75 responses

  1. L. Junius Brutus
    January 29, 2011

    AdrianT: “The problem is, that when debating with Islamofascists about their ludicrous faith, one has a gun to one’s head. (Look what happened to Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the Danish Cartoonist, heroes, all of them.)”

    Careful, lots of people will now call you a “racist” – even though what you are criticizing is not a race, but a belief system. But… race, belief system – what’s the difference?

  2. L. Junius Brutus
    January 29, 2011

    Other Fred in the UK: “The US is perfectly entitled to regard a very broad right to free-speech as one that trumps most other rights”

    What other rights? Someone’s right to not have their poor, tender feelings hurt? No such right exists.

    “however it (and you) should not be surprised that other countries do not want to emulate it.”

    I’m not. I understand perfectly that countries like Iran, China and the UK don’t like free speech much. Heaven forbid, you might actually hear something you don’t like! Obviously, you need laws to prevent that.

  3. Other Fred in the UK
    January 29, 2011

    L. Junius Brutus: There is no need to mis-respresent my views, my post is perfectly clear. I did not suggest that there is a right not to have one’s feelings hurt. I do have a right not to be violently assaulted or threatened, therefore, I believe, it is perfectly reasonable for their to be a law against inciting others to engage in such acts.

  4. Priya Lynn
    January 29, 2011

    TJ amd John, I’m aware of the claim that Leviticus 20:13 is about male temple prostitution and not gays. There are two problems with this. No bible currently being published has a Leviticus 20:13 that says it is about male temple prostitution. As the passage is always printed it is about two men having sex, so the claim that its about male temple prostitution is irrelevant. Further, even if it did specifically say male temple prostitutes must be put to death it would still be hate speech, an incitement to kill innocents and just as wrong as any incitement to kill gays. If you believe calling for innocents to be put to death should be punished that doesn’t suddenly become okay because its in the bible.

    The idea that there are several (non-threatening) interpretations to the passage is a non-starter as well. Those interpretations simply aren’t credible given what a plain reading of the passage would mean to a rational person. Claiming the passage is about gay sex leading to spiritual death (for example) isn’t credible given that that’s not what the passage clearly says. To make this claim is the same as the claim the Ugandans make about their kill the gays bill when they falsely claim its not about executing gays, its about executing pedophiles. It does not matter what innocuous ‘interpretation” you claim for the passage, any interpretation has to be supported by the actual words of the text and the only rational interpretation of the text as is is that it calls for men who have sex together to be put to death. Any arguments about how the original Hebrew or Greek referred to male temple prostitution are irrelevant because we are not talking about such early texts, we are talking about the current modern publications of the bible which say no such thing.

  5. Priya Lynn
    January 29, 2011

    Further, this talk about how in the context of the bible as a whole Leviticus 20:13 doesn’t mean men who have sex together should be put to death doesn’t fly either. Christians love to say “Christ’s New Covenant had abrogated the literal death penalty and that the verse should be understood as saying that homosexuality leads to “spiritual death” or loss of eternal salvation, etc.”.

    The problem with that is NOWHERE DOES THE BIBLE SAY SUCH A THING. In fact it says the opposite, Jesus says in a couple places that no jot or tittle of the law shall fail until the universe comes to an end. Any claims that the passage doesn’t mean what it says given the context of the whole bible must be supported by text somewhere in the bible. Nowhere in the bible is their a text that directly repudiates Leviticus 20:13 and absent that it is a clear call to execute innocents and is, from an honest legal standpoint, hate speech.

  6. Priya Lynn
    January 29, 2011

    I missed Junius’s claim that publishers aren’t responsible for the hate speech of Leviticus 20:13 because they aren’t endorsing it.

    It does not matter whether they endorse it or not, what they endorse or believe is not what would be on trial, its what they publish that would be on trial. If hate speech is against the law then publishing Leviticus 20:13 is rationally against the law as well regardless of whether the publishers personally endorse or believe that viewpoint.

