Wednesday, January 31, 2007


"The old saying 'The answer to bad speech is more speech' doesn't require giving this guy a taxpayer-funded soapbox."

All freedoms we enjoy in the world are limited by certain restrictions. We're free to drive, but not over people's yards and into houses. We're free to speak, but cannot print libel or speak slander. We're free to own things, but cannot own nuclear weapons or other people's property. These limits are based on the concept of a balance between rights and responsibilities. We are responsible to each other and to our society, and if the exercise of a right damages society sufficiently we restrict that expression of it.

Free Speech has become wider and wider in its definition to the point of almost absurdity. As long as it's a public event where someone gets paid, nearly anything is considered free speech in America, protected by the US Constitution. There are some, however, who want to see that freedom hemmed in some. In the past, the left has been the proponent of freedom of speech, the lions of liberty of expression, the defenders of the 1st amendment. No more.
This is the awful paradox of tolerance. There arise moments when those who would destroy the tolerance that makes an open society possible should no longer be tolerated. They must be held accountable by institutions that maintain the free exchange of ideas and liberty.

The radical Christian Right must be forced to include other points of view to counter their hate talk in their own broadcasts, watched by tens of millions of Americans. They must be denied the right to demonize whole segments of American society, saying they are manipulated by Satan and worthy only of conversion or eradication. They must be made to treat their opponents with respect and acknowledge the right of a fair hearing even as they exercise their own freedom to disagree with their opponents.

Passivity in the face of the rise of the Christian Right threatens the democratic state. And the movement has targeted the last remaining obstacles to its systems of indoctrination, mounting a fierce campaign to defeat hate-crime legislation, fearing the courts could apply it to them as they spew hate talk over the radio, television and Internet.
Who said this? Former New York Times and National Public Radio writer Chris Hedges, now writing for The Nation Institute, whose magazine is so leftist and radical that Christopher Hitchens abandoned it.

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh looks at this statement and considers it more closely:
And to the extent there's some ambiguity about whether he's calling for legal suppression (which "denied the right" seems to strongly suggest) or just social pressure, he seems to have clarified it in favor of legal suppression (and "hate crimes legislation" in the sense of bans on supposed hate speech) on NPR's Talk of the Nation, Jan. 25, 2007...
Here Mr Volokh quotes an interview which includes these lines:
[NEAL] CONAN: But Chris, to be fair, aren't you talking about violating their right to free speech, their right to religion as laid out in the First Amendment?

Mr. HEDGES: Well, I think that when you preach -- or when you call for the physical extermination of other people within the society, you know, you've crossed the bounds of free speech. I mean, we're not going to turn a cable channel over to the Ku Klux Klan. Yet the kinds of things that are allowed to be spewed out over much of Christian radio and television essentially preaches sedition. It preaches civil war. It's not a difference of opinion. With that kind of rhetoric, it becomes a fight for survival....
Commenters responded:
I wonder if this guy would say the same thing about Islamofascists who actually do preach hate and the extermination of "infidels."
-by George Lyon

One person using public funds to stifle another person's private speech in the name of "tolerance."

It'd be funny if more people got the joke...
-by Daniel Chapman

I didn't realize that Christian Reconstructionists were thick enough on the ground to be worth worrying about. Sounds like they're just suggesting criminal law reforms.

The radical Christian Right must be forced to include other points of view to counter their hate talk in their own broadcasts, watched by tens of millions of Americans.

Fairness Doctrine here we come.
-by Duncan Frissell

The rule of limiting free speech is that the speech must pose a threat of immediate harm, such as inciting a mob to lynch a criminal suspect being taken out of the local jail. I've heard all kinds of unkind words declaring that such-and-such person or group didn't deserve to live. Fortunately, I have not ever listened to such words and thought imminent harm was probable.

If you want the Christian Right not to be dangerous, then free speech is your best friend. Let blow-hards be blow-hards. However, almost any religion or non-religion driven underground is going to nurture any criminal elements within it.

Censoring speech through anti-hate codes would eventually backfire on those protected, though I'm sure many would get great pleasure in using the laws of the United States to censor Jerry Falwell and his less famous brethren. Hugo Black was a Baptist from Alabama who had heard a lot of preachers spew fire, water, oil, and smoke, but in his Baptist way, he saw the First Amendment as literal and inerrant. Justice Black knew that ultimately America cannot be free for just me and my friends. It needs to be free even for the self-righteous clerics and revolutionary agitators who would preach hatred against all but a few.

Those who want speech codes will think they are fine until the codes are turned against them. Remember how Robespierre died.
-by Tertium Quid

Is this idiot a lawyer who's preaching for the infringement of Christians basic civil liberties and first amendment rights? If so, should we file grievances against him seeking his disbarment for his speech ala Stimson?

I wonder if all those who agreed with trying to suppress Stimson's speech by going for his bar license would support thousands of fundamental Christians filing grievances against this guy were he a lawyer?

