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.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Sorry… I didn’t see your second post.

    Do you really see driving and inciting to hate crime as equivelent?

  • aunursa

    I’m not a legal expert on Indiana law, and I can’t cite a specific ordinance.  That said, I have not found any evidence in the case that the defense argued (as you seem to be suggesting) that blocking vehicular traffic is not a crime — which would be a most obvious argument by the defense if that were the case.  If you are in fact arguing that blocking vehicular traffic is generally not a crime, then that’s certainly a novel approach.  But it doesn’t change the fact that legal experts agree that the result of Hess is that speech that advocates lawless action at some undetermined future time is protected by the First Amendment.

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

    “All fags should die!” versus  “Let’s go kill a fag!”

    And such is the hair-splitted decision made that one statement, and not the other, permits a person to claim with wide-eyed faux innocence that they did not in any way mean to contribute at all, no indeedy no they did not, to an environment conducive to the unleashing of bigotry and hate.

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

    And maybe there are better ways to solve at least part of the problem, though I’ve yet to hear one.

    I’m not quite sure what “the problem” is, actually, it’s shifted around quite a bit in the subset of this exchange I’ve read.

    If it’s mentally ill people who hear media personalities like Glenn Beck demonizing group X and thereafter kill or otherwise significantly harm people in group X, I endorse the solution of devoting resources to diagnosing and caring for the mentally ill.

    If it’s non-mentally-ill people doing that, I endorse the solution of legislating
    against murder and other significant forms of harm, devoting resources to investigating those crimes when they occur, arresting and prosecuting criminals murderers, and punishing convicted criminals.

    If it’s members of group X or other bystanders suffering emotional trauma or otherwise being directly injured by such speech, I endorse preventing such speech in environments where such targets/bystanders have no reasonable recourse (e.g., workplaces, schools, bus stations, etc., but not television broadcasts, unless the broadcast is somehow mandatory viewing).

    I accept that you don’t necessarily consider those better ways to solve those problems than silencing or prosecuting the media personalities in question, and I’m not trying to convince you otherwise.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think there’s quite a few people who park such that other people cannot move their cars, or who play games with other children in the street, who would be surprised to learn that their behavior is illegal, rather than merely rude.

  • aunursa

    Both statements contribute to an environment conducive to bigotry and hate.

    But only one statement would be considered incitement to imminent violence.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The problem under discussion, at least in my view, is people engaging in violence that they would not be engaged in if someone whose opinions they greatly respect had not promoted that violence. Putting more resources into dealing with the perpetrators (regardless of the perpetrators’ state of mental health) will not stop the person who said it was a good idea to get violent from continuing to say that it is a good idea to get violent, nor will it mean any sort of consequences for that person with respect to the violent acts springing from that person’s words.

  • aunursa

    As you are deliberately misrepresenting my statement, I see that you are no longer arguing in a serious manner; you do appear not to have any sincere interest in the understanding legal distinctions that we have been discussing.

    Therefore I quit.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’d love to know how I misrepresented your argument and what makes you think I deliberately did something I either did not do or did unawares.

  • aunursa

    You implied no legal distinction between a crowd of demonstrators using a public street to prevent vehicles from passing through and adults playing ball with children in a street, when it would be obvious to any reasonable person.

    Additionally, you remain focused on the question of which specific law blocking traffic violates, when that has nothing to do with the legal issues that Hess addresses  – and which constitute its relevance to our debate.

    You can continue to argue that Hess doesn’t distinguish between imminent lawlessness and non-imminent lawlessness.  But I’m not going to play along anymore.  I’d rather spend my time with opponents who are arguing in good faith.

  • aunursa

    Anyway, I’m going to watch the 2nd MA Senate debate on C-SPAN, so I’m done here.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I see no distinction between peacefully blocking a street and peacefully blocking a street, yes. And if the action Hess advocated was not in fact illegal, then it cannot have been illegal to advocate that action, which renders any Hess-based discussion of the difference between imminent lawless action and non-imminent lawless action utterly irrelevant.

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

    >Sorry… I didn’t see your second post.

