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Sunday Sacrilege: Free speech is not freedom from responsibility

I’ve been struck by the twisty complications of the recent outing of the creepy redditor Violentacrez as Michael Brutsch, a programmer for a financial consulting company, by Adrian Chen of Gawker. I’m particularly interested by the fact that the case has become a focus of concern by defenders of free speech — people who regard free speech as sacred and absolute.

Well, you know what I think of the sacred.

“Free speech” has become a mindless shibboleth for many denizens of the internet — it gets thrown about to excuse anything, and seems to have lost all of its meaning. When Thunderf00t was kicked off Freethoughtblogs, there was a tiresome chorus of his kneejerk defenders claiming that his right to free speech had been violated, when nothing of the kind had occurred. He’s still speaking freely, but there’s nothing about free speech that says a network must give a soapbox to anyone who demands it; we rightfully limit our obligations to whom we must give space, otherwise a freethought network would be required to host Christian blogs and Satanist blogs and porn blogs and commercial blogs for our new fellow citizens, the corporations.

Almost every time I ban someone from this site, someone somewhere will claim that I do not permit free speech. I do, but with limits; I won’t let people use my site as a forum advertising hatred and misogyny, for instance, and most of my bans are for individuals who try to dominate the conversation, swamping out others’ voices with volume. I am not obligated to give you a bullhorn.

But let me say this in favor of free speech: we mustn’t silence even voices we oppose. I want to give atheists, feminists, scientists, and liberals a place to speak out, but that doesn’t mean I think we have to gag Christians, MRAs, creationists, and conservatives — they do have a right to express themselves, no matter how odious their views, in their own venues. They just don’t have an automatic right to propagandize here and everywhere.

But there’s more to this conflict than just assigning speech to a proper place. There are serious problems with the absolutist version of “free speech” that gets bandied about on the internet.

  1. The problem of privilege. When speech is completely unchecked, when there is no recognition that it can be oppressive, it favors the privileged who can shout the loudest. This is the problem of democracy in general: there must be restrictions in place to protect the rights of the minority from the thoughtless disregard of the majority. The internet, and Reddit in particular, is dominated by white male geeks — people who are all too often completely oblivious to the ramifications of their actions and who are too often dedicated to preserving their selfish privilege to do whatever the hell they want. This is a network of human beings forming interacting communities which shuns all the broader needs of a healthy community, other than self-interest and individual indulgence. There must be a recognition of diversity, differences, and the rights of others.

  2. The problem of balancing rights. You know, we have other rights than free speech. What about a right to privacy? The same people who are absolutists about the right to free speech are also often absolutists about a right to privacy — and they regard the outing of Brutsch as a violation of both. But Brutsch made a career of violating other people’s right to privacy; he’s known for his “jailbait” and “creepshot” subreddits, in which he encouraged people to post photographs of half-naked children taken without permission — the special thrill of these photos was specifically that they did violate boundaries. Do his defenders ever stop to think that sometimes these two rights conflict?

    Further, there is considerable outrage over Adrian Chen’s ‘doxxing’ of Brutsch — he violated Brutsch’s privacy! Several subreddits have actively banned all mention of any Gawker media. Note the irony, though: Adrian Chen was practicing his right to free speech, too. Apparently there are limits to the degree of free speech that will be allowed, even among Brutsch’s defenders.

  3. The problem of responsibility. This is a major one for me. Free speech is lovely and important, but some of its advocates aren’t primarily concerned about being able to say what they think, but want to be able to say what they want without consequences. This isn’t part of the deal: free speech is not just a privilege, but a responsibility. People like Brutsch want to lash out and enrage people to no particular purpose other than their own gratification, and are horrified at the idea that just maybe their indulgences could have an effect on themselves rather than others.

    On the Gawker article, someone named YukaUSA left a revealing comment.

    Mr Adrian, keep in mind that posting this article will have real world repercussions on that man. If he really cracks and gets a gun, who know what might happen. He might as well take his life and you’ll have that in your track record. You can do in fact kill a person with words.

    Yes? How interesting that YukaUSA uses that argument to defend a pedophile and self-confessed molester, yet never thought to bring it up in criticism of all those reddit channels dedicated to revealing, illicit photos of young girls. Especially in light of the Amanda Todd case, I agree that words can kill…and we have a duty to wield them responsibly. So how should we respond to the Michael Brutsches of the world who don’t seem to give a damn about the rights of the subjects of their violations?

  4. The problem of principle. What cross are you willing to die on? Free speech can be used to defend the truth. It can be used to protect the weak. It can be used to hold the powerful accountable. It’s a tool — one that bears risks as well as power. And anonymity is something that the good can use to lurk in the shadows and do good, or the wicked can use just as well to lurk in the shadows to do evil.

    It would be very hard to argue that Michael Brutsch used his anonymity and free speech to make the world a better place by spreading pictures of half-naked children and building refuges for people who liked to talk about “chokeabitch” or “Jewmerica”.

    Brutsch knows it, too. When confronted by Chen, he was afraid and begged him not to expose his identity; he has since shut down his Violentacrez account and left reddit (as far as we can tell). This was his occupation that he thought so important that he spent most of his free time moderating hundreds of perverse groups, and now he’s fled from it now that his actual identity is going to be held accountable for it. If it had been a cause like truth or opposing wickedness, would someone have fled it in shame as Brutsch has done?

Free speech is worth defending. But it is not to be defended unconditionally; it’s too complicated for that, and also, it needs to be defended from those who would cheapen and corrupt it as well as those who would silence it. Violentacrez did not promote free speech, he poisoned it for the rest of us, and I fully endorse his outing. If his cause was worth fighting for, he can now fight openly for it.

