For the “hate speech has no consequences and must be allowed” crowd


Compare and contrast: two students, both at Transylvania College. Tracy Clayton is a black woman who wrote about the endemic racism at the school; confederate flags hanging in dorm room windows, buildings named to honor the Confederacy, racist slurs in graffiti and conversation, etc. You know the drill. Your standard oblivious racist sense of entitlement from the white community, as we see all across the country. Transylvania College has about a 19% enrollment from people of color, so factually, she actually was a member of the minority there.

Mitchell Adkins was a white man in this same environment: a majority white Southern school. He imagines that he’s an oppressed minority.

Adkins complained, “Being a Republican in this school makes me such a minority that I’ve had to face discrimination on a daily basis.”

Kentucky went for Trump over Clinton 62.5% to 32.7% in the last election. It has a Republican governor and legislature. It elected Rand Paul to the Senate. It is true that Lexington and Louisville are two small islands of blue, but it’s not as if Adkins is all alone. And his party swept the last election! You’d think Republicans would see that as some sign that they have political clout. But that is not enough! He was oppressed!

“Transylvania is a predominantly Democratic school. I’m always happy to listen to other people’s opinions, but as soon as I give my own, I’m called a ‘bigot,’ an ‘assh*le,” some even go as far as ‘fascist Nazi,’” he wrote.

He continued, “With the election of (Republican) Matt Bevin as governor, I’ve become even more of a target for people claiming that I’m ‘responsible for ruining this country’ and that, somehow, I’m an evil person for what would make this state great.”

He didn’t bother to say what he said that prompted the accusation of bigotry, probably because he’s aware that if he did, everyone would agree that yes, the consensus of the people he’s complaining about was correct.

Clayton graduated, moved on, and is a writer for Buzzfeed. Adkins dropped out, blamed the liberals for his failure, and did this:

“A guy came in, banged something, a hatchet or an ax, on the table and said ‘the day of reckoning has come,’” witness Tristan Reynolds said. “He asked somebody what their political affiliation was, they said ‘Republican’ and the guy said ‘you are safe.’ And then I realized what was going on and started getting people out.”

He put two women in the hospital with a machete attack in a coffeeshop.

It was all the liberals’ fault, of course. Damn them and their thuggish ways!

Comments

  1. says

    It was all the liberals’ fault, of course.

    Of course it is. That’s step two of the “Freedom of Speeeeeeech” cult: When people say horrible things, you must accept it quietly. Better even applaud them politely. Under no circumstances must you point out how horrible and racist and bigoted their views are, because look at what it did to poor Adkins.

    He put two women in the hospital with a machete attack in a coffeeshop.

    I’m seriously glad he had neither a gun nor sufficient skill with a machete.

  2. says

    Tale of Two Students:

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

  3. Knabb says

    That he used a machete or hatchet (the reporting is a bit ambiguous) instead of a gun and sent people to the hospital instead of the morgue is pretty noticeable here. It’s almost like dangerous, violent people are less dangerous when they have less effective killing tools.

  4. thirdmill says

    As one who advocated for free speech on the previous thread (while acknowledging that Coulter should not have been invited in the first place), a question:

    What do you see as the line at which speech can be prevented/punished? Are we merely talking about not inviting Ann Coulter to speak at Berkeley, or would you go beyond that and actually impose criminal penalties on what you see as hate speech? If someone tells a racist or sexist joke in the locker room and it becomes generally known, should that be legally actionable?

    Because I think at least some of the people advocating so hard for Ann Coulter are afraid that that’s not where it will end, that we’ll end up with speech police who, like the morality police in Saudi Arabia, will try to control what can be said anywhere. The fear is “give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

  5. says

    My niece attends Transylvania University, and was in that coffeeshop at the time. She got out safely and was posting to Facebook about the event immediately afterwards. My first thought was that it was probably not going to get a lot of national news media attention. The guy with the machete barged in yelling “The day of reckoning has come!” If he had been yelling “Allahu Akbar” this would have been a national story about Islamic terrorism, but christian terrorism gets a pass.

  6. says

    I don’t know where the line should be drawn — I’m not The Decider. I’m in opposition to people who have Decided with great certainty that absolutely no line can be drawn, because clearly there are limits already, and there should be further limits because the current slack system is not working. Especially since people don’t even want social stigma. We aren’t at the point of discussing legal actions (which I do not necessarily endorse, I’d have to see what’s proposed) when people are adamant that you can’t even criticize right-wing bullshit with words or they’ll come after you with a machete.

  7. thirdmill says

    PZ, I suspect you and I may not be that far apart. I’m fine with social stigma for asshats. I’m fine with Coulter being publicly exocoriated for her views and I’m fine with private sanctions doing everything they can to make her not respectable. I just don’t want to go the final step of having legal sanctions based on viewpoint since I would then be afraid they would be used by those in power for bad purposes.

    If someone does want to make the case for criminal sanctions, my question would be this: Why stop at hate speech? Anti-vax speech, most religious speech, anti-evolution speech all do a great deal of social harm too. Once that journey has been started, is there any principled rationale for not turning into Orwell’s 1984 in which any speech on any subject is potentially criminal because someone in authority thinks it’s bad?

  8. says

    What do you see as the line at which speech can be prevented/punished?

    If only this questions had already been debated.
    If only this had already been tried.
    If only there were some countries, culturally and socioeconomically similar to the USA where Americans could go and take a look.
    If only there were examples of what gets prosecuted as hate speech there so you could have a concrete example on which basis you could make your own decision.
    If only the USA weren’t the only single country on motherfucking planet earth…

  9. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    What do you see as the line at which speech can be prevented/punished?