    It’s cool.

    >Do you really see driving and inciting to hate crime as equivelent?

    You decide.

    You asked me if I thought hate speech contributes to people being killed, in a context that suggested that contributors to people being killed was an important category.

    If it’s an important category, then things that fall into that category are relevant, including driving.

    If it’s not an important category, I’m happy to ignore it.  

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

    I agree that it won’t stop people who say getting violent is a good idea from saying that, nor will it mean consequences for that person when other people commit violence.

    It will address the problem of people engaging in violence, though… both the particular subset of it you describe, and the larger superset.

  • P J Evans

     There are a lot of people who would be very surprised if they were ticketed for violating traffic regulations in parking lots (speeding and driving the wrong way come immediately to mind).

  • bobnelsonfr

    Free speech is a right. Is driving a right?

    Driving is regulated as a matter of course. Should free speech be regulated equally easily?

    I didn’t make a parallel between the two. You did. I presume you thought about the comparison for more than two seconds before posting…

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

    I reiterate that the only people I see here or elsewhere caterwauling about the omg hdu make hate speech laws HALP SLIPPERY SLOPE in Europe or Canada are those of the majority.

  • AnonaMiss

    If I intuit your point correctly, it’s that hate speech laws are good because they afflict the oppressors.

    If so, the fact that you had to specify “in Europe or Canada” defangs – if not completely defeats – that point.

  • Carstonio

    I was originally thinking that hate speech laws would be hijacked by privileged groups to claim that they’re being oppressed. Like feminists being accused of sexism toward men and civil rights advocates being accused of racism toward men, conveniently ignoring the fact that both isms are systemic phenomena.

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

    Free speech is a right.

    Yes.

    Is driving a right?

    No.

    Driving is regulated as a matter of course.

    Yes.

    Should free speech be regulated equally easily?

    Speech is, and should be, regulated.
    But we should be far more cautious about banning people from speaking than banning people from driving.
    So, no, it should not be regulated equally easily.

    I didn’t make a parallel between the two. You did.

    True.

    I presume you thought about the comparison for more than two seconds before posting…

    I appreciate that. It’s always nice when people presume I’m a sensible human being, even in cases like this one where I question their sincerity.

    Anyway, I’ll try one more time to articulate the comparison I’m making. If you sidestep it again, I will declare you the winner and retire from the field in ignominious defeat.

    Certain kinds of speech can, as you pointed out initially, contribute to people being killed in a small percentage of cases. Is that sufficient reason to ban that speech?

    Certain kinds of driving can contribute to people being killed in a small percentage of cases. Is that sufficient reason to ban that driving?

  • PorlockJunior

     “Would you consider that question to be an incitement to assassinate the president?

    Caesar had his Brutus; Charles II his Cromwell; and George III–

    [Treason! Treason!]

    and George III may profit by their example.

    Was it treason? No, not under the not-yet-written Constitution of the reconstituted United States. Is it an indictable incitement to murder? I don’t think so, but as to sedition (the real thing, not the Federalists’ version), it sounds actionable. Maybe.

    Not sure what this proves, but it can be useful to see that the thought experiments have been carried out for real.

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

    the USA is famous for not having them and having huge shitfits from Republicans whenever someone wants to propose them.

    Invariably such Repubs make false claims about freedom of speech in Canada or Europe as a consequence.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Certain kinds of driving can contribute to people being killed in a small percentage of cases. Is that sufficient reason to ban that driving?

    No one wants to ban either driving or free speech. Driving is regulated, in as much as people get killed. Driving laws try to save lives without excessively hassling drivers.

    YOU brought up driving as an analogy to free speech. Are you saying that free speech should likewise be regulated to the extent that excessively hateful speech can kill people?

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

     

    No one wants to ban either driving or free speech.

    I specifically referred to certain kinds of driving, and certain kinds of speech… specifically, the kinds that can contribute to people being killed in a small percentage of cases.

    I can’t tell whether you’re accidentally changing the topic here (to all cases of driving and speech) because you really didn’t understand me, or intentionally changing it in order to replace what I said with something easier to dismiss, or actually keeping the topic unchanged.