Second question where does this guy get this crap about talk radio and christian TV preaching for the physical extermination of homosexuals and others. I've never seen or heard this ever, and I've been listening from time to time.

My suspician is that anyone not preaching the PC line that agrees with his thoughts on these issues is interpreted by him to me they speaker is preaching extermination, and then he calls for their forced re-education/suppression and then says *THEY* are the fascists.

The Chutzpah of the left wing PC moonbats seems to have no bounds. I mean a book calling for the abolition of the free speech and free exercise rights through the use of unconstitutional criminal laws (like hate speech laws and others) being titled "Fascists In America" is pretty damn amazingly ironic and humorous. Too bad such idiots are not just fools deserving of laughter and derision but also quite dangerous at the same time.

Guys like this scare me way more than some harmless old believer like Pat Robertson.
-by JunkYardLawDog

Hedges is absolutely right. We've got to stop letting people like him express their virulent hatred of aChristianity. The man and others like him clearly have to be silenced. They have no place in a liberal society. NPR ought to be shut down for allowing him a forum.
-by AppSocRes

Wrong. This is one misguided man. Sorry, but I will go out on a limb and say that most self-respecting liberals will vehemently disagree with banning speech.
I hope so. But I was at the University of Michigan during their repeated attempts to impose speech codes on students. That was quite--shall we say--illuminating. "No free speech for fascists!" was a not-uncommon rallying cry by the predecessor organizations to BAMN. They defined "fascist" as "to the right of Castro."
-by JohnAnnArbor

I've never understood why advocates of censorship don't understand that censorship just feeds the persecution complex that so many extremists have and gives their views greater credibility. The answer to vicious speech is more speech, not censorship.

Although it is true that at present advocacy for censorship comes to a large extent from the left, it isn't that simple. Historically the right is just as guilty, and even now there are plenty of leftists, such as myself, who oppose laws against "hate speech".
-by Bill Poser

The fact that we always seem to have some folks who want to legally suppress the speech of others is an indication we have a healthy and lively social discourse in place. When the demands of such folks disappear, we might take that as a canary in the mine moment.
-by Elliot123

It's a bit disturbing that so many seem to see themselves and other regular Christians when someone criticizes the "radical Christian right". Sloppiness often leads people in a debate to conflate the larger community with the extremists, but there is a fringe group out there and they are dangerous.
I'm aware of the "Christian reconstructionists" who Hedges now calls "Christian dominionists" and want Levitical law back in force for homosexuality. There might be dozens or even hundreds of such people in the United States. I've never met one. I've attended churches for 28 years that are generally quite a bit more fundamentalist than I can completely agree with, and I have NEVER heard anyone, either from the pulpit or in less formal settings suggest that homosexuals should even be in prison, much less executed.

Hedges is a fascist. You don't have to scratch very deep to figure out why. Elton John's recent call for state suppression of religion because Christianity "promotes hatred ... against gays" (while ignoring Islam, that executes gays, instead of politely disapproving of it) shows what is really going on. No surprise on this; homosexuals played a key role in bringing the Nazis to power.

Hedges is an intolerant person. But I'm not a fascist. I'm prepared to tolerate his intolerance and even his promotion of fascist ideas. Why does this remind of the incident under the Sandinistas where one of the opposition newspapers ran a story about press censorship, and the government shut them down for telling lies, because there was no censorship?

What did Garrison Keillor say about this? Did he really advocate suppression of speech?
No, he advocated taking away the right of born-again Christians to vote after the 2004 election. That's how you can tell he's a liberal.
-by Clayton E. Cramer

Beat me to it Clayton
We're not in Lake Woebegon anymore...

Here's the discussion on the VC from that time.
-by WHOI Jacket

I felt God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.
Which popular politician said that?
[It was Barack Obama; many politicians through history have said incredibly Christian things, such as Jimmy Carter who said such things as:
"No greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of religion. . . . I doubt if there is any problem—social, political, or economic—that would not melt away before the fire of such a spiritual awakening."

"We guard ourselves against all evils—spiritual as well as material—which may beset us. We guard against the forces of anti-Christian aggression, which may attack us from without, and the forces of ignorance and fear which may corrupt us from within."

"Today the whole world is divided between human slavery and human freedom — between pagan brutality and the Christian ideal."
Just to keep some perspective]
What I find frightening is that there appear to be a number of people on this thread that make arguments in support of Hedges goal of suppressing the speech rights of Christians. This is done by conflating the handful of people in the Christian Identity movement with evangelical Christianity. There is more similarity between Hedges and the editors of Der Sturmer.