Comments

  1. says

    But either way, the point is that reality modeling and decision-making (to whatever extent you believe it is constrained) is a neurologic function of our brains and does not rely on any magic, so your taking potshots about this is absurd and a willful distraction from an otherwise interesting discussion.

    No it’s not a fucking distraction it’s the goddamn point. You are asserting that people are different from any other phenomena in nature. I am challenging that. Decision making also doesn’t work the way you seem to think it does (we have free won’t not free will).

    To just take another example it is IMPOSSIBLE to predict the decay of an radioactive isotope, right? It is a truly random event. Yet we know half lives of radiation decay and we can describe the statistical action of other events.

    Consider for a minute that people may be the same way. It is nigh impossible to predict how any one person may react, but much easier to use data to predict an outcome of a group.

  2. LeftSidePositive says

    Claraclark:

    Except that, Hurin, you seem to believe that a culture of victim-blaming cannot be facilitated by an unfettered access to free speech from those who already have all the privilege to do so. Victim-blaming is something that should be considered seriously, and the real culture of rape it contributes to. So, perhaps, freedom of speech, and inherent lack of responsibility taken, thereof is something that is a little bit more important to all this than you seem to believe it is…?

    This is deeply confused. ANY culture can be facilitated by freedom of speech, good or bad. Freedom of speech is an overarching human right, whose limitations have catastrophic consequences. Also, privilege isn’t really a relevant concept to something to which all people deserve equality under the law, like freedom of speech. Social privileges are not remedied by taking away human rights.

    On top of which, freedom of speech isn’t really relevant to victim-blaming, either, because victim-blaming is the result of cultural biases and deeply ingrained social conventions. How exactly do you expect to restrict access to freedom of speech (and apparently only for the privileged, however THAT would work?!) in order to limit victim-blaming?! How can you prosecute every single case of water-cooler office banter and discussions in front of the TV evening news that entrench the cognitive biases in victim-blaming? What are you even trying to accomplish with this paragraph?!

    LSP, it would help if you actually addressed the argument rather than a strawman. That being heightened risk for X rather than a predictability or even a non-predictability for X. Two VERY different things. Kthx.

    But they’re not different things. Esteleth has failed to show that the violence even was predictable, rather than simply an increased risk. In contrast, I have shown that the level of violence to these insults is highly variable. Furthermore, ze failed to actually identify any meaningful distinction between an event being predictable (which ze acknowledges isn’t possible to do perfectly), and being at increased risk for it, and frankly it just seems like a whole sharpshooter fallacy. Firstly, there isn’t even a functional definition offered between the two, and secondly it’s irrelevant from a moral perspective–the UC Davis students could absolutely predict they were going to get pepper sprayed, since they knew about it for several minutes beforehand, but that does not in any way make them responsible for them getting pepper sprayed, and it doesn’t even convey any responsibility on those who, from the sidelines, yelled at the cops, knowing that their peers would likely get pepper sprayed.

    I think PZ Myers has done a pretty good job specifying what the terms responsibility and privilege are supposed to mean.

    I agree PZ is accurate in terms of what privilege means, but not in terms of how it applies to “free speech,” or if he’s even talking about free speech versus comment moderation/policy restrictions on private blogs, which is totally irrelevant for the legal concept of free speech.

    As for responsibility, I think it was very vague in the OP. It wasn’t clear whether it referred to responsibility for what one directly does to others, what others do in response, or indeed what form “responsibility” should take–legal, moral, social condemnation, etc.

    And your desire to edify the comments in order to make them less vague take away from the whole point of the argument.

    This makes no sense. A vague point is not a good point at all. A point that is phrased too categorically, considering only one context and not other potential situations, is a bar to further critical thinking.

    Finally, to PZ, if the MRA’s, anti-choicers, rape apologists, etc, had all of their usual spaces eliminated to air their grievances, from what I gather, that would level the playing field and, at the same time, still allow them the privileges of free speech, without infringing on anyone else’.

    Wait–which spaces are you referring to? Because you can’t exactly eliminate any platform that hosts offensive views. Especially in the case of MRAs and such, as those are purpose-dedicated platforms run by individuals. Eliminating those particular platforms against the platform-holder’s will would in fact violate their rights to free speech.

    Another thing–who is doing the eliminating? This is why it’s generally not a good idea to use the passive voice.

    Now, if you mean advocate standards on mainstream sites that prohibit these sorts of views, that is reasonable, and they can set their terms of service accordingly. However, this needs to be a voluntary action on the part of those platforms. (Also, keep in mind that it wouldn’t entirely level the playing field, because of the bigots regrouping to their own spaces, and with the internet that’s only a few clicks away)

    It’s also important to realize that this bigotry doesn’t go away if Internet commentary is suppressed. This sort of thing is communicated generationally and is deeply entrenched in lots of people’s outlook on the world, to the point that they don’t even know when they’re engaging in it. So, looking at cultural factors that make these attitudes persistent and acceptable is probably more useful than playing whack-a-mole with all the stupid on the Internet. By all means, let’s set up an expectation of comment moderation in mainstream spaces, but there’s a much longer road of changing hearts and minds, and this requires MORE speech from us, not suppressing theirs.

  3. LeftSidePositive says

    Ing–did you read the Crommunist piece? You don’t sound like you have. Go do that and come back.

    Moreover, an isotope cannot change its behavior due to awareness of the effects of its actions upon the outside world. A human can. That’s why it is useful and necessary to hold humans accountable for what they choose to do, because it is not an inevitability in the physical universe that a person will riot if ze is offended. That’s the result of social mores and interpersonal expectations and a whole lot of conscious decision-making of many different humans with many different agendas (e.g., the imams who translated and promoted the film to manipulate their followers) and a value system that advocates entitlement to engage in that behavior, not to mention positive reinforcement that these thugs get their way when they threaten violence.