    In the latter case, you’re simply mistaken. Yes, some people do want to ban the kinds of driving, and the kinds of speech, that I referred to.Regardless, I’m tired of having what I say distorted, whether intentionally or otherwise. I’m also tired of an exchange in which I’m expected to answer your questions and you don’t bother to answer mine. So I’m tapping out of this exchange here (as I said I would). You win the debate.

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

    the only people I see here or elsewhere caterwauling … are those of the majority.

    For my part, I’m a queer man who does not want people put in jail for saying “Kill all the queers” in public. I don’t know whether that makes me one of the people caterwauling. In context, I assume so.

    That said, I am a member of many majorities, as well as a member of many highly privileged minorities, in addition to being queer. So I guess I agree that I’m an example of the pattern you describe.

    If you consider that grounds to ignore my preference, go right ahead; that’s your right.

    Incidentally, I don’t appreciate the way you chose to express it, which I experience as unnecessarily and insultingly dismissive.

    (Yes, yes, I know, tone argument. Except, not really. I’m not saying you shouldn’t talk that way. Go right ahead, if you want to; you have every right to, and I endorse that right. It might even be the most effective possible way to communicate, for all I know. I’m just saying that I, personally, experienced it as an unnecessary insult.)

  • AnonaMiss

    If your point was just to defend that they aren’t too harmful in Canada or Europe against what you perceived as an attack on hate speech laws in those places, then fair enough.

    If your point was to suggest that the USA would be equally well-served with hate speech laws and the shitfits are un-called-for, please see my previous posts on who would be prosecuted under hate speech laws in red states.

    I also think your characterization of objection to hate speech laws as a Republican position in the US is unkind and inaccurate. Disagreeing with what their enemies say, but defending to the death their right to say it, is IMO a position more often held by libs in the US – since our conservative party leans authoritarian.

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

     Thinking about this some more… a month or so ago, you said about overpopulation and human-induced climate change that they are acts that will ultimately harm human life, but that the proper response to them must nevertheless preserve human agency.

    In the context of this discussion, I’m now wondering why that is.

    That is: what, in your view, is so important about human agency that we should take it into consideration when developing a response to acts that will ultimately harm human life?

  • Liralen

    bobnelsonfr, in response to your question “Ummm… Dave?? Are you really asking me to prove that anti-hate-speech laws don’t cause harm? You’re asking me to prove a negative? ”

    Actually, you do have the burden of proof since you are the one proposing that we amend our laws.  You should start with crafting the exact text of what you have in mind.  As it is now, I have no idea exactly what you are proposing.

    You seem to be confusing someone saying “X is bad” with “You should kill X”.  There are laws in the US prohibiting the latter.

    Or are you really suggesting that we prohibit anyone from saying “X is bad”?

  • bobnelsonfr

    Liralen,

    First, it is impossible to prove a negative. In this case, Dave (graciously) recognized that I demonstrated that a solid presumption exists, and that that is the most that can be required.

    “Conspiracy to commit murder” is a crime, but that requires the prosecutor to demonstrate that the intent is “immediate”. Just saying “George Tiller needs to be killed” is not illegal. Saying “Gays need killing” isn’t a crime. Tiller died and gays die. After the fact those same words will constitute proof that the crime was a hate crime, and penalties will be more severe. But the dead remain dead.

    I think it would be good to take a long, hard look at people who say such things… before anyone dies.

  • Liralen

    bobnelsonfr,

    Thanks for the explanation and I agree with the expressed intent.  However, I am dubious about how such a law could be worded and not require a Constitutional amendment.

    Yes, I do know it’s difficult to prove a negative, but that is not sufficient reason to amend (or re-amend in this case) the Constitution.  If you think the Constitution needs to be amended, more persuasive reasoning is required than other countries do ok without such a broad freedom of speech guarantee.  Or that Dave agrees that “a solid presumption exists”, whatever that means.

