The oldest image of Jesus Christ is a crude, mocking caricature

Blasphemy is an indispensable human right. Without the right to engage in blasphemy, there can be no freedom of inquiry, expression, conscience or religion.

Hussein Ibish

We can have laws against blasphemy or we can have religious freedom. We can never have both.

We have every right to take offense and to give offense. But we should not seek to take offense. And we should not seek to give offense.

Since blasphemy is a theme today across much of the Web, let me quote again some wise words from David Dark’s fine book The Sacredness of Questioning Everything.

This is from Dark’s chapter on “Questioning Our Offendedness”:

It might be of interest to note that the earliest known pictorial depiction of Jesus on the cross was a cartoon. Often referred to as “The Alexamenos Graffito,” it’s a crude drawing of a human figure raising a reverent hand toward a crucified individual with the head of a mule. Discovered on the plaster wall of an ancient Roman school, this second-century parody of a certain Jewish Messianic movment includes, scrawled beneath the caricature, a taunt perhaps best translated as “Alexamenos worships his god.”

I wish this particular cartoon could find wider distribution because it dismantles the image of the Christian, historically speaking, as a member of a special interest group, a sleeper cell for a political party, or a power constellation of offended people looking for something to boycott. …

It probably would have been out of keeping with the presumed ethos of the Jesus whom Alexamenos dared to admire to angrily condemn the ridicule as unacceptable (with a hint of violent reprisal). If the Sermon on the Mount is any indication, Jesus taught his followers that suffering public denunciation is part of the deal. Proclaiming the kingdom of God does not include shouting down anyone who finds your proclamation unconvincing. …

The feeling of offendedness is invigorating. It might even be an effective way to bend a population toward a tyrant’s will. But we must never settle for it. We must not confuse an accelerated pulse rate for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We must interrogate our offendedness, hold it open for question. …

Feeling offended is a reassuring sensation. It’s easier than asking ourselves if the redeeming love of God is evident in the way we communicate with people. It’s easier than considering our relationships with the huddled masses throughout the world who find themselves on the wrong end of our economic policies and other forms of warfare. Perhaps our cutthroat ways bear some relationship to our confused notions of God. Maybe we think God, as an intergalactic economist, is a survival-of-the-fittest type. … We might even think that being offended and angry and on the defensive is to be more firmly aligned with the Almighty. …

To keep it all simple and safe, we often become selective fundamentalists. We know where to go to have our prejudices explained as just and sensible, our convictions strengthened, our group or political party reaffirmed. We process whatever already fits the grid that is hardwired (or re-hardwired) in our heads. It’s difficult for anything else to get through. We’re easily offended. Maybe we’re looking to feel offended, which can make us feel better about ourselves. Feeling offended summons a sense of being in the right, a certain strength, a kind of power, an espresso shot of righteous indignation. And if the image of God hardwired into our nervous system is easily offended and put off by certain people and their offensive behavior, there’s a feeling of being that much closer to the winning side, that much more likely to be numbered among the elect, the saved, the documented.

  • GDwarf

    I find ancient graffiti so interesting, at least in part, because it’s so similar to the modern version.

    I mean, the cartoon isn’t great, but there’s a kernel of a joke there that we understand, even now. Heck, it’s better than…most of the stuff in newspapers now, really.

    Actually, if anything, ancient graffiti tends to be more obscene and inane than the modern sort. The graffiti found in Pompeii is a good mix of the sort of thing kids carve into desks and trees now, stuff that would get you lynched if you said it on TV, and what are essentially Twitter updates (“Just bought some bread”). Plus, of course, people complaining about all the graffiti.

  • Kiba

    Oh my. Loved how most of the graffiti seemed to be about who had sex with whom and who pooped where. 

  • GDwarf

    Hah, yes. Also: Shopping lists. So many shopping lists.

    I like the advertisements, too.

    But yeah, clearly the sort of ancient Roman who wrote on walls was pretty much entirely concerned with sex and defecation.

