Don’t Let Radicals Stifle Free Speech

April 3rd, 2011 at 6:45 pm | 49 Comments |

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On March 20th, a xenophobic idiot masquerading as a man of God lit a holy scripture on fire. This act was a proximate cause of events that caused 12 innocent people to lose their lives in Afghanistan.

This fiasco is yet another reminder of just how powerful speech is. Another group of people have found their way into the news because they (the Westboro Baptist Church) “protest” the military’s now defunct “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy (a policy which, in a fitting reminder of just how dull these protesters really are, they believe to be supportive of gay rights) by picketing the funerals of our nation’s dead soldiers.

Both of these groups caused immeasurable harm and this morning, our nation’s leaders were rightfully outraged. Of the Florida incident, General Petraeus explained “it was intolerant and it was extremely disrespectful and again, we condemn it in the strongest manner possible.”

Following up on Face the Nation, Sen. Lindsey Graham went even further:

“I wish we could find some way to hold people accountable. During WWII, you had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy. Free speech is a great idea, but we are in a war. Any time in America we can push back against actions like this that put our troops at risk, we oughtta do that. I think it would be right for Congress to enforce what he [General Petraeus] said.”

While the speech is certainly reprehensible, Senator Graham’s quotation is alarming and incorrect. Congress should not, and indeed, cannot take the sort of action to which Senator Graham alludes. As the Senator well knows (he is a lawyer by training), the 1st Amendment expressly prohibits the sort of censorship he has in mind. As the Chief Justice explained earlier this year in the funeral protest case, the United States chooses “to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

The Florida Quran burning was irresponsible and has caused harm.  But the answer to this ignorance is more speech, not less.


Recent Posts by Jeb Golinkin



49 Comments so far ↓

  • ottovbvs

    I’m a total believer in the 1st so this lunkhead can go on saying whatever he wants even though the death toll is 24 so far and heightened anger against the US in Afghanistan. You can’t legislate these far right idiots out of existence unfortunately.

    • jakester

      You can’t legislate these far right idiots out of existence unfortunately.
      Nor should we want to or legislate far left ones out of the existence either. But one thing we can do is halt all immigration from countries like Afghanistan and Somalia so that the savages who practice that kind of culturally normative behavior stay over there, not come here.

  • SFTor1

    Freedom of speech needs to be more or less absolute, unless it crosses over into incitement to violence. Does the Koran burning cross that threshold?

    Perhaps?

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    When I saw the teaser for this post, I was afraid of a straw man argument here. I was very much mistaken. Sen. Graham, calling for sedition laws. Well. That is something. Thanks for flagging his comments, and for your judicious & sensible response.

    I’d just like to add that the meaning of the text of the First Amendment is not obvious on its face.

    Sure, we take it for granted now that it prohibits anything like what Sen. Graham is talking about, but many Framers were among those who enacted the Alien & Sedition Acts (of course those laws were controversial, but that they managed to be enacted into law & enforced indicates that the “commonsense” meaning we have today is not quite ineluctable).

    The Supreme Court never applied the First Amendment until the World War I era, and didn’t establish “freedom of speech” in a form we’d recognize today until the latter half of the 20th century.

  • nuser

    Inciting riots, inciting hatred, by words , or pictures ,sometimes leading to killings, where does that fit in to the Constitution? And telling lies to gain political points? Freedom of speech , is incomplete!

    • jakester

      I didn’t realize that someone burning a book in Florida can be responsible for typical Muslim behavior in some third world rockpile of a country, If it isn’t the book burning, those psychos will seize some other excuse to go crazy. Stop making excuses for such vermin. After all, they blew up those ancient Buddhas yet no Buddhists went berserk.

  • Nanotek

    Dawkins seems right

  • nuser

    Jake
    So are you advocating:’ Monkey see , monkey do?”

    • jakester

      I am advocating that the people in Afghanistan to least enter the 19th century! Only savages behave the way they did.

      • shediac

        You’re right it’s Muslims that invaded Iraq and killed thousands, Muslims that invaded Afghanistan and killed thousands. It’s Muslims that invaded Vietnam to save Vietnam from the Vietnamese, it’s Muslims that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’ Muslims that were responsible for WW1 and WW2. Darn those Muslims….