    If you think that a law can be crafted that would not require a Constitutional amendment, I would be interested in seeing the specific wording.  I’ve been very disturbed about the violence caused by that video disrespecting Islam.  I don’t approve of that video, but from what I’ve read, I don’t think the makers of it are guilty of a crime. The criminals are the ones who not only don’t understand what freedom of speech means, they demand that right be denied to other people, and will kill people until they get what they want. 

    Yes, it’s sad that they’ve never had the right of free speech and can’t understand that our government is prohibited from punishing people who offend them, but where do you draw the line?  That’s not a rhetorical question – it’s the very essence of my point.  What is the exact wording of the law that you think needs to be enacted?

  • bobnelsonfr

    Liralen,

    I’m not a jurist, and I try not to play Sorcerer’s Apprentice. So I’m kinda apprehensive of making a suggestion, here. And I don’t know the wording of any European anti-hate-speech laws…

    Those reservations having been made… “inciting to hatred of a person or group of persons, on the basis of race, age, gender………”

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

     

    Or that Dave agrees that “a solid presumption exists”, whatever that means.

    FWIW, I would prefer to be kept out of this exchange altogether if at all possible. I found my exchange with bobnelsonfr on this subject deeply unsatisfying and have no interest in another.

  • Liralen

    So that would make guilty that awful film maker?  I assume you meant to include religion?  I don’t agree he commited a crime.  What about other movies that make you hate haters?  Such as Roots, The Color Purple, The Passion of the Christ,  Schindler’s List, Philadelphia?  Documentaries like 500 Nations, The Last Mountain or Gasland?  The last two begs the question – would inciting hatred of industry or corporations be a crime?

  • bobnelsonfr

    Liralen,

    So that would make guilty that awful film maker?

    Dunno. Haven’t seen the video. Does it “incite to hatred”? That isn’t the same as “demonstrate one’s own hatred”…

    I don’t agree he commited a crime.

    Quite right — as the law is written today. 

    What about other movies that make you hate haters?… industry or corporations?

    I suggested the criterion, “on the basis of race, etc…”. That would include none of these.

    Once again… the law already condemns threats to a specific person.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

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

    I was unsure because the use of the word “force” instead of “law” is usually used by anti-Tax libertarians as dog-whistle, so I wanted to know if you are a libertarian or just used a wrong word.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    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?

    First, we do know that you USians consider Free Speech holier than everything.

    Second, nobody is trying to force our standards onto you. Maybe you could start by seeing the different POV by not starting out everytime with “Limiting Free Speech is slippery slope to no freedom!!!!” despite the evidence here in Europe that limiting Free Speech to avoid people getting beaten up or killed is possible without limiting all freedoms?

    You see, in Europe we see the purpose of laws in general to protect the weaker people in society, since the strong ones – the ones with power and money and influence – can protect themselves anyway. And monopoly of force means that we don’t run around with guns to enforce “Justice” or revenge ourselves, we expect the police and the courts to enforce the law.

    Obviously USians see this different, where Freedom comes first, and then nothing else for a long time. Police – as an US court once found – is not able to prevent every crime, so they are not responsible to prevent any crime; and laws don’t protect the weak ones, they protect the rich ones and “morals”.

    Third, all the upset about how (sensible) restrictions on Free Speech to prevent incitment to hatred, upset of peace or similar would mean an end of freedom – oh noes!! – is especially rich considering how much your freedom has already been restricted with the patriot act.
    We think for example that talking to the politicans and others in charge is a much more important part of free speech than the right to insult a gay person. But in the US, talking critically to Bush or other politicans was severely curtailed, even by police and Secret Service.

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

    Might have been easier just to ask what you wanted to know.

    I’m certainly not a Libertarian, and I endorse taxes.

    But I also don’t accept that “force” is a wrong word for what legally constituted authorities use when they enforce laws… it’s a perfectly good word for it.

    As to whether I’m a libertarian… my usual answer is that I don’t endorse either pure libertarianism or pure egalitarianism, but that I would like to see my country adopt a more egalitarian stance than it currently does.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    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.

    No, it isn’t. I want people who go into bars to hire a murder to be arrested as instigators. (And given that cops go on stings and arrest people who pay them to murder their spouse, it appears to be illegal in at least some US states).

