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Apr 18 2014

Pay attention

“I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express.”

90 comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    People are already complaining about Munroe’s comic, which goes to show you that we don’t really deserve the first amendment if we don’t even know what it is.

  2. 2
    RobertL

    You know, I’d thought about the information in this comic before, but I’ve never seen the sentiments expressed in the alt-text.

    That’s a great argument.

  3. 3
    Deacon Duncan

    At least he didn’t draw Mohammed.

  4. 4
    anteprepro

    The True First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion except Christianity, or prohibiting the free exercise of Christianity; and everyone must grant You the freedom of speech, and the right to an audience and platform. They must give you access to the press for absolutely everything you say, and must give no access to anyone criticizing what you say, because that is censorship. Also, ignore the right to protest, unless you are protesting taxing and/or secret Muslims.”

  5. 5
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    anteprepro
    Ahhh, that’s just the Christian version. There’s also the Skeptical Dudebro version:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise of propositioning to strange women wherever you are; and everyone must grant You the freedom of speech, and the right to an audience and platform. They must give you access to the press for absolutely everything you say, and must give no access to anyone criticizing what you say, because that is censorship.

  6. 6
    Steve LaBonne

    When Munroe is good, he’s very good.

  7. 7
    John Horstman

    Pffft, free speech? That’s for suckers. Freeze Peach right are MUCH more comprehensive!

  8. 8
    John Horstman

    Blast: “rights”, not “right”. I should wait until after coffee to snark online.

  9. 9
    sqlrob

    Pay attention? But then how is it free speech?

    /snark

    I wondered how long it would be before this comic ended up here. I’m sure it will be frequently referenced in the future in threads with whiny trolls.

    Hmm, maybe links to this is what you should replace deleted comments with?

  10. 10
    Marco Neves

    Yes, people think that free speech is the same as “duty to publish every single comment in my personal blog”.

  11. 11
    woozy

    At least he didn’t draw Mohammed.

    How do you know the cueball guy isn’t Mohammed?

    I’m very firm in my opinion that free speech does not shield one from consequences. However I’m really weary of the any sentiment that downplays the importance of free speech. Free speech is more than just a technicality that the government can’t arrest you. As to panel 4, if your show is canceled or you are banned from an internet community (but not if you are yelled at or boycotted) then the broadcaster or the internet community is not granting you free speech within its arena. (Which is not a big deal as you have no entitlement that it should.)

    The alt-text counter argument is very clever, though.

  12. 12
    mikeyb

    The corollary of course (not for blogs) is that if you have lots of $$$, we don’t have to listen but we will be exposed to your endless repetitive BS as long as the money flows. After all, according to the SC, speech=$$$. Think of the Koch bro’s never ending sequence of commercials on the evils of Obamacare.

  13. 13
    twas brillig (stevem)

    re @12:

    The corollary of course (not for blogs) is that if you have lots of $$$, we don’t have to listen but we will be exposed to your endless repetitive BS as long as the money flows.

    yes, so much…
    THAT is my objection to the “free” in the free speech label of the concept. Speech ain’t FREE, it costs so much to get even a single word published, that to call it FREE is such a misnomer. And who cares about “speech”, i.e. vocal word sounds from your mouth. SPEECH is written words, published where everyone can read them, i.e. Internet. Free speech is just a euphemism for “power to make people listen to me”.
    Is everyone reading? That was my “free speech” exercise for you !! ;-|

  14. 14
    Rawnaeris, Lulu Cthulhu

    This. So much this.

  15. 15
    Usernames are smart

    People are already complaining about Munroe’s comic
    — Kevin (#1)

    Got any links? I googled some and found nothing.

  16. 16
    Anne, Old Gumbie Cat

    Absotively. Free speech applies to everybody, including me. It does not mean that I have to shut up and listen to you and never disagree with anything you say.

    By the way, I read this one before coming to Pharyngula this morning, and I was wondering if PZ had seen it yet.

  17. 17
    sunsangnim

    Of course free speech isn’t free. Money is now a form of free speech, which means that rich people have more rights than you do. That includes the right to buy representatives.

  18. 18
    Trebuchet

    I just linked to this over at Ed’s. I should have known PZ would be ahead of me. Time Zones, and all that.

  19. 19
    Nathan Hull

    This really is convenient for people who pretend to be doyens of liberalism but are actually intolerant jerks, and I’m what you Americans would describe as a liberal.