        • jakester

          What kind of traitorous, degenerate leftist nonsense is that? Even if we are as bad as you assert, how does that excuse your poor little Muslim pals murdering innocent foreign aid workers because of a book some guy burned in Florida. Where is the connection? ANd while your were spinning off your litany of awful things that big bad America did in wars we didn’t even start, your poor Japanese a bomb victims murdered more people in Nanking, after the city surrendered, than people who died in both a bomb attacks.

  • TerryF98

    We kill 150,000 Muslims, meh. They kill 20 or so mostly Muslims they themselves hate and it’s vermin time. That must make us king Rat.

  • jakester

    We can spend all week going back and forth about who is responsible, but that loses sight of the bigger picture. Why are we fighting, dying for and subsidizing people like that? They simply aren’t worth it. Should have let the USSR have them back in the 1980s for all the good they have done us.

    • TerryF98

      I agree that we should never have invaded and occupied the damn country in the first place, Bush used a sledgehammer to crack a nut that a load of tomahawks and some special ops could have handled.

  • politicalfan

    jakester-

    I don’t see humanitarian in your future.

  • nwahs

    The irony is burning books uses free speech to demonstrate against free speech. It uses democracy to threaten democracy. But the saddest thing is most of the imbeciles engaged in those tactics don’t have intelligence to realize that irony. Ironical, isn’t it?

    • jakester

      Nobody says Jones is a genius or admirable at all. It’s just the thought that the behavior of savages halfway across the world, who mind you just blew up a Sufi shrine killing many and destroying even more of their sacred corans, influencing our laws in the United States to the point that we emplace special laws to defend a the brutish sensibilities of a faith that mainly hates us, is sort of galling to say the least. He is our fool, and no matter how contemptible he is, what happened over there is the fault of the perpetrators and accomplices over there.

  • PatrickQuint

    jakester: “one thing we can do is halt all immigration from countries like Afghanistan and Somalia so that the savages who practice that kind of culturally normative behavior stay over there, not come here.”

    That’s a terrible idea. There are a large number of interpreters in Afghanistan and Iraq who may be killed if forced to stay. I think it entirely appropriate that their service and courage be recognized.

    That’s one among the many problems with judging the actions of all according to the actions of some, or even many. If even one good, worthy human being comes out of Afghanistan then she should be welcomed, not damned by association with crimes she did not commit.

    I’d kindly request that the picture of the person responsible for the burning of Muslim scripture be removed. This human being does not deserve publicity for the act. This behavior is not worthy of a national platform.

  • jimbo2011

    As we see every where in the world and in the USA, Muslims comes to this country does not want to adapt our culture and life style. In contrary they are trying to change us to their way as they have been doing by force all over the world.Why we bring them here then?
    Did anyone see the hidden smile when Tennessee mosque imam said “we have something that they do not have ..your constitution” Will they kill us with our veapon?
    Lets give then the same freedom as they give us in their country.
    Lets love them as much as they love USA in their country.

    • TerryF98

      Hi Communistsbasher, changed your name for the fifth time then, welcome back.

  • jimbo2011

    SHEDIAC, Was it USA went to Bedr war, Was it USA went to Hendek war plus 2 more major wars or your prophet Mohammad?
    If he went to war (he did , read the history book) does this mean that he killed people?
    Was it USA killed 1.5 million Armenians. Do not think to say crusaders, because they got together to defend themself against Ottoman empire. Was it USA attacking europian coutries kidnapping kids and raising them as muslims in ottoman times?
    Was it USA war between Iran And Irak?
    USA history is 400 years old.What is your answer for the wars happened before?
    Can you tell me if there were ever peace in the middleeast ever?
    whole world know that Islam is not a peace religion.
    If it is, talk peacefully and make peace in your country for other religions

    • nwahs

      “If it is, talk peacefully and make peace in your country for other religions”

      You said a mouthful there. Be VERY wary of intolerant people who demand tolerance.