    Junius asked “If Aristotle writes (and he does) in one of his works that women should not own property, is it a “hate speech” crime to publish that, in your opinion?”.

    I only have a layperson’s understanding of hate speech laws, but I believe that would not be a hate crime because it does not adocate killing or violence against women.

  7. Priya Lynn
    January 29, 2011

    Further to my last point. Junius’s claim that the publishers of Leviticus 20:13 aren’t guilty of hate speech because they don’t endorse it is similar to a person who’s libeled or slandered someone else claiming “I’m not guilty because I don’t believe what I wrote/said.”. No way is such an excuse going to fly in a court of law.

  8. Timothy Kincaid
    January 29, 2011

    Interpretations of Leviticus are WAY off topic. (and Priya Lynn, it seems to me that your complaint is against the English translations of the Bible rather than Christianity, which makes your comments not only off topic, but without a target).

    And, ironically, we actually have a thread dealing specifically with anal sex… so why is it on this one?

    So lets get back on topic.

  9. Mihangel apYrs
    January 29, 2011

    Thank you Brutus for pulling the Soviet Union out of you hat. While we have laws conserning limits on free speech (and you can say what the hell you like in private as long as it isn’t conspiracy!)

    However the USA isn’t as free as you make out. Your “Patriot Act” would probably fit contentedly in the system of any dictatorship. Your McCarthy era where people were ruined for maybe thinking something slightly left wing isn’t admirable. It’s still the case that peer pressure and political influence can ruin people who speek out of turn.

    We choose to exclude violence of speech from public discourse, and FYI we’ve had a balasphemy law for centuries that has been dusted off by the right wing to silence a gay paper and poet in the 70s. The “hate speech” does put sections of our commmunity in fear, and it can lead to worse things.

    Now tell me, Brutus, does the US legal lexicon recognise sedition as a crime?

    Why isn’t that covered by your much-vaunted freedom of speech.

  10. Mihangel apYrs
    January 29, 2011

    that should have read:

    While we have laws conserning limits on free speech (…) these are to avoid threats of violence and speech that puts an identifiable group in fear of such.

    Sorry, the phone rang in mid-type

  11. Priya Lynn
    January 29, 2011

    You’ve got it right Mihangel. Junius’s argument that Britain has no free speech is based on the fact that it restricts some speech. So does the U.S. so by his logic it has no free speech either. In fact by his logic he has no free will because he can’t levitate himself and walk through walls no matter how hard he wills himself to do so.

  12. Jay
    January 29, 2011

    Whoa dude, just back that up a sec. Seriously? You’re actually advocating that threats be made against the lives of LGBT people but that’s okay because we should be able to say anything we like? Threatening and harassing a group of people is a crime, and I’m glad these men were arrested. It’s not a freedom of speech issue if you’re advocating violence. If someone were distributing fliers saying ‘Let’s kill all African-Americans’, I’m not sure if you’d be taking this with the same level of equanimity.

  13. Priya Lynn
    January 29, 2011

    Jay, when that’s a “religious view” it somehow magically becomes okay.

  14. Donnchadh
    January 29, 2011

    Prosecuting such people is completely counter-productive. The BNP has got plenty of free publicity from such lawsuits. And driving such people underground makes them more likely to actually carry out their threats.
    And if your argument for prosecuting incitements to violence is that they might encourage people to do it, wouldn’t the same apply to any speech advocating something you don’t like?

  15. Priya Lynn
    January 29, 2011

    Donnchadh, no one is advocating that speech be prosecuted simply because we don’t like it.

  16. AdrianT
    January 29, 2011

    Junius – what is really dangerous, is the invention of the nonsense term ‘Islamophobia’, to attack anyone who criticises Islam (I will not be careful by the way), and equate it with racism. It is used as a way of silencing any debate.

