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Feb 22 2007

Just desserts

From the “That’s What You Get” file (hat tip to Susan on the ACA mailing list): Scumbag sidewalk evangelist street-preaching at the University of South Florida does his usual sexist thing of calling a random woman passerby a slut, whore, etc. Thing is, the woman’s boyfriend is right there, and he reacts as any boyfriend should…

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  1. 1
    checkitontheinside

    Yeah, that guy is an asshole calling people names all of the time. “Jorgenson, who said he was a Christian, didn’t find much biblical or even religious in Armstrong’s methods.”It’s not Christian at all,” Jorgenson said. “I don’t think any Christian in their right mind would say that they agree with him. He has no Christian values or religious values at all. I don’t know of any religion that preaches hate like that.”I thought that was important to note. The atheist community is always talking about the difference between cultural Christians and evangelists.I have been at both ends of that spectrum.

  2. 2
    Martin

    It’s entirely possible — even very very likely — that the insulted woman and her angry boyfriend came from Christian upbringings, if not necessarily fundamentalist ones. These street preachers are even more senseless about shooting off their mouths than most fundies.

  3. 3
    Theo Bromine

    Unfortunately, from the perspective of the Preacherman Micah, he won this round. “All” he was doing was proclaiming the word of God, and he didn’t retaliate when assaulted. His broken sign and any bruises he might have on his neck will be worn as a badge of honour, as he recites to himself bible verses, such as Matthew 5:11: Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.

  4. 4
    Martin

    From the perspective of Preacherman Micah, he wins every round. That’s how fanatics think.Let him think what he wants. If some idiot on a street corner called my girlfriend a whore, I’d waste no time in punching his lights out. The fact he would even say such a thing at all means his brain is already infected by effusive self-righteousness and a “me-vs-them” outlook. So I wouldn’t exactly be handing him a victory, since in his mind he’s already won it.

  5. 5
    Matt D.

    I was thinking about this situation earlier today. I’d like to think that I’d react differently, but I’m not certain that I would.Sitting here at my desk and having time to think about it, I can come up with several different ways to deal with it – ways which would be far more effective with regard to the average bystander. However, in the heat of the moment, and in a situation where you’re unlikely to be able to engage in any sort of dialogue – I might have reacted similarly.I think I’ve been in one fight in my entire life and it was a pretty poor excuse for a fight. I’m not a pure pacifist (I think there are valid justifications for violence in many situations), but I certainly tend to avoid physical confrontation and prefer to sling words like a sling blade.I’d like to think that I’d have challenged him to actually have a dialogue there, instead of just a one-way sermon. But I might have simply clocked him.After all, the Supreme Court considers some words to be “fighting words” – I think you’d have a case here.

  6. 6
    Martin

    Matt, I submit a guy standing on a corner wearing a sandwich board and spouting nasty insults at people is not someone capable of or interested in a “dialogue”. Clocking entirely justified.

  7. 7
    Jake

    Thing is, the woman’s boyfriend is right there, and he reacts as any boyfriend should…You do realize what a fucked up thing that is to say, right? I hope the idea of “defending a woman’s honour” has gone the way of dodo. NOTA knows, if someone I was dating were to react violently to someone shouting insults at me, they’d find themselves single pretty damned fast

  8. 8
    tracie harris

    I’m normally pretty supportive of the posts at this blog. And for this one, in particular, I initially determined not to post commentary, because I couldn’t disagree more with these sentiments. However, I felt somewhat hypocritical in posting so much positive response when I agree, but refraining when I found myself in disagreement. Although my ultimate goal is to support this blog, I need to post a hearty disagreement with this particular post.First of all, I can’t tell if the support of this physical attack is tongue-in-cheek–so maybe I’m taking this too seriously? But if it is sincere, then I have to say that in no way could I condone physical assault and battery in response to any verbal insult. In fact, a lot of posts on this blog contain verbal insults, and I would be the first one to condemn the act if Martin were assaulted by someone who was offended by something he’d posted at this space. People have freedom of speech, which means I will _often_ disagree (sometimes very strongly) with what other people express in this country–freely and openly. And I can’t physically intimidate them in order to “shut them up.”If I were the girl in that news story, I would be _appalled_ if my partner physically assaulted someone, supposedly on my behalf. First of all, since I wouldn’t agree with the insults being hurled, I wouldn’t be particularly bothered by them. And I would probably consider the man humorous more than threatening or hurtful. A madman in a sandwich board screaming inanities is hardly something to give a second thought to–and certainly not something to break the law over.It may be true that there is some precedent that yet stands for “fighting words.” I don’t know how often that defense is still used. When I was younger, there was an often-used defense called “crime of passion” that excused even murder (I don’t recall if it made it a much lesser offense or resulted in actual acquittal). I can’t tell you the last time I heard anyone try to use this defense. Society is too slowly learning that It is not OK for people to breakdown and lose all emotional control and then do harm to others over mere words and ideas. I view it as a barbaric and primitive response, and I, perhaps naively, expect more from people.