    • shediac

      Hey ‘jimbo2011′ you may be right there has been little peace in North Africa and the Mid-East one only has to read the Old Testament to see that….I should add that in the 250 years that the USA has been the USA we have been involved in 4o+ wars, good record right?

      • jimbo2011

        Shediac,
        How many years did Ottoman empire go to wars?Did you know that there was an army called ” Yeniceri” all the people in that army was kidnapped european christian kids? When they become muslim, was that their choice? Do you know where is Mohammad’s sword? Why did he carry sword? Where is Jesus’ knife?
        In other word as a christian we do not believe in violence. Punishment will come from the above.
        You should be against extremist muslims and show your power against them .Let us get rid of them together so our kids can leave in peace.

  • Levedi

    @nwahs – exactly!

    The Koran burners are another example of how extreme cases make bad laws. If we clamp down on first amendment rights because one self aggrandizing nut was the proximate cause of murder we create a situation where any speech deemed even remotely inciting is forbidden. It would shut down political and theological debate. It would also extend the lines of responsibility beyond the law’s capacity to reasonably apportion blame.

    Imagine that I publicly destroyed a gun as a protest against gun violence. Then imagine that the next day a radical gun aficionado, in another country shot up a school in protest of what I had done. According to Graham’s logic, I would be liable for those deaths. That’s utterly absurd, just as it would be absurd to assume that the acts of one (or a few) people who don’t share our cultural and moral structures should form a precedent for our own laws.

    Is the Koran burning guy morally responsible for the outcomes of his actions? In this particular case, given that he had no good reason to burn the book and had been warned that he would incite violence, I believe so yes. But I also believe that the proper place for him to be judged is the court of popular opinion (which will only embolden him) and in the end, by the highest power of all, who judges the heart and not our actions.

  • Traveler

    I wonder if the “pastor” would have had the guts to fly to Kandahar to burn the book? Sure doubt that…

  • jimbo2011

    TRAVELER,
    Are you saying that muslims in Kandahar will kill the pastor?
    How about peacefull muslims? If Koran does not say “kill them” why worry?
    President Bush told one thing which is the truth. “this war will take 50 or 100 years”
    Because they need education go get rid of the sheiks and mollas who mislead them to violence and killings.95% of the muslims can not read and understand the koran. They do not read Arabic.
    The young muslim girl whose father is incharge of the mosque in Tennessee said that “Sharia law is not in koran” can she read and understand Arabic? If she does i have questions for her to answer.

  • ottovbvs

    My morning’s entertainment. Reading Jakester’s attempts to cover and/or rationalise the behavior of one of his fellow lunkheads. Very funny.

  • nhthinker

    It wasn’t until AFTER AFGHAN president Karsai make a national speech and called for the arrest of the pastor in Florida: directly trying to score political points out of the incident was there anything done. This was the targeted act of al Qaeda types not a large mob gone mad. Emphasis should be on the reasonableness (or lack there of) of the muslim clerics reaction to the acts of the killers, not the book burners.

    Don’t believe me?… well, just listen to that well known Republican troglodyte Fareed Zakaria…

    http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2011/04/03/zakaria-the-take-quran-burning/

    BTW, the US military BURNED a large number of Bibles that were sent to Afghanistan instead of treating them like holy books. The double standard of the people in charge is quite distasteful. Do the liberals notice or care? Of course not! They are too busy trying to cow themselves to people that sympathize with or encourage idiots to kill others for burning books. Even Petreaus seems guilty.

    What happened to the media’s interest in the kill team story? That is where the indignation really should be.
    Who was the top ranking officer that should have known what that kill team was doing? Maybe he or she should be handed over to the Afghan courts? Isn’t that a much more important story than whether a misguided pastor burns books?
    I guess the answer is no for Obamamaniacs.

  • Deep South Populist

    I have long regarded Lindsey Graham as not only odious and bloodthirsty but dangerous.

    Graham supported the economic sanctions against Iraq that led to civilian deaths, has supported the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and has called for war against Iran several times.

    Although Graham has never seen a proposal for military action against the Muslim world he did not like, he now wants to undercut the first amendment in the United States because of some murders on the other side of the world.