    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.

    It depends on where you said it and to whom. Do you have ten thousands followers who listen to talk radio and believe every word? Do you have a website with bulls eyes for Phelps and an itineray of where he can be found?
    And BTW, you can totally get into trouble already
    http://www.cracked.com/article_18554_5-wacky-internet-pranks-that-can-get-you-jail-time_p2.html

    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.

    No, I don’t follow what you are talking about. We expect our laws to be based on rational morals (From enlightment) and to move with the times. Obviously the process can sometimes lag a bit – when § 175 still forbade gay sex, but the population in the 70s increasingly disagreed, it was less and less enforced, until finally it was removed. (It was called the “Normative Kraft des Faktischen” – the norm-creating power of the facts).

    But generally, laws are expected to be applied equally and according to common sense, not along some Gentleman’s agreement. The cops are trained, and since a law always has a wide span, it’s up to the courts to decide each individual case. That two different people get different sentences is not a bug, but a feature, because people are different: one needs only a slap on the wrist to make him walk straight again, another needs a serious lesson and gets the maximum time, and a third gets somewhere in the middle.

    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.

    First, that law needs to be struck down completly. Parking on the shoulder of the road is dangerous for traffic, unless it’s emergency. Parking offside the road (unless it’s private land or nature park) whether for making out or eating a picnic, is nobody’s business.

    Second, you yourself admit that the enforcment, not the law, is the problem. Making the law more narrow would not solve the enforcment at all – changing the law won’t train your cops or educate your judges, or improve society’s attitude.

    We have extremly broad laws – our constitution starts with “human dignity shall not be violated”. What human dignity is and what violation is, is not defined anywhere. The civil code and criminal code are similar vague. The most specific ones are tax, tariff and traffic laws, where there are some definitions “For the purpose of this law, a small businessman is somebody who doesn’t earn more than 125 000 Euros per year and does not own more than … etc.”

    Most narrow laws, esp. the new internet, or copyright laws, end up being too narrow to catch new developments, but still too broad to be harmful for innocent people (most likely because they were written by technically ignorant politicans). A law shows the intent, but not specifics, because technology and society changes quickly, but changing a law takes time, so we could be without useful laws for some time.

    The correct interpretation and application of the law is then done by the judges on a case-by-case, common-sense basis, checking the specific law against the broad rights and weighing the factors involved.

  • Münchner Kindl

     I don’t know enough about the Koran to be sure (but I’m almost sure), but the Bible is not a hate tract. A person reading the Bible on their own will not conclude “Kill all gays”. There is exactly one verse about “If one man lies with another like a woman they must be stoned” and that’s hidden in Leviticus, not only among all those “Don’t boil a kid in the mothers milk”, but also more boring like “if a man has spots on his skin, isolate him for two weeks, then the priests must look at the spots again. If they have increased, he is a leper … if they have not increased, wait another two weeks … rrrr, sorry, I dozed off.

    As Fred has repeadtly pointed out, the most-often repeated lession in both Old and New Testament is “help the poor”.

    This is quite different from hate tracts like the false “Protocols of Elders of Zion” or modern pamphlets like Chick tracts, where the only message is “Bad, bad, danger, satan, baby-killers”

    And I don’t need to admit anything, because we have a law in Germany against “inciting race hatred or disturbing the peace among nations”. We also have a law protection “personal honor” meaning that it’s forbidden to directly insult people. And yet neither the Bible nor the Koran is banned, and pastors preach in their churches. (They don’t preach about hating gays because they studied theology.)
    If a muslim extremist preacher calls for a slaughter of innocents, he will be watched by the police to prevent bloodshed. If a self-made preacher of some sect would call for killing of doctors, the police would also watch him (but we have less crazies of that sort, or they make less headlines).