  9. 9
    Martin

    I had a feeling this post would bring out the PC in some folks, so I anticipated some of these responses. Let me just address them specifically.Jake said: I hope the idea of “defending a woman’s honour” has gone the way of dodo.Why? Do you not think women have honor, or that it just isn’t worth defending? Look, you’re perfectly free not to care if someone spits an appalling, sexual insult at your girlfriend. Do not, however, be surprised if you are the one finding yourself “single pretty damned fast.” Some folks (you) think it’s “fucked up” for a boyfriend to stick up for his girlfriend; I submit most folks would think it’s “fucked up” for him not to.Tracie wrote: But if it is sincere, then I have to say that in no way could I condone physical assault and battery in response to any verbal insult. In fact, a lot of posts on this blog contain verbal insults…I’ve often called fundies and other folks who do stupid things nasty names on this list. This is usually based on something they’ve actually done. I called the church CD pranksters “dopey”, Kent Hovind a “prick” for (among everything else) the unkind things he said to his wife, and gay-bashing evangelist David Hartline a “lunatic”. In each instance I documented the things they had done to earn them my invective.I’d submit there is a big difference between that sort of thing, and yelling “whore” at some random woman on the street about whom you know nothing. So I reject any attempt at drawing equivalency between what goes on on this blog and the actions of this street preacher.While one can argue back and forth over whether the boyfriend “lost all emotional control” (and I don’t think he did), this is one of those situations where meaningful distinctions must be made. All violent acts are not created equal. Some, believe it or not, can be justified. Then there is the matter of degree. If someone yells at your girlfriend and calls her a whore, very few people would give you a hard time if you popped him one. However, your approval rating would plummet drastically if you were to stab or shoot him. So situations must be looked at on an individual basis. Some people take the view that no violence is ever appropriate in any circumstance. They are free to take that view. As far as this situation is concerned, I am in full understanding of why the boyfriend responded the way he did, and can only say the foul-mouthed, misogynist preacherman got what was coming to him. I’m sorry to see a situation like this have to occur at all, but some people need to learn lessons. I’d find it far less pleasant to live in a world in which people could behave as badly to others as they liked, without having to face any consequences or retribution for their actions.

  10. 10
    Atheist in a mini van.

    Man…I’ve been wrestling with this one. On one hand, my daughter was recently the beneficiary of the old “protect a girl’s honor” mentality. If it hadn’t been for a young man willing to step-up and just be physically present in the face of an anonymous thread, I have to wonder if Possum’s experience would’ve turned out differently. While I don’t know that this young man’s subtle defense actually protected her… because the intent of the “attacker” was really unknown, I think it did have some impact on his verbal vehemence. So… right now, I sort of have to applaud the idea that men still desire to protect the females in the species.On the other hand,… I’m not sure if calling someone a name, even a whore, deserves violent, physical retribution. I think the boyfriend had a right to be pissed and to defend her honor, but his right only extended to a just defense. Verbally fucking him up…I would’ve supported that. Physically fucking him up…eh’, not so much. Like I said,… I’m torn.

  11. 11
    Martin

    Well, again, all the boyfriend did was grab the guy, throttle him a little, break his sign, and basically put a scare into him. It’s not like they had to call EMS or anything.

  12. 12
    tracie harris

    I still don’t see the justification for laying hands on anyone for what they think or say.”Justice” isn’t always about getting what you dish out; but in this case, even if it WAS, the Xian got _far more_ than he dished out. The law doesn’t just protect you if your opinions are “justified.” It protects even ignorant, unfounded and even irrational or offensive opinions absolutely as equally–which is a good thing for me, because the majority of Americans believe that atheists aren’t seeing things rationally with regard to religion–based on the numbers of people in this nation that think belief in god is rationally justified.If the boyfriend felt the guy was an idiot, by all means, shout back “IDIOT!” if it makes you feel better.Physically attacking someone is not justified as a means to protect yourself from other people’s opinions.This guy felt this woman WAS a whore. He was protesting what the article described as public fondling. But even if he had NO basis, that’s his _opinion_ he’s expressing. He didn’t physically attack anyone or threaten to touch her or her boyfriend. The response was WAY beyond overboard. I’m going to physically attack someone for saying what they think of me because I feel it’s not a supported opinion? I can’t handle someone else expressing an opinion? I’m _that_ emotionally fragile that I snap (or rationally choose violence?) at the mere expression of an idea I think is rationally unsupported?No, I don’t get it at all.