    Unless, of course, you’re arguing for absolute determinalism, in which case the people who made the film couldn’t possibly have had any real “choice” in whether or not they made the film either, so what’s the point of even talking about it? Why are the filmmakers treated as though they have the ability to make choices, whereas the rioters are just considered a force of nature?

  4. strange gods before me ॐ says

    Dude, that’s why I said the next sentence:

    But it doesn’t explain why you said the prior sentence, which was

    If that’s not an incitement to violence I don’t know what is!

    since in fact it was not an incitement to violence. I’m not sure why that’s so hard for you to understand.

    Look, I’m not going to go back and read every brief for the case–I think it was MORE than likely they had a strong case for incitement.

    So you’re talking legal incitement, then. No, you’re wrong about this. That wasn’t what the case was about anyway. Again, it was a civil lawsuit. Incitement, on the other hand, is a criminal offense.

    His subsequent statements could also be prosecutable as incitement of future acts of violence.

    No, they almost certainly could not.

    See, if his statements could be prosecutable as incitement, then why weren’t they? Why was there a civil lawsuit instead of a criminal trial?

    Hint: you need to understand what “imminent lawless action” means.

    Tip: don’t assume that legal jargon means what you’d expect it to mean.

    For the sake of brevity, I did not include complicity in that quote, since it wasn’t relevant at that point in the discussion.

    Sure it was. You just ignored that it had already been brought up.

    When you egg someone on and promote something, you are responsible for your promotion (as that is your choice).

    Okay so far.

    When someone takes action in reaction/opposition to what you say, you are not, because you can’t really have control over those who disagree with you or are not affiliated with you by organization or ideology, and they are the ones who escalate things to violence.

    Interesting special pleading. So if I say to a leftist, “you should go kill that guy”, and the leftist figures good idea and kills him, then I’m responsible. But if I say to a conservative, “you should go kill that guy”, and the conservative figures good idea and kills him, then I’m not responsible.

    That’s kind of silly.

    Otherwise, are you going to hold the Beatles responsible for the Manson murders? I mean, they wrote “Helter Skelter,” didn’t they?

    I wouldn’t, because I don’t think they could have reasonably expected that outcome. Note that reasonable predictions are already stipulated as relevant to the viewpoint I attempting to defend. (I can only hope that I’m representing Nick accurately.)

    This is why we can’t hold people accountable for how others react, unless they are specifically advocating that reaction.

    Problem: Metzger wasn’t specifically advocating the murder of Seraw. So you’ll want to rephrase this, I expect.

    Frankly I think Nick Gotts is way too eager to throw out our liberties in the face of being bullied by violent thugs, and this line of reasoning is based in intimidation and self-censorship. Now, for moral, NOT legal, responsibility, it does make some sense to criticize people for what they are TRYING to do, so in that sense he has some argument

    Ah, well then your claim about Nick being “eager to throw out our liberties” is false. You overlooked or ignored this from him:

    “The rest of your blather is irrelevant since I’m not arguing about whether what the film-makers did should be illegal; I don’t have a settled view on that either way. I’m arguing that they are morally responsible for their motivations and actions. Why is that so fucking hard to understand or accept?”

    So you should retract that claim.

    With your statement about moral responsibility, it appears you are in agreement with him.

    To what extent did they want to provoke a reaction to show they weren’t intimidated by violence?

    Well, if they wanted to do that at all then they are evil people, because that’s party A trying to provoke party B to attack party C in order to demonstrate A’s courage. Trying to provoke someone to hurt someone else for you is downright evil.

    However, the point is that in order for this to have results, it has to be true that there are rabidly violent people in the world,

    Aside: let’s keep some context in mind.

    and they are the ones that hold responsibility for their violence (which, for the purposes of this discussion, the speaker is not actually *advocating*).

    And now Tom Metzger is back off the hook. He didn’t advocate any violence against Seraw.

    And you’re excusing party A for deliberately trying to make party B attack party C (without explicitly “advocating” the attack).

    I mean, yeah, I could judge the intent to do harm…but do I really care?

    You should care about party A deliberately trying to make party B attack party C, since that is evil.

  5. says

    That’s why it is useful and necessary to hold humans accountable for what they choose to do, because it is not an inevitability in the physical universe that a person will riot if ze is offended. That’s the result of social mores and interpersonal expectations and a whole lot of conscious decision-making of many different humans with many different agendas (e.g., the imams who translated and promoted the film to manipulate their followers) and a value system that advocates entitlement to engage in that behavior, not to mention positive reinforcement that these thugs get their way when they threaten violence.

    IE there are causal things that create a person’s nature and decide how a person reacts to stimulus.

    Unless, of course, you’re arguing for absolute determinalism, in which case the people who made the film couldn’t possibly have had any real “choice” in whether or not they made the film either, so what’s the point of even talking about it? Why are the filmmakers treated as though they have the ability to make choices, whereas the rioters are just considered a force of nature?

    First of all that’s a strawman and a tired one. And frankly I’m not sure why YOU would condemn anyone since YOU seem to believe that a person’s environment greatly controls their nature and how they behave. Did the rioters ASK or CHOOSE to be born into such an environment?

    Second of all I’m arguing that humans are animals and thus behave in such a way. You can’t predict exactly how an animal will behave, but you can predict the over all trend pretty damn well. If I tried to murder you via starting a cattle stampede I was pretty sure would go towards your direction is it my fault or the cows? People can be just as dumb and panicky as cows.

  6. says

    Spoiler alert
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    Would you say Iago is or is NOT morally responsible in some way for Esmeralda’s death, since he believed he could and set out to influence Othello to do such an action? Othello is of course morally culpable, but Iago is not seen as some by stander, he is seen as an active and malicious villian who uses words as his primary choice of weapon

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    End spoiler

  7. strange gods before me ॐ says

    I do in general think that encouraging violence, even when not imminent, should be treated with more attention by the law, as quite a bit of threats against marginalized people are brushed off by law enforcement.

