preserve it’s life.
    B): A chance to train to become proficient in their firearm of choice.

    If we banned or heavily regulated cars, in one generation no one would be able to drive well like pretty much most of the US in 1901.

    What this shows is it’s expensive for Sweden to have free speech. Just let people have a firearm easily and carry it for self-defense and make it easy for them to train with it. Dramatically cuts down on costs.

  • VXbinaca

    @Valhar2000

    Libertarianism: the cancer in the atheist movement.

    Theres so few atheists in the U.S. and you make a section of them feel unwelcome with comments like this?

    Oh I’m sorry Valhar200, shall I go back to being a Catholic to make you feel more comfortable with carbon copy peers?

    You know, theres people in the movement and community I don’t like either, but I’d work with them in a second (you included) on important issues. I wouldn’t ever call them the “cancer” of a movement. Theres a difference between expressing dislike or reservations about a group of people within your community, and saying their a cancer.

    Shame on you, Valhar2000.

  • Unrein

    Libertarianism: the cancer in the atheist movement.

    Oh, that’s completely wrong.

    Libertarianism is the cancer of all of humanity. Thankfully, it’s woefully benign.

  • VXbinaca

    *shakes head*

    This is exactly why I was hesitant about contacting other atheists.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Tax the mosques?

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    This would only make sense if you think that providing security to the populace is a legitimate function of government.

    … What world do you live in? Seriously.

    (Personally, I don’t think that government has any legitimate functions.)

    Then your opinions on what the government should and shouldn’t do are meaningless. This is an idiotic statement.

  • muggle

    Trivial conclusion: There’s a cost to these threats even if we refuse to give in. If we give in, we lose the morals which makes our society great. If we don’t, we’ll have to pay for it by increasing security.

    I’m glad to read that recognition of what would be the greater loss.

    I see the point about Phelps and were he only making speeches at universities or holding random demonstrations downtown, I’d agree but instead he chooses to harass dead solidiers families so I’ve got to say that’s not a great analogy. I’d defend to the death that asshole’s right to free speech but I hope to hell the Supreme Court shuts down his harrassment of those who (to use a trite phrase) make the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

    Libertarians frankly are the cancer on society (but I would agree all not just Atheist) and, frankly, why assume all Liberertarians are Atheists. I don’t think so.

    As for government providing security for the populace? Duh. That’s one of the main reasons they exist. In fact, I’d argue it’s the only reason for them to exist. If the anarchy wet dream ever happened, you’d soon find people having to band together to protect themselves from the bullies. That’s government, dummy. How do you think they formed in the first place?

  • VXbinaca

    I have seen radical Christians treated better on this blog.

    Muggle, I guess you don’t need us to help advocate for church/state separation. I guess that 1 percent of the US population has a lot of sway and gets things done on it’s own without help from people of different political creeds.

    Because if this is the treatment different people get here, I’ll leave you guys be and just be an atheist alone. I guess numbers and solidarity don’t count in this community.

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com/ Transplanted Lawyer

    It’s entirely legitimate to make a searching inquiry about the appropriate functions of government. Merely asking such questions, and even answering them “no,” does not make one a “cancer on humanity.” Let’s eschew childish name-calling, address the issue on its merits, and find a way to disagree with one another without being disagreeable to one another.

    With that said, I maintain my earlier claim that protecting nonviolent people against actual or reasonably-anticipated acts of violence is a legitimate sort of action by the government, one for which tax dollars ought to be collected and spent. At an absolute minimum, the government exists to protect the innocent from the violent. Without peace, nothing else is possible — not free speech, not commerce, not even ownership of property.

    So to return to the question posed by the original post, how much should we spend? We should spend what it reasonably takes so that people can engage in lawful activities of all sorts without having to fear suicide bombers, deranged gunmen, muggers, people tossing Molotov cocktails, invasions by foreign armies, and so on. We may disagree on the exact amount of money that is reasonable to spend under a particular set of circumstances, but surely we can at least agree that in broad terms, this is the core function of legitimate government.

  • Silent Service

    Numbers and solidarity count for something, but don’t expect us to let the village idiot out to make any important decisions, VX. Guess what, your constant pushing of obviously stupid statements like;

    Personally, I don’t think that government has any legitimate functions.

    pretty much identifies you as the village idiot. Our country is founded of a few very basic ideas. One of them is Free Speech. One of them is that our government has an obligation to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. Since you don’t think those are legitimate functions of government, please stop using the internet that our government (the US military) helped develop and the WWW that a government sponsored body (CERN) created, go back to your cave in the wilderness, and leave civilization to the grownups.

  • ihedenius

    I watched it live on the web. Nothing happened. I want my money back.

  • TychaBrahe

    I have an idea.

    The University (or whomever paid the bill for the security) should sue the people who disrupted the original meeting for repayment. After all, it is their fault that the security was required.

    Make uncivilized behavior very, very expensive.

    “You want to express your views politely, have at it. The auditorium is available immediately after Mr. Vilks has finished speaking. We’ll cover the cost of the electricity for the lights and sound system and the usual two guards required to keep the building open late. You act like asshats and require us to spend all this money on security for Mr. Vilks, YOU pay.”

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com Transplanted Lawyer

    Personally, I don’t think that government has any legitimate functions.