  13. 13
    Martin

    So Tracie, if I understand you correctly, if a person honestly thinks a woman is a “whore” (a word, by the way, which has a specific definition, involving taking money for sex), then it should be considered socially acceptable for him to scream the word at her, and the only appropriate response is for people to shrug and say, “Ah, what an idiot, but we should all respect his free speech rights.”Furthermore, are you implying you’d be okay with someone calling you a whore since you could simply dismiss it as an “unsupported opinion”? Mind you, I’m just trying to glean an understanding of how, if at all, you distinguish between socially acceptable and socially unacceptable behaviors, and whether you think there is anything at all a person can say for which they should be held to account. You seem to be suggesting that vile behavior is rendered socially acceptable if it has an honest underpinning; e.g., actually believing a woman is a whore whether she is one or not makes it okay for one to yell it at her. Correct me if I’m wrong.I disagree with you that the poor poor preacherman was simply “expressing an opinion.” I submit he was trying to cause harm and outrage. Furthermore I submit that he was hoping to say something to someone so offensive that he would be attacked, and then get to play “Christian martyr.” I don’t know this for sure, but it would fit the mould of other offensive religionist loudmouths I’ve seen. Fred Phelps, for instance. His whole shtick is to do something that will make someone so incredibly angry they’ll attack him, so he can then turn around and sue. I think you are unwittingly falling into their line of thinking. Here we have a situation in which nice, normal people were verbally assaulted by a non-nice, abnormal person, and you’ve decided the ones with a problem are the normal people, because they didn’t overcome their animal base emotions like Mr. Spock and shrug it off. No, I don’t get it at all. You might not take offense at being called a profoundly insulting name, but many people would. Contrary to what you seem to think, words do have the power to hurt, even when we rationally know they’re wrong. By refusing to punish (and I don’t just mean physically) people who intentionally use hurtful words to hurt, through some wishy-washy recourse to “free speech” and “opinions,” we create a society that’s morally adrift. I’m not saying that a society where everyone socks people who say anything they don’t like is better; that doesn’t happen now, and this whole campus incident is an example of something exceedingly rare. But while I unequivocally support freedom of expression, I also understand concepts like “basic human decency” and “responsible behavior.” Like anything else, free speech should be exercised with a rational understanding of how to use it responsibly, and what repercussions you might face for using it irrationally and irresponsibly. Irresponsible speech should not be suppressed, but one should understand they may well face consequences for it. If an atheist stood outside a church while services were letting out yelling “You stupid superstitious shitheads!”, and someone walked over and cold-cocked him for it, you know, I’d have to shake my head and say that atheist was an idiot who had it coming. To try to defend such idiocy by saying “But he was only expressing an idea, and look what those mean old Christians did!” would be pretty goddamn stupid, wouldn’t it? Nor would understanding why the offended person punched the atheist equate to “condoning violence.” I’m simply saying I’d understand why this person reacted this particular way in this particular situation.Speaking of expressing opinions…Keep in mind that I’ve never expressed the opinion that people ought to, as the only appropriate response, go around punching idiots who say offensive things anywhere in this thread; only that, when they do so, I fully understand the circumstances, and that I’m willing to cut a person slack is they are intentionally provoked by gratuitous and vile insults towards a loved one. Why condemn normal folks for having normal emotional responses while flattering the ravings of a disgusting sexist asshole by dignifying them with terms like “opinion” and “idea”? A brilliant physicist formulating a theorem is expressing an idea. A fool screaming at a woman that she’s a whore is most emphatically not “expressing an idea.” And he shouldn’t whine — nor should anyone else — that’s he’s the “victim” when somebody punishes him for it.