  20. 20
    Eamon Knight

    Love xkcd as usual, but I wish discussions of free speech didn’t always come back the First Amendment, as a lot of us don’t live in places where the Constitution it amended applies (though roughly similar protections may exist). There’s a more general ethics to free speech that goes beyond “what you can get arrested for saying”.

  21. 21
    qwints

    The comic is true, as far as it goes. I do think that there’s also an argument for an open marketplace of ideas that endeavors to actively make diverse view points heard, and that there are sold arguments against using economic or forceful tactics to stop others from speaking. Of course, you don’t hear them as much because powerful people rarely need help in order to speak, and are seldom subject to meaningful economic pressure.

    There are, however, many people whose voice no one hears because most media channels don’t care about them. People who don’t talk to their co-workers or neighbors because they fear for their jobs. People whose attempts to express themselves are shut down by private force while the police ignore it. And I get really sick of people with privilege who throw them under the bus when they seek to minimize free speech. I hear this snarky response going out to unionizers and protesters, and I get really angry.

  22. 22
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @usernames are smart:

    Some of the posters here are complaining that it’s not right.

  23. 23
    Nick Gotts

    This really is convenient for people who pretend to be doyens of liberalism but are actually intolerant jerks, and I’m what you Americans would describe as a liberal. – Nathan Hull@20

    So, would you like to actually make a point – i.e., tell us just where you disagree with the cartoon, and why? Come on now, use that free speech you’re allegedly so keen on. Or is formulating a rational argument too much trouble, or simply beyond your capabilities?

  24. 24
    Nathan Hull

    To comment #23, it has become alarmingly obvious that pretty much everyone lauds free speech, considers themselves an advocate for it, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, I find the majority are happy with slight disagreement, but when seriously challenged want to hit the Block, Report or Ban button when they are exposed in even the slightest way. This is a bigger problem for Fox-style wingnuts but has swamped the “liberal” Left in the Internet age, the cult around Obama the weirdest and most depressing part. Worse still, I’ve come to realize how stupid so many are, including those I considered above the mean.

  25. 25
    The Mellow Monkey

    qwints @ 21

    There are, however, many people whose voice no one hears because most media channels don’t care about them. People who don’t talk to their co-workers or neighbors because they fear for their jobs. People whose attempts to express themselves are shut down by private force while the police ignore it. And I get really sick of people with privilege who throw them under the bus when they seek to minimize free speech. I hear this snarky response going out to unionizers and protesters, and I get really angry.

    QFT. There have been a lot of threats against people’s livelihoods here in Wisconsin due to this very issue. Blanket principles are great in theory, but the finer nuances of social justice and power dynamics do need to be taken into account. When everyone isn’t starting on an even playing field, acting like they are isn’t going to make things better.

  26. 26
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Worse still, I’ve come to realize how stupid so many are, including those I considered above the mean.

    Ah, if they disagree with you, they are stupid. Is that your real argument?

  27. 27
    vexorian

    It is not like pharyngula is gonna take visibility away from xkcd, but I think that posting the whole comic AND the alt text is a bit too much. I agree with the sentiments and the need to quote, specially the alt text.

  28. 28
    Nathan Hull

    To comment #26, you know that’s not what I mean, and that was the least interesting part of my comment.

  29. 29
    qwints

    @27, PZ is just demonstrating his idea of free speech.

  30. 30
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    To comment #26, you know that’s not what I mean, and that was the least interesting part of my comment.

    Gee, it’s nice that you think you are so cogent. Boring and tiresome is more like it.

  31. 31
    moarscienceplz

    @#27 vexorian

    Yes, please do tell PZ what he should or shouldn’t post on his own blog. You obviously have some sort of superhuman communicating skill that a mere college professor who has spent his entire adult life writing and speaking to large groups of people somehow lacks. What could that be? Do you have an extra lobe on your brain? Or could it possibly be that you are just a self-centered opinionated jerk?

  32. 32
    epicurus

    Once again, there is more truth in six panels of a webcomic than the entire production of Faux Snooze. It doesn’t matter; the Internet bullies will keep doing what they are doing until there are some consequences for their actions. While I choose to post anonymously, I’m not trolling or being a “self-centered opinionated jerk,” am I? (Don’t answer that question!!) Thanks for sharing this PZ, and kudos for all the great things you publish here.

  33. 33
    Nick Gotts

    Nathan Hull@24,

    I find the majority are happy with slight disagreement, but when seriously challenged want to hit the Block, Report or Ban button when they are exposed in even the slightest way [emphasis added]

    Hmm, yes, putting together a coherent sentence, let alone argument, does seem to be beyond your capabilities. And are you seriously claiming that it’s an infringement of free speech for a blogger to decide who and what they do and do not allow on their own blog?

