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Tilting at Windmills

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February 16, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

SEMI-FREE SPEECH....Hell's bells. I thought that Tony Blair's absurd effort to make "glorifying terrorism" a criminal offense had been beaten back, but obviously I wasn't paying attention. It passed on Wednesday 327-279:

A triumphant Mr Blair claimed the government had won the argument. He said: "The new law will mean that if people are going to start celebrating acts of terrorism or condoning people who engage in terrorism, they will be prosecuted, and if they do not come from this country, they should not be in this country. We have free speech in this country, but you cannot abuse it."

Blair's belief that of course he supports free speech, "but you cannot abuse it," sounds rather too close for comfort to the "defenses" of free speech coming out of the Middle East lately, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, to the undoubted delight of anti-cartoon activists worldwide, the Austrian government is getting ready to prosecute David Irving for holocaust denial. Great. Here's a tip: It's a little hard to defend the notion that even offensive speech should be free when Western governments don't really seem to believe it themselves.

Kevin Drum 1:34 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (92)

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Comments

Big chunks of the Old Testament might be said to 'glorify terrorism'... Not to mention most of Little Green Footballs..

Posted by: Mr. Bill on February 16, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

So, I guess us Americans can't talk about the American Revolution in England, anymore.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on February 16, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Look for "terrorism" to be redefined very, very quickly...

Posted by: craigie on February 16, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

What about positive mentions of Oliver Cromwell, who terrorized the Irish and massacred thousands of innocent civilians? Or does what the British did to native populations around the world somehow not count?

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Guy Fawks Day.....wasn't he a terrorist?

Posted by: drycreek on February 16, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

"We have free speech in this country, but you cannot abuse it."

The standard excuse of authoritarian regimes everywhere. The Chinese, for example, now say the same thing, as did the Soviets in their time.

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

As long as everyone is perectly clear on the difference between 'abusive' and 'offensive', I don't see any problems.

Probably covered in the Qu'ran somewhere.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on February 16, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Guy Fawks Day.....wasn't he a terrorist?

Guy Fawkes Day doesn't celebrate Fawkes, it celebrates his capture, torture and execution by the authorities. The famous "Gunpowder Plot" was an effort by Fawkes and various Catholic compatriots to tunnel under Parliament and blow it up while King James I was in attendance, thereby overthrowing the Protestant government and restoring a Catholic regime (Catholics were persecuted by the ruling Protestants). The English do, indeed, regard Fawkes as a terrorist.

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

The British terrorized at least half of the world till the last century for hundreds of years, literally as well as figuratively. Who are they to speak on the subject?

Posted by: lib on February 16, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

"to the delight of anti-cartoon activists worldwide"?

*Western* anti-cartoon activists, you mean. Certainly the Muslim radicals get no jollies seeing a Holocaust denier in the docks.

And I, for one, am glad for the consistency this shows.

Free speech is an awesome responsibility.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 16, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Ok I stand corrected, actually I was going by a headline last year on Guy Fawkes day that said Guy Fawkes Britians favorite terrorist.

Posted by: drycreek on February 16, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

W says: They hate us for our freedom.

So we have to give up our freedom. Q.E.D.

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 16, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Nowhere to run.

Posted by: shortstop on February 16, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder what Churchill would have said about this capitulation to fear.

Posted by: Bob G on February 16, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

While I am big on free speech, I believe equally in the prohibition against yelling "fire" in a crowded movie house.

The thing is, the question of what constitutes "fire" in a movie house can be a tricky question. For instance, yelling "burn this house down" is OK at a music concert, but not OK at a Klan Rally on Magnolia Street.

In every society, free speech has reasonable boundaries. The the reality is that you can't say certain things in certain settings, or people are going to die. And in Austria, the historical record is unequivocably clear that when people start telling lies about Jews in newspapers, millions of innocent people end up dead.

So, yes, while it's severe, it doesn't represent an abandonment of free speech principles to ban speech that has directly led to the death of millions. Sorry, but there's always been a "fire in a crowded movie house" rider.

Posted by: theorajones on February 16, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Who will win the race to the bottom? Their fundamentalists have a head start, but ours are working hard to catch up....

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 16, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

"They hate us for our freedom," indeed.

They being BushCo., us being... you get it already!

Okay, if we can't have free speech, what about pay-as-you-go speech, some kinda subscription plan?