  14. 14
    tracie harris

    >So Tracie, if I understand you correctly, if a person honestly thinks a woman is a “whore” (a word, by the way, which has a specific definition, involving taking money for sex), Beyond the jargonistic meaning of “whore” as “prostitute,” “whore” also includes the added socially recognized meaning of a morally/sexually loose woman—similar to the term “slut.” I don’t believe there is any doubt that the soap box screamer in this case was tossing the term with regard to his opinion of the woman’s morals and not her occupation. I have seen soap box screamers on campuses before, and I don’t think there would be any passer-by who would believe this man was claiming firsthand knowledge of this woman’s dealings regarding her work. In context, I think it would be socially clear his meaning is more along the lines of “slut.”To me it wouldn’t matter if he really believes what he’s saying or not. There’s no law against saying things I don’t believe. I was only responding in this statement to your earlier claim that your own insults on your blogs were “justified.” I was pointing out that this man is in the same company with you—he also thinks his insult is justified. I don’t think insulting people is ever justified and consider it juvenile to toss a term out there that adds nothing to the discussion or to the information exchange. But I certainly don’t feel a need to police everyone who hurls an insult and try to stop them from saying whatever they like, however they like.>then it should be considered socially acceptable for him to scream the word at her, and the only appropriate response is for people to shrug and say, “Ah, what an idiot, but we should all respect his free speech rights.”There are many responses within legal limits to choose from. I personally don’t see the point in acknowledging or responding to unsupported or inane comments that are not impeding me from living my life. Someone else may wish to respond. Matt wanted to perhaps try to reason with the guy. Someone else may want to swear or insult him back. A stranger’s opinion does not actually affect me or concern me—unless I choose to let it. And what do _I_ gain from choosing to get upset over some guy on a soap box?>Furthermore, are you implying you’d be okay with someone calling you a whore since you could simply dismiss it as an “unsupported opinion”? Yes. I don’t see the point in wasting my time with things like “getting offended” or “getting insulted.” Pretending I’ve been victimized gets me nowhere. I don’t have to feel upset just because someone would like to insult me. I certainly _can_ choose the path of feeling hurt because some guy I don’t even know calls me “slut” or “whore”—but I honestly can’t see why a stranger’s opinion of me or my behavior—should matter to me at all. It has no real bearing on me or my life.As an example, the other day, I had someone say that they felt someone had tried to insult me—but that I didn’t recognize it (that I had overlooked that I had been insulted by a third party). I just replied that I don’t respond to insults, I try to see what the person is actually _saying_, and not get all hung up on _how_ they say it. My friend then realized that perhaps I _did_ catch the “insult.” It was just unfathomable to him that I didn’t care about it. But I honestly don’t understand why some people feel it is necessary to react to verbal insult. Someone either has a valid point to share—or they don’t. If they don’t, it really is an unproductive use of my own time to worry about what they say.>Mind you, I’m just trying to glean an understanding of how, if at all, you distinguish between socially acceptable and socially unacceptable behaviors, I’m not talking about what society accepts as good behavior. I’m talking about a legal right and Constitutionally protected freedom. It is rude and socially aberrant for this man to hurl insults at passers-by. But it’s still his legal right. And it’s _not_ my legal right to clock him because I don’t like what he says. By the same token, I also find your insults at other people to be rude and unhelpful. However, you have every right to express your opinions however you see fit. And I don’t see it as my job to judge _your_ vocabulary choices based on _my_ own feelings and standards of how people should be treated. I’m not the thought police or the speech police for the rest of the world. And neither is the guy who choked this Xian on the campus.>and whether you think there is anything at all a person can say for which they should be held to account.You and I agree they should. The question is whose job is it to make sure everyone is held to account—and how far anyone can go in holding other people accountable. You said it would have been too much to stab the guy—but _some people_ would, no doubt, think stabbing is justified. For _your_ part, however, you were OK that he was choked.In _my_ view, I agree with the current laws. The law allows free speech. If the guy is using his free speech to say things that other people don’t like, they are free to use free speech—or any other legal means–to respond. When someone physically tries to “shut him up” and impede his right to free speech, that’s what _I_ (and the Constitution) call having gone too far.I can’t do things that impact someone else’s right to exercise their Constitutionally protected freedoms—even if I don’t like what they’re doing or saying. Law is not dictated by what Tracie likes or doesn’t like, but by the Constitution. The Constitution protects the soap box guy, and does NOT protect the guy trying to physically shut him down. And I agree with this principle, because protecting speech means protecting even speech I disagree with and may not respect or like.