  • reynard61

    “Loved how most of the graffiti seemed to be about who had sex with whom and who pooped where.”

    Those Romans were a randy bunch, weren’t they?

  • Kiba

    Ha! I liked, “We have wet the bed, host. I confess we have done wrong. If you want to know why, there was no chamber pot,” as well.

    Some of my other favorites:

     Weep, you girls.  My penis has given you up.  Now it penetrates men’s behinds.  Goodbye, wondrous femininity!

     On April 19th, I made bread

    Apollinaris, the doctor of the emperor Titus, defecated well here

    “Secundus defecated here” three time on one wall.

  • Makabit

    ThTThe Pompeii graffiti are hilarious: “One who buggers a fire burns his penis.”

    I

    On

    T

    On

  • Joshua

    That handwriting is even worse than my own.

  • P J Evans

     Worse than his drawing, for sure. I think he’s writing in Koine, because the name is in Greek letters.

  • http://blog.carlsensei.com/ Carl

    I feel like yesterday’s post about Get Religion was just an excuse to be offended that anyone would try to come up with questions for who should be referred to as an evangelical in public.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    VI.6.1 (House of the Olii; on the Via Consolare); 139: The city block of the Arrii Pollii in the possession of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius is available to rent from July 1st.  There are shops on the first floor, upper stories, high-class rooms and a house.  A person interested in renting this property should contact Primus, the slave of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius.

    I see that among the many engineering disciplines developed and practiced by the ancient Romans, a crude form of Craigslist was among them.  

    As far as the bits about pooping and who has sex with whom, it goes to show that graffiti is universal through time.  I remember reading in one bathroom stall in high school someone writing “Poop comes out my anus”.  Yes, unknown graffiti artist, poop does indeed come from the anus, congratulations on your stunning discovery of the obvious.  

    Actually, when I went to Switzerland many years ago, I discovered that the graffiti was actually prettier there than in the states.  I remember visiting a lakeside beach, and going into a changing stall only to discover that someone had written, with clear lettering and in perfect English, a short dissertation on the subject of originality in graffiti.  

    No wonder my sister decided to move there after high school.  

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’ve always been fond of this one (and fingers crossed that my html don’t break):

    ∫e(x) = f(un)

    eta: dammit.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The most intelligent graffiti I have seen was observed on the wall of a backstage men’s bathroom at a large Seattle theater hall.  It was a joke that read:

    Descartes walks into an ice cream store and orders a sunday.  The clerk asks him if he wants nuts on it.  Descartes says, “I think not,” and disappears in a puff of logic.

    Juxtaposed nearby was a caricature of a man with a penis for a nose.  

  • flat

    bathroom graffiti I am not much of a fan because most are dumb dick jokes, and I am more a fan of smart dick jokes, but sometimes you can find a a funny one at the bathroom.

  • bobnelsonfr

    We can have laws against blasphemy or we can have religious freedom. We can never have both.
    We have every right to take offense and to give offense. But we should not seek to take offense. And we should not seek to give offense.

    Absolutely true.
    At the same time, hate speech is of negative value to society, no more acceptable than “FIRE!!” in a crowded place…
    Like all freedoms, free speech sometimes collides with other freedoms. America is unique in its absolutist vision of free speech, allowing such social destruction as that “church” that demonstrates on the lawn of dead soldiers…
    All laws must be written so as to prevent misuse of the law, by interpretation that is either too lax or too strict. 
    So… Yes… blasphemy must be allowed. But hate speech should not.

  • Jessica_R

    I love some Ancient Greek graffiti I remember a historian explaining in a special I watched ages ago. On a wall is carved “Demetrius is beautiful.” A few feet away is carved “Says who?”

  • The_L1985

     It reminds me of the graffiti in modern bathroom stalls.

  • P J Evans

    I saw this one, painted on the side of a freeway overpass (it was there for quite a while):

    Who sold you  your indulgences?