    Where is this “cult around Obama” to be found? Nowhere on FtB, that’s for sure, where I don’t think you’ll find a single blogger who has defended his persecution of whistleblowers, condonation of torture by failing to prosecute the criminals of the Bush administration, or use of drone strikes to kill people without a shred of legal justification.

  34. 34
    llamaherder

    @27 Nathan Hull

    I am a firm believer in free speech.

    I’m also a firm believer in ignoring, reporting, and banning people I don’t want to talk to on the internet.

    There is no contradiction here.

  35. 35
    Nathan Hull

    Comment #30 = Exhibit A in the trial of human mental vacuity.

  36. 36
    woozy

    @usernames are smart:

    Some of the posters here (http://gizmodo.com/free-speech-doesnt-mean-you-can-say-what-the-hell-you-l-1564587102/all) are complaining that it’s not right.

    Well, Gizmodo gets it absolutely wrong with the very headline “Free Speech Doesn’t Mean You Can Say What the Hell You Like Online”.

    Um, Free Speech does mean you can say what the hell you like online. It just doesn’t meant you won’t be disagreed with. Or that others must provide you with the forum.

    The problem with the Freeze Peach is not that they are conflating free speech as a holy relic and inviolate– (I kind of agree with them; free speech is one of the most important values there are, and it is inviolate)– but that they equate disagreement and response with censorship which of course it isn’t.

    “Showing someone the door” because they are being an asshole is not a violation the asshole’s free speech. But claiming “The first amendment only means I can’t have the government come and arrest you and that’s as far as I’m willing to go in toleration of you, asshole, but I’ll do everything else so get the fuck out” is … well, feint. You are certainly no free speech hero (although neither is the asshole).

  37. 37
    chigau (違う)

    Exhibit A in the trial of human mental vacuity.
    What is this supposed to mean?

  38. 38
    Nathan Hull

    There was Moscow-based magazine called ‘The eXile’, run by ex-pat Americans, until it was shut down by Putin. There was a writer there called John Dolan, who wrote an article extolling the virtues of a nuclear winter caused by simultaneous explosions of humanity’s nuclear devices. I fully endorse the sentiments of that article, and the comments on this blog today have only reinforced my confidence that the article’s program be implemented immediately.

  39. 39
    Inaji

    Nathan Hull comment #35:

    Comment #30

    If you have an actual argument, try that. It will work better.

  40. 40
    Inaji

    Nathan Hull:

    I fully endorse the sentiments of that article, and the comments on this blog today have only reinforced my confidence that the article’s program be implemented immediately.

    I’m sure it’s occurred to you that you’re under no obligation to wait.

  41. 41
    Nick Gotts

    Nathan Hull@38,

    Ah, so you’re a genocidal scumbag. Nice of you to let us know.

  42. 42
    Nathan Hull

    To comment #40: How am I going to get my hands on everyone’s nukes? If I’m going down I’m _definitely_ taking you with me…

  43. 43
    chigau (違う)

    Nathan Hull
    I’m sure you’ll feel better when you close the tab and never come back here again.

  44. 44
    Nathan Hull

    To Nick Gotts — absolutely not. It’s called Nirvana, read Dolan’s article.

  45. 45
    glennedwards

    XKCD’s point is well-taken, and one often missed. 2 quibbles, though: One, the First Amendment isn’t limited to preventing criminal prosecution on the basis of speech; the government generally cannot discriminate against you in any way (including in the affording of benefits or in exacting taxes, etc.) on the basis of your viewpoint. Second, while certainly the First Amendment is limited to government action, the question of “free speech” more broadly may certainly encompass questions about the extent to which powerful institutions — corporations, for example — should punish you for your unpopular speech. A simple example being whether a private, powerful corporation who employs you should fire you because you support the wrong party. It’s not a First Amendment issue, but certainly implicates a broader “right to free speech” that society may or may not choose to recognize. (Not suggesting what the answer to that question is, but it’s a little simplistic to say it’s not even a question.)

  46. 46
    Nathan Hull

    It would be a profoundly moral action to produce this nuclear Nirvana on this planet; this would save millions or perhaps billions of years of suffering for sentient and partially sentient creatures and would in essence be a reckoning of thousands of years of human evil.

  47. 47
    ponta

    It’s not that conservatives don’t get free speech. It’s that they are hypocrites with a double standard for just about everything when it comes to conservatives and liberals doing things.