    When there is harm, both physical and mental, from the speech to someone else. The question is how far it can go, and what mental harm can result. Women and minorities are subject to long term microaggressions from men and racists, and I don’t see that as protected speech in say the workplace or proper political debate.

  10. Saad says

    White people are free speech absolutists because:

    1) In American and the West, free speech absolutism favors white people.

    2) They’re afraid if free speech goes away, they’ll get treated like some minorities are treated for simply existing or expressing themselves.

    They’re also strawmaning asshats. Apparently, Ann Coulter not speaking at Berkeley is somehow silencing white supremacy and misogyny and queerphobia (AS FUCKING IF those things being silenced is a bad thing). Note how the free speech absolutist all of a sudden loses their ability to tell what are clearly bad things. Reminds me of rape apologists who ask about slightly less and less certain cases where it MIGHT NOT be rape.

    They’re also like the secular version Christian fundie slippery slopers (with regard to same sex marriage):

    If we keep a blatant unapologetic white supremacist (who already has a significant audience and ample means of communicating with the world) from speaking at yet another venue, where’s it gonna end?!?! Am I one day gonna get arrested for saying chocolate is better than vanilla?!?

    5) If the KKK shows up at a BLM rally and causes them to cancel it with threat of violence and later a BLM group shuts down a KKK rally with threats of violence, what would your assessment of that situation be? Rhetorical question, of course. You all have made the answer quite clear.

    Fuck each and every one of you. There’s no neutral ground here. You’re either in support of white supremacy and other oppressive systems or you’re against them.

  11. Saad says

    Nerd, #9

    When there is harm, both physical and mental, from the speech to someone else.

    Yup. And it’s not even a question that racist demagogue gathering like-minded crowds around them is always harmful to minorities and to society.

  12. says

    @4, thirdmill

    Because I think at least some of the people advocating so hard for Ann Coulter are afraid that that’s not where it will end, that we’ll end up with speech police who, like the morality police in Saudi Arabia, will try to control what can be said anywhere. The fear is “give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

    Duh. That was obvious. You thought people didn’t know that?

  13. says

    @7, thirdmill

    Why stop at hate speech?

    Indeed, why stop with allowing hate speech? Why not also start allowing detailed planning of hate crimes, because they haven’t committed the crimes yet? Planning is just “speech”, ya know?

    If we let you decide where to draw that line…it could go so far!

    Lets drum up as many slippery slope fears as we can!

    My favorite is the slippery slope to civil war or something, because extremists on different sides see each other’s actions and ideas as such a threat, that the extremists feel justified in more and more extreme actions and ideas. That’s called a positive feedback loop system, which can be physically modeled as a slippery slope that gets steeper and steeper the further you fall down.

    My scenario happens regardless of which side you take. In total, I think my slippery slope fear wins the contest.

  14. says

    Adkins complained, “Being a Republican in this school makes me such a minority that I’ve had to face discrimination on a daily basis.”

    Interesting that he seems to automatically equate being in a minority with suffering discrimination. I mean, if he was an actual minority I wouldn’t argue against the idea because it’s pretty much always true, but the fact that he isn’t made me pause to think, like, maybe he’s never wondered if maybe minorities don’t have to be discriminated against.

  15. Kreator says

    Saad, #10:

    Reminds me of rape apologists who ask about slightly less and less certain cases where it MIGHT NOT be rape.

    I was thinking the exact same thing; I believe there’s definitely a relation.

  16. thirdmill says

    Saad, I’m tempted to respond in kind by saying fuck you for thinking you can tell me which speech I can listen to, but instead I will just tell you that the answer to your question is that threats of violence against any speaker, BLM or KKK, are and should be illegal. And I don’t believe free speech absolutists exist, so that’s a straw man; extortion is usually speech but I’ve never heard anyone advocate that it’s protected by the First Amendment.

    Brian, it bears repeating even though it’s obvious because it’s a legitimate fear. On this thread we have Nerd telling us the micoaggressions aren’t protected speech, we’ve got Saad who as best as I can tell doesn’t believe in free speech at all, and so the slippery slope fear is legitimate; this is not a made-up boogeyman hiding under the bed. If Saad woke up tomorrow as dictator of the world, is there any doubt that free speech would be a thing of the past? And as for your question in No. 13, that’s easy: It crosses the line when there’s an overt act. You can advocate for doing something illegal. You can sit down and plan about doing something illegal. You can talk to your buddies about doing something illegal. But it becomes a crime as soon as you (or one of your buddies) actually takes some physical act in furtherance of it: Buys a gun, goes to the library to research how best to carry it out, scopes out the location, arranges to take time off work. Any physical act whatsoever to further the commission of the crime is where that line is crossed. That strikes me as a reasonable line, though I realize others may differ.

  17. says

    This is where it gets fun. Endorsing Republican Party policies does great harm to a large number of people: they promote police violence, mass incarceration, deportation, war, and poverty. Republicans kill people. (So do Democrats, but we could argue to a lesser extent). Do we criminalize Republicans? If your guiding principle is opposition to harm, we should.

    Discuss.

  18. Zeppelin says

    @thirdmill: I’d say free speech absolutists definitely do exist, they’re just incoherent. I mean, a Christian fundamentalist who has an abortion remains a (hypocritical) Christian fundamentalist. They think they’re adhering to a principle when they’re actually not, because they haven’t thought it through.