>You seem to be suggesting that vile behavior is rendered socially acceptable if it has an honest underpinning; e.g., actually believing a woman is a whore whether she is one or not makes it okay for one to yell it at her. Correct me if I’m wrong.Sorry, that part seems to be a misunderstanding. Again, I don’t think a person has to even believe what they say is true. They can say it as long as it’s clearly expressed as an opinion. Also, “social acceptability” was never involved in what I was trying to defend. The guy is behaving in a socially aberrant way, to be sure. But it’s still legally protected socially aberrant behavior, and I support his right to be aberrant within the boundaries of Constitutional law—without threat of physical violence against him. Nobody who is exercising their Constitutional rights should be in fear of physical threat or harm by another person. The law should protect their rights—and it does; and I’m glad, because I like having _my_ rights protected despite the fact that many people may not like how I live my life or the things I think or say.>I disagree with you that the poor poor preacherman was simply “expressing an opinion.” I submit he was trying to cause harm and outrage.If he wanted to actually harm someone, calling them a name was not a very successful means to accomplish that goal. I have yet to see anyone ever harmed by a verbal insult. And further, soap box guy is incapable of “causing…outrage” in another person. No one has a magical remote control that can _make_ someone feel outrage; and neither does this soap box guy. In fact, by saying he has the power to “cause” other people to become “outraged”—you are saying that other people do not bear ultimate responsibility for the emotions they generate—that a lack of mental discipline is justification to become violent. However, earlier, when I said the boyfriend had lost emotional control, you disagreed: Your quote: “While one can argue back and forth over whether the boyfriend ‘lost all emotional control’ (and I don’t think he did)….”Either soap box
    guy has the controls, or boyfriend has the controls. If boyfriend maintained emotional control of himself, as you stated in the quote above, then the preacher guy can’t be held accountable for “causing” the “outrage” the boyfriend chose to feel—which is your current claim. Who is responsible for the boyfriend’s emotional choices? The boyfriend—or other people?The idea that another person can “cause” me feel “outrage” is a thoroughly codependent worldview. I don’t subscribe to it, nor do I sympathize with it (except in children or people who are mentally impaired, who are challenged by emotional control or learning to control their emotions). Those of us who are mentally healthy are all responsible for our own emotions and whatever reactions we choose. Nobody else “causes” us to “feel” anything.> Furthermore I submit that he was hoping to say something to someone so offensive that he would be attacked, and then get to play “Christian martyr.”Again, unless he has some magical remote control, he has no way to make anyone feel or react in any way. He can rail and rant all he wants—but unless other people choose to listen, choose to feel, choose to react, he has no impact. He has only what power other people give him. I don’t give him any—and what I fail to understand is why someone else would give him so much?>I don’t know this for sure, but it would fit the mould of other offensive religionist loudmouths I’ve seen. Fred Phelps, for instance. His whole shtick is to do something that will make someone so incredibly angry they’ll attack him, so he can then turn around and sue. Same reply as above. Fred Phelps has no power to make anyone feel or react. He can “act” all he wants, but if he doesn’t lay hands on someone else or their property, they are free to react however they like to him, within the limits of the law—including ignoring him altogether as an idiot that deserves no attention. I sympathize with people involved with Phelps, because it is certainly much more difficult to control our emotions under stress. This does present an emotional challenge—similar to what someone with a mental disorder might experience. Stress derails our focus and makes it easy for us to lose control. And the loss of a loved one certainly produces stress. So, I would be sympathetic to a person snapping while under such stress. But I still couldn’t say that Phelps “made them” do anything. And despite the fact that I believe Phelps is reprehensible, he’s still within his Constitutional rights. People don’t have to like it, and they can’t deride him for what he does. But they have to acknowledge the Constitutional protection that he enjoys—like it or not.>I think you are unwittingly falling into their line of thinking. Here we have a situation in which nice, normal people were verbally assaulted by a non-nice, abnormal person, and you’ve decided the ones with a problem are the normal people, because they didn’t overcome their animal base emotions like Mr. Spock and shrug it off. No, I don’t get it at all.I’m not asking people to not have emotions. I’m asking them to control the emotions they generate. Saying people should drive in accordance with legal driving laws is very different than saying nobody should drive. I have feelings. I just am not led around by the nose by them. And I’m not superhuman. Emotions are self-generated. If you don’t believe it, sit in an empty room and try to emote. You’ll find that you’re quite capable of doing so—with nobody else around. It’s something we do internally, all on our own. We create emotions and choose emotional reactions. And there is no reason anyone “has” to act on anger. Being unwilling to control our emotional reactions is no excuse for not doing so.I’m also not sure I’d call someone who chokes somebody, for expressing opinions they don’t like, “nice.” He may be a generally nice guy—I have no idea—and that’s really beside the point. I’m not discussing who’s “nice.” I’m talking about who exercised protected freedoms/rights, versus who violated someone else’s freedoms/rights. The preacher guy—obnoxious as we agree he is, was acting within his rights. The guy who choked him was trying to impede someone else’s right to free speech. I value free speech, and so I can’t condone someone trying to impede it—most especially with boyfriend’s justification, “But I REALLY, REALLY didn’t like what he was saying.” Isn’t that why _anyone_ tries to shut down someone else’s right to free speech? That’s exactly what the Constitution protects _against_.