  • Münchner Kindl

     The parody site Chick Museum has an entry about the ban in Canada http://members.tripod.com/monsterwax/chicklaws.html

    It all started during the 1980s when a right wing anti-immigrant
    party called “The Freedom Front” started to distribute Jack’s
    tracts to highlight how Jews, Catholics and Buddhist Asians were destined
    to hell (see Holocaust , The Death Cookie and The Tycoon).
    Okay, so maybe they were just trying to save some lost souls, but lets assume
    for the sake of paranoia that they distributed the tracts out of meanness
    instead of brotherly love. Whatever the motivation, the liberals assumed
    the worse and demanded an end to free speech. Although they didn’t outlaw
    the actual tracts, sometime in the early
    1980s, Attorney General Roy McMury went on nation wide Canada TV and
    announced a special ban on Chick’s comic books of Alberto
    and Double Cross.
    It’s been downhill ever since.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    For example, if a suspect fleeing the police crashes his car into an
    innocent motorist, the police officers are not legally responsible for
    the resulting deaths even though the deaths would not have occurred if
    they had not initiated the high-speed chase in the first place.

    Police seems to think different, because the toll of bystanders got so high that they tell cops to not have car chases for non-violent crimes. (Roadblocks can capture a fleeing car, too).

    If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can be trusted, real pedestrians are far less dexterous than their movie counterparts. In fact, at least
    a third of all fatalities in high speed chases tend to be innocent
    bystanders, just going about their day. We’re talking over 360 people
    per year, just flat out run over by cops and robbers who watch way too
    many movies. Well, that’s the official record, anyway. Geoffrey Alpert, a
    professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina and an expert on police chases, believes the actual number may be three to four times higher.The officials have started recognizing the problem, which is why cities
    like Milwaukee have changed their police guidelines to only allow chases
    if the suspect is wanted for a violent crime.
    So far, it seems to be working — chase-related injuries have been more
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  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    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.

    No, it isn’t. I want people who go into bars to hire a murder to be arrested as instigators.

    Sure, so do I. If you actually think we disagree on that, then it’s pretty clear we aren’t communicating successfully at all. Come to think of it, that’s also true if you don’t actually think we disagree but chose to say that anyway.

    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.

    It depends on where you said it and to whom. Do you have ten thousands followers who listen to talk radio and believe every word? Do you have a website with bulls eyes for Phelps and an itineray of where he can be found?

    I have neither of those things, which I suspect you already knew. I continue to suspect that you would not endorse my being arrested for instigating  murder if I said that.

    And BTW, you can totally get into trouble already

    No doubt. I don’t endorse that either.

    No, I don’t follow what you are talking about.

    That’s a pity, but all right.
    I’m not interested in explaining it further, so I’ll drop it.

    you yourself admit that the enforcment, not the law, is the problem. Making the law more narrow would not solve the enforcment at all – changing the law won’t train your cops or educate your judges, or improve society’s attitude.

    I agree that changing the law doesn’t train cops, educate judges, or improve society’s attitude. It merely removes a mechanism that legitimizes their excesses.

    Perhaps, once our cops, judges, and society are as enlightened as yours, we can make “violation of human dignity” illegal and count on the good judgment and decency of once our cops, judges, and society to never use that law in bad ways. I don’t trust that we’re there yet, though.

    In the meantime, I prefer that the law constrain the actions of people with power.

  • Münchner Kindl

     More like ignoring that when screaming “Slippery Slope – restriction of all freedoms” is pointed out to be not true.

    After all, you USians didn’t say “In our country in the current time, hate speech laws could be abused”. You USians said “OMG, hate speech laws will restrict freedom” and when told “Well no, it works quite well over here” going “Lalala , we can’t hear you”.

    But this isn’t the first and won’t be the last discussion on the Internet where the Yanks claim that absolute freedom of speech is the highest right possible that trumps everything else, while the Euros think that people’s right to life and health and being able to go everywhere without fear of being beaten down by a mob are more important than the right of a few demagogues to get power and money by manipulating the crowds.