  • LouisDoench

    America is unique in its absolutist vision of free speech, allowing
    such social destruction as that “church” that demonstrates on the lawns
    of dead soldiers…

    So how long a jail term is appropriate for the Phelps clan?  How big a fine must they pay for “hate speech”?  Is it a sliding scale based on how important are the “victims” of their hate speech? The funerals of fallen soldiers seems like the worst offense, so that’s  what, a felony?  If its just a civilian is it a misdemeanor?

    I’m not normally a fan of the slippery slope fallacy, but in  my reading of history laws against “hate speech” grease up that slope pretty well.

  • Carstonio

    I have very strong qualms against trying to ban both blasphemy and hate speech. Not because of the slippery slope, but because it seems almost impossible to have a definition objective enough to pass legal muster.

    I’m still amazed that some European democracies have blasphemy laws – these seem like relics of the Dark Ages where religious authorities held power that often superseded those of civil authorities. Such laws basically let the religions in question dictate what is acceptable speech regarding those religions, providing them with the means to silence critics.

  • Damanoid

    Sadly, the Church of Pony Jesus did not survive the Council of Nicea.  

  • bobnelsonfr

    … my reading of history laws against “hate speech” grease up that slope pretty well.

    Oh? European democracies typically have laws against hate speech. Have you, in your “reading of history”, found any slippage on that very real slope? I have lived there (France) for over forty years, and I know of none…

    So how long a jail term is appropriate for the Phelps clan?  How big a fine must they pay for “hate speech”?

    That for the legislature to decide, of course. If you want my own personal opinion: Phelps clan demonstrations are the sort of activity that doesn’t need more than misdemeanor status. The cops can arrest them, stopping their obscene behavior, and they pay a small fine and are released. The important thing is that they are stopped EVERY time they do their gig…  ;-)))

  • vsm

    Inciting hate against a religious, racial, political, sexual, etc. groups gets you a fine or a maximum prison sentence of two years in Finland. I’m not sure how that would translate to the US justice system, but it seems like the right ballpark to me. Mind you, you have to say something pretty outrageous for the police to get involved. Such sentences are very rare.

  • bobnelsonfr

    I’m still amazed that some European democracies have blasphemy laws…

    That amazes me so much that I don’t believe it to be the case… There are hate-speech laws, and some particular cases — it is illegal in France to deny the reality of the Holocaust — but I have never heard of any blasphemy laws. Could you cite something?

    Such laws basically let the religions in question dictate what is acceptable speech…

    Again… I know of no such case in the real world — only in slippery-slope arguments. Do you have any actual cases to cite?

  • Jeff Weskamp

    The graffiti of Pompeii also included political endorsements, such as “The worshippers of Isis in Pompeii favor So-And-So for the office of aedile.”  We also learn that gladiators had “stage names” that they fought under, such as Hilarus (the Joker) and Lepidus (the Nice Guy).

    My favorite wall writing from Pompeii is not technically a piece of graffiti, but rather a list drawn on the wall of a brothel, listing various sexual acts available and their fees.
    Stephen King wrote a short story, “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away,” about a depressed travelling salesman who collected graffiti messages in a notebook.  Most of the graffiti came from rest areas King stopped at while travelling around the country on a book tour.

  • aunursa

    So… Yes… blasphemy must be allowed. But hate speech should not.

    One person’s hate speech is another person’s blasphemy.

    At the same time, hate speech is of negative value to society, no more acceptable than “FIRE!!” in a crowded place…

    Only one of the two examples is potentially a direct cause of injuries and deaths.

    The antidote to hate speech is more speech, not less.  If you are deeply offended by the ideas of your neighbor, refute him or ignore him.  Don’t try to censor him.  And don’t grant to the heckler a veto power.

  • Carstonio

    Wikipedia lists several European countries that still have these laws, including Austria, Germany, Ireland and Greece. The UK had these until 2008.

    Again… I know of no such case in the real world — only in slippery-slope arguments. Do you have any actual cases to cite?