Posted by: Jeff (no, the other one) on February 16, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

You know, of course, that the United Nations has never successfully defined terrorism, don't you? They tried in the 1980s, but every definition they came up with was voted down by the United States and/or Israel, because it implicated both countries as state sponsors of terrorism.

One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 16, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Who will win the race to the bottom?"


Once abjuring torture became "quaint" the race began in earnest. Several years ago, I saw a USENET sig that really summed things up: There's No Such Thing as Rock Bottom.

We ain't seen nuttin' yet.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 16, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

The comment by theorajones is frightening in its aversion to principles we have held sacred for a couple of centuries now. I think it is necessary to offer the counter-argument: It was not freedom of speech that led to the Nazi holocaust, but the opposite. The combined First Amendment freedoms of speech, the press, and assembly are what were denied by the Nazi government (and many other authoritarian governments). We have a few home grown neo Nazis in the U.S., and there is little evidence that they are about to take over. To the contrary, they get exposed every time three of them try to get a parade permit. May I suggest that freedom of speech and the press in Arab countries, if it really were protected, could better promote peace and tolerance than what currently exists.

The comments by theorajones represent the authoritarian mentality in its purest essence: The writer assumes implicitly that somebody has the wisdom to decide what is going to be forbidden expression. This also is directly contrary to a long tradition going back centuries.

Posted by: Bob G on February 16, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Ever since the infamous "Axis of Evil" speech, the President's foreign policy has reminded me of a line from the movie Spaceballs.

"Evil will always triumph over good, because good is dumb."

Sadly, I'm starting to think that this may be a universal truth.

Posted by: Violet on February 16, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

"They hate us for our freedom," indeed.

Simple solution, really: we get rid of our freedom! So now they no longer have a reason to hate us....

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.

...which is exactly why I don't think theorajones' crowded-theater analogy quite holds. It's not too hard to get agreement on the physical harm that is the likely result of yelling "Fire." Nor is the speech itself particularly ambiguous.

The difficult here is finding a universal definition of where political expression (Joe and Jane Blow) or state-sponsored warmaking (U.S., Israel) leave off and terrorism begins. It's also impossible to find consensus on what the probable consequences of engaging in all these different types of speech might be. So this can't fairly be defined as an instance where public safety trumps freedom of expression.

Posted by: shortstop on February 16, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

You're kidding about the Holocaust denial, right? These are prohibitions that exist only in Germany and Austria for very specific historical reasons and border on being unamednable constitutionally. I agree that they've become fairly pointless and I also agree that Muslims questioning Western devotion to free speech will use this as a rallying point, but that doesn't make them hypocritical or wrong. Sometimes historical fact just gets in the way of current concerns and there isn't always an easy solution.
Just try to be the German politician who proposes legalizing Holocaust denial and see what happens then...

Posted by: andrew on February 16, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

So, is unlimited spending on TV campaign commercials in the 2 weeks before an election also 'free speech'?

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on February 16, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

And in Austria, the historical record is unequivocably clear that when people start telling lies about Jews in newspapers, millions of innocent people end up dead.

Um, there's a couple of huge in-between steps you're missing there. Unless the Austrians are next planning on electing a Nazi government that will herd Jews into concentration camps and murder them, in this case telling lies in newspapers will lead to nothing at all except opprobrium for the people telling those lies. You're ignoring all historical and political context.

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

there's nothing surprising here.

its no secret that the U.S. has the most robust freedom of expression jurisprudence in the world.

Canada and virtually every European country have content restrictions that would never pass muster under the First Amendment. (another reason why if you're truly a believer in free expression you have to back continued U.S. control over internet root servers...)

Posted by: Nathan on February 16, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

An article by Theodore Dalyrimple here, originally flagged by NRO.

Recommended reading: Alan Moore's "V for Vendetta." The graphic novel, not the movie, which may or may not suck.

All parts of the political spectrum have their own ideas of where the government should have control over its citizens. For the greater good, of course. Few of them, even those with the best intentions, are consistent about it.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 16, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Some of the posters don't seem to notice Drum mentions 2 western governmens here - England and Austria.

Why bash the USA over these 2 stories, unless you are a mindless Bush-hater?

Posted by: Monkey See on February 16, 2006 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK


JEFF (NO, THE OTHER ONE): Okay, if we can't have free speech, what about pay-as-you-go speech, some kinda subscription plan?