    If this chilling call for sedition laws doesn’t open peoples’ eyes that this man is a menace, I don’t what will.

  • PatrickQuint

    nhthinker: “well, just listen to that well known Republican troglodyte Fareed Zakaria…”

    Fareed Zakaria supported Obama in the last election, on camera. He’s not a partisan. From the disparate political views he’s shown, he looks like an honest-to-God centrist.

    nhthinker: “What happened to the media’s interest in the kill team story? That is where the indignation really should be.”

    Innocents were killed in this narrative as well, in response to the Quran burning. There’s enough indignation to go around.

    As for the “kill team” story, I don’t expect to see more news until there’s a development. Until then, I think it’s perfectly fair to give this a story or two.

  • PracticalGirl

    Terry Jones used our 1st Amendment to exact a desired consequence. What better way to prove his point-that followers of and the Koran itself-is evil and dangerous. And what better way to provide argumentative fodder to the Jakesters of the world, who lumps a billion or so religious followers in with a small, dangerous minority and comes up with “cultural normative” practices.

    Jakester, do you really want to go down that road? One can point to numerous violent, murderous acts (inclusive of Jones’ act) perpetrated by zealot Christians in our own country and abroad-recently and throughout history- but does that mean its “culturally normative”? Does it make all who follow Biblical teachings suspect and dangerous?

    You and your arguments are on par with the radical Muslims themselves.

  • nhthinker

    PatrickQuint,

    Everyone knows FZ is not a troglodyte Republican- I was obviously being sarcastic.

    “Innocents were killed in this narrative as well”
    I call BS. This narrative was not focused at all on the people that did the killing nor the people that encouraged the people to do the killing nor on the innocents. It was focused on a person that was behaving legally and not calling for violence to any person, but calling out those that would use implicit extortion threats to cow the behavior of non-believers. It was focused on the person that al Qaeda would want us to focus on.

    I see you had no comment on the burning of Bibles by the US military…
    Freudian omission?

  • ottovbvs

    It was focused on a person that was behaving legally and not calling for violence to any person,

    Petraeus was wrong then? Watching the lunkheads tie themselves in pretzels over this is entertaining but not very enlightening.

  • ProfNickD

    I don’t necessarily term Pastor Jones a “racist” or “xenophobic” or even a “lunkhead,” at least not for simply burning the Quran.

    Book burning by governments is wrong — but there is something to be said for a private citizen burning a religious book that calls for violence against and subjection of non-believers, for violent retaliation against former believers, for the subjection and servitude of 50% of the human race, and that claims God’s love does not extend to non-believers.

    It’s an act with important political and philosophical symbolism, namely, that such a book has

    Nobody would decry the burning of “Mein Kampf” for obvious reasons — many of those same reasons would similarly justify burning the Quran.

    • ProfNickD

      It’s an act with important political and philosophical symbolism, namely, that such a book has … a moral foundation inappropriate to a liberal, secular society that cherishes individual liberty.

  • nhthinker

    ottobvs.

    “Petraeus was wrong then? ”
    So you think Petraeus was right to oversee the US military’s burning of Bibles and publicly deploring the burning of the Quran by a private citizen? he silently conveys that because Christian’s indignation would not involve beheadings that it was not worth respecting the views of Christians by condemning the act of the US government.

    Petraeus response to this was as a military guy with a mission and without judgement on comparative respect for religious objects. So yes, in this case Petraeus was advocating a morally undefendable position. He knows if he publicly indicates that the Bible is just as valuable of a religious object as the Quran, that would not help his military mission and thus he won’t do it. Just as he intentionally omitted that he firmly believes that Jones has every legal right to do what he did and Petraeus and the entire US military is obligated to use deadly force to protect Pastor Jones right to do it.

    Your fragments of drive-by style comments on this subject seem to indicate that your positions on this are extremely conflicted: So much so that you can’t put a full thought together. Clearly come out and say the pastor’s behavior should be cowed because of the extortion of al Qaeda’s and other extremist philosophy: Otherwise retract your implication that 24 deaths are due to the pastor’s actions.