    They understand quite well that if somebody says something, and others disapprove, that person will be criticized and possibly punished by society as a whole. They understand this because they do it all the time. They try to get officials fired (Janet Reno and Kathleen Sebelius, to name a few), people taken off the airwaves (Gwen Ifill as a moderator of debates, for example, or more recently, Stephen Colbert), and to boycott or shut down businesses which do things they don’t like (Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks, various sponsors of MSNBC, or more recently, Coca Cola for a multicultural ad, Girl Scout cookies for endorsing Wendy Davis, and Mozilla for the Eich thing).

    Their view of things is dead simple: a liberal does it, it’s wrong; a conservative does it, it’s right. No matter that it’s the exact same thing. It’s just like Christians believing that if a Christian and an Atheist both do the same good works, the Christian is saved and the Atheist is doing the devil’s work. Their rightness stems from their being, not from consistency, logic, or reason.

  48. 48
    llamaherder

    …What the fuck?

  49. 49
    chigau (違う)

    Time to move the Nirvana topic over here
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/04/05/thunderdome-47/comment-page-1

  50. 50
    magicbullet

    That article doesn’t make one iota of sense.

  51. 51
    Nathan Hull

    Time for bed. Happy Nirvana everyone!

  52. 52
    Nick Gotts

    Nathan Hull@44,
    I’ve no intention of wasting my time reading an article recommended by a genocidal scumbag, and apparently written by another genocidal scumbag. That you can whine about supposed restrictions on free speech, and then propose to murder billions of people is beyond grotesque. Just fuck off.

  53. 53
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Ah, the smell of somebody showing why they should be ignored on the internet. Not all ideas are worth listening to or debating, hence they can be dismissed very quickly. Like genocide.

  54. 54
    Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm

    Well, that escalated from “ur all dumb” to “genocide is neat” rather precipitously. O___O

  55. 55
    boyofd

    I like the comic, especially the alt text. However, I think we have to recognize that often “free speech” is used somewhat generically to blend together the actual right of free speech in the US Constitution and the notion that we should freely and openly welcome the expression of ideas so that they can be tested in the marketplace of ideas. Under the second aspect of this meaning, some people are arguing that ideas should not be blocked or erased from message boards and whatnot because the ideas should sink or swim on their own merit.

    I agree with the idea that there needs to be forums open for all ideas to be expressed, no matter how vile, but it is certainly not the duty of every website or blog to host that type of forum. And regardless of where the line should be drawn, most comments espousing “free speech” on a blog such as this are really just demanding that you listen to them when it is often fairly apparent that they are not giving the counter arguments similar respect. In many respects, whether someone’s wrong-headed opinions and arguments should be treated with respect might require borrowing a First Amendment principle from another area — obscenity — we “know it when we see it.” “It,” in this case, being either “trolling” or “good faith, but wrong opinions.”

  56. 56
    Nathan Hull

    It’s not genocide, it’s Nirvana. Has no-one read Schopenhauer?

  57. 57
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Holy crap that Gizmodo thread is a mess.

    People repeating other people without any acknowledgement that the others have already posted or any justification for bringing it up again (e.g. “Thanks Z, but I notice Y didn’t get your point (obvious as it was). Let me try a different angle on the same info…”). People going off on a tangent about discriminatory behavior, and fucking worst of all, people going off on **suspect classes**.

    Like it or not, suspect class analysis is dead in the US.

    It’s alive, for sure, in Canada and South Africa and I think New Zealand. But the first amendment – IIRC – refers to a provision of the US constitution.

    And people are holding themselves out as if they knew all about this stuff while spouting suspect class nonsense as if Royster Guano, Carolene Products, and Korematsu were all the latest fucking rage in constitutional thought on the 14th’s equality guarantees.

    It’s threads like that that make me appreciate Pharyngula.

  58. 58
  59. 59
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @glenn edwards:

    I appreciate your contribution. Let me respond a moment:

    XKCD’s point is well-taken, and one often missed. 2 quibbles, though: One, the First Amendment isn’t limited to preventing criminal prosecution on the basis of speech; the government generally cannot discriminate against you in any way (including in the affording of benefits or in exacting taxes, etc.) on the basis of your viewpoint.

    Precisely true, with a hemidemisemiquibble: add “on a particular issue” to the end of that sentence. What issues you choose to talk about may reasonably be considered part of your “viewpoint” but the government can discriminate against all those who want to express themselves on a particular issue, as long as the side you come down in doesn’t matter.