    So you are opposed to Brandenburg v Ohio? That was the case that settled the requirement that violence must be imminent in criminal cases.

    I have no opinion on whether certain threats or encouragement of threats should be dealt with civilly or criminally.

    You clearly do, since your immediately previous sentence is about criminal cases. That’s what law enforcement officers deal with.

    This is not my particular area of study, but it seems Rice vs. Paladin Enterprises is considered a precedent for civil liability for incitement, and some legal scholars looking at hate sites in the Internet age are in favor of considering the Brandenberg standard of imminence to be required only for criminal charges

    Where are you getting this from? It is already the case that Brandenberg applies only to criminal charges.

  8. LeftSidePositive says

    strange gods, I’ve already said that I’m fine with civil cases having a different burden than criminal ones. Yes, I think “imminence” is unreasonable in the Internet age and in our interconnectedness, at least for civil cases, as blanket threats do leave a lot of people in a perpetual state of harassment. It should be noted that I’m generally arguing for MORE legal accountability for threats & advocacy of violence, and I am using incitement in the sense of stirring up or encouraging, not strictly as it applies to criminal cases–I don’t think I ever claimed to be using the legal definition? I also don’t seem to recall making statements about the actual state of jurisprudence: you asked me whether I would support Metzger being held accountable under my moral framework, and I answered yes and why that would be. The only thing that seems even slightly unclear was when I said in #483 “are grounds” instead of “should be”–sorry, but I was dashing off a reply to something I’d answered several times before, so I got sloppy. I honestly don’t see the point of grilling me on the legal details of the actual case, when you asked me what I would want to see done and what my moral framework would recommend. I said I had no strong opinion on the applicability of civil vs. criminal repercussions, so why the hyperfocus on this?

    By the way, I’m pretty sure Metzger advocated violence against black people in general–the fact that Seraw was a random victim is irrelevant to the fact that Metzger was using his speech as a means to inflict demonstrable harm, which has been the standard I’ve been advocating all along.

    At the very least, I think law enforcement needs to get involved on credible threats and investigate them more assertively and find out how likely the person is to act. If nothing else, I’m sure having warrants served & being questioned would be a decent deterrent, even if charges can’t be filed, or if the only option is to file civil charges. If you haven’t already, listen to Rebecca Watson talking about what it’s like to be the victim of threats and harassment and have law enforcement do nothing–it’s pretty chilling.

    For the sake of brevity, I did not include complicity in that quote, since it wasn’t relevant at that point in the discussion.

    Sure it was. You just ignored that it had already been brought up.

    No–the filmmakers are not “complicit” in that sense. They were not on the same side as the rioters, and they did not say “Hey, it would be great to go storm an embassy!” They made a criticism, and their opponents went batshit over it. If we’re going to enforce that, we might as well be outing the Author of Jesus & Mo, too, because we don’t know when someone will decide to be mortally offended by that!

    And I don’t know if we can necessarily condemn the Danish cartoonists for taking a provocative stand–how else would one resist the threat of violence being so normalized? The only other alternative I can see is to give in and self-censor and let the thugs basically take our discourse hostage. So even then I have some moral reservations about basing one’s moral obligations on the bullying of others, and it does have a chilling effect on people’s willingness to use their liberties.

    Interesting special pleading. So if I say to a leftist, “you should go kill that guy”, and the leftist figures good idea and kills him, then I’m responsible. But if I say to a conservative, “you should go kill that guy”, and the conservative figures good idea and kills him, then I’m not responsible.

    No, silly. In both cases did you note that you’re explicitly advocating violence? This would render the statement “and they’re the ones who escalated things to violence” moot. What I was getting at is if I say “Josef Stalin is a poopyhead” and those who are opposed to me decide to take that and use it as a justification to kill someone in honor of Stalin, then I should not be responsible, because they are doing the opposite of my words. I cannot be responsible to know what every organization or person who may revere Stalin would do and what their likelihood of violence would be. In your silly example the people were doing *the same thing* as your words, so you’re complicit, rather than having someone to whom you have no interpersonal or organizational affiliation doing what they will and not what you said.

  9. LeftSidePositive says

    Ing: have you read the Crommunist piece? Go do so, and stop wasting our time until you do. Here’s a hint–it’s about responsibility and accountability, and the degree to which we insist that human beings behave morally, not the probability with which they do not.

    You are also engaging in some major false dichotomies about the nature of choice–yes I acknowledge external factors come to bear on choices, but that doesn’t mean one is entirely unable engage in moral reasoning. Besides, when we’re criticizing the entire culture of entitlement to religious violence and how this value is morally reprehensible, it doesn’t really make sense to excuse the effect that culture has on these choices! You’re also eliding several decision points by other human beings that all have to fall into place in order to make your “cows” analogy. That’s the whole point–it’s not just like directing mindless animals, not least because there were imams and promoters who deliberately and *explicitly* stirred people up to engage in violence well after the film was made, and these people have harmful beliefs about the world that justify their committing violent acts.

    A for Othello,I think Iago is entirely guiltless in the death of Esmeralda, because there is no one named Esmeralda in that play. Esmeralda was hanged by Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, so I don’t think it’s fair to hold Iago accountable for actions that take place in another story, by a different author, on a different continent, separated by over two centuries…

    Now, as for Desdemona, whom I think you meant…Iago is certainly at fault for lying and for stealing, which are not morally neutral acts. However, he doesn’t *just* whisper some things that ultimately, indirectly lead to Othello killing Desdemona. He also says:

    IAGO

    Do it not with poison, strangle her in her bed, even
    the bed she hath contaminated.

    Act IV, scene i

    And he’s involved in the conspiracy to kill Cassio, and directs Roderigo to bash his brains in.