    Obviously Euros tend to think that a whole lot of other laws brought by the right-wingers in the US are crazy too, and incopamptible with human rights, and should be changed, also. But since in the US, rights begin and end with freedom, the freedom of the powerful to take what they want is more important than the protection of the powerless.
    And I can’t remembery anybody claiming that introducing hate speech laws right now would turn the US into a valley of roses.
    But since you Yanks defend the principle of free speech above all, we Euros point out that other aspects play a part, too, and that it’s not a natural law that hate speech laws will stop freedom. (More than you already did for security purposes, or simply by quietly doing away with methods of free speech by simply letting newspapers die. No law necessary if there is no way to get heard…)

    And since the Yanks are willing to let people die to uphold a principle, while we think that the principle is to protect people, I don’t think this will ever get resolved.

  • Münchner Kindl

     No. Russia never counted culturally historically as Europe. Then there was the Iron Curtain, and afterwards, both the US and the West dropped the ball by handing over money without looking, creating the Russian mafia and plutocrachs grabbing what was left standing of the state. When the majority of the Russians got even poorer than under the Soviets, they elected authoritarian dictator Putin, who’s ruled anti-democratically ever since*. They don’t have free or neutral media in Russia (only on the internet). They have neo-fascist youth groups. They are busily rewriting history so that Russia always wins, and claiming that everybody is out to destroy Russia, so that people will rally behind the president. (After two invasions in history, a bit of paranoia is understandable, but this is just manipulation like in North Korea or the US being afraid of invasions).

    Putin has a strong connection with the powerful Orthodox Church. There are strict anti-gay laws on the books. And the blasphemy charge against pussy riot is pushed by the Church, and Putin doesn’t want to loose them.

    Western Europe is protesting against it and denouncing it, but there’s not much else that can be done.

    * Yes I know that technically Medwew was in charge in between. But every expert agreed that he was only a puppet for Putin.

  • Carstonio

     

    the Yanks claim that absolute freedom of speech is the
    highest right possible that trumps everything else

    That’s a straw man. While I can’t speak for any other USians, my own stance is that all organizations of all types, including government, have a natural desire to control speech for their own interests. So attempts by organizations to limit speech through law must be regarded with the highest suspicion. The burden of proof must be set extremely high for any attempt by law to control speech.

    My point is really much more about blasphemy laws and not hate speech laws. There’s no definition of blasphemy that would pass legal muster, and no way to define it without effectively turning over control of speech regarding the religion to the religion itself. Any religion has a vested interest in seeing speech about it be as favorable as possible.

    The rioters in the Middle East, while a tiny minority in their countries, have arguably created a climate of fear where
    people with valid criticisms of Islamic theology might be afraid to
    speak. It’s unacceptable as a matter of principle to use fear to control speech. (Aside: the real problem with the Danish cartoons was that demagogues in that part of the world recirculated the works with other, unrelated images to make them seem more offensive.) Instead of prosecuting folks like the cartoonist, it would be much more just to prosecute the folks who are actually being violent. If you’re offended by anything anyone says about your god or venerated religious figure, surely that’s your problem.

    Organizational control of speech is not so much an issue with hate speech laws, but again, what constitutes hate speech would seem to be highly subjective at best. This wouldn’t be a slippery slope, but just simply a lack of an objective concrete basis for writing law. I view criminal law as the tool of last resort, where a compelling government interest is required. My strong preference would be to try every other tool in the toolbox before attempting to ban hate speech or prosecute folks who make such speech.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Thanks for the link. I followed it, and the links it led to… and I still have the impression that the source of the “chick tracts are banned in Canada” legend is… Chick…

    Not that that necessarily means it isn’t true, but it hardly seems a reliable source…   ;-)))

  • bobnelsonfr

    Charity,

    I didn’t see this the other day. 

    I don’t see how you can write a hate speech law that also doesn’t prohibit blasphemy.

    It doesn’t seem all that difficult to me…

    It seems to me that the key might be in the notion of “incitement to hatred on the basis of race, sex, age, ….”
    A cartoon? Does it incite to hate its subject? Or does it incite to laugh at its subject?  The first would be illegal, the second not illegal.

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

    Climate change and agency + hate speech:

    It’s about incentives and showing people two things (impersonal “you” used here):

    1. We’re not going to treat you like morons, but we are going to give you incentives that you can follow of your own accord, and which we trust you will see the use for when explained what is going on. In some cases they are PRO incentives. In other cases they are DIS incentives.