    And further, there’s always that speech that is necessary to commit a crime: this is not protected, and in fact is prosecuted as conspiracy.

    And, lastly, there are in fact, some other marginal exceptions: security clearances, for instance, can consider what side of an issue you come down on even if they can’t condition your business export license in that way.

    But yes, what you said is correct enough for anyone to use in an intelligent discussion.

    The reason I write about it at all, is that XKCD referenced making speech illegal. This does not necessarily mean making it criminal. People are equating that. You equated it. You shouldn’t. XKCD’s statement is as broadly accurate as yours, just not as detailed.

    Second, while certainly the First Amendment is limited to government action, the question of “free speech” more broadly may certainly encompass questions about the extent to which powerful institutions — corporations, for example — should punish you for your unpopular speech.

    yes, but the “right to free speech” is limited to government action. In fact, “right” shouldn’t be used in freedom of expression cases at all.

    A freedom != a right.

    If people want to explore that more, I’m happy to oblige.

  60. 60
    Nick Gotts

    Nathan Hull@55,

    Fuck off, you disgusting, murderous liar. Killing billions of people would be genocide, playing with words makes no difference.

  61. 61
    Nick Gotts

    Whether PZ wants to allow the advocacy of genocide on his blog I don’t know, but as a monitor I’ve alerted him. I won’t be responding any further to this revolting troll myself.

  62. 62
    woozy

    And regardless of where the line should be drawn, most comments espousing “free speech” on a blog such as this are really just demanding that you listen to them when it is often fairly apparent that they are not giving the counter arguments similar respect.

    Very true. But contrarywise, the “1st amendment only says the government won’t jail you” comment is frequently used to mean “I don’t believe people like you should be allowed to express yourselves and I’ll do all I can to make sure you don’t, but since I’m not technically a government employee I can delude myself into thinking my attitude is compatible with the free speech ideals”.

    Admittedly the “Your disagreement with me is a denial of my free speech” *far* outnumber “We’re not the government so we can do whatever we want to folks with ideas we don’t agree with”, but I’m loath to cede any point that leads to either sentiment.

  63. 63
    Nick Gotts

    I agree with the idea that there needs to be forums open for all ideas to be expressed, no matter how vile – boyofd@54

    Why? I can see that preventing the expression of even the vilest ideas might have too high a cost, once one asks “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”, but what is the positive need or advantage for there to be forums for their expression?

  64. 64
    LykeX

    I think it’s clear by now that Nathan Hull is here solely for the purpose of earning his “I got banned by PZ” merit badge.

  65. 65
    Amphiox

    It’s not genocide, it’s Nirvana.

    Calling it by a different name does not change the nature of the act.

  66. 66
  67. 67
    Al Dente

    Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean you have the right to a platform or to an audience. Nor does it mean your speech cannot be criticized.

  68. 68
    woozy

    In fact, “right” shouldn’t be used in freedom of expression cases at all.

    A freedom != a right.

    If people want to explore that more, I’m happy to oblige.

    Please do. I think I disagree, but mostly I think I don’t quite understand. I get that freedom != right. (I have the freedom to pursue a driver’s license but not the right to one. Sort of.) I think with free speech we do have both freedoms and rights. I’m not sure that this is something that can be debated. Either one believes it or one doesn’t. I do.

  69. 69
    chigau (違う)

    ≠

  70. 70
    unclefrogy

    that nuclear winter argument or the nuclear nirvana argument is an absurdest argument.
    trying to point out the pointlessness of making and stockpiling weapons that in essence can not really be used because the end result would be self-destruction on a planet wide scale.
    It is pointing out that what is being advocated by this balance of terror is absurd.
    It is the emperor has no clothes and it has little to do with the right of free speech.

    While any particular blog or web sight may be within their rights to decide who gets to say what the same may not apply to the ISP nor a host service if they are judged as a common carrier or open to all customers. While you can advocate anything in the public street you can’t do so on my front porch!
    uncle frogy

  71. 71
    qwints

    Crip Dyke @58

    What issues you choose to talk about may reasonably be considered part of your “viewpoint” but the government can discriminate against all those who want to express themselves on a particular issue, as long as the side you come down in doesn’t matter.

    That’s an incorrect statement as it relates to American Constitutional law. What matters is “content neutrality” not “viewpoint neutrality”. For example, the government can’t limit picketing to people who want to protest a labor dispute but ban protests against racial quotas. Police Dept. of City of Chicago v. Mosley – 408 U.S. 92 95 (1972) (“the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.”) See generally, Kreimer, Seth F., “Good Enough for Government Work: Two Cheers for Content Neutrality” (2013). Faculty Scholarship. Paper 492.