    So, not exactly a relevant example to plausibly-deniable actions that indirectly result in harm.

  10. strange gods before me ॐ says

    strange gods, I’ve already said that I’m fine with civil cases having a different burden than criminal ones.

    I don’t care if you’re fine with it. I didn’t ask if you were fine with it. I simply told you that is in fact how it works.

    and I am using incitement in the sense of stirring up or encouraging, not strictly as it applies to criminal cases–I don’t think I ever claimed to be using the legal definition?

    You have clearly been attempting to rely on legal definitions, though you didn’t understand them. You can back off that now if you want.

    But you were trying to refer to legal incitement: “I’ve stated multiple times that incitements of violence are grounds for legal repercussion“, “I’m going to go ahead and assume it was not terribly difficult for the SPLC to identify lots of prior incitements of violence made by Metzger on behalf of WAR prior to the killing that would indicate that they were influenced by his incitement”, “Look, I’m not going to go back and read every brief for the case–I think it was MORE than likely they had a strong case for incitement. His subsequent statements could also be prosecutable as incitement of future acts of violence.”

    You can’t coherently say something is “prosecutable as incitement” and then say you weren’t referring to legal incitement. You’re just confused. Okay, not the end of the world though.

    I also don’t seem to recall making statements about the actual state of jurisprudence: you asked me whether I would support Metzger being held accountable under my moral framework, and I answered yes and why that would be.

    You answered yes and then you tried to justify your answer by reference to legality: “I’ve stated multiple times that incitements of violence are grounds for legal repercussion.”

    The only thing that seems even slightly unclear was when I said in #483 “are grounds” instead of “should be”–sorry, but I was dashing off a reply to something I’d answered several times before, so I got sloppy.

    And the “prosecutable as incitement” stuff. You were very evidently trying to justify your reasoning by relying on what you thought the law was.

    I honestly don’t see the point of grilling me on the legal details of the actual case,

    Because that’s where you took it. I’m just following your reasoning. I try to do the socratic thing. If you want to back away now from what you said earlier, that’s fine with me, especially if you’re explicit about it.

    I said I had no strong opinion on the applicability of civil vs. criminal repercussions, so why the hyperfocus on this?

    Again, you do have a clear opinion about it: “I do in general think that encouraging violence, even when not imminent, should be treated with more attention by the law, as quite a bit of threats against marginalized people are brushed off by law enforcement.”

    You evidently just don’t realize that is an opinion about treating such threats as criminal rather than civil matters. If you want to rephrase what you said, you can, but as stated it does in fact mean file criminal charges.

    By the way, I’m pretty sure Metzger advocated violence against black people in general–the fact that Seraw was a random victim is irrelevant to the fact that Metzger was using his speech as a means to inflict demonstrable harm, which has been the standard I’ve been advocating all along.

    Sometimes you have. At other times you have referred to prosecuting him for incitement to violence. And the ability for the SPLC to meet that standard is what you would have been wrong about. Again, you can back off this if you want to.

    At the very least, I think law enforcement needs to get involved on credible threats and investigate them more assertively and find out how likely the person is to act.

    Okay.

    If nothing else, I’m sure having warrants served & being questioned would be a decent deterrent, even if charges can’t be filed, or if the only option is to file civil charges.

    Now stop here, because you’re very confused. It is impossible to file a warrant if the prosecution does not have probable cause — more jargon, make sure you know what it entails — to believe that it will lead to criminal charges.

    What you’re evidently advocating are fishing expeditions, which are blatantly unconstitutional. Cops can’t just start serving warrants where charges can’t be filed.

    And civil law, well, I don’t know why you’re going on about the cops in regard to civil charges. The police pursue criminal matters. You’re just not making sense there.

    No–the filmmakers are not “complicit” in that sense.

    Now you’re diverting. Complicity was relevant at that point in the discussion, since it had already been brought up. Whether or not you agree with the suggestion of complicity is quite another matter. But it had been brought up.

    They were not on the same side as the rioters, and they did not say “Hey, it would be great to go storm an embassy!”

    They did try to cause violence, as Nick has documented upthread. It doesn’t matter whose side they’re on: this is a case of A trying to provoke party B to attack party C.

    They made a criticism,

    And they attempted to cause a violent reaction.

    If we’re going to enforce that, we might as well be outing

    You’re going off on a tangent again. I’m not talking about outing. I’m talking about moral responsibility per se. How to deal with it is another matter.

    because we don’t know when someone will decide to be mortally offended by that!

    There you go pretending again that the filmmakers were not deliberately trying to cause a violent reaction. But they were.

    And I don’t know if we can necessarily condemn the Danish cartoonists

    Honestly, what are you going on about? What have I said about it? (You can condemn many of them for being racists, now that you ask.)

    No, silly. In both cases did you note that you’re explicitly advocating violence? This would render the statement “and they’re the ones who escalated things to violence” moot.

    Escalating things to violence means escalating things to violence. Not talking about violence. It means violence violence. If you meant something else earlier then you should have said so. As it stands, what you wrote does mean that if I say to a leftist, “you should go kill that guy”, and the leftist figures good idea and kills him, then I’m responsible, but if I say to a conservative, “you should go kill that guy”, and the conservative figures good idea and kills him, then I’m not responsible. If you meant to say “they’re the ones who broached the idea of violence” or something like that, you should have said it.

    You’re not communicating clearly what you want to say — and that can be okay, I’m not saying you’re a bad person for that. But then you shouldn’t get short with me when I take you at your word that you mean what you say.

    What I was getting at is if I say “Josef Stalin is a poopyhead” and those who are opposed to me decide to take that and use it as a justification to kill someone in honor of Stalin, then I should not be responsible, because they are doing the opposite of my words.