    It is stupid, because: there are Arab, Pakistani and Persian christians, jews and atheists. There are many people who leave their faith – look at the website of the Committe of Ex Muslims, run by the wonderful Maryam Namazie in London. Equally, there are many white caucasian converts to Islam, like the person believed to have masterminded the attack on Moscow airport last week.

    To equate attacking, criticising islam with racism, is in itself racist as well as fascist. It is telling people of a certain origin: you are too stupid to walk away from your religion, too stupid to accept the theory of evolution, too stupid to think. And you will have no support if you dare to think for yourself.

    Of course, the West has spent the last centuries keeping the ordinary people in servitude: from colonial rule, to maintaining control of oil and infrastructure, to supporting dictatorships to protect those interests, and most disgustingly, my arming, sheltering, funding extremists to stop democracy, to stop nationalists taking control. And now we are paying the price.

    The people of Tunisia and Egypt are calling out for freedom right now – they don’t want theocracy, they don’t have beards. They want freedom, democracy, as well as affordable bread. Solidarity with all freedom fighters across the middle east.

  17. Other Fred in the UK
    January 30, 2011

    Donncadh,

    The BNP have not, as far as I am aware, advocated violence. Their views do resonate with a significant minority of the English population, with many more who think they should have a right to say what they do. You are quite correct that prosecuting the BNP was counter-productive. Those who argue for the killing of homosexuals are a quite different kettle of fish. While there are still many in Britain who regard homosexuality as wrong and a few who think it should be re-criminalised

  18. Other Fred in the UK
    January 30, 2011

    Apologies, I accidentally posted my half written post above, my post continues…

    … and a few who think it should be recriminalised, there are few enough who would agree with violence or the death penalty that I am confident a prosecution under incitement to violence would not be counter-productive. (I admit I am slightly concerned that prosecution under incitement to hatred might prove counter-productive.)

    My argument that incitements to violence should be criminalised because they might work, could be generalised to incitements to any crime, but not to anything I do not like.

  19. Priya Lynn
    January 30, 2011

    Other Fred said “My argument that incitements to violence should be criminalised because they might work, could be generalised to incitements to any crime…”.

    I think in Canada it is a crime to incite someone to commit any sort of criminal action. I suspect this may be the case in Britain and the U.S. as well.

  20. Throbert McGee
    January 30, 2011

    The question is, how high is the threshold for “inciting violence”?

    Personally, I agree with what T.J. wrote above:

    If the pamphlet was simply arguing for why there should be a law punishing homosexuality with death, then that’s a legal argument and is protected.

    In my view, while it’s morally repulsive to even speculate about legally re-instating the death penalty for consensual adult sodomy, arguments along this direction from Salafist Muslims in the UK or Christian Reconstructionists in the US are not tantamount to advocating extrajudicial lynchings of homosexuals by God-addled mobs.

    But it’s possible Priya Lynn would argue that a pamphlet saying “an ideal government would execute homosexuals because God says so” DOES cross over that threshold into inciting violence, even though the pamphlet stops short of exhorting: “Hey, everybody, grab a rope and a bunch of stones and let’s kill us some queers!”

  21. L. Junius Brutus
    January 30, 2011

    Other Fred in the UK: “L. Junius Brutus: There is no need to mis-respresent my views, my post is perfectly clear. I did not suggest that there is a right not to have one’s feelings hurt. I do have a right not to be violently assaulted or threatened, therefore, I believe, it is perfectly reasonable for their to be a law against inciting others to engage in such acts.”

    Your post was (a little) self-contradictory. I don’t think I misrepresented it. After all, it is not permitted to incite others to violently assault or threaten people in the US. But you presented that as a very broad right to free speech that trumps other rights. So what right would that be? The right to silence other people?

    Priya: “its what they publish that would be on trial.”

    You’re kidding? Did you draw inspiration from United States v. One Book Called Ulysses?

    ” hate speech is against the law then publishing Leviticus 20:13 is rationally against the law as well regardless of whether the publishers personally endorse or believe that viewpoint.”