That's what we have now. It's what we've always had, with the restriction that if the speech criticizes those you are paying (or those being paid more by others), it is not allowed.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 16, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

All parts of the political spectrum have their own ideas of where the government should have control over its citizens. For the greater good, of course. Few of them, even those with the best intentions, are consistent about it.

You said a mouthful there, Tom-O.

Posted by: shortstop on February 16, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but there's always been a "fire in a crowded movie house" rider.

The "fire in a crowded movie house" rider only applies, legally, to a direct and imminent threat of violence, i.e. one where there is clear causation and where the timeline is limited (for example, yelling "hey, kill that guy!"). It does not allow you to limit speech that may or may not have some nebulous effect far down the road.

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how Kevin would feel if he had to ride the tube everyday.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on February 16, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

All parts of the political spectrum have their own ideas of where the government should have control over its citizens. For the greater good, of course. Few of them, even those with the best intentions, are consistent about it.

That's worth reprinting.

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

"The new law will mean that if people are going to start celebrating acts of terrorism or condoning people who engage in terrorism

The law doesn't seem to go far enough, if you ask me. I think there should be an agency of some sort that could administer a test to be taken by citizens, to make sure we're all on the same side here, instead of waiting for terrorist-sympathizers and their ilk to harm us. This would at least get everyone on the record, and make it easier to prosecute in the event that one of them fails to fulfill that oath.

I imagine this agency could conduct this test - let's call it, say, an "inquisition" - with reasonable efficiency, especially in this computer day and age. Why would anyone who isn't sympathetic to the concerns of terrorists not want to prove their loyalty?

Posted by: freedom lover on February 16, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Define TERRORISM. A couple of months ago, well prior to Alito being confirmed to SCOTUS, I recall seeing post or news article that quoted two law students. It seems that while Alito was an appellate judge, he taught on course a year at a prominent Philly law school. One of the things he did was to get the students to define 'terrorism' butt according to the law students quoted, they we unable to reach a definition of terrorism.

If one persons 'freedon fighter' is another person's 'terrorist' then Martin Luther King would probably be a terrorist by the Bushco/neocon definition.

More than way scary.

Posted by: Chief on February 16, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

"mindless Bush-hater" is an oxymoron.

Posted by: karog on February 16, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how Kevin would feel if he had to ride the tube everyday.

Probably the same way I feel when I ride the NYC subway everday, or the same way I felt when I lived in London in the 1970s and 1990s during the IRA bombing campaigns -- which is, preventing someone from saying or thinking something does nothing, nothing at all to prevent them from putting a bomb somewhere, and in, fact, makes it more likely that they will eventually do so. People who feel shut out of the political realm will eventually try to achieve their goals through violence.

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

. People who feel shut out of the political realm will eventually try to achieve their goals through violence.

Advocating violence against innocents(they are not collateral damage, they are the target) should never be an accepted part of the poltical realm.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on February 16, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Blair is such a coward.

Posted by: The Fool on February 16, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

lib >"The British terrorized...Who are they to speak on the subject?"

"Takes one to know one" ?

theorajones >"In every society, free speech has reasonable boundaries..."

decided by whom ?

Most "reasonable boundaries" I am aware of are little more than attempts by a (self selected) elite to censor speech that THEY consider offensive which usually turns out to be speech that makes fun of their incompetence & stupidity (Awww, their feelings were hurt - TOUGH !)

Nathan >"Canada and virtually every European country have content restrictions that would never pass muster under the First Amendment..."

That is SOOOO pre 9/11 thinking

Violet >"..."Evil will always triumph over good, because good is dumb."..."

too many examples every day

The Islamofascist world`s reaction to the Danish cartoons is nothing less/more that the outburst of spoiled 4 year old brats

AWWWW, did da widdle fascists feelings get hurt ?

GROW UP folks !

"...Churches have given us great treasures. Whether that pays for the harm they have done is another matter." - Daniel C. Dennett

Posted by: daCascadian on February 16, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

"All parts of the political spectrum have their own ideas of where the government should have control over its citizens. For the greater good, of course. Few of them, even those with the best intentions, are consistent about it."

tbrosz,

When you're right, you're right!

Posted by: Kenji on February 16, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Simple solution, really: we get rid of our freedom! So now they no longer have a reason to hate us....

Isn't that the GOP plan?

I wonder how Kevin would feel if he had to ride the tube everyday.