  72. 72
    PZ Myers

    As an advocate of eliminationism, I’m sure Nathan Hull won’t mind the fact that I’ve just nuked his commenting privileges here.

  73. 73
    Jacob Schmidt

    To comment #23, it has become alarmingly obvious that pretty much everyone lauds free speech, considers themselves an advocate for it, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, I find the majority are happy with slight disagreement, but when seriously challenged want to hit the Block, Report or Ban button when they are exposed in even the slightest way.

    Generally speaking, I don’t accept claims about the behaviour of the majority that is based merely on opinion or assertion; I’m not remotely convinced that the majority behave this way.

    Even if they did, such is not remotely a violation of free speech.

  74. 74
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Is that an incorrect statement?

    Lots of topics are restricted regardless of whether one is taking a pro- or anti- side.

    The government can’t force welfare recipients to not speak about welfare. One relevant case is Legal Services v Velazquez.

    Notably the history of the case makes clear that the restrictions on LSC were viewpoint-neutral, but subject-matter specific. That supports your contention that the government can’t condition money on subject-matter silence.

    However, other non-disclosure or exclusive representation contracts have been upheld: the feds can and do require contractors to not speak on specific topics, even after work under a contract has been performed. Moreover, 501©(3)s can be required not to lobby – that is, not to speak to the government on certain issues – regardless of viewpoint on those issues.

    A local government can permit prayer at the opening of meetings, so long as any prayer is welcome and atheistic value statements as well. It can also ban all prayer at the beginning of meetings so as not to have to worry about religious discrimination. In fact, there’s been a huge dustup over the refusal of Carroll County to abide by court orders on this point.

    Further, a local government can set aside time to hear citizen input. It can choose to make a list of speakers and topics in advance or not. And if it hears out a speaker advocating recycling, it can’t, while time available continues, refuse to hear an advocate against recycling. But it can say that they won’t hear anyone on the topic of recycling, pro- or con-, as the government will be taking no actions on recycling any time soon.

    From White v City of Norwalk,

    On the other hand, a City Council meeting is still just that, a governmental process with a governmental purpose. The Council has an agenda to be addressed and dealt with. Public forum or not, the usual first amendment antipathy to content-oriented control of speech cannot be imported into the Council chambers intact.

    It’s a tricky area. I’m not saying you’re right in some areas – like welfare recipients or teachers being prevented from talking regardless of viewpoint on any matter related to welfare or schools, respectively. But the government clearly can and does reserve the right to place certain topics off limits in clearly public fora if it has another priority, even where an invitation to comment is unlimited on its face.

    Therefore, i believe my statement that the government *can* do this, is, I believe, correct. That it can’t do it any time it wants doesn’t mean that it can’t do it at all.

  75. 75
    A Masked Avenger

    sunsangnim, #17:

    That includes the right to buy representatives.

    What bothers me about this aspect of the discussion is that it shifts blame away from the primary culprit. You can’t buy what isn’t for sale. Representatives sell themselves. Whether or not the buyers of influence deserve prison (I’m not too interested in arguing either way on that), the sellers are without question criminals who deserve severe penalties.

    I mention Ron Paul not to endorse any of his policies, but to point out that he was famous for never having any lobbyists in his lobby. They knew they couldn’t influence his vote. They would have been happy to buy, but he wasn’t selling. (Whether he sold out in other ways is a separate topic.)

  76. 76
    A Masked Avenger

    Eamon Knight, #20:

    There’s a more general ethics to free speech that goes beyond “what you can get arrested for saying”.

    True. And I’m no expert on the broader subject. But I would say that the comic is still applicable in this sense: an ethical conception of free speech includes denying me the right to force you not to voice your opinion–but in no way confers on you a right to force me to listen to it.

  77. 77
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @woozy:

    Please do [discuss right v freedom]. I think I disagree, but mostly I think I don’t quite understand. I get that freedom != right. (I have the freedom to pursue a driver’s license but not the right to one. Sort of.) I think with free speech we do have both freedoms and rights.

    A freedom is an area where the government can’t take action to prevent its exercise. The government can’t actively prevent you from speaking.

    A (general) right is where the government has an affirmative duty (in contracts you can have rights against specific parties, you can speak about torts as way of enforcing your “right” not to be hit by *anyone*, but general rights against the government are different than private rights under contract, and torts are kept separate just to keep things from getting confusing).