    No. I’m saying that the effect is that the religions dictate what constitutes acceptable speech. The lawmakers would probably consult with the religions to determine what constitutes blasphemy or sacrilege, and those religions would naturally seek to make those definitions as large as possible to preserve their own power. Similar to corporations like Disney aggressively pursuing infringements on their copyrights.

  • LectorElise

     Hate speech: Any speech meant to condemn, intimidate, or dehumanize a vulnerable person or persons.
    The
    definition needs work, obviously, but I don’t see why the slippery
    slope argument applies here if it doesn’t apply to laws about things
    like stalking, harassment, or yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. If laws and limits can be passed about those things, hate speech should also be subject to similar laws.

  • Carstonio

     That’s not the definition. Hate speech is vilification based on personal characteristics. While I appreciate the objective of such laws, and I don’t outright reject them, I suspect the First Amendment implications haven’t been fully addressed. Perhaps the objective would be better served by more strongly enforcing current anti-harassment laws.  What I really want is for hate speech to be socially unacceptable, because in a way, criminalizing it represents a failure of social norms. I also want folks like Bill Donahue to be shamed into silence when he accuses anyone who questions Catholic doctrine of promulgating hate speech against Catholics.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Only one of the two examples is potentially a direct cause of injuries and deaths.

    Oh? Tell that to the victims of hate crimes. Those crimes didn’t arise spontaneously.

    Don’t try to censor him.

    Why not? Is there any value in what the Phelps clan does? I hope you agree that what they do is very hurtful to the families they picket… so why on earth do you defend them??

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     Yeah, I don’t see how you can write a hate speech law that also doesn’t prohibit blasphemy. Well, you  could if you let the government specifically define what “blasphemy” means so that its definition can’t be enlarged to include, “drawing Mohammed cartoons”, for example, but I don’t think that that’s a proper role for the government (defining religious doctrine).

  • bobnelsonfr

    Wikipedia lists… The UK had these until 2008.

    Oh, c’mon!! I hope you actually read the Wikipedia article. “The UK had these until 2008.” Ummmmm… The Wikipedia article specifically says that the last imprisonment was in… 1921! Seriously!!

    So let me ask you again: Do you have any real-world cases TODAY??

    No [I do not have any actual cases]. I’m saying that the effect is that the religions dictate what constitutes acceptable speech. The lawmakers would probably…

    I don’t understand, here… You recognize that you have no evidence of abuse of Europe’s real-world laws banning hate speech… but nevertheless, “lawmakers would probably…”

    You recognize that abuse of hate-speech laws goes against observed reality, but you maintain that they would be abused… 

    I don’t understand…

  • Carstonio

     Does Life of Brian count as today? True, none of the Pythons were imprisoned, but the film was banned in many jurisdictions in that country. It’s almost like you’re suggesting that a law should be considered anti-blasphemy only if the alleged blasphemer is prosecuted. Although imagine the irony if a film that depicts a stoning for blasphemy did result in criminal prosecution of its makers…

    You recognize that abuse of hate-speech laws goes against observed reality, but you maintain that they would be abused…

    I meant that there’s a very strong potential for blasphemy laws to be abused. If the First Amendment were done away with and such laws were proposed here, I can think of several fundamentalist demagogues who would have their followers lobby heavily for these laws to be as broad as possible. I’m talking about what could happen, not what would happen.

  • bobnelsonfr

    It’s almost like you’re suggesting that a law should be considered anti-blasphemy only if the alleged blasphemer is prosecuted.

    Not quite… I’m saying that a law cannot be deemed abusive unless there is actual evidence of abuse. If a law exists, but is never invoked, then it is probably just an avatar of another epoch, as there exist in every jurisdiction in the world! Our legislators are constantly creating laws, but not often eliminating outdated ones…  :-(((

    … there’s a very strong potential for blasphemy laws to be abused.