  • think4yourself

    I wonder if Jeb Golinkin, Jakester, et al would feel the same way about protecting free speech if this was a radical muslim cleric in the US who was ceremonially burning a Christian bible?

    I grudgingly admit that Pastor Jones probably has the Constitutional right to do this (assuming that other US citizens have the Constitutional right to burn the bible), but like with the Westboro Baptists, I’d like to find non-constitutional remedies to halt that action. Perhaps in this case, it is more analagous to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater – you know it’s wrong and will create an outsized reaction that leads to mortal danger as has the so far dozens of deaths.

    He claims he’s not responsible. That’s not true. Of course that does not mean that those who committed these murders are innocent. But he bears responsibility (and it’s pure crap to say that if he hadn’t done it, they would have just found another excuse – the fact is he provided the excuse for their crimes which also makes him respsonsible if not legally guilty). I can only hope that when Pastor Jones is called to account for his actions to his Maker that justice will be done, along with those who committed these murders.

  • nuser

    Does Jones’s act fall within the First Amendment act? Just asking. Ironic , using Free Speech to
    burn words or free speech.Hm.

  • PatrickQuint

    nhthinker: “Everyone knows FZ is not a troglodyte Republican- I was obviously being sarcastic.”

    Not they don’t, and sarcasm is very rarely obvious in a medium without tone of voice.

    nhthinker: “I call BS. This narrative was not focused at all on the people that did the killing nor the people that encouraged the people to do the killing nor on the innocents.”

    As Fareed Zakaria himself pointed out, the media paid little attention until Karzai said something, and only really exploded with the story after the killings.

    nhthinker: “I see you had no comment on the burning of Bibles by the US military…”

    I had nothing productive to add. If it were a Gutenberg bible I’d be pissed, because you don’t burn museum pieces like that. Other than something like that, I don’t much care. Bibles are in no short supply.

    As a Christian who’s been around the internet, I’m accustomed to images and acts meant to insult my religion. It takes more substantial religious hatred to get to me, like a suicide bombing at a Catholic hospice. Care for those in need is always in short supply.

  • nhthinker

    “I had nothing productive to add. If it were a Gutenberg bible I’d be pissed, because you don’t burn museum pieces like that. Other than something like that, I don’t much care. Bibles are in no short supply.”

    Actually you did. You indicated that you don’t respect some consecrated symbols of the Christian religion. You don’t ask your government to treat Christian symbols with the same respect as they treat Qurans. “Bibles are in no short supply.”
    Qurans are not in short supply either.

    If a police woman walks down the street in lingerie to expose rapists, should we focus on how unfair her actions are to the rapists? Or the unfairness of her actions to expose her body to men that aren’t racists?

    Or should she be commended for her bravery to bring the irrational actions of the rapists to the surface so they might be brought to justice?
    What’s worse: potential killers willing to act based on quran burning or potential rapists tempted by women in lingerie?

    Would the woman in lingerie ever be publicly ridiculed for trying to expose the rapists?

    Both potential rapists and potential killers need to exposed and brought under control by civil society.

    • think4yourself

      NHThinker “If a police woman walks down the street in lingerie to expose rapists, should we focus on how unfair her actions are to the rapists? Or the unfairness of her actions to expose her body to men that aren’t racists?

      Or should she be commended for her bravery to bring the irrational actions of the rapists to the surface so they might be brought to justice?”

      I guess then Pastor Jones is your hero for showing just how evil these people are?

      Here’s one silly anology for another. If you poke your finger in my eye and I turn around and punch your sister – are you a hero? Or are we both guilty of bad actions?

      And from this, several people posting here state that all Muslims are evil.

      I am NOT saying that those who committed murder using this pastor’s actions as their excuse had the right to do so. Just that Pastor Jone’s action is just as reprehensible as Westboro Baptist.

  • Rob_654

    Ship this “man of god” over to Afghanistan and dump in the middle of some city and let God protect him or not as God sees fit.

  • nhthinker

    “Ship this “man of god” over to Afghanistan and dump in the middle of some city and let God protect him or not as God sees fit.”