I wonder if they are aware that Al-Jazeera has established a TV network and hired David Frost. Has anyone in the Liberal community denounced this anti-Semitic hate network as vehemently as Hedges denounces Christians? Hedges assumes that we would not turn a cable network over to the KKK, yet we have done the equivalent by turning a network over to people who believe that Hitler didn’t finish the job.
-by Moneyrunner33

How many people here have actually worked with the "Christian Right?" I am a non-religious Jew and I used to work for the Christian Coalition of America. During my time there, I was amazed at what people were saying about the organization.

A staffer for one Jewish member of Congress insisted that the CCA was spending millions of dollars per year to make Jews convert to Christianity. That sure was news to me...I think the total budget for converting Jews was the $50 per month that CCA President Roberta Combs spent taking me to dinner when we would discuss religion.

Pat Robertson does not speak for everyone in the Christian Right. He knows that. The people who contribute to the CCA know this. Jay Sekulow knows this. Roberta Combs knows this.

As for liberals wanting to ban speech...I can remember my senior year of law school at the Ohio State University. The law school newspaper endorsed Ronald Reagan for reelection. A number of student groups were angered and wanted the members of the editorial board to be punished.
-by Hugh

Chris Hedges is not just some guy on the left. He's not just an angry blogger, or someone with a website and a conspiracy theorist. He was a serious journalist and now is a senior fellow with the Nation Institute, and as such deserves to be taken seriously. Whether he represents some undertow of left-wing fear about "Christianists", or is just getting to be cranky I can't say. But to dismiss his writing and the words in an interview on NPR as something "some guy" said is really not a very thoughtful response. What we have here is a serious left-wing thinker who is proposing that some part of the US polity be silenced. While he did not say "by any means necessary", the history of leftism in the 20th century leaves certain echoes within many people, no matter how hard the left tries to dismiss their concerns.

Let's be blunt: dismissing someone's concerns about being silenced, or playing tu quoque games is hardly a liberal form of argument. Hedges book deserves debunking, and his notion that some people in America simply need to be silenced ought to be strongly contested by people across the political spectrum. I'd like to think the ACLU would among the first to protest, but so far that doesn't seem to be happening for some reason or other.
-by Guest
Some bring up Timothy McVeigh as a specter of right wing fundamentalist Christian terror we might face, but the man was no Christian and made that clear before his death. Some point to his meeting with Christians as some sort of indication of a greater Christianist conspiracy, but given that 80% of the people in America claim to be part of this religion, it's difficult to imagine how he'd have avoided such meetings. Timothy McVeigh was a radical right-wing extremist, but he wasn't part of the Christian Right even tangentially.

Animal FarmThis entire exercise is a demonstration of how tolerance has been redefined. Instead of tolerance being the acceptance that people can think and say different things, as long as they don't act in ways that damage society, it has become the presumption that you have to put up with whatever anyone does or says unless they are traditionally moral or conservative. Tolerate gay sex, transsexuals, and flag burners, but someone who says these acts are wrong must be silenced for being intolerant. It's an ironic, self defeating policy much like the "some are more equal than others" line I borrowed from George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Mr Rushdoony is dead, and has been for six years. The man thought we should more closely follow Old Testament civil law in America and while I disagree with his position, he had the right to say what he thought about the subject. Certainly he's a very obscure figure in American Christianity, let alone world faith. Christian Reconstructionism is pretty minor and has a very wide variety of thoughts on the subject, from hardcore "copy the laws straight into our books and start stoning kids for sassing off to parents" to those who like me think that we'd be wise to consider Old Testament laws when we write ours just as Blackstone said was done originally for English Common Law. In any case, calls for homosexual activity to be banned and ended are not equivalent to calls for homosexuals to be ended, let alone killed.

While Christopher Hedges is one man saying this, he's not alone in his position, rhetoric, or statements. Others have prominently said so in the past, and nearly daily will say so on various Internet sites and message boards such as Democratic Underground. The very fact that the Fairness Doctrine is being proposed by Democrat party leaders in congress right now suggests this man's position on the topic is far from radical and extreme in the left. I agree that his positions are radical and not in any way mainstream... yet. At the same time, anyone who calls publicly and on national radio for the end of free speech for those who disagree with him should be called on the carpet for it.

One thing I noticed in the fairly lengthy discussion was although many on the left cried "he's just one guy, this doesn't represent the left" I didn't see any say "and I repudiate what he says and consider it wrong." Not that this means they support it, I just thought it was interesting that none of them that I saw seemed to be so opposed to it that they wanted to make it clear they disagreed.

For more thoughts on the freedom of speech, check out my Greatest Document series.
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1 comment:

S. Weasel said...

A small quibble: there is no law prohibiting you from building a nuke, unless it's pretty recent. Looks like The Laissez Faire City Times is no more, but here's an old Free Republic link to The Libertarian Chocolate-Covered Neutron Bomb.

Long story short: Libertarian sets out to see if government will allow him to make chocolate-covered nuke. Is thwarted by government regulations on chocolate dipping.

Not just snark, by the way -- it's a good read.