>You might not take offense at being called a profoundly insulting name, but many people would.That’s their choice.>Contrary to what you seem to think, words do have the power to hurt,Words have no power to cause emotional pain. If you don’t believe me, start hurling words at me and let’s see if I get hurt. We each have the power to self-generate pain in response to words if we want to go that route. But if we go that route, then we are simply causing our own emotional pain and then trying to blaming someone else for what we’re feeling. Words cannot _make_ anyone feel hurt.>even when we rationally know they’re wrong. By refusing to punish (and I don’t just mean physically) people who intentionally use hurtful words to hurt, through some wishy-washy recourse to “free speech” and “opinions,” we create a society that’s morally adrift. I disagree. I think it would be of more social benefit if society began to recognize that we are, each of us, completely responsible for our own emotional reactions—instead of blaming others for how we “feel”; we might actually create a culture of stronger, more independent-minded, less codependent people. Words can only hurt you if you react to them by choosing to feel hurt. That’s your option—and you can say the preacher “caused” you to feel hurt, angry, despondent, in love, apathetic, fill-in-the-blank. But it’s a complete misattribution of the cause of your pain. How you react is your choice, and nobody else’s. React however you want. But if you react to physically try and stifle someone’s Constitutional rights, you will be considered on the wrong side of the law.>I’m not saying that a society where everyone socks people who say anything they don’t like is better; that doesn’t happen now, and this whole campus incident is an example of something exceedingly rare. But while I unequivocally support freedom of expression, I also understand concepts like “basic human decency” and “responsible behavior.”The problem with that line of reasoning, though, is that “atheism” doesn’t align with many people’s idea of “basic human decency.” And I’m very glad my “indecent” behavior is protected under the Constitution. A good example is Howard Stern. I think the man is appalling. But I am SO GLAD that he exists and puts out the crap he puts out, because I feel we need people like him to push the envelope. Freedom of speech means nothing if nobody is out there pushing it as far as it can be pushed. What does it mean to have freedoms, but only if they don’t defy social convention? Protections aren’t required for socially acceptable behaviors. If society endorses what you do and say—who do you need protection _from_? It’s the guy that goes _beyond_ social convention that needs Constitutional protection. Be Maplethorpe; Be soap box man; Be Madonna. Be Howard Stern. Do it, say it, push that envelope in EVERY direction—so long as you don’t steamroll someone else’s rights or freedoms.>Like anything else, free speech should be exercised with a rational understanding of how to use it responsibly, and what repercussions you might face for using it irrationally and irresponsibly. Irresponsible speech should not be suppressed, but one should understand they may well face consequences for it. The divide, I think, lie
    s in what consequences one should expect. When I, for example, speak on AE, I expect that some people won’t like what I say, will be insulting to me, will shout or be angry. But I shouldn’t be in fear of someone waiting at my door when I get home to choke me. If that were the case, quite realistically, I might not do the show—in fact, I probably wouldn’t do the show. It’s certainly not worth my safety to express my thoughts. So, I don’t think “physical assault” is a repercussion that a person should reasonably expect in response to exercising a legal right or protected freedom. And trying to put that sort of fear into people—or actually attacking them—in order to make them afraid to exercise a legal right or protected freedom _hinders_ a Constitutional freedom by making people afraid to speak freely. I realize in this case you seem to be saying, “GOOD! This kind of idiocy should be something people are afraid to spew!” But I disagree. Nobody should ever fear for their safety just for _saying_ something. Words and ideas are nothing for people to get upset about. I realize they _do_ often get upset about them, but that’s their choice, and it’s their responsibility to deal with their choices within the law. They might benefit by asking themselves why they care so much what someone else thinks? If nobody’s stopping them from doing what they like—why do they care what anyone else thinks of what they do—or what anyone else says about it? That’s how I gage my own life: If you don’t like it, say whatever you like—as long as you aren’t stopping me from doing what I want, I don’t really care what you think or say about it. I’m doing what I want.