    “If Saad woke up tomorrow as dictator of the world, is there any doubt that free speech would be a thing of the past?”

    Didn’t you just acknowledge that we don’t have completely free speech to begin with (as per your extortion example)? I mean, when you say “free speech” I assume you mean “completely free speech”. Because none of us is in favour of banning all speech, so partially free speech will never be “a thing of the past”. And completely free speech already is, so that boat has sailed.
    We’re just haggling over how obvious and certain the harm caused by speech needs to be to warrant restricting it. You think Saad wants to restrict it too much, they think you don’t want to restrict it enough. But neither of you would allow completely free speech if you were dictator of the world.

    “It crosses the line when there’s an overt act.”

    I think your extortion example (but also the “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre” scenario etc.) shows that we, including people who claim to be super-duper pro free speech, are already fine with punishing “mere” speech if it seems sufficiently likely to cause harm. So we’re on that slippery slope anyway, and always have been.

  19. Zeppelin says

    @PZ Myers: That one’s tricky, because I think you need wide-ranging freedom of political discourse to run a democracy. I mean, we even grant politicians legal immunity in certain areas while they’re in office.
    On the other hand (public) political discourse, certainly in the US, is already severely restricted by what views the media will even broadcast (Chomsky has had a lot to say on this). So keeping acceptable discourse as restricted as it is already, but shifting the window to exclude some of those Republican views you mention, should result in a net gain in freedom and a reduction of harm. This also seems vaguely feasible, because the Overton window moves all the time. If promoting mass incarceration is a career-ending move for a politician, we don’t need to risk government overreach by explicitly banning it.

  20. microraptor says

    Saad @10:

    Note how the free speech absolutist all of a sudden loses their ability to tell what are clearly bad things. Reminds me of rape apologists who ask about slightly less and less certain cases where it MIGHT NOT be rape.

    Or the gun fondlers whenever any sort of gun control legislation, no matter how sensible or uncontroversial it is, gets proposed.

    Not terribly surprising considering the overlap between the groups.

  21. thirdmill says

    Brian, there is ample protection against your scenario by maintaining the distinction between speech and overt acts. You can advocate as much as you like that women should not be allowed to have abortions, but you may not actually physically prevent women from having abortions. That’s a critical distinction. And it applies to your civil war scenario as well.

    Zeppelin, perhaps the issue is when does the harm rise to the level of being actionable. If I walk up to a woman on the street who is a complete stranger and say to her, “Excuse me, but you’re fat and ugly and that dress looks like a pup tent,” I have caused her harm by hurting her feelings. I would agree with everyone else here that I would deserve whatever public outrage I got. If someone captured it and put it on youtube, and it went viral, and the entire internet came down hard on me, that would be fair game. If my boss decided that someone that employing someone that boorish is bad for business and fired me, I would have no cause for complaint. If I had previously been invited to speak at a university and the invitation were withdrawn, that’s fine. But what we’re really talking about here is whether, in addition to all of that, the state should step in and punish me for basically being a boor. Oh, and on the other side of the ledger, does the social cost of depriving me of my speech (by making it that much easier to shut down the speech of other people who shouldn’t be shut down) outweigh the benefit.

    I can’t speak for anyone else here, but my own view is that there is no protection against whatever private sanctions happen to someone for being a boor, but I’m not willing to go the final step and involve the state. The state should punish overt acts and generally leave speech alone, unless the harm is both immediate and substantial (which is why extortion and shouting fire in a crowded theater are exceptions).

  22. jrkrideau says

    # 4 thirdmill

    would you go beyond that and actually impose criminal penalties on what you see as hate speech

    We do. Works well.

    The American insanity does not appeal to many countries. Few countries seem to worship their constitutions (as amended, of course)

  23. Zeppelin says

    @thirdmill: I’m actually more comfortable ethically with the state punishing you (based on a clear legal code that applies equally to everyone) for insulting random strangers than I am with social sanctions, which are essentially unregulated mob justice. A law needs to be justified and is regularly challenged and examined, while anyone can socially sanction anything they please as long as they have the power to (which is another problem of course, already disadvantaged people are especially vulnerable to social sanctions).

  24. Zeppelin says

    Which isn’t to say that social sanctions can’t be entirely legitimate, but the mob can easily turn on the wrong person or go overboard in a way a well-designed law won’t.

  25. jrkrideau says

    @ 22 thirdmill
    there is ample protection against your scenario by maintaining the distinction between speech and overt acts

    Bullshit. Advocate against a visible group and we are happy to arrest you as you are inciting violence.

    If you do not understand the connection between speech and acts perhaps you should consult a linguist.

  26. says

    Funny thing, in a lot of countries insulting people is also not ok, especially in the workplace. If somebody said that to me I would be perfectly entitled to report that person to the police.
    It’s another funny thing when apparently the right to insult people on the street is your highest goodn especially in the light of rampant street harassment and its effects on women.
    Apparently the most important thing for a free society is that we allow men to harass women, whites to racially abuse minorities, regardless of the effects on the freedom of the victims.
    It’s also amazing how speech is apparently so powerless that we must be ok with people constantly, loudly, publicly and well compensatedly (I made that one up) talking about how some of us should be violently killed while others of us should be violently raped and so on.
    Funny how the demonstrable harm to us is acceptable, especially in the eyes of people safe from that harm.

