Thursday, October 05, 2006

Free Speech, "Fighting Words," and What Gets Left Out in Class

Yeah, I did it. This is why.

In my Free Expression class yesterday, we were discussing "fighting words" and incitement. At issue in one of the cases was a "gentleman" who indicated his distaste for conscription by having in large letters "Fuck the Draft" on the back of his jacket, which he wore in a court room. (His jacket was found to be protected speech.) The class discussion, of course, included liberal use of the F word by the professor, both verbally and on the power point slides, presumably to make clear what the issues at hand really were.

Now, I don't have any problem with swearing. I'm a former sailor, after all. In fact, I really quite enjoy it in appropriate settings. But I don't think it's appropriate in public in most cases, if nothing else as a matter of decorum and of just plain being grownups. I like that the FCC bans certain words as a condition of broadcast licenses over airways owned by the public. Swearing on a picket sign or hippy jacket may be hip, but it doesn't exactly impress upon me that I should take you or your position seriously, since it's more about juvenile "rebellion" than anything else.

But then the discussion turned to inciting riots, and whipping up a crowd. And the the Danish Cartoon Riots throughout the Middle East earlier this year came up - should we have allowed censor of these pictures for the sake of public safety? But at no time did the "speech" involved ever make it to the screen. We weren't getting an idea of the causal relationship supposedly at play.

Worse, it followed the Conventional Narrative: The pictures from a tiny, locally circulated Danish paper that had been published six months before "just happened" to find themselves circulating around every Muslim nation, without the benefit of a free press, simultaneously. And then, just as spontaneously, people became outraged, leapt from their homes and businesses and kite flying, and started destroying everything and killing fellow Muslims in a state of rage they didn't have the mental capacity to control. We were told earnestly that depicting an image of Mohammed is blasphemous, and always has been. And the discussion in the Western liberal press was how much fault should we lay at the feet of the alleged provocateur. How dare these insensitive, racist, white, male, non-culturally sensitive, and probably not even capitalist cartoonists!!!


The "riots" were carefully orchestrated and planned by Islamofascists who wanted to test the depths of western capitulation and spinelessness. The actual cartoons weren't bad enough, so they manufactured their own. They likely knocked on doors and "suggested" that people muster at the previously scheduled spontaneous riot at a given place and time. They told lies about where the cartoons came from. They made no distinction between governments and independent publishers, because they are allowed no such distinction or freedom in their country. They ignored that pious Muslims had been respectfully drawing and painting Mohammed for centuries. Had anyone chosen not to "spontaneously" riot, they most likely would have gotten another knock on their door the next day. This is how actual fascism - as opposed to liberal fantasy Bushitler AmeriKKKan fascism - actually works.

In other words, there was only the most distant causal connection between the speech at issue and the societal harm. The real causal agent were the imams who set up and executed the well orchestrated events. At one point, the professor asked me (while I was pointing out the above facts), "But you would agree that this wouldn't have happened without those cartoons." My answer, of course, was "no." If not those, then it would have been something else. An episode of South Park. A kind word from anyone about Israel. And even if our capitulation was complete, they would have just made some more stuff up.

What context is more important? Why discuss the foreign riots as they relate to speech and "incitement" without the even remotely correct background or factual details of that incitement?

The professor has been very strong so far, acknowledging, for example, that Communists really were a real threat to the United States during the Cold War - something I think it takes real courage to say out loud in a group that thinks McCarthy was the 20th Century's greatest villain. He also has few kind words for the WWI Socialists who would have brought untold violence and harm to the war effort, businesses, and the nation in general; or for civil rights groups who resort to violent extortion and threats to strengthen a boycott. The approach has been blessedly balanced.

But this was a major disappointment. I can't say for sure he didn't show the cartoons because of political correctness. But given the free use of attention-getting images and offensive words in nearly every other context, and the time he spent getting other images of the riots the cartoons supposedly "caused," I have a hard time coming to any other conclusion.

And honestly, I can't imagine our law school's mindlessly politically correct administration being very supportive of a professor if someone complained about a possible offense against the Religion of Peace. And so as an employee, it's hard to say I blame him.

How sad that an important lesson in Free Speech concepts in a First Amendment class would fall victim to censorship by foreign fascist intimidation.

1 comment:

ModMilq said...

Jay's tenured. They can't do nothin' to him. So you can blame him for being a PC Pussy