    That statement was authored by @Miko, not @VXbinaca. If either @Miko or @VXbinaca are actually anarchists, let them offer their best argument(s) for anarchy and let the ideas succeed or fail on their merits.

    …don’t expect us to let the village idiot out to make any important decisions, VX. Guess what, your constant pushing of obviously stupid statements…

    I see little merit to the anarchist position as well, but I see no need to be so personally nasty while disagreeing with it. Respectfully, I suggest you learn to omit ad hominen attacks from your argument style; your arguments will be stronger as a result.

    On second thought, do what you like — what you do and say reflects on you, not on me. I’ve pointed out what looks to me like a problem and suggested a solution, and tried to demonstrate how to disagree without being a jerk. Whether you do what I suggest or not is your call.

  • Rollingforest

    Okay, so I guess everyone’s a little testy because of the US elections coming up in less than a month. But I agree with Transplanted Lawyer that the issue we should be promoting is atheism, not any particular political stand point. We divide ourselves at our own peril. This post is just a slight diversion from that goal.

    I will point out, though, that however you feel about the Tea Party, I think most people would agree that totalitarianism is much worse, whether that be right wing fascism or left wing communism. Anarchy isn’t stable and some government will reform. Totalitarianism is dangerously stable.

    @VXbinaca: I have noticed that the Catholic Church teaches exactly the opposite of what the Libertarian party teaches when it comes to politics.

  • Secular Stu

    Valhar2000 Says:

    A third option is to allow Lars Vilks and volunteers to carry weaponry to protect themselves and give them legal cover so that they won’t be charged if they are defending themselves. This could help make up for any shortage of police forces.

    Or, more likely, they’d end up dead, along with a couple of their attackers a few bystanders. But, hey! Let’s not let reality get in the way of a libertarian wet dream, right?

    What is your evidence to support this claim? Can you point to any statistics on bystanders that have been injured in incidents with someone who had a CCW? Do those statistics show that the injury rate is different from the number of bystanders that are injured by missed shots fired by police officers?

    Also, how does the “they’d end up dead” scenario differ from the other options. Correct me if I’m missing one:

    1). The government provides police protection.
    2). “Take some sort of action against terrorism”. We would still run into incidents like the one with Theo Van Gogh.
    3). Give in and not speak. Universities could refuse to host certain events, but the government can’t abridge someone’s freedom of speech for their own safety. We would still be concerned with various cartoonists with death threats.

    If the “giving in” option is suggested due to concerns over the cost, we’re already showing a willingness to allow people to die due to cost-benefit analysis. How would the possible death of innocent bystanders factor into that? I’m trying to picture the situation where the police provide no protection to the target, and also prevent them from arming themselves. You would have to argue that the death of innocent bystanders is more likely and/or costly than hindering the target from taking steps to defend themselves.

  • Secular Stu

    There are many differences between US law and laws in European countries that should be considered. In many states there are laws against making “terroristic threats”. Should penalties be increased? Should law enforcement make that a higher priority?

  • VXbinaca

    So I decided to check back here one last time to see if cooler heads had prevailed.
    Guess not.

    @Rollingforest:

    The progressives impending doom is no excuse to be ru- no downright hateful to your fellow atheist. I’m not even fucking voting this November. Neither the FDR-wannabe’s or the crackpot TP’s represent me. Yet I don’t even drop the L word in here and am called the cancer on atheism, society the world, etc etc.

    Way to represent “progress”. Y’all deserve to lose in 3 weeks simply for your rudeness here alone. I’m now starting a Facebook event with my moderate friends to celebrate the progressives impending defeat over beer and cigars.

    @Secular Stu

    They won’t answer you because they’re:

    - Anonymous cowards tracked in from non-atheist sites.
    - Without argument.
    - Lacking science or stats to back it up and anything they cite I’ll rip to shreds in a New York minute.

    @Transplanted Lawyer

    I’m not an anarchist, it’s just those guys jumping to conclusions.

    I will be unsubscribing from this topic, please take it to the forums where and hit me up with a PM if you want to be counter-productive by frothing at the mouth some more where I’ll see it.

  • muggle

    VX, you’ve said far worse things about homosexuals, for instance. Guess you can dish it out but you can’t take it.

    My comment was directed at miko’s about government being unnecessary. However, since you seem to think that means I have no right to expect Libertarian support for separation of church and state, please reread the remark of people banding together to protect themselves. However, I do find Libertarians misguided. The anarchists frankly have more balls. Libertarians just want a government to run the nice cushy infrastructure and regulate nothing else.

    Chicken shits want government because they recognize what living without an infrastructure would mean but then they want to say said government can’t make any laws other than that. At least the anarachists either just naively believe people will work together if only given the chance or think they’re superstrong (still naive) and think it’s perfectly okay to let the strong destroy/use/exploit the weak.

    We’re jumping to conclusions about you being anarchist because instead of letting someone defend their remarks about government not being necessary, you leaped to it.

    Frankly, I wouldn’t miss you. And I doubt you’d miss me. Apparently the only thing we have in common besides disbelief is liking Hemant’s writing enough to be here and I’m not even sure of that in your case. I can’t get into your head (thank the FSM). I don’t know why you’re here. I don’t understand you and I’m sure you don’t understand me.


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