  27. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    If only this questions had already been debated.
    If only this had already been tried.
    If only there were some countries, culturally and socioeconomically similar to the USA where Americans could go and take a look.
    If only there were examples of what gets prosecuted as hate speech there so you could have a concrete example on which basis you could make your own decision.
    If only the USA weren’t the only single country on motherfucking planet earth…

    Though one can reasonably hope that we don’t end up with the version where you can’t even depict videogame enemies wearing swastikas.

  28. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The state should punish overt acts and generally leave speech alone, unless the harm is both immediate and substantial (which is why extortion and shouting fire in a crowded theater are exceptions).

    Ah, a liberturdian dog whistle. Your freedom is worth more than living in a civil society. You don’t know any better, and don’t want to see everybody treated with proper respect at all times as you don’t care about them. You won’t allow yourself to be educated, or as was said during the ‘Nam war protests, have your consciousness raised.

  29. Zeppelin says

    @Azkyroth: I assume you’re talking about Germany? The legal situation here is actually such that it’s pretty much only video game enemies that you can’t depict wearing swastikas.
    The use of certain Nazi symbols is banned except in educational or artistic context, but games are still in a weird legal grey area between art and toy (which is why movies can have Nazi symbols, but games can’t). So far no-one has sued against it, publishers instead preferring to pre-emptively censor their games for the German release. Often going way beyond what’s actually required, like the latest Wolfenstein absurd removal of any explicit mention of Nazis or Hitler entirely.

  30. thirdmill says

    jrkrideau, I don’t know which country you live in, but I don’t see that in practice hate speech laws have made Europe any less hateful. Marine LePen is within striking distance of being elected president of France. Soccer matches routinely turn ugly with racism being hurled at minority players and their fans. Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim prejudice are rampant. I might be more inclined to believe you if hate speech laws had actually made Europe a less racist place, but I don’t see that they have. So it appears to me you’ve sacrificed free speech without getting much in return in terms of tangible results. And what exactly would you expect a linguist to contribute to this conversation, or is that merely an appeal to authority?

    Nerd, you just proved a point that I had been reluctant to make, but since you already did it for me, I’ll state it explicitly: This conversation has little to do with whether Ann Coulter gets to speak at Berkeley. it’s about whether the social order will be overturned in its entirety, and free speech is basically a side issue. Of course, if you say that explicitly, you’ll find even less public support for your position than it has now.

  31. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    it’s about whether the social order will be overturned in its entirety

    “Overturned” is a good choice of phrase, since your priority here is transparently keeping those who are presently on the top and bottom in those respective positions.

  32. nomuse says

    Meh. Even the analogy doesn’t manage to show there is a clear line. Physically blocking someone from entering an abortion clinic is clearly wrong. Giving a lecture on the evils of abortion should probably be protected as free speech. But what if you protest outside the clinic? What if you protest loudly, in large numbers, and engage verbally with those trying to come in? I think there is clearly a point at which you are, indeed, causing direct physical harm (as in, forcing someone out of fear of confrontation or even actual — however unfounded — fear of their life to make a different choice, one with direct medical impact). And this without anything but “speech.”

    So, no. There’s no clear line even in that analogy and/or example.

  33. Zeppelin says

    Oh, and incidentally games that are “banned” in Germany aren’t actually banned. They can still be bought, owned and sold, you just can’t publicly advertise them, which includes stocking them on store shelves. Since this makes marketing impossible, no-one has so far been prepared to bite the bullet by putting out an uncensored game, having it Indexed (“banned”), and then suing to force a clarification of the legal situation.

  34. thirdmill says

    Nomuse, if you think something (in this case abortion) is evil, why not protest at the site itself? So long as the people going in and out of the clinic aren’t obstructed, from where comes this right to not have to see or hear people who think you are doing a bad thing?

    Azkyroth, No. 33, you sure are good at pontificating about people you know nothing about. In a previous thread you were telling us that I’m not a member of any oppressed groups, which is wrong, and you’re now telling us that my priority is to keep those at the bottom, at the bottom, which is also wrong. Believing in free speech doesn’t mean you don’t support change; it means that advocates of change have to do a better job of selling their ideas to the public. And if the only way to sell your ideas is by censoring other ideas, your ideas probably weren’t very good to start with.

  35. says

    @Thirdmill #22: You can advocate as much as you like that women should not be allowed to have abortions, but you may not actually physically prevent women from having abortions

    And what about someone who tells a mob of like-minded people that women who have abortions are disturbed and dangerous people who shouldn’t exist and then displays a picture of a woman in the crowd who had an abortion? On which side of your bright line does this scenario (which, as you’ve probably figured out, is not merely hypothetical) fall? Too extreme an example? Okay, how about the much more common scenario of a speaker who asserts that a certain group of people are an immediate and existential threat to the people in the crowd, their families, and/or their way of life – but she (or he) doesn’t even need to show a photo because this particular group of people is visually distinct from the people who make up the majority of the crowd? You see where I’m going with this? As Zeppelin so succinctly put it, we’re already on this slippery slope and always have been.

    You did make one point that I absolutely agree with: none of this has anything to do with whether or not Anne Coulter gets to speak at Berkeley. I’m still flabbergasted at the number of people trying to turn this into a “free speech” issue when it was Anne Coulter who canceled because she and Berkeley couldn’t agree on a mutually acceptable time and place.

  36. nomuse says

    Thirdmill — how do you measure obstruction?

    You seem to have skipped over the meat of my post. Is there not a point at which — still without physically touching — the clinic protestors become an effective barrier? Vulcan logic says words can not hurt and there are already laws against pointing weapons or directly blocking the path. But a functional empathy would ask at what point an actual flesh-and-blood human would be too stressed, too in fear, too ostracized, too blamed, too pressured by these “mere words” to proceed.