    Why don’t you ship yourself over to Afghanistan and expose all your points of view and see if God decides to protect you?
    Somehow I don’t think you will take that option but would rather rail against an American that acts legally and publicly imagine Afghanis killing him.
    Such a pillar of morality you are.

  • jimbo2011

    SHEDIAC,
    You are talking someone came from middleeast. I know their intentions and feelings.If you are a true muslim you got a big job. You must teach your people not to hate for others belief.What reaction did you give when they burned the Bible?When they burned churches in Egypt, Irak, pakistan and killed too many innocent people?If you believe that Jesus is the spirit of the god, why don’t you read his book?Are you afraid that you will find the truth?Never is too late.Islam is waiting for Jesus to come right? Why Jesus and not someone else?
    Can you read and understand the koran?
    If so find the verse says “if someone changes his religion ,kill him ,you will go to heaven” In which religion killers go to heaven?

    There are too mant conflict in koran.Did you know that Mohammad went to 4 big wars and killed people?Bedr, Hendek…wars?
    Who is Aisha? how old was she when she married to Mohammad? 6 or 9?Who is Hatige? and 30 -40 others? You follow anyone you want I am not againsthat. Let everyone in any other religion leave in peace in muslim countries too. As a christian we have all our history and places of worships in the middleeast. Let us go to our churches in peace and without fear.You are in USA and talking freely, can any christian talk like you do in the islamic countries? Why not?
    Be fair to yourself and when you go to sleep say ” I hope I am right “

  • PatrickQuint

    nhthinker: “Actually you did. You indicated that you don’t respect some consecrated symbols of the Christian religion. You don’t ask your government to treat Christian symbols with the same respect as they treat Qurans.”

    Perhaps you misunderstood. I think that this pastor is within his constitutional rights to do what he did. Others would be within their constitutional rights to burn a copy of the Bible or the American flag. These things are all disrespectful, and I’d prefer they not do it, but I think it’s important that they have the right to be jerks like that.

    What the pastor did was unwise, and inconsiderate to the soldiers overseas and their families. This lack of consideration coupled with the lack of gain from this action means the pastor won’t be getting a Christmas card from me any time soon, but legal reparations are not appropriate.

    If someone on the far side of the world or down the street wants to burn a Bible, I’ll get over it. The book is just a vehicle. The words are what’s important and those are under no threat.

  • nhthinker

    PatrickQuint,
    “What the pastor did was unwise, and inconsiderate to the soldiers overseas and their families. This lack of consideration coupled with the lack of gain from this action means the pastor won’t be getting a Christmas card from me any time soon, but legal reparations are not appropriate.”

    Your rationale seems to be that it is more unwise to burn Qurans than to burn Bibles specifically because of the actions of extremists.

  • PatrickQuint

    nhthinker: “Your rationale seems to be that it is more unwise to burn Qurans than to burn Bibles specifically because of the actions of extremists.”

    Well yeah. It’s more wise to walk through the safer areas of town than it is to walk through the area known for muggings. The former is far less likely to have negative consequences. You’re allowed to do either.

    It’s unwise to kick someone in the shins. It’s more unwise to kick a crime lord in the shins. Between the two is kicking the President in the shins, which will likely get you beaten up by secret service but quite unlikely to get you or your family killed.

  • nhthinker

    “Well yeah.”

    So you advocate living one’s life avoiding conflict with criminals. Cede the inner-cities to the drug addicts: after all it’s “unwise” to live there. Don’t wear your team colors to an away baseball game because you could get killed in the parking lot.

    Criminals need to be confronted and exposed, not be shirked from.
    Karsai fanned the flames on the Quran burning issue to prove his street cred with those that view beating or killing someone for burning the Quran is totally appropriate.
    Many of these people think stoning a woman for getting raped is totally appropriate.

    The US stands for certain things. Pretending we don’t in order to curry favor of criminals is bogus. If Afghan government is not for speaking out against imams that speak violence against westerners, then we should just leave- Karsai, the drug addict, does not deserve the American blood that is being spent to keep him in power.