>If an atheist stood outside a church while services were letting out yelling “You stupid superstitious shitheads!”, and someone walked over and cold-cocked him for it, you know, I’d have to shake my head and say that atheist was an idiot who had it coming.I realize that’s what you would do. And I realize that in the real world, certain behaviors incur certain risk. For example, a young woman, out late, alone, runs the risk of something “bad” happening to her. However, if she were to be raped, I certainly wouldn’t applaud the rapist and say, “He did what any male should have done! She should know better than to have been out late alone like that. Bad things can happen to a young woman alone at night. She had it coming.”While there are people who might clock you for what you say, as you pointed out above, that is the (thankfully) rare exception. And that doesn’t mean that clocking someone for what they say is something we “should” do. That’s where I differ with you. You are defending the “clocker”—rather than saying, “It’s wrong to physically assault people, no matter what words they’re using. Yes, we know there are emotionally out-of-control people in the world—but they are not to be applauded for initiating an assault on someone who wasn’t being any sort of physical threat to them or causing them any sort of physical, quantifiable damage. It is a lack of emotional discipline, coming straight out of fear of perceived threat (where no real threat exists), and resulting in physically uncontrolled behavior, which is, I am glad to say, NOT Constitutionally protected and is illegal.>To try to defend such idiocy by saying “But he was only expressing an idea, and look what those mean old Christians did!” would be pretty goddamn stupid, wouldn’t it?I would probably express that as rude and ill-advised as it was to exercise his free speech in this manner, it was still within his legal rights (assuming it is—I mean, the church owns the property—but in the principle of what you’re saying…) and the person who assaulted him requires anger management as much as the speaker could use some instruction in effective communication skills.>Nor would understanding why the offended person punched the atheist equate to “condoning violence.” I’m simply saying I’d understand why this person reacted this particular way in this particular situation.I believe this is your quote? “Thing is, the woman’s boyfriend is right there, and he reacts as any boyfriend should…” Isn’t saying someone did what they “should” have done, going beyond “understanding” and into condoning? I don’t think I’m twisting your words here or stretching your meaning.Your quote? “Clocking entirely justified.” You aren’t saying “it was a questionable thing to have done, but understandable.” You’re saying it was a correct and “entirely justified,” action.>Speaking of expressing opinions…Keep in mind that I’ve never expressed the opinion that people ought to, as the only appropriate response, go around punching idiots who say offensive things anywhere in this thread;By saying it was a reaction that “any boyfriend should” have, you may not be saying it’s the only available action, true, but you are saying it’s the primary, right action. It is what a boyfriend “should” do in this circumstance—not what he “might do” or “could do.”>only that, when they do so, I fully understand the circumstances, and that I’m willing to cut a person slack is they are intentionally provoked by gratuitous and vile insults towards a loved one.I also understand that some people react to provocation in ways that are unacceptable—such as physical assault in response to words. I see these people as needing help in understanding and controlling their emotional response. I _sympathize_ on that level. But I don’t sympathize in that I agree that what they do should be legal or understood on the level of “I’d do the same thing myself,” which is where you took it when you said, “If some idiot on a street corner called my girlfriend a whore, I’d waste no time in punching his lights out.”>Why condemn normal folks for having normal emotional responsesBut you said earlier: “I’m not saying that a society where everyone socks people who say anything they don’t like is better; that doesn’t happen now, and this whole campus incident is an example of something exceedingly rare.” Is this type of response that we’re addressing “rare” or is it “normal”? It cannot be both. This man’s emotional response was so out-of-control that he assaulted somebody. Is that a “normal” emotional response? I think getting this angry at an insult should stop being “normal” somewhere in our late teens, when we realize (as you pointed out earlier) that people often toss insults hoping to goad reactions. Once we realize we don’t have to allow others to manipulate us with such obvious ploys—we don’t have to give them what they want—we don’t have to get hurt and upset or angry just because someone used a naughty term to describe us (or our mother or girlfriend, or what have you)—we should outgrow that sort of “normal” response as we gain mental maturity and adult emotional discipline.> while flattering the ravings of a disgusting sexist asshole by dignifying them with terms like “opinion” and “idea”?Sexist ideas are still ideas. Ideas I don’t like are still ideas. Expression and speech I don’t like are still expression and speech. “Tracie/Martin/the-campus-jock doesn’t like it” is not the gage by which the Constitution determines whether or not someone has a right to express themselves freely. And that’s a _good_ thing—because one day the guy at the controls may not like what _I_ want to express.>A brilliant physicist formulating a theorem is expressing an idea. A fool screaming at a woman that she’s a whore is most emphatically not “expressing an idea.”Constitutionally, as far as his guaranteed rights and freedoms are concerned—they are on an equal playing field, whether society appreciates it or not. And whether society understands it or not, protecting the rights of this one crazy guy ensures the rights of all of us. It really doesn’t m
    ake sense to have “protected” freedoms if you’re only allowed to exercise them in a way that won’t incite anyone to impede your free exercise. What is the point of “protecting” only those activities and that type of speech that won’t potentially make someone want to impede you?>And he shouldn’t whine — nor should anyone else — that’s he’s the “victim” when somebody punishes him for it.He wasn’t impeding anyone’s rights or freedoms. Someone impeded his. That’s not “whining that he’s a victim.” It’s just recognizing that his rights were violated while he was engaged in a Constitutionally protected activity that didn’t impede anyone else from exercising their own rights and freedoms.

