Thursday, September 27, 2012

Frank Garcia Vs Free Speech

In a case of something so dumb it could only be found on the Huffington Post, a blog post has recently been published there about why America should limit freedom of speech. In the wake of anti-American riots in Muslim countries that left four people dead, Professor of Law at Boston College Frank Garcia has been called up to explain why Americans should start censoring hate speech. Now I don't claim to know more than a professor of law does, but let him make his arguments, and then I'll make mine, and you can reach your own conclusions, okay?
"Ever heard the reference to yelling fire in a crowded theater? That comes from the Schenck case, where Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled that speech can be regulated when it presents a "clear and present danger" of serious public harm -- in other words, you can't just say anything you want if a lot of people might get hurt."
This is how he begins the article, with no reference to the recent riots yet, but you know where he is going. And actually yes I have heard the reference, Professor Garcia. The Huffington Posters have been parroting it for days now in order to defend their insistence that we appease radical Muslims and give up our basic rights. Here's something I didn't know though: the Schenck case had its origins because the defendant was not , in fact, yelling fire in a crowded theater. Instead he was protesting the draft during World War 1. Sounds like something he should be allowed to do right?

Furthermore, the ruling is often misquoted and Professor Garcia falls into the same trap. Holmes didn't say you can't yell fire in a crowded theater. He said you can't falsely yell fire in a crowded theater because doing so means you're trying to start a panic. If there is a fire then you should shout that and it would be immoral not to!

Making fun of religion is one of the most basic freedoms that we have. The "clear and present danger" ruling was that you couldn't use freedom of speech to get people to commit crimes or injure each other. But ridiculing something is precious, and I find it extremely chilling that Mr. Garcia and the Huffington Post would want us to throw it away simply because he's scared of radical Muslims.

That's why he is writing this article: because he is scared and he wants to give in to those who are intolerant of the freedoms that Americans have. If "Innocence of Muslims" had been posted online, and there were no rioting or deaths, this article would never have been written. Mr. Garcia would not write this in response to an anti-Jewish or anti-Christian video, song, or picture. It is only the crimes of the few that move him, and that's not freedom. That's tyranny of the mob.

But I should probably give him a turn to speak. He points out that communication has greatly improved since the days of World War 1 and literally any idiot with a camera can do something offensive and there is no way to stop them. Except that Professor Garcia thinks that we should:
"This is particularly dangerous when cultures vigorously protecting speech don't prohibit speech deeply offensive to those of other cultures, as with the video. They simply can't understand why we allow such speech, and all too easily believe we are therefore complicit in its message. "
Okay? So what? I don't care what they think or believe. This isn't about the video, and it isn't about people thousands of miles away who may not "get it." It's simple: are we going to get rid of our freedom of speech simply because Muslims are offended? And that's what this is about, don't say it's about "hate speech." No one was saying that we should start censoring ourselves when Jews or Christians are offended. Certainly not on the Huffington Post. Even if I assume that Professor Garcia believes what he is doing is correct, it's certainly coming off that he is doing so for the wrong reasons.

But rather than discuss it further, he resorts to a point of view we actually see a lot on the Huffington Post: The Europeans do it, therefore it's good:
"When every major Western liberal democracy except ours regulates certain forms of racist and hate-mongering speech, we can no longer simply assert that our approach is a non-negotiable liberal value. Others have made different choices yet respect the same value. In the United Kingdom, for example, speech aimed at expressing hatred towards other groups on the basis of ethnic, national or racial differences is punishable by fines, imprisonment or both."
And that's bad! I would say that regulating speech makes them less liberal and less of a democracy than the good old US of A. Yeah, that includes Israel too. The Huffington Posters complain that Holocaust denial is illegal in Europe constantly, though I notice Professor Garcia doesn't weigh in.

Look this is simple. You either believe in freedom of speech or you don't. There's nothing to negotiate about it. Obviously you can't incite to violence, that's true. But you're allowed to express an opinion that "Islam is dumb" or "Yarmulkes look stupid." You're allowed to be racist in America even if we don't like it. Remember this court case Professor? Speaking of the United Kingdom, I'm not sure their laws about expressing hate is working out as well as you'd think:

But let me guess: the police won't arrest them because they are afraid of what would happen if they did. They are happy to arrest people for tweets instead, though. What was that I was saying earlier about tyranny of the majority? I am sorry, I don't want America to turn into a country like that! The line in the sand has to be drawn somewhere, so why not here? As an atheist I want to be able to make fun of any religion that I like and I don't care who is offended!

By the way, in case you were thinking that maybe this wasn't because Professor Garcia was afraid of Islamic fundamentalists, his next two examples proves that what he really wants is to find a legal way to get "Innocence of Muslims" censored.
"Professor Jeremy Waldron has recently argued that it is time for the US to re-think its position on hate speech, and that a well-conceived hate speech law could protect the human dignity of minority groups while still respecting our fundamental freedom of expression. The anti-Mohammed video reminds us that such a law should be crafted not only to protect the human dignity of our own fellow-citizens, but the human dignity of communities outside ours borders that are nevertheless intimately affected by our media in this digital age. "
"Closer to home, our Supreme Court has ruled that "fighting words" -- low-value speech calculated to incite the "average person" to retaliation -- could be constitutionally regulated. As Professor Kent Greenfield has recently suggested, such a doctrine could be applied to cases like the anti-Mohammed video." 
Let me say this in the clearest way that I can:


What the hell does that even mean? That we now have to protect Muslims, or Jews or anyone else, from being offended? Because I'm not sure if Professor Garcia knows this but that may be pretty much impossible. You can't define "human dignity" and you can't tell me it's more important than my rights to say and think what I want.

But that isn't even as bad as the next paragraph. According to Professor Garcia, Americans should be allowing the average person in places like Pakistan and Yemen to dictate to us what we can and cannot say. You don't have to be Ron Paul to know that such a thing is not only absurd but dangerous. However I do like that Professor Garcia has demonstrated perfectly that the goal of his article is to find legal loopholes in order to silence those who make fun of Muslims, and basically only Muslims. I sure don't see him trying to explain why Holocaust deniers should be allowed to say their piece.

Here's one of the most chilling sections so far:
"The key would be extending the scope of our doctrine to include fighting words aimed at people outside our borders. Congress or the courts should clearly indicate by law that our 'fighting words' doctrine includes speech aimed at people outside the US through the Internet."
Have you got that? It's not enough that we are forced to be "nice" to each other, now we must be "nice" to people living thousands of miles away who we have never met. If Professor Garcia had his way, we would no longer be allowed to make fun of Canadians.

And I don't want to live in a world where we can't make fun of Canadians.

But don't worry, Professor Garcia has made it clear he won't throw you in a gulag for saying something he doesn't like, he'll just muzzle you instead:
"We do not have to punish the perpetrators of such speech - simply blocking reckless or inciting speech itself is remedy enough, and sends the necessary signal to the Muslim world -- or whichever community is the next target -- that we recognize the harm in crude, offensive and inflammatory speech that moves beyond our territory through cyberspace."
I like how he tossed in that "whichever community" remark, as if anyone would even dream of reacting to ridicule in the way that radical Muslims do. I mean, appeasement doesn't even seem like a strong enough word for what's going on here. Professor Garcia is saying that America needs to change what it is so that the "Muslim world" doesn't hurt us and our people.

Seeing what the Muslim world has been like lately, I for one am not entirely in favor of that plan. Fortunately the Huffington Posters didn't go for Professor Garcia's ideas, but it's not surprising that a far left site like this one is where such ideas get their start.


  1. We should be fine if HuffPo censors free speech. Just leave the rest of us alone.


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