    Well it really depends on what you can predict to happen. If you know that there is a group of people who will kill someone if they hear your words, and you deliberately try to bring your words to their attention, then you and they both are partially responsible for that murder. It would not have happened without you deliberately trying to make it happen. That is just a fact about the world: you would have taken an action which you knew was likely to result in someone else’s murder.

    I cannot be responsible to know what every organization or person who may revere Stalin would do and what their likelihood of violence would be.

    Maybe you can. It really depends on how much information you have access to. Again, remember that reasonable predictions are already stipulated as relevant to the viewpoint I attempting to defend.

    In your silly example

    Don’t blame me. If you don’t enjoy a reductio ad absurdum, formulate your statements better.

    someone to whom you have no interpersonal or organizational affiliation

    Hee hee. I see what you did there. Now it’s interpersonal. But before it was “affiliated with you by organization or ideology”.

    And you didn’t acknowledge the switcheroo.

    But that’s okay. We’ll just stipulate that I’m talking to a lot of conservative strangers.

    +++++
    Now, I want to remind you — for your own sake — that your credibility is at stake. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by ignoring this.

    Frankly I think Nick Gotts is way too eager to throw out our liberties in the face of being bullied by violent thugs, and this line of reasoning is based in intimidation and self-censorship. Now, for moral, NOT legal, responsibility, it does make some sense to criticize people for what they are TRYING to do, so in that sense he has some argument

    Ah, well then your claim about Nick being “eager to throw out our liberties” is false. You overlooked or ignored this from him:

    “The rest of your blather is irrelevant since I’m not arguing about whether what the film-makers did should be illegal; I don’t have a settled view on that either way. I’m arguing that they are morally responsible for their motivations and actions. Why is that so fucking hard to understand or accept?”

    So you should retract that claim.

    Clock is ticking.

  11. strange gods before me ॐ says

    It’s not clear what your point could be in this context, except that you oppose Seraw’s family suing for wrongful death in Berhanu v Metzger, and/or you oppose Seraw’s family taking the pro bono assistance of the SPLC.

    Ken Silverstein, writing for Harper’s back in 2000, underestimated the significance of non-Klan white supremacist groups which were rising at the time. The SPLC was right to shift focus to them.

    And yet, you did not link an item of historical interest to Harpers.org.

    You linked to a white supremacist site, American Patrol Report, a hate group run by Glenn Spencer:

    The conspiracy-oriented anti-Semitic pub­li­ca­tion, Amer­i­can Free Press (AFP) inter­viewed Glenn Spencer, who heads the anti-Hispanic hate group, Amer­i­can Bor­der Patrol(ABP), in an arti­cle pub­lished on July 16, 2012. […]

    In the arti­cle, Spencer pro­motes anti-Hispanic con­spir­acy the­o­ries about Mex­i­cans tak­ing over the South­west and accuses Pres­i­dent Obama of try­ing to cre­ate a one-world gov­ern­ment under the ban­ner of “globalism.”

    Spencer has been warn­ing of a plan by Mex­i­cans to “invade” and “con­quer” the South­west­ern U.S. for more than a decade. He has claimed that the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment is “spon­sor­ing the inva­sion of the United States with hos­tile intent.” Spencer has also attended white suprema­cist events and had a let­ter pub­lished on the racist web­site, VDARE.com. […]

    Thorn, who inter­views Spencer for AFP, is also very prob­lem­atic. In addi­tion to writ­ing con­spir­a­to­r­ial arti­cles for AFP, he has pub­lished books pro­mot­ing anti-government and anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries. His lat­est book, The Holo­caust Hoax Exposed: Debunk­ing the 20th Century’s Biggest Lie, clearly pro­motes Holo­caust denial. AFP itself focuses on anti-Semitic themes, from anti-Israel con­spir­acy the­o­ries to Holo­caust denial. AFP is pub­lished by long-time anti-Semite and Holo­caust denier Willis Carto.

    Spencer has also been linked to bor­der vig­i­lante extrem­ist Shawna Forde. Forde received the death penalty in 2011 for her role in the May 2009 mur­ders of Raul Junior Flo­res and his nine-year-old daugh­ter Brise­nia dur­ing a home inva­sion in Ari­vaca, Ari­zona. Author­i­ties arrested Forde for the mur­ders in June 2009, shortly after she left Spencer’s prop­erty where she had stopped to send emails from her lap­top.

    At americanpatrol dot com/SPENCER-GLENN/081223-JewInf-GS_081223.html there is an article titled “Speaking the Unspeakable: Is Liberal Jewish-Controlled Hollywood Brainwashing America?” In it, Spencer writes

    I grew up in Hollywood and, through marriage, spent years surrounded by left-wing intellectuals such as Sam Rosenwein, defender of the Progressive Labor Party, and buddy of Dorothy Healy, activist in the Communist Party.

    From countless booze-drenched dinners I learned that these people hated the U.S. and sought to achieve a globalist Communist society. While this was going on I was rasing a familiy and doing Operations Research and didn’t really appreciate what they were saying. I just nodded and got along. Years later as my political IQ increased I realized that these people were my enemy and the enemy of my country. Thank God I am no longer tied to them. […]

    I have many Jewish friends and they have been extremely instrumental in fighting illegal immigration. I fear, however, that this small handful of patriotic Americans are far outnumbered by liberal Jews who now have total control over our media. With my memories of the Hollywood elite, I think it is now time that Americans be forewarned that they are probably subject to clever pro-illegal alien propaganda every time they watch something produced in Hollywood.

  12. strange gods before me ॐ says

    http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0701-08.htm

    Spencer has spoken at events sponsored by the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and American Renaissance, a group that contends that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. Spencer has also predicted that “thousands will die” in a supposedly forthcoming Mexican invasion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Citizens%27_Council

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Conservative_Citizens

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Renaissance_%28magazine%29

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VDARE

  13. Tony–Queer Duck Overlord of The Bronze– says

    md:

    Always weird to see SPLC cited approvingly in these parts. You guys read Harpers, right?