    And so have actual laws.

  37. tomh says

    @ #18
    “If your guiding principle is opposition to harm”

    If one’s guiding principle is opposition to harm, then you’ve got a friend in the White House. His push last month to change the libel laws, and restrict speech, prompted by criticism in the New York Times, is guided by the harm it does him. When he’s harmed by hit pieces in the press, he should be able to sue, which current law makes very difficult. Change the law, eliminate harm!

  38. Zeppelin says

    @tomh: Yeah, and harming Donald Trump through hit pieces in the press isn’t a good in itself, it’s merely necessary.
    Again, in almost every situation multiple principles are in conflict and we have to decide how to prioritise them. If Donald Trump weren’t doing anything wrong, it would be unacceptable to write hit pieces on him. But since impeding his plans is likely to avert significant harm to a great number of people, the comparatively tiny harm done to one person, Trump, seems entirely warranted.
    This really isn’t hard. But once again you project your weird absolutism on everyone else, then call them hypocrites when they don’t act like the absolutists they aren’t.

  39. Wharrrrrrgarbl says

    If the standard we used to criminalize speech were physical or mental harm, then PZ Myers, many of you, definitely me, and countless others would be in jail for hurting others’ feelings by criticizing religion. “Mental harm” is a line of reasoning which the powerful will use to crush anyone they find threatening – it is, in fact, one foundation religious tyrants use to build up blasphemy laws. Make Ann Coulter a pariah, get neonazis fired for embarrassing their employers, but I think it’s a very bad idea to give oppressors yet another excuse to point police guns at mouthy minorities.

  40. kome says

    Given that witnesses are saying he was asking about people’s political affiliation and making declarations like “you’re safe” to self-identified Republicans, this meets the FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism. But, hey, white guy. He’s only being charged with assault.

  41. thirdmill says

    Sarah, 37, and Nomuse, 38, when we were talking about extortion as being an exception to free speech, I said the standard was whether the speech was causing harm that was both immediate and significant. So in the case of anti-abortion protesters at clinics who actually intimidate women into not going inside, as well as a speaker holding up a picture of a woman and urging the crowd to harm her, I can see harm that is both immediate and significant, so I would probably allow that speech to be prosecuted.

    During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, there was an actual case in which the NAACP announced a boycott of some stores that were discriminating against blacks in employment. At an NAACP rally, one of the speakers said, “And if we catch any of you going in any of them racist stores, we’re gonna break your damn neck.” The Supreme Court — unanimously — held that this was protected speech. I consider that a close case, but ultimately I think the Court got it right. The case is NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, 458 US 886 (1982).

  42. nomuse says

    #43 We’re in general agreement. I just wanted to hear that clearly from you; that there is no bright line. You can’t make a blanket case for all free speech, and you can’t make a simple litmus test. It proceeds on a case-by-case basis. Imperfect, but it is an imperfect world.

  43. Jessie Harban says

    He continued, “With the election of (Republican) Matt Bevin as governor

    Ever since I took control of all institutions of power, I’ve really been subject to institutional oppression!

  44. says

    Azkyroth

    Though one can reasonably hope that we don’t end up with the version where you can’t even depict videogame enemies wearing swastikas.

    Maybe ask yourself why you want to have swastikas in videogames so badly. I’m switching from legal to moral argument here. The holocaust shouldn’t be turned into a game. Nazis shouldn’t be depicted as cartoon villains because it desensitises people and is incredible offensive and harmful to survivors and their families.

    thirdmill

    jrkrideau, I don’t know which country you live in, but I don’t see that in practice hate speech laws have made Europe any less hateful. Marine LePen is within striking distance of being elected president of France. Soccer matches routinely turn ugly with racism being hurled at minority players and their fans. Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim prejudice are rampant

    You’re an expert on Europe now, eh?
    For one, while LePen is in the second round of the elections, she got about 20% in the first round. Trump got 48.
    Yes, soccer matches have racism. But there is also tremendous push back.No, not every racist, misogynistic, antisemitic expression is criminalised, yet we actually have a line drawn. Which means that the public discourse has some limits. It is nowhere even close to the levels of hatred I see in US discourse.
    There also has been a shift in recent years. Right wing sentiment and overt expression of hatred have increased. And do you know where and why? Right, the internet, especially in places like Facebook and Twitter which adamantly refuse to adhere to German law when it comes to hate speech and operate on a more American level*. Politicians are currently trying to make them comply by imposing fines.
    So don’t export your garbage and hatred to other countries and then claim you’re the good ones.

    *You know, the one where they refuse to delete and block posts where someone threatens a woman to cut her up with a chainsaw, or to work with the authorities but will delete and ban a post by the woman asking how the fuck that is OK.

  45. says

    Giliell

    ..Nazis shouldn’t be depicted as cartoon villains because it desensitises people ..

    QFT

    Making Nazis into cartoon villains is part of the problem. It makes them into something unreal, something abstract, something you can be “edgy” about.

    Cos-playing Darth-Vader at a comicon is not the same thing as cos-playing SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heindrich. I for one am perfectly OK with the latter being illegal where I live, whilst simultaneously considering criminalizing the former to be absurd.

    The point is that Nazis existed, they were real people like anyone else, their mind being poisoned by bad, harmful ideas that were propagated through unhinged, uncotnrolled hate speech. Said speech got later the full force of state financed propaganda behind it, just as its proponents try to do now in USA.