    2. The above being said, reasonable boundaries will be set on your behavior because without them, social order will be less effective. So we will fine you if you purposely pollute, and we will block attempts to create an environment in which you are free to avail yourself of openly violently racist speech.

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

    I certainly endorse the framework of providing voluntary incentives at one end of some kind of continuum, and enforcing involuntary boundaries at the other.

    I suppose the question that’s interesting me is what that continuum is, and how we think about its midpoint.

    One way to approach that is: if what motivates enforcing boundaries rather than providing incentives is the desire for effective social order, what in your view motivates providing incentives rather than setting boundaries? (Surely something must, or we would not be balanced between the two poles; we would simply always rely on setting boundaries.)

    Perhaps if we can come to agreement on that, we can come to agreement on under what circumstances we ought to enforce boundaries on speech, and under what circumstances we ought to provide incentives for it instead. Or, if not agreement, at least a shared understanding that what motivates our different policies is an underlying difference in how much we value order vs. how much we value the other thing, whatever it is.

    Any thoughts?

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    That’s a straw man. While I can’t speak for any other USians, my own
    stance is that all organizations of all types, including government,
    have a natural desire to control speech for their own interests. So
    attempts by organizations to limit speech through law must be regarded
    with the highest suspicion. The burden of proof must be set extremely
    high for any attempt by law to control speech.

    It’s not a straw man, it’s based on the reactions by the USians in this and other thread claiming that every restriction of Free Speech means slippers slope end of freedom … and that’s bad.

    Even Fred in a post some days ago talked about how absolute freedom of speech was essential for a country – thereby again reducing all non-US countries to “not really free”.

    (Aside: the real problem with the Danish cartoons was that demagogues in
    that part of the world recirculated the works with other, unrelated
    images to make them seem more offensive.)

    Actually it was demagogues on both sides – the newspaper the cartoons originally appeared in was a right-wing nationalistic jingoist foreigner-hating paper. The jingoists got to show the Westerns “see how dangerous and dumb the Muslims / brown people are, keep them out of our country/ Europe” and the demagogues in Muslim countries got to show their crowds “See how much the West hates and disrespects us and our religion”. (That some crowds bashed the Swiss embassies because they confused the flag with Denmark is a sad-ironic sidenote on lack of knowledge in crowds that get upset and manipulated, similar to how Anti-Muslim = Anti-Arab resentment in the US has lead to attacks on Sikhs for their turbans, or demonstrations with pork against Christan Arabs).

    Instead of prosecuting folks like the cartoonist, it would be much more
    just to prosecute the folks who are actually being violent. If you’re
    offended by anything anyone says about your god or venerated religious
    figure, surely that’s your problem.

    Maybe you didn’t notice, but the violent riots about the cartoons mostly  occured in the Middle East – where the Danish laws don’t apply and the Danish courts have no jurisdiction. And since several of those countries are still ruled authoritarian, the average Joe on the street (or Achmed) honestly doesn’t understand that the Danish govt. can’t stop the cartoons because in his country, the govt. could and would stop them. So a govt. official telling Denmark to apologize for the cartoons shows ignorance combined with demagogueing to keep people from complaining about the problems of their govt. at home.

    My point is really much more about blasphemy laws and not hate speech
    laws. There’s no definition of blasphemy that would pass legal muster,
    and no way to define it without effectively turning over control of
    speech regarding the religion to the religion itself.

    I finally did remember a Western country (kind of) that has blasphemy laws: the US with the Broadcast decency act http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadcast_Decency_Enforcement_Act_of_2005 enforced by the FCC, where every time somebody says shit or fuck on TV the station is fined. “Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1464 prohibits the utterance
    of any ‘obscene, indecent or profane language by means of radio
    communication”
    Because … ? It harms the little kiddies? (I see that although the FCC also fined Jackson for Nipplegate, this was overturned by the Court, so it doesn’t fully count).

    So how does that work out in practise, aside from serving as theme for one South Park episode (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Hits_the_Fan)?


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