    Voting is a right – the government not only can’t forbid you, but it has an affirmative duty to make sure that the populace can vote.

    What makes this complicated is that neither is absolute. The government doesn’t have to spend millions going around to meet personally with everyone to make absolutely sure each competent adult in the US (a country of 300 million +) has had a chance to express an opinion on the election issues.

    Likewise, just because nearly all government offices are open during the day while there may exist (statistically, it is almost certain there exists) some night-shift workers on medically necessary meds that make them sleep all day, the government closing an office at 4 or 4:30 or 5 isn’t legally considered the government creating a barrier for the shift workers’ speech.

    But because the government can get away with actions that incidentally restrict speech, especially so-called “time, place, and manner” restrictions, (and thus the freedom is proven not to be absolute and/or not a right) doesn’t mean that an action by the government can’t be challenged when someone believes it creates a barrier to speech.

    We use comparisons to others to make the point. If one is the only person in the county who opposes building a new fairground, and if one is well known among the county commissioners for that opinion, it doesn’t follow that the government can exclude a person from an open mike citizen-feedback period at meetings *if* others are allowed to speak on the topic of the fairgrounds.

    This doesn’t mean you have a right to speak on the topic of fairgrounds. It means, merely, that the government can’t reasonably claim that this is a view-point neutral restriction. Therefore, the restriction can’t reasonably be claimed to be incidental to your speech. No, it’s clearly a direct response to your speech. Therefore, you are being punished (excluded from a public forum) based on your viewpoint and your expression thereof, not merely for “time, place, or manner” concerns.

    Thus your freedom is abridged.

    THis is confusing as we frequently say that *if* the government hears from your opponents, you have [or at least, proponents in general have] a *right* to speak at a forum on the topic as well.

    But the government doesn’t have to hear from opponents. There isn’t a *right* here. There’s no duty on the part of the government other than to not create expression based barriers. The other side’s expression is useful in that argument, but it doesn’t change the nature of the duty of the government.

    Does this help?

  78. 78
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    ack. Sorry, qwints.

    In my wrap up I said:

    It’s a tricky area. I’m not saying you’re right in some areas – like welfare recipients or teachers being prevented from talking regardless of viewpoint on any matter related to welfare or schools, respectively.

    clearly I meant to say:

    It’s a tricky area. I’m not saying you’re wrong in some areas – like welfare recipients or teachers being prevented from talking regardless of viewpoint on any matter related to welfare or schools, respectively.

  79. 79
    Christopher

    A fun song for the occasion: “Free Speech in America” by Blusion

    sample: http://www.blusion.com/pages/musicsamples.html#bottom

    to buy: http://www.amazon.com/Free-Speech-in-America/dp/B00248VZDW

    Here in America
    Got a thing we call free speech
    If you got a boatload of money
    It’s well within your reach
    About the time you can afford a slot on national TV
    You can loosen up and really speak out and get your tongue flapping free
    Free speech in America, got a thing we call free speech
    Free speech in America, got a thing we call free speech
    ….

  80. 80
    qwints

    Crip Dyke @73:

    But the government clearly can and does reserve the right to place certain topics off limits in clearly public fora if it has another priority, even where an invitation to comment is unlimited on its face.

    To be precise, in public forums, the government, acting as sovereign, cannot impose content-based restrictions on protected speech unless they are narrowly tailored to protect a compelling state interest. Burson v. Freeman, 504 US 191 (1992) (Holding that laws restricting political advocacy near a polling place were constitutional.)

    You are, however, correct that the government can create a limited forum for the discussion of only certain topics. (At least under 9th circuit precedent).

  81. 81
    qwints

    Also a minor quibble – there is no federal constitutional right to vote in the US, so it’s not the best example. I’m also more familiar with the dichotomy you present as between positive and negative rights. Is rights versus freedoms the Canadian construction?