    After that experience, most European countries decided that public speech has to be regulated, in order not to repeat history. Shame that USA did not learn that lesson and clings onto its fossilized institution like on a sucker (and exports this idiotic thinking back to EU, i might ad).

    I know personally a young german lad, who has drawn swastika on his hand with a ball pen because he thought it was merely being edgy and rebelious. His father took him on a visit to a Konzentrationslager in order to show him, what that symbol really stays for. I do not believe for one nanosecond that videogames in which Nazis are generic enemies being mown by a machine gun or a sniper rifle teach that important lesson and I more suspect they lead to the prior idiocy in this case.

    Things can seem superficially same, while being fundamentally different. I think the same holds for criminalizing targeted hate speech (against blacks, muslims, gays etc.), and criminalizing generic harmfull speech (libertarianism, equal tax, generic republican policies etc.). The former should be prohibited by law a priori even as a “mere” speech, the latter should not. And laws should be made case-by-case basis, as the social reality unfolds.

    Re: threats of violence.
    Context matters.

    What we also learned in Europe, is that non-violent opposition (appeasement) to people hell-bent on your destruction does not work. That is why we have “violent” opposition to hatefull speech in form of laws that impose fines and other appropriate sanctions (evem incarceration with use of police force) on people perpetuating such speech (it is not perfect, but nothing ever is).

    In US, people being directly threatened by such speech do not have protection of the law and law enforcement behind them to any meaningfull degreee. So I think that threats or even use of violence against people who advocate for laws threatening their very existence is appropriate response. After all, what else are they supposed to do if the law lets them being threatened? Just shut up and take it? You cannot say that both threats against minorities and threats from minorities against their opressors are the same thing, they are the same superficially, but are not the same thing fundamentally (see above).

  46. thirdmill says

    Giliell, many Americans have the same disdain for European attitudes that some Europeans do for Americans. They see Europe as a place where governments treat their citizens like children who are never allowed to grow up, where confiscatory taxation has become the new serfdom, where you have whatever rights your government decides you have (subject to change at the next election), and where political correctness may well cause national and cultural suicide. In other words, each side sees its own way of doing things as an asset, and the other sees it as a liability. And my own belief is that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I love spending time in Europe; I’ve been there twenty times in the past twenty years; but I love my freedom enough that I would not be happy living there.

    Yesterday you told us that in Europe personal insults — my example was telling a woman that she’s fat, ugly and her dress looks like an Army tent — are a matter for the police. To me, it is simply incredible that a personal insult should be a police matter. If it happens more than once it might become harassment, but do your police really have nothing better to do than telling people to be nice? And if Marine LePen actually does pull it off and win the election, just what kind of speech do you expect she would ban? Once the precedent of banning speech has been set you are at the mercy of anyone who can win an election. I just don’t trust your confidence that it will always be good people making those decisions.

  47. says

    thirdmill, Trump has made part of his campain around the idea of restricting free speech for those who oppose him. Republicans are busy trying to enact some of those ideas, like criminalizing certain kinds of protest.
    You are really, really naive if you believe that having a law in the books somehow protects that law against the whims of politicians and eventual dictators. Look how long it took to grant some rights to black people in USA – and how fast they are de facto being taken away thanks to disenfranchisement, voter supression etc. Having an unrestricted right in the books is of no use to the minority, who cannot exersise that right in real life. That is why there have to be some restrictions in the books in the first place – restrictions that hold bullies on a leash.

  48. says

    thirdmill

    Giliell, many Americans have the same disdain for European attitudes that some Europeans do for Americans. They see Europe as a place where governments treat their citizens like children who are never allowed to grow up,

    Yeah, horrible governments requiring you have health insurance but no guns!

    where confiscatory taxation has become the new serfdom,

    Lolsob what? Lay off the smoking for a bit because that’s actually not something grounded in reality. You’re the one living in a country where a simple traffic fine can ruin your life.

    where you have whatever rights your government decides you have (subject to change at the next election)

    Again, what? On what factual basis do you make that claim? MOst countries here have constitutions, constitutional courts and may I introduce you to this whimsical institution?

    , and where political correctness may well cause national and cultural suicide.

    Funny, for all you opine about Marine LePen, you sound pretty much like her…

    In other words, each side sees its own way of doing things as an asset, and the other sees it as a liability. And my own belief is that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

    Ye gods,this is platitude Bingo. You don’t bring any facts or arguments but lots of feelings and prejudices and expect people to take you serious.

    I love spending time in Europe; I’ve been there twenty times in the past twenty years; but I love my freedom enough that I would not be happy living there.

    I’m glad to hear. We’ve got enough problems as it is, we don’t need exceptional American exceptionalists on top.

    Yesterday you told us that in Europe personal insults — my example was telling a woman that she’s fat, ugly and her dress looks like an Army tent — are a matter for the police.

    Yes, you are not allowed to go around and insult people. Oh the oppression!

    To me, it is simply incredible that a personal insult should be a police matter.

    I get it. You are on the side of men who harass women, whites who racially abuse minorities. Of course, only as long as each man only insults each woman once and each white person only uses the n word on each black person once. Cummulative effects don’t exist.
    I’m on the side of women and minorities being allowed to exist in public without having to be constantly on their guard about what the next man/white person will inflict on them.

    , but do your police really have nothing better to do than telling people to be nice?

    You wouldn’t believe what police have time for when they don’t make it their priority to shoot black people.

    And if Marine LePen actually does pull it off and win the election, just what kind of speech do you expect she would ban?