    Why wouldn’t we speak approvingly of the Southern Poverty Law Center?
    Also, why did you link to a site that speaks negatively about the SPLC, yet offers no citation for the figures it provides?

    The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education and other forms of advocacy, we work toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.

    We employ a three-pronged strategy to battle racial and social injustice:

    We track the activities of hate groups and domestic terrorists across America, and we launch innovative lawsuits that seek to destroy networks of radical extremists.
    We use the courts and other forms of advocacy to win systemic reforms on behalf of victims of bigotry and discrimination.
    We provide educators with free resources that teach school children to reject hate, embrace diversity and respect differences.

    http://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do

    Hmmm, I find their goals laudable.
    In fact, one can see much of the good they did last year in their 2011 annual report.

    Do you have some information regarding the SPLC that would support your not-so-subtle dig at this organization?

  14. Hurin, Midnight DJ on the Backwards Music Station says

    You linked to a white supremacist site, American Patrol Report, a hate group run by Glenn Spencer

    I just want to add to this, that if you google “southern poverty law center Harpers”, the first result is on Harpers.org, and this American Patrol Report reprint does not appear on the first page of results. If you google “SPLC harpers” the American Patrol Report website does come up, but not before the Harpers.org, which is still the first search result.

    Food for thought

  15. says

    md, I’ll let you know when I give two shits about the opinion of racist honkies like the ones who join border patrols, or the people who actually think border patrols are good sources of anything.

  16. strange gods before me ॐ says

    At americanpatrol dot com/SPENCER-GLENN/081223-JewInf-GS_081223.html there is an article titled “Speaking the Unspeakable: Is Liberal Jewish-Controlled Hollywood Brainwashing America?”

    I just want to note that if you search for this in the Wayback Machine, it shows the title used to be Speaking the Unspeakable: Is Jew-Controlled Hollywood Brainwashing Americans?

    And it linked to a long screed titled “Understanding Jewish Influence” Kevin MacDonald. Includes subsections titled “Jews Are Intelligent (and Wealthy)”, “Jews Are Psychologically Intense”, “Jews Are Aggressive”.

  17. strange gods before me ॐ says

    Huh. That page for the Wayback Machine seems to be broken. This one works though: http://archive.org/

    +++++
    While I’m here, typos:

    … And yet, you did not link an item of historical interest [at] Harpers.org. …

    … “Understanding Jewish Influence” [by] Kevin MacDonald. …

  18. LeftSidePositive says

    Strange gods:

    I don’t care if you’re fine with it. I didn’t ask if you were fine with it. I simply told you that is in fact how it works.

    So what? This is, and has always been, a “should be” argument, not a “what is” argument. Just saying how it works is irrelevant to a “should be” argument.

    You have clearly been attempting to rely on legal definitions, though you didn’t understand them. You can back off that now if you want.

    I specifically said I was not using the legal definition of incitement. I’ve made general statements about what should be legally actionable in an ideal sense, and I’ve not made any claims that a policy is or is not right based on whether it is legal now. I already apologized for the sloppy writing in “are grounds” instead of “should be grounds,” so I don’t see why you need to bring it up again. Everything else you quoted was clearly in the context of what I believed SHOULD BE done in cases like Metzger’s–I said he should be held legally liable, since he was making clear statements advocating violence, and I considered it too likely to bother to look up the whole archives that he said plenty before the murder indicating that he was egging it on, or, in colloquial terms, “inciting,” which means that under the moral framework I am advocating he should be held accountable. Again, you asked me if my values allowed for prosecuting Metzger, and I said they did. I was not, and never claimed to be, addressing the legal minutiae of the actual case.

    And the “prosecutable as incitement” stuff. You were very evidently trying to justify your reasoning by relying on what you thought the law was.

    No, I said “could be” prosecutable as incitement. I was saying that I would support legal repercussions against statements like that because I think they are a clear enough call to violence–I was not making any distinction between suing vs. prosecuting, because I had not seen you introduce that dimension into the discussion at that point. And, as I’ve said, I’ve not delved into whether or not civil or criminal charges would be best to address this type of speech, as I consider that way beyond my expertise and the scope of this discussion. All I thought I was answering was “is this something that people should be free to do no matter how unpleasant it is, or should legal intervention be involved?” You asked me, in an abstract sense, if the values I supported would result in Metzger being held legally accountable. Everything I answered was in the context of your question of WHAT MY VALUES WERE, not what the law is at the moment.

    Again, you do have a clear opinion about it: “I do in general think that encouraging violence, even when not imminent, should be treated with more attention by the law, as quite a bit of threats against marginalized people are brushed off by law enforcement.”

    You evidently just don’t realize that is an opinion about treating such threats as criminal rather than civil matters.

    Not exactly. Law enforcement investigating a case where someone might be in physical danger, is different than deciding to sue or prosecute. The point I was making with that statement was that when people at reasonable risk of their safety go to law enforcement, they do nothing which leaves these people at risk. Now, an investigation may not turn into anything where one would or could file criminal charges, but this is different from having access to the assistance of police & detectives in the first place.

    Now stop here, because you’re very confused. It is impossible to file a warrant if the prosecution does not have probable cause — more jargon, make sure you know what it entails — to believe that it will lead to criminal charges.

    And if someone is advocating violence against persons or groups, and if they seem particularly unhinged or specific, it could rise to the level that it’s highly likely the person is conspiring to commit acts of violence (e.g., if people are mutually expressing advocacy of violence on a hate site), is stalking the target, or has committed any cyberattacks or hacks. The threat as issued may be sufficient to file criminal charges, depending on circumstances.