  82. 82
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @qwints:
    rights v freedoms and positive rights v negative rights:

    Yes, though it’s also used in the UK, South Africa, NZ, and Aus. (At least according to my professors). It was not necessarily used in jurisprudence in the early US, but it certainly was something going through the minds of the drafters. Both in my poli-sci coursework in the US and in school up here they called attention to the difference in language between freedom and right in the US constitution. [Canadian law schools have a very international perspective. So we talk about all kinds of non-binding/extra-territorial law, with the priority being getting down the language and the concepts and the reasoning and the writing. Not that, of course, we don't extensively discuss particular statutes or constitutional provisions. I'm going on, aren't I?]
    =========
    Not a right to vote? My goodness. I apologize for my error.
    =========
    Perhaps a better example would be around property. You have a *right* (not freedom) to be secure in your papers and effects. The government needs to conduct its courts business, and if you were merely *free* to own things, the gov could come in at any time and take your stuff to use as evidence. (The need to have evidence is easily equal to the need to have efficient meeting for county commissioners.) Therefore the government has a positive duty to establish a system and employ people so as to make possible judicial determination of the legality of each and every seizure.

    I like calling attention to the necessity of pre-action due process in matters that affect or might affect rights vs. no pre-action due process in regards to freedoms. But that’s not entirely it either.

    There’s some fuzz in the discussion of rights v freedoms, but I still find it a useful distinction.

  83. 83
    Joey Maloney

    @33

    I don’t think you’ll find a single blogger who has defended his persecution of whistleblowers, condonation of torture by failing to prosecute the criminals of the Bush administration, or use of drone strikes to kill people without a shred of legal justification.

    Sure, I’ll take a shot at the middle one, just to keep things interesting. Had Obama gone full-bore out of the gate to prosecute Bush, Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, et al., he would have accomplished nothing else in his Presidency and probably not that either. You extraordinary levels of Republican obstructionism and not-so-veiled racism that have made the past 5 years such a long slog would be nothing compared to what would have vomited forth from the bowels of wingnuttia. On top of which, too much of the Democratic leadership was complicit as well so there would have been no institutional support whatsoever.

    Should it have been done? Absolutely. But could it have been done? Almost certainly not.

  84. 84
    Joey Maloney

    The extraordinary levels…

    I can’t even claim insufficient caffeination as an excuse; it’s after noon here.

  85. 85
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Yeah, I could excuse Obama failing to prosecute and chalk it up to entrenched institutional forces… except that he went about promoting and nominating defenders of torture to high (and higher) government positions.

    Thus he wasn’t inclined to create accountability but unable. He was disinclined to provide accountability. Thus the evidence shows his actions around those potentially prosecutable to be motivated by contemptible reasons, not merely merely foiled by contemptible interests.

    His actions, given the evidence, cannot be excused.

  86. 86
    Joey Maloney

    Well, your link certainly persuades me!

  87. 87
    thinksanddrinks

    Nathan Hull, I think you are an idiot. Please note that I have not called for you to be banned, deleted, or otherwise officially sanctioned. I think your criticism of our President is idiotic. Please, expand on your ideas. I expect that I will find them to be even more idiotic than the simple statements you made. I think that most, if not all, statements that republicans (lower-case “r” is intentional) are idiotic; I have plenty of reasons to think that way. If the owner of this communications channel allows this statement to persist, it doesn’t mean that he agrees with it, disagrees with it, or does not care. It just means that he does not consider it a violation of the rules of his communication channel.

    I do not believe that you are what most Americans would consider “liberal”. I think you want to impose your beliefs on everyone else, like a minority of Americans would like to do. If they get any stronger and attempt to do what they want, I expect extreme violence to ensue, and I expect them to lose.

  88. 88
    thinksanddrinks

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls: I think you and later critics of Mr. Hull are correct. He makes vast statements of truth without any justification.

    I just did the same thing.

    Mr.Hull, ESAD. FOAD.

  89. 89
    thinksanddrinks

    Nathan Hull, #35. #38, #42 are proof that your opinion is utter garbage. That’s my free speech. If you don’t like it, suck it. #46 shows that you are a genocidal idiot; that is all that a non-governmental authority needs (as if such an authority ever needs such a reason) to ban. You are the lowest of the low, the lousiest of the lousy, the shittiest of the shitty, the crappiest of the crappy, and yet your rectal expressions are allowed to remain on this forum. If you feel my condemnation is censorship, you are entitled to your idiocy. Please eat your own feces exclusively and succumb to starvation.

    At #56, I figured out that you are not engaging in any kind of exchange of ideas; you are just a troll. The people who moderate this communications channel should cut you off but not delete your assholishness; that would reduce the historic record of assholes and their idiotic statements.

    #41: excellent.

    #45. Worthy of deep consideration.

  90. 90
    vaiyt

    I’d just like to stop here to say that I find the whole mass-death-as-Nirvana thing hilarious. It’s JRPG villain ethics, the kind of thing you expect to see coming from long-haired rummage sale rejects instead of actual human beings.

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