    How very strange. So if I engage in “hate speech”, would it be against the law for you to quote that and say: “This is what Brutus says about X: [hate speech]“?

    “I only have a layperson’s understanding of hate speech laws, but I believe that would not be a hate crime because it does not adocate killing or violence against women.”

    I agree that inciting people to killing or violence should be a crime. However, suppose that a Canadian “Human Rights Tribunal” found Aristotle’s insistence that women should not own property to be “hate speech”. Should publishers be forced to excise such passages from Aristotle’s works, or be subject to hate speech prosecutions themselves?

    “Further to my last point. Junius’s claim that the publishers of Leviticus 20:13 aren’t guilty of hate speech because they don’t endorse it is similar to a person who’s libeled or slandered someone else claiming “I’m not guilty because I don’t believe what I wrote/said.”. No way is such an excuse going to fly in a court of law.”

    In a situation that is actually comparable, it actually does fly. If politician A claims that politician B is corrupt, and the New York Times reports on this, there is no way politician B can sue the New York Times for libel, since the New York Times merely reported on the accusation made by politician A. Maybe in England (as it has very strict libel laws), but nowhere else in the world.

    Mihangel: “Your “Patriot Act” would probably fit contentedly in the system of any dictatorship.”

    Perhaps, perhaps not. I bet it’s a favorite trope of yours, but it’s completely irrelevant. After all, it has nothing to do with free speech. Perhaps it has to do with a sort of wounded pride on your part, and you are trying to lift up England by pointing to other (perceived) wrongs in the world. “Well, we may not have free speech, BUT LOOK OVER THERE! PATRIOT ACT! MCCARTHY! EMPEROR TITUS VESPASIAN!”

    But here’s betting that you don’t know anything that the Patriot Act says (like most people who voted for it), and are merely repeating something that you’ve heard. Quick, look (or make) something up!

    “We choose to exclude violence of speech from public discourse,”

    Violence of speech? (George Orwell, is that you?) Send them to the Ministry of Love immediately!

    “and FYI we’ve had a balasphemy law for centuries that has been dusted off by the right wing to silence a gay paper and poet in the 70s. “

    Why, you object to that? You think that free speech should be UNLIMITED? And silence? NO! As you yourself said, the gay paper an poet were allowed to write whatever they wanted, BUT THERE WERE CONSEQUENCES.

    AdrianT: “Junius – what is really dangerous, is the invention of the nonsense term ‘Islamophobia’, to attack anyone who criticises Islam (I will not be careful by the way), and equate it with racism. It is used as a way of silencing any debate.”

    Only because they know that they can’t win the debate. Challenge them firmly and they’ll fold like a house of cards. On this very board, several people started calling opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque “racists”. When I challenged it, one of them made a very feeble and hilarious attempt to defend it (search for “Muslims might not be an ethic group” in http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2010/08/10/25267 ), but in subsequent threads, I never heard any of them say something similar, ever again. Instead, they turned to the word “bigoted”.

    “To equate attacking, criticising islam with racism, is in itself racist as well as fascist.”

    And it demeans victims of actual racism, to equate criticism of some ideology with hatred for people on the basis of the color of their skin.

    “The people of Tunisia and Egypt are calling out for freedom right now – they don’t want theocracy, they don’t have beards. They want freedom, democracy, as well as affordable bread. Solidarity with all freedom fighters across the middle east.”

    One can only hope, but I would point you to the fact that something similar happened in Iran. Islamists have a way of forcing their way into a power vacuum, regardless of what the people on the streets actually want. I’ll wait and see.

  22. Other Fred in the UK
    January 30, 2011

    L. Junius Brutus,

    I am sorry I don’t see the the self-contradiction. You appear to believe that if speech is curtailed in more than a few very specific circumstances e.g. incitment to violence then speech is not free. Most of the rest of the world does not see the issue in such black and white terms as you do and place Britain and Iran in the same category.