    Again… I do not understand! 
    1) You recognize that there are hate laws in Europe,
    2) You recognize that you have no evidence of abuse of those laws,
    3) You insist that “there is very strong potential” for abuse…

     

    I’m talking about what could happen…

    The sky could fall, too. But we’re not going to base our legal system on “could”, I hope! The real-world evidence is available, in Europe: well-crafted anti-hate-speech laws stop the Phelps stuff, without interfering with serious free speech. Wouldn’t it be better to make law based on real-world evidence than on “could”?

  • Hawker40

    Grafitti… the bathroom in the Transient Personnel Barracks at Edwards Air Farce Base in the California desert had a written list of military units, presumably the home units of the transient personnel.  Amid the lists of Air Farce, Navy, Army, Luftwaffe, RAAF and JSDF units were the following…
    17th Underground Zeppelin Squadron, Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico
    23rd Unterzee Panzer Division, Zunder Zee Duetchland
    1st Division (Polaris), 3rd Regiment (Pampered Pets), 2nd Battalion, G Company (Rico’s Roughnecks), Klendathu

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Why not? Is there any value in what the Phelps clan does? I hope you agree that what they do is very hurtful to the families they picket… so why on earth do you defend them??

    For my own part: I endorse freedom of speech and freedom of assembly because I believe the harm those things prevent is greater than the harm those things allow, and I want to minimize the harm that gets inflicted.

    For example, I believe that once we accept that it’s OK to prevent people by force from expressing their opinions, we will end up doing a hell of a lot more harm to one another than the Phelps family could ever dream of doing.

  • Carstonio

     

    I’m saying that a law cannot be deemed abusive unless there is actual evidence of abuse.

    You and I seem to be talking about two different things. My point is about laws that disallow speech against deities or venerated religious figures, not abuse of people based on personal characteristics.

    And my concerns about the dangers of blasphemy laws don’t necessarily involve Europe but the Middle East, and to a lesser extent the US. Early in the history of colonial Massachusetts, it was a jailable offense to speak against the ministers who controlled the government. Any law that proscribes speech of certain subjects is vulnerable to abuse.

  • Münchner Kindl

     I assume they are referring to some hate speech laws in the UK and Canada which also target specific instances of hate against religions. That’s why chick tracts are banned in Canada.

  • Carstonio

     

    I believe that once we accept that it’s OK to prevent people by force
    from expressing their opinions, we will end up doing a hell of a lot
    more harm to one another than the Phelps family could ever dream of doing.

    Exactly.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    I’m not normally a fan of the slippery slope fallacy, but in  my reading
    of history laws against “hate speech” grease up that slope pretty well.

    Whereas my reading of history shows me that demogogues who are allowed unchecked to spread hate will cause some of their followers to go around and actually kill real people. I consider that worse.

    In the other thread, somebody linked to the very apt new term of “stochastic terrorist”

    Stochastic Terrorism is the use of mass communications to stir up random lone wolves to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.

    http://ukiahcommunityblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/stochastic-terrorism/

    And that’s what hate speech laws try to prevent.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    For example, I believe that once we accept that it’s OK to prevent
    people by force from expressing their opinions, we will end up doing a
    hell of a lot more harm to one another than the Phelps family could ever
    dream of doing.

    But the followers of Phelps and Beck are allowed to use force to kill and harrass people because …?

    Why the use of “force” in this sentence? A state always works under the presumption of monopoly of force, whether it’s tax laws or restriction of free speech because … sexual harrassment in the workplace forbids “by force” that men call a woman “a bitch”.

    So why is telling people that fags will burn in hell or that doing abortions is murder, which always results in people beating gays to death or shooting abortion doctors, not harrassment?

    If one guy goes into a bar and says to a second guy “Kill that guy, I don’t like his type”, then the first guy is guilty of instigation of murder (at least in Europe).

    But if one guy stands in front of a crowd or broadcasts on television to kill all fags because he hates them, and at least one person among his thousands of followers will do it – then first guy should not also be considered guilty of instigation because?