    You are once again demonstrating your complete ignorance on how any of the diverse European countries actually works and you still insist that you know something deep and profound and have an educated opinion on these matters.

  49. thirdmill says

    Charly, Trump is a would-be fascist whom I am embarrassed is my president, and who would love to repeal most of the Constitution, but unfortunately for him we have a Constitution. If he tries to repeal free speech protections, the courts will strike it down just as quickly as they did his anti-immigrant executive orders. That’s one of the advantages to having a pro-individual-rights Constitution, and an independent judiciary that enforces it.

    Giliel, if you want to actually engage the substance of what I wrote, I’ll be glad to respond, but since your idea of argumentation seems to be “you disagree with me so you’re stupid’ I shall simply wish you a nice day and go on to other things. I will only say that I hope you are right that Marine LePen doesn’t win the election, but nobody thought Trump would either.

  50. says

    Giliel, if you want to actually engage the substance of what I wrote

    That’s the problem: there is none. You made unsubstantiated claims and showed your utter disrespect for the lives and well being of marginalised people.

    Giliel

    Giliell’s law: The coherence of the text is directly proportionate to the spelling of my nym.

  51. Zeppelin says

    @thirdmill: You say you “love your freedom enough that you would not be happy living [in Europe, a region comprising dozens of countries each affording different degrees of individual freedom in different areas]”.

    This makes me curious: what freedoms do you make use of, in your actual life, that you wouldn’t have if you lived in, say, Germany or France? I assume you don’t actually go around wearing an SS armband, denying the Holocaust at public events (hell, you could just move basically anywhere but Germany and still do those), or even insulting random strangers in the street.
    Your concern seems to be with an entirely hypothetical slippery slope, not actual practical issues you would have if you lived somewhere in Europe with laws as they stand. So unless you can show that we’re actually liable to slip down that slope the way you imagine, it’s fairly unconvincing.

  52. thirdmill says

    Giliell, that’ the third time in a row you’ve been wrong about me. But thanks for playing. Sorry about the typo.

    Zeppelin, on the merits, you are right that I find hate speech just as repulsive as everyone else here. As a minority who has had my life torn apart by bigots on more than one occasion, I know full well the harm that hate speech can cause. So you’re right; I despise Nazis and racists and homophobes at least as much as anyone else here.

    To answer your question, I am concerned about individual freedoms explicitly because as a minority I benefit from them. I have ideas that are radically unpopular in the rural South where I live, and there is zero doubt in mind that if not for free speech being a near absolute, state and local governments would shut down anyone advocating for them. I am alive today because I own a gun; four or five drunk good old boys showed up at my house at midnight one night to teach me a lesson after I’d publicly made myself a pain in the butt of local government by suing them over a bigoted policy; they left when I flashed a gun at them and told them if any of them came through my door they were going to die. I grew up in poverty but managed to get out of poverty because of more liberal (in the sense of unregulated) economic policy in the US than in Europe.

    And you know what? I don’t expect any of that to change anyone’s mind. You asked about my experience; that’s my experience, and it informs my current social and political views, as indeed it must. We are all products of our past. But the bottom line is, overall freedom has been good to me, and it’s a value I cherish. Even if it means defending the freedom of people I really don’t like all that much.

    Oh and Giliell: Please take your snide comments about how privileged I must be and stick them up your ass.

  53. says

    Oh and Giliell: Please take your snide comments about how privileged I must be and stick them up your ass.

    Funny thing, the first mention of “privilege” here is you.

    and there is zero doubt in mind that if not for free speech being a near absolute, state and local governments would shut down anyone advocating for them.

    You’re wrong again, and you still think you know so much. You talk about “Europe” as if it was a country, you are completely ignorant of our diverse societies and institutions, you seem to think that our hate speech laws are like the near limitless power US American cops can wield and you still demand we don’t treat you like a poster boy for US exceptionalism.
    It is actually pretty irrelevant whether you are a minority or not, your position favours the powerful over the marginalised.

  54. Zeppelin says

    @thirdmill: Thanks for sharing your experiences! I’m going to try and poke holes in the way use use them to justify your views, obviously, but I do respect that they’re significant to you.

    AFAIK the US have pretty much the worst socio-economic mobility among developed countries, so I find it doubtful that lack of regulation in the US economy is what helped you get out of poverty. What did you do that wouldn’t have been allowed in an EU country?

    In wealthy European countries it’s, uh, pretty rare for “good old boys” to show up on people’s doorsteps in order to murder them for annoying the local government. And guns aren’t banned, just better regulated, so you could still own one (or a dozen) if you really felt the need.

    State or local governments can’t just pass arbitrary speech laws, so you’d be completely fine on that count. And even national governments can’t get away with banning political/religious/social criticism because we have, you know, laws and legal institutions that limit what governments can do with their powers, same as the US. Censorship isn’t allowed in the EU, we just tend to have broader hate speech and/or libel laws. EU countries regularly get reined in if they overstep those bounds.

    I’d suggest that if you had grown up in an affluent EU country you’d have been less likely to be poor to begin with, less miserable if you had been poor, more likely to escape from that poverty, and certainly less likely to be threatened by an amateur goon squad for suing the local government (because seriously, what the fuck? does that actually happen?).

    Seems to me that all the freedoms you made use of you would also have here, while your fears (being prevented from economic advancement by regulation, being censored because the local government somehow banned criticism) are based on slippery slope hypotheticals rather than actual existing policy.