I lived in London and rode the tube during the IRA campaign. There were signs that said, in the event of a suspicious package, to stop the train and tell your fellow passengers to get off. Comedians made fun of this, pointing out that most Brits would rather be blown up than actually talk to a stranger on the tube.

Americans really are the biggest babies imaginable...

Posted by: craigie on February 16, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

The British law as Blair sums it up is very troubling. What does it mean to "ban" a group, exactly? You can't prevent a bunch of people from talking to one another in Britain at least, I don't think you can. And if "condoning people who engage in terrorism" is now going to be a crime in Britain, there are an awful lot of soon-to-be criminals floating around English universities.

The David Irving thing is another case altogether. andrew up above is right: there are obvious historical reasons for not allowing this lie to spread in Germany and Austria, and that's why the laws are there. But I'd add that one other reason is maybe too obvious to be seen: maybe the lie should be prohibited just because it is a lie. We have freedom of speech here in the US, but we also have libel laws. Claiming the Holocaust didn't happen is a libel against the dwindling number of survivors who lived through it and have testified about their experiences.

Posted by: waterfowl on February 16, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

All parts of the political spectrum have their own ideas of where the government should have control over its citizens. For the greater good, of course. Few of them, even those with the best intentions, are consistent about it.

That's true. But when I'm King of the World, I'm going to break the mold. No really, trust me...

Posted by: craigie on February 16, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

So are the wacky Bush-haters in the comments here advocating we over-throw Western governments and dismantle their primitive laws against free-speech; otherwise I'm not sure why so many are mentioning the U.S. in this "discussion."

Posted by: Frank J. on February 16, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Remember the good old days when Blair looked like a so much better deal as a leader than Bush? Eloquent, forceful, intelligent. What happened? This appears to be the British version of a constitutional ammendment against flag burning.

Goodness gracious. Makes you wonder if he's just finally lost it or if this is the real Tony, doesn't it?

Posted by: pblsh on February 16, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Frank J. >"...wacky Bush-haters..."

Nother oxymoron

Just sayin...

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain

Posted by: daCascadian on February 16, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

You wrote:

The David Irving thing is another case altogether. andrew up above is right: there are obvious historical reasons for not allowing this lie to spread in
Germany and Austria, and that's why the laws are there. But I'd add that one other reason is maybe too obvious to be seen: maybe the lie should be prohibited
just because it is a lie. We have freedom of speech here in the US, but we also have libel laws. Claiming the Holocaust didn't happen is a libel against
the dwindling number of survivors who lived through it and have testified about their experiences.

You must be kidding. Libel laws are concerned with false statements of and concerning a specific person tending to bring the individual into hatred, contempt or ridicule.
Since holocaust denial is directed at a large class rather than at an individual there is no libel.

Posted by: Peter on February 16, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Does this mean "In the Name of the Father" and "Battle of Algiers" - even "The Crying Game" could not be shown in London. What about "The Great Train Robbery"?

Posted by: ggersten on February 16, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, craigie, turns out we both lived in London during the IRA bombing campaign! Nice to know we have somethingn in common besides our mindless Bush-hatred....

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

As long as those of us who've lived in London and actually taken the tube every day (does that include you, Michael?) are weighing in:

I can't count the number of times I had to get off an Underground train in the 1980s when there was an IRA bomb threat. And I ride the Chicago El and buses every day. And yet I still think this is one of the dumbest ideas ever.

As many of us are always pointing out here, those most in the danger zone for terrorism aren't the ones promoting this kind of idiotic reaction. Red-state people--this includes Tony Blair--need some blue-state perspective. I almost typed "blue-state courage"; maybe I should have left it.

What exactly do these people think is going to be left to "protect" once they dismantle everything that makes a society worth living in?

Posted by: shortstop on February 16, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Make it three, Stefan. Looks like I lived there between your stints.

Posted by: shortstop on February 16, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

I too lived in London and rode the tube during the IRA campaign.

In the week following the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where Margaret Thatcher had been staying, I found myself sitting in a tube carriage for an extended delay while the driver, with much hissing and pumping of the air brakes, endeavoured to cajole his elderly locomotive into crossing some points.

Maybe because I was utilising the time sitting down and reading a newspaper instead of shifting from foot to foot and clicking my tongue, a travelling gentleman of the building trades took the opportunity to lean forward, tap me on the knee and with a conspiratorial wink tell me, "Heh. We nearly got her."