  • Jeffrey_Kramer

     At the time when Crystal Lite was running an ad campaign singing “I believe in Crystal Lite, ’cause I believe in me!” I saw on a wall:

    “Cogito, ergo sum, ergo Crystal Lite.”

  • Münchner Kindl

     That was so funny in the Rome series: not only very colourful Graffiti in the opening credits, but also later in one ep., it played a political role when graffitis slandered Julius Cesar for being a woman’s man whoring around instead of going to war as he should’ve (although strategically unwise at that moment), goading his wife into nagging him until he acted against better judgment – because he knew that graffiti was like the tabloids and if his image among the plebes was damaged, he wouldn’t stay very long.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    (I’m breaking up my response into pieces, because it’s otherwise very long.)

     

    the followers of Phelps and Beck are allowed to use force to kill and harrass people because …?

    No reason at all. If I go out and kill or harass people, I ought to be condemned for that, including but not limited to legal punishment; I ought not be spared that condemnation/punishment because I’m a follower of Phelps or Beck or anyone else. 

    Why the use of “force” in this sentence?

    Would you prefer I said “law” instead? I endorse the sentence equally with that substitution.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     (I’m breaking up my response into pieces, because it’s otherwise very long.)

    sexual harrassment in the workplace forbids “by force” that men call a woman “a bitch”.

    Yes, correct. Or “by law,” if you prefer.

    So why is telling people that fags will burn in hell or that doing abortions is murder, which always results in people beating gays to death or shooting abortion doctors, not harrassment?

    Calling someone a fag and telling them they will burn in hell is harassment, just as calling someone a bitch is. In some environments (e.g., work settings), harassment is illegal. In other environments (e.g., on television), it is legal. This reflects different understandings of power and recourse… the consequences of shutting off the television are different from the consequences of walking out of my job.

    In neither case is it murder, legally speaking, even if it leads to someone being beaten to death.

    Why isn’t it murder, legally speaking, if it leads to someone being beaten to death? Because there’s a difference between direct and indirect consequences. Accountability is much easier to establish for direct consequences, and the law generally restricts itself to a narrow understanding of accountability.

    And I endorse that restriction.

  • EllieMurasaki

    hate speech is of negative value to society, no more acceptable than “FIRE!!” in a crowded place…

    Only one of the two examples is potentially a direct cause of injuries and deaths.

    Someone saying that black folks or abortion providers need to die, and then someone else killing black folks or abortion providers and citing the first person as inspiration, that’s not the first person’s speech being a direct cause of death?

  • LouisDoench

     Europe isn’t America. We have a standard in this country… “You may not shout fire in a crowded movie theatre.” You may not directly incite violence.  “You go kill that guy.” isn’t protected speech. “Kill all the fags’ isn’t protected either.  But “God hates Fags” is,  it’s a legitimate expression of the Phelps clans religious and political beliefs.  They are also guaranteed by the first amendment to peaceably assemble, in public places, as much as any other political or religious group.  You may be fine  with granting my government the ability to abbrogate the Phelp’s clans 1st amendment rights from your comfortable perch an ocean away, you will have to forgive me if I’m less sanguine about such a course of action here, where due to the vicissitudes of partisan politics my ability as an Atheist to freely express myself is under constant attack.  I understand that perhaps you feel differently in Europe, but could you at least concede that perhaps we here in the States might have a different POV to observe our own cranks from?

    To be clear, I am an open advocate of hate crime laws, which seek to distinguish crimes that target an entire group of people in order to intimidate or harrass. Hate crimes laws are necessary to distinguish normal crimes against person or property from crimes that target the body politic itself.  But until such time as speech oversteps the bounds outlined by the Supreme Court, speech cannot be de-facto considered a crime.  The misdemeanor offense you prescribe to be applied to the Phelps church would be unconstitutional.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     (I’m breaking up my response into pieces, because it’s otherwise very long.)

    If one guy goes into a bar and says to a second guy “Kill that guy, I don’t like his type”, then the first guy is guilty of instigation of murder (at least in Europe).