    Now, failing all this, civil charges could be a fall-back for the victim, but in the most general sense I was referring to the deterrent effect of police investigating credible threats (& other associated criminal behavior, as indicated).

    Now you’re diverting. Complicity was relevant at that point in the discussion, since it had already been brought up. Whether or not you agree with the suggestion of complicity is quite another matter. But it had been brought up.

    No, there’s a difference between being complicit in something–i.e., when one is actively in favor of it and cooperating with others to make something happen, versus a sentient being reacting to what you do. Treating the reaction of a sentient being as inevitable has problems.

    Furthermore, when it comes right down to it, how do you determine who wants to set of a violent reaction and who is unintimidated by a violent reaction that might/will result? If you have another goal and you see no way to address it without someone taking violent action in response, do you necessarily WANT violence, or do you see it as inevitable? Even Terry Jones says he wants to “open people’s eyes” about the Quran–that is basically what Jesus and Mo is doing. How genuine that statement is, I think, is just about impossible to know and even Terry Jones’s beliefs about it probably change depending on the time of day. Nakoula purports to have some legitimate grievances about the treatment of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and I don’t feel qualified to assess the validity of those claims. I actually can’t find much in the way of sources saying what exactly his motivation is purported to be–even the most damning quotes are talking about how violence is inevitable, not necessarily that this was their goal. Even Terry Jones said, “The film is not intended to insult the Muslim community, but it is intended to reveal truths about Muhammad that are possibly not widely known,” and that’s an example of criticism that we MUST honor if criticism is to have any meaning at all, and how do we get to project our hindsight onto what the stated intent is? And, we’re more likely to ascribe simplistic or nefarious intent to outgroups (in general, not just in this case)–so when we don’t like crazy Southern Christians, we may feel like we know the intent, but do we really? The thing is, how is that objectively different from the Danish cartoon controversy? They knew there was going to be violence, too, and they felt it necessary to harshly criticize Islamists threatening violence to silence speech. How can we be sure of the extent to which they were “trying” to cause violence?

    This is what I mean that trying to assess intent can just get into masturbatory territory. We know there is a vital moral argument for defending criticisms of religion, even shitty ones. We know that the people with the reprehensible morals are the ones who want to kill people over shit like this. We know that this wouldn’t be an issue at all if people weren’t willing to kill and if Muslim clerics/rabble-rousers weren’t actively trying to get people riled up about it. Why not focus on the opprobrium on the side that did the killing.

    As it stands, what you wrote does mean that if I say to a leftist, “you should go kill that guy”, and the leftist figures good idea and kills him, then I’m responsible, but if I say to a conservative, “you should go kill that guy”, and the conservative figures good idea and kills him, then I’m not responsible.

    No, you are being a fucking disingenuous idiot. In both cases they are doing what you say. This is not fucking difficult. By doing what you say, they are ideologically affiliated with you–your statements and their actions are congruent. Is this really so damned hard to understand?!

    If you meant to say “they’re the ones who broached the idea of violence” or something like that, you should have said it.

    Well, technically they were the ones who committed the violence, not really “broached the idea…” but I meant that they are the ones who brought any violence into the situation. If what the original person said wasn’t violent, and ze didn’t advocate violence, violence as a concept enters the scenario when the violent people start acting in OPPOSITION to what the person said. Did you really not get this, or are you just trying to weasel and score points?!

    Well it really depends on what you can predict to happen.

    And I still maintain there is a huge sharpshooter fallacy in terms of how predictable these events actually are, or indeed whether any imam can simply find something that he can use to stir shit up when he wants.

    Moreover, framing the issue in this way is basically demanding that we give up our ability to express ourselves based on the reprisals of others, and our behavior is held hostage by the threats of violence of others. This just means that the most threatening party wins, and that’s hardly a basis for moral judgment.

    Hee hee. I see what you did there. Now it’s interpersonal. But before it was “affiliated with you by organization or ideology”.

    And you didn’t acknowledge the switcheroo.

    But that’s okay. We’ll just stipulate that I’m talking to a lot of conservative strangers.

    Wait, what is this difference you’re asserting? All I mean is you have no control over these people, you’re not together in a group or anything, and you don’t share common goals. I don’t think that changed from one phrasing to the next. The only thing that matters is whether these people (liberal or conservative, friend or stranger–doesn’t matter) are doing what you say to do, or reacting to non-violent statements. That’s all.

    Frankly I think Nick Gotts is way too eager to throw out our liberties in the face of being bullied by violent thugs, and this line of reasoning is based in intimidation and self-censorship. Now, for moral, NOT legal, responsibility, it does make some sense to criticize people for what they are TRYING to do, so in that sense he has some argument

    Notice I said SELF-censorship. And reacting to intimidation is not a legal concept. Newspapers can feel intimidated and refuse to print things, as can individuals, even if the law is not involved–but it still has a chilling effect on expression. People can “voluntarily” (I use that word with some reservation, given the threats involved, but meaning not-legally-required) give up their freedoms and feel incapable of exercising them due to fear of reprisal or social pressure to shame them for the actions of others. (The extent to which others exploit this sense of shame to limit legal freedoms is another discussion.) But, there need not be legal limits on our purported freedoms for us to cede them to the most violent thug and feel responsible if we chafe under their arbitrary restrictions. Also, I wanted to make a strong statement against even the applicability of a legal standard to this sort of thing, because Nick Gotts says he “do[es]n’t have a settled view on that either way”–which means he’s open to the idea of such legal limitations, and I find that reprehensible, hence “NOT legal” in my comment. As AJ Milne said, “settle that view”!

  19. akaagiantsquid says

    A guy who posts pictures of underage girls without their permission gets revealed. And Adrian Chen is the one ‘violating an individual’s privacy’?