  15. 15
    tracie harris

    I need to post a typo correction. When I wrote that people “can’t deride” Phelps, I meant to type “can deride.” Just fyi.

  16. 16
    DaveScot

    Good for you, Wagner. The street preacher, if the description of the incident is accurate, was guilty of harassment, defamation, and breach of peace. Free speech does not protect any of those acts. Anyone in the crowd upon witnessing the crime (in most states) had a right to use reasonable force to prevent further criminal acts, arrest, and detain the perpetrator until uniformed police could take over. A judge and jury may subsequently find the street preacher committed no crime and you might then be liable for civil or criminal redress. I’d take the chance that a judge wouldn’t be very sympathetic to anyone calling someone else’s wife or girlfriend a whore in a public place.

  17. 17
    tracie harris

    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/defamation“defamation (of character) n. the act of making _untrue_ statements about another which damages his/her reputation.” [emphasis mine]If one takes the definition of “whore” as occupation, then it could be defamation, if in fact this woman is not a prostitute (which I assume she is not).However, if one argues the definition “slut”–which I think was obviously the guy’s intent, then it’s not defamation, because it’s an opinion. If his definition of “whore” includes women who flirt or kiss in public then it’s not an untrue statement, because that’s the line he draws for what constitutes a whore/slut. Opinion is protected.False/damaging claims of fact are not protected. I disagree he intended this as a statement of fact, and I think he was expressing a clear opinion–his own–that this woman is a whore (in the sense of a slut).Your argument for breach of peace may hold more weight:http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/breach+of+peace“breach of the peace n. any act which disturbs the public or even one person. It can include almost any criminal act causing fear or attempting intimidation, such as displaying a pistol or shouting inappropriately.”I personally would find it significant to look at the 2nd sentence along with the first one, since “any act that disturbs…one person” is a pretty broad brush. I don’t think this guy was invovled in anything criminal, nor did it sound like he was being threatening or intimidating–just loud. But “inappropriate shouting” would be a toss-up that a court would have to determine. I certainly couldn’t logically rule it out as being a crux for potential prosecution. But I also couldn’t compare shouting one’s opinions with brandishing a gun–so I’m not sure I’d call it inappropriate (in the context of doing it on a college campus–where all sorts of opinions are routinely branished–often loudly).http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/harrassment“harassment (either harris-meant or huh-rass-meant) n. the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands. The purposes may vary, including racial prejudice, personal malice, an attempt to force someone to quit a job or grant sexual favors, apply illegal pressure to collect a bill, or merely gain sadistic pleasure from making someone fearful or anxious. Such activities may be the basis for a lawsuit if due to discrimination based on race or sex, a violation on the statutory limitations on collection agencies, involve revenge by an ex-spouse, or be shown to be a form of blackmail (“I’ll stop bothering you, if you’ll go to bed with me”). The victim may file a petition for a “stay away” (restraining) order, intended to prevent contact by the offensive party. A systematic pattern of harassment by an employee against another worker may subject the employer to a lawsuit for failure to protect the worker.”Since his shouts didn’t appear to include threats or demands, I’m not sure harrassment would qualify either.I guess he could get it on breach of peace–for _shouting_ the opinions; but his content doesn’t seem to be a legal problem–again, unless you take his meaning strictly literally (but I don’t think anyone honestly believes he was talking about this woman’s work as much as his estimation of her character).

  18. 18
    tracie harris

    I should also mention that you’d have a hard time getting a cop to come out and arrest someone on charge of “defamation.” It’s tried in civil, not criminal court. You can sue people for defamation, but you won’t get a cop to come out and arrest someone for it.I might also note that campus security is available at nearly all colleges. Surely, if this guy was breaking laws on campus, it would have been easy enough to use the campus phone to call for help. There was no need for immediate public action beyond that. The guy wasn’t going anywhere.

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