    In the vast majority of cases where things like this get said, I do not endorse such a law being applied.

    I suspect that’s true of you as well. For example, if I were to say “Fred Phelps is a reprehensible human being and deserves to die,” and someone shot Fred Phelps in the head tomorrow, I suspect you would not endorse my being arrested for instigating murder.

    Nor would approximately 95% of the population.

    Further, I suspect that in the vast majority of cases where things like this get said, the law doesn’t get applied… precisely because it’s unpopular in those cases.

    That is, it’s the kind of law that only gets enforced in a narrow subset of cases, but the rules governing which subset get enforced are informal, a kind of gentleman’s agreement where all right-thinking people know what’s objectionable and what isn’t, even if they can’t easily define the difference in law.

    I object to those sorts of gentleman’s agreements. If we’re not prepared to enforce a law as written, we should not pass it as written. To instead enforce it differentially creates yet another mechanism whereby powerful people can informally enforce their prejudices without accountability.

    For example, there are laws on the books prohibiting couples making out in cars by the side of the road. In practice, these laws get enforced differentially. For example, in jurisdictions with homophobic police, same-sex couples get arrested but opposite-sex couples get sent home with a warning and an indulgent smirk. This makes me a second-class citizen, but with little recourse, because the law as written isn’t discriminatory at all. The discrimination isn’t built into the law, it’s built into the community… but because the law is broadly described, it allows responsibility for that to be diffused.

    But if one guy stands in front of a crowd or broadcasts on television to kill all fags because he hates them, and at least one person among his thousands of followers will do it – then first guy should not also be considered guilty of instigation because?

    Exactly the same principles apply. If we pass such a law, we should enforce it equally. If we’re not prepared to enforce it equally, we ought not pass it.

    What I expect is, where we pass such laws, they are written in such a way that if anyone actually enforced them as written, we’d do the equivalent of tossing me in jail if Fred Phelps got shot. And that they “work”, insofar as they do, because we count on police and courts to informally do the work that the legislators failed to do… to decide what the law really means.

    That’s a bad way to run a country. I’m OK with it when talking about high appelate courts, which are in effect part of our legislative process. I’m not OK with it when it’s done independently by each beat cop and station chief, because

    That said, if you’d like to point to a specific hate crime law that you believe defines adequately the communities that are and aren’t accountable, such that that decision is not being left to individual police, I’m willing to read it; I might endorse that law. The ones I’ve looked at don’t have that property.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    To be clear, I am an open advocate of hate crime laws, which seek to distinguish crimes that target an entire group of people in order to intimidate or harrass. Hate crimes laws are necessary to distinguish normal crimes against person or property from crimes that target the body politic itself.

    Yes, this.

    I should probably have added this to my response to Münchner Kindl, as long as I was already writing all the words ever, but I didn’t think to.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    Someone saying that black folks or abortion providers need to die, and
    then someone else killing black folks or abortion providers and citing the first person as inspiration, that’s not the first person’s speech
    being a direct cause of death?

    Yup, that’s right. It’s the first person’s speech being an indirect cause of death. The direct cause of death is the second person actually killing someone. The difference is precisely that the speech requires a human being, who is legally presumed to have agency, to choose to act before anyone dies. Whereas the killing only requires the intermediation of things like guns, knives, bombs, etc…. which are legally presumed to have no agency.

    In other words, legally speaking the second person is responsible for committing murder, no matter who he or she claims as inspiration.

    Of course, this is a problem, because in practice people don’t always have agency and are more accurately thought of as being like guns. And we kind of know that. So the law doesn’t quite reflect our intuitions about this sort of thing.

    But on balance, I prefer the consequences of that confusion to the consequences of establishing in law the principle that people don’t have agency.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The omgslippery slope hate propaganda laws have right-wing Canadians all up a-lather, too.

    It’s kind of funny how the only people who resent “hate” laws are members of the relatively privileged majority.


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