    To answer your question I will give a single example, in the US the right of freedom of speech allows rich political candidates and businesses to pour huge amounts of money into political campaigning, whereas in Britain we see a right to a reasonably level political playing field and impose caps on campaign spending.

  23. L. Junius Brutus
    January 30, 2011

    Other Fred in the UK: “I am sorry I don’t see the the self-contradiction. You appear to believe that if speech is curtailed in more than a few very specific circumstances e.g. incitment to violence then speech is not free. Most of the rest of the world does not see the issue in such black and white terms as you do and place Britain and Iran in the same category.”

    I wouldn’t argue that Britain and Iran as quite as bad, but both criminalize speech that the political elites find undesirable in a manner that is not content-neutral, and therefore, both deserve a place in the “hall of shame” of enemies of free speech.

    On the other hand, I wonder about the basis on which people who support criminalizing people for their opinions with “hate speech” laws would condemn Iran for similarly waging war on people’s right to free speech. Will they say: “Iran is even worse than we are”?

    “To answer your question I will give a single example, in the US the right of freedom of speech allows rich political candidates and businesses to pour huge amounts of money into political campaigning, whereas in Britain we see a right to a reasonably level political playing field and impose caps on campaign spending.”

    Riiiight. That is just a policy decision, which has absolutely nothing to do with a supposed “right to a reasonably level political playing field” – though you try to force it into that category. Rather, British policymakers probably (correctly) consider it undesirable that wealthy candidates could have a great advantage (though you’d have to check the legislative history to be sure). It is also not clear whether under US law, spending by wealthy candidates has something to do with an alleged right to “free speech”. It is more like a backdoor: the candidate’s campaign borrows money from the candidate and never repays it. As for businesses, under Citizens United, they can wage issue-related campaigns, not political campaigns – though I do understand that the line is often quite tenuous. Moreover, the English ‘restriction’ that you mention is content-neutral and does not unnecessarily prohibit free speech, just like restrictions on the basis of place are (you can voice your opinion, just not on my front porch if I disallow it), and therefore does not infringe on free speech rights. So on all counts, your example does not prove what you think it does.

    Now I’d like you to show where political speech infringes on the rights of other people.

  24. Tim
    January 30, 2011

    Enough!
    Enough free speech. Now exercise your right to remain silent.

  25. Adam
    February 4, 2011

    L. Junius Brutus:

    Please indulge my curiosity again. From what we know (and this is provisional; dependent upon the actual content of the leaflets in question), the governmental action that is the subject of debate was in respect of incitement to violence against gay people. You have said yourself that incitement to violence is a crime in the US, and appear to hold that this is justified and does not compromise the right to free speech.

    Are there other restrictions on “unlimited” speech – such as calling “fire” in a crowded theatre, slander / libel, sedition and so on – which might be imposed while preserving the right to “free” speech? If so, what is the underlying principle that justifies these restrictions without compromising that right? (And if not, I suppose, what is special about incitement to violence that it stands alone as the only justifiable restriction on unlimited speech?)

    My view on it is that free speech is a right that must be balanced against other rights. As far as I can see, no-one disagrees that incitement to violence is a valid restriction on unlimited expression. I think there are other kinds of speech which ought to be restricted in order to protect rights other than freedom of speech – again, this seems uncontroversial. The only disagreement between people seems to be the degree to which speech may be restricted in pursuit of the protection of other rights.

    In equating it to China and Iran, your condemnation of the UK as an “enemy of free speech” is pretty strong. We’ve established that the leaflets in question probably constituted incitement to violence, and possibly to murder, so this particular case does not support your conclusion about the UK’s position on free speech. What exactly about the UK’s regulation of expression does support your conclusion?

    Incidentally, it may be of interest that, by incorporating article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Human Rights Act 1998 creates a presumption in UK law of the right to freedom of expression.

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