What this has to do with glorifying terrorism I'm not quite sure, except to wonder if it would be an offence under the new Bill.

Posted by: phil on February 16, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

jeez-between these folks and the islamists (fanatical style-certainly not all or even most)-we're screwed!

Posted by: URK on February 16, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Advocating violence against innocents(they are not collateral damage, they are the target) should never be an accepted part of the poltical realm.

Yes, but what is "advocating violence against innocents" really mean? If I advocate the invasion of Iran, knowing full well that lot of innocent people will get killed as a direct result, is that terrorism? When a pastor calls for gays to be struck down by God, is that terrorism? Is it always possible to make a distinction between "the target" and "collateral damage"?

The problem with enacting any sort of content restrictions on speech is that it becomes ridiculously easy to think of and carve out lots of exceptions and caveats to any proposed rule, making universal applicability impossible to enforce.

Moreover, the real problem isn't "advocating" violence -- it's committing violence. And there are already laws against that. I can advocate till I turn blue in the face, but no one is going to get hurt until I actually set off the bomb.

And finally, these sorts of laws won't end this sort of expression -- they'll merely move it from the light of day, where we know about it and where we can fight it with more speech, to underground, where it will become more toxic and more dangerous.

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

peter,

IANAL, and I don't know much about libel law. I was using this as an example of how "free speech" has limits when the speech isn't, y'know, true. My point was that there's no country in the world that doesn't regulate speech to some extent, and that one sticking-point in almost every case is whether the material is true or not. In this country, you can publish damn well anything, so long as it doesn't offend anyone wealthy enough to sue about it. That's not the case in most European countries.

So, it doesn't seem bizarre to me that David Irving should be prosecuted in Austria for telling palpable lies about the Holocaust. Especially as the Austrian court system is decidedly not our own.

Posted by: waterfowl on February 16, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK
Yes, but what is "advocating violence against innocents" really mean?

When you decide to attack another country, and "fix intelligence" around that predetermined policy so that you can sell attacking them despite the absence of the claimed justification -- that's "advocating violence against innocents."

And, yeah, it ought to be severely punished. And, you know, the Nuremberg Principles would tend to support the same conclusion.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 16, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

daCascadian: I have no clue what your rejoinder to me was about. please parse it.

waterfowl:

actually, you'll find that "hate speech" laws throughout Europe and Canada usually do not allow truth as a defense.
for example, the leader of the xenophobic and racist British National Party is currently on trial for a speech he gave a couple years ago in which he stated that he fully expected that some British Muslims of Pakistani descent would conduct a bombing on the tube in London. he's being prosecuted for those remarks and the jury has been instructed that the fact that his remarks turned out to be truthful is irrelevant.

Posted by: Nathan on February 16, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe we could start a "I took the tube in London - and lived!" club.

Shortstop's point is the operative one - it's all the people in Montana, whose risk of death by terrorism (at least from brown people) is zero, who want to chuck every freedom we've got, in the name of "safety," while the people actually at risk, would like different, more rational leadership.

Maybe they shouldn't be allowed to vote on issues of terrorist prevention...

Posted by: craigie on February 16, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

I rode the tube in the early 80's but then I was about 8 years old at the time so I wasn't paying that much attention to politics.

Posted by: Nathan on February 16, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

"yelling 'Fire' in a crowded theater"

After the events of the past few years, I believe one could add "bomb", as well, to that statement.

That is why I had to very quietly say to my wife as we watched, in agony, "The Legend of Zorro",
"Honey, this is a Bomb"

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 16, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

As many of us are always pointing out here, those most in the danger zone for terrorism aren't the ones promoting this kind of idiotic reaction. Red-state people--this includes Tony Blair--need some blue-state perspective. I almost typed "blue-state courage"; maybe I should have left it.

Besides London, I've been in frequent bomb scares in Israel, Ireland, Germany, France, South America (where every single time we got in the car our driver would get down on the ground to make sure a bomb hadn't been fixed to the undercarriage), SE Asia and in Africa (I was in Nairobi for the embassy bombings) and yet like shortstop says I'm not the one who believes that if we can only make all the bad men go away then I'll be safe. I'm not claiming I'm particularly brave (because it doesn't take much bravery to run away from a bomb), just that this was a cost of life in living and travelling in those places, and I dealt with it, just as the people who live there. There's no such thing as perfect safety.