  55. thirdmill says

    Giliell, first, you are correct that you had not accused me of being privileged; that was a different commentator, so I owe you an apology for that. When I made the previous comment I relied on my memory, but then when I went back and looked, the accusation of privilege actually come from someone else. So, it’s that other commentator who can take their snide comment about how privileged I am and stick it up their ass.

    Zeppelin,thank you for your civil and reasoned response. The upward mobility situation in the United States is a bit strange because the immigrants who come here start their own businesses and tend to do very well. It’s the people who were born here, and whose parents and grandparents were born here, who aren’t doing well. I think that is mostly the fault of Republican economic policies, which were very good for the wealthy but not very good for everyone else. People who were already poor lost a lot of the safety net that they had, and people who were middle class lost their jobs to the Bush recession and never recovered. That’s a bit of an over-generalization, but I think it’s generally true.

    I’m far from a libertarian, and I will acknowledge I had government help moving from poverty to economic security, and I’m fine with paying reasonable taxes so the government can help others who would like to move out of poverty too. But when I talk to European business owners, what I hear is that it is significantly harder to start a business in Europe because of regulation, government red tape, higher taxes, and stricter labor laws. I’ve never tried to start a business in Europe, but that’s what I’m told when I’m there. And if you want to generate wealth, encouraging people to start businesses is an excellent way to do it.

    I also support stricter gun regulation than the US has; I think the NRA is run by nuts. At the same time, the US is a much more violent culture than Europe or Japan, and that reality has to be included in any discussion about guns. I strongly suspect that if guns were as readily available in Japan and Europe as they are in the US. the murder rates in those countries would probably not go up significantly, because the cultures themselves are less violent. Of course, it’s impossible to know if that’s true because of tighter gun regulation in those countries. But as long as I have a fighting chance against the good old boys, For that, I need one or two guns, but not a whole arsenal of automatic weapons. So that’s an issue on which I would probably come down in the middle.

  56. Zeppelin says

    @thirdmill: Keep in mind that those stricter labour laws exist to protect people from exploitation. Which is important if you want them to also have a shot at financial success (and potentially founding their own business later). You’ll notice that despite (and I’d say partially because) of lax labour laws, the US are not a country of small businesses but chain stores, franchises and monopolies.

    And of course I’d argue that a big reason European countries are generally less violent is because they make efforts to keep public and political discourse vaguely civil. Through hate speech and libel laws, for example. (Having more than two political parties also helps — you’re less likely to call your opponents baby-killing communazis out to destroy civilisation if you might have to sell your voters on a coalition government with them after the election).

  57. vucodlak says

    @ thirdmill, comment # 49

    The United States is a slaver state, and has been for most of its history. Our “freedom” comes at the cost of millions upon millions of slaves, both in the US itself and around the world.

    The people who made the components of the wondrous machines we’re having this debate on aren’t free. The people who make our clothes, print our books, pick our vegetables- they aren’t free. The people who work in the check-out counters, the kitchen and wait staff of our restaurants, the people who clean up our messes- they aren’t free.

    Oh sure, they can quit their jobs. Most likely they won’t be hunted down and brought back in chains by their former employers for doing so. Nor will they caught and executed for “escaping.” So I guess they really are free. Free to starve, free to watch their children and elders do the same. Free to sicken and die in the streets.

    Those terrible, awful “confiscatory” taxes that Europeans pay are the price of greater freedom for everyone. In a civilized nation, a person doesn’t risk starvation if they lose their job (assuming there’s enough food for everyone, which there most certainly is). In a civilized nation, a person doesn’t lose access to healthcare just because they can’t work anymore.

    Only in a slaver nation is your survival dependent serving the wealthy (or being wealthy). This doesn’t mean the European nations are truly free, either, but they’ve taken the first tentative steps toward freedom for everyone. Saying that paying a bit more to give everyone a chance to be free is “serfdom” is foolish, at the very least.

    The freedom of the United States is a great lie. It’s an illusion that some of us are lucky enough to be granted just so long as we don’t piss off someone richer and better-connected than ourselves. For most people, even the illusion is way outside their price range.

  58. unclefrogy says

    #61
    finally, a bit of truth as accidentally found it’s way at the bottom of a long and bullshit filled conservation.

    and it is post 61 like highway 61?

    uncle frogy

  59. says

    @22, thirdmill

    Brian, there is ample protection against your scenario by maintaining the distinction between speech and overt acts. You can advocate as much as you like that women should not be allowed to have abortions, but you may not actually physically prevent women from having abortions. That’s a critical distinction. And it applies to your civil war scenario as well.

    Huh, I think you need to think this over a bit more:

    Brian, there is ample protection against your scenario by maintaining the distinction between speech and overt acts.

    How, magic? This is too vague, I don’t see what you are advocating for or how it would accomplish stability. I have strong doubts that it’s anywhere near adequate, let alone “ample”.

    You can advocate as much as you like that women should not be allowed to have abortions, but you may not actually physically prevent women from having abortions.

    Erm, very odd example. Because the other side sees it as “you may advocate for abortion all you want, but you may not physically kill a human fetus”. Extremists bomb abortion clinics.

  60. says

    You can advocate as much as you like that women should not be allowed to have abortions, but you may not actually physically prevent women from having abortions.

    No, you may just talk and talk and talk and call us murderers and our doctors murderers until
    A) Somebody kills us because, hey, they were going to save a fetus
    B) Abortion is outlawed and the nice police people do all the keeping women form having abortions.
    Totally no connection here, how could that happen?

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