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: All parts of the political spectrum have their own ideas of where the government should have control over its citizens. For the greater good, of course. Few of them, even those with the best intentions, are consistent about it.

I'm a frequent critic of tbrosz, but I have to give props for this statement. More of this, and fewer straw men, and there may be hope for you yet.

Recommended reading: Alan Moore's "V for Vendetta." The graphic novel, not the movie, which may or may not suck.

I have to second this point as well. But I'm not ashamed to call it a comic book, especially since that's the format I originally read it in (DC's 12-issue colorized reprint, of course, not the original British publication). Of course, these days the graphic novel format is probably the only way to get it.

For that matter, I recommend just about anything by Alan Moore, even comics where the movies (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I'm looking at you; I haven't seen From Hell) did suck. His term at the helm of Swamp Thing was one of the most amazing runs I've ever seen.

Posted by: Gregory on February 16, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

thethirdpaul: You crack me up.

Posted by: shortstop on February 16, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

I rode the London Underground sporadically between 1984-89 (I was studying elsewhere in Britain). Surely there is enough latitude to prosecute under existing incitement laws than to have to create an untenable new law.

Posted by: Wombat on February 16, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

"It's a little hard to defend the notion that even offensive speech should be free when Western governments don't really seem to believe it themselves."

C'mon Drum - insults and "offensive" speech is not the same as inciting violence.

If you want to piss on a crucifix - well, ok. But encouraging people to blow themselves up on the bus - not ok.

Posted by: ack on February 16, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

If you outlaw free speech, only outlaws will have free speech...or somethin' like that....

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

In every society, free speech has reasonable boundaries. The the reality is that you can't say certain things in certain settings, or people are going to die. And in Austria, the historical record is unequivocably clear that when people start telling lies about Jews in newspapers, millions of innocent people end up dead. - posted by theorajones

Claiming the Holocaust didn't happen is a libel against the dwindling number of survivors who lived through it and have testified about their experiences. - posted by waterfowl

I'm not familiar with Irving's work, but I'm certain it is rubbish, as there is way too many documented evidence of the Holocaust to make such revisionist work credible. So I won't waste my time with it. And I also don't know what are his intentions with it. However, I think prosecuting him is simply absurd, since it represents a potential chilling effect on ideas. If the man believes the Holocaust was exaggerated, does some research and presents what he thinks is evidence of it, well, go after his evidence, not him.

Let's say someone from a democratic society starts supporting the idea of changing such society to a dictatorship, because he believes this is the ideal method of government. Let's also say that he does so without resorting to violence or other unlawful means, like bribing voters or officials to attain such goals. Does this guy merits prosecution just because he defends an impopular idea? What if he ends up being right, a century or two in the future? (to the trolls around, I don't think he is - I'm just giving an example)

I think, as a matter of principle, that you cannot prosecute people due to what they think. This is what Austria is coming close to do with this Irving guy.

Posted by: Brazil Connection on February 16, 2006 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

So will it be illegal to celbrate Shock & Awe in UK?

Posted by: jake on February 16, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

craigie,

Maybe we could start a "I took the tube in London - and lived!" club.

Count me in. Actually, the year I lived in London, I only took the Tube. I was afraid of the buses. No, not of terrorists of protocol. I had no idea how you dealt with paying your fare or signalling to get off, and I was just ass enough and afraid of being embarrassed enough to stick to what I knew, which is why I spent a year going from my place in Kilburn to a violin lesson in Finchley by taking the Bakerloo Line to Waterloo and transferring to the Northern Line. Anyone who knows London will see how ridiculous that was.

Posted by: waterfowl on February 16, 2006 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Austria is not prosecuting Irving for what he thinks, but rather for his speech and conduct.

Given the historical context, it is really not that surprising that Austria and Germany would have stringent laws about what you can and can't say or do vis a vis the Nazi party and the Holocaust. I can't find it it my heart to say that what they are doing is wrong.

I see it more as an issue of "Is it acceptable to prosecute someone for lying?" than anything else. But of course, I'm a Jew, so I am not unbiased here.

Posted by: fiat lux on February 16, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Does Terry Gilliam's Brazil glorify terrorism?

What about the Boston Tea Party?

Posted by: cld on February 16, 2006 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Does this mean that the British can no longer celebrate for anything Israeli?......after all, their nation was founded on and created from acts of terrorism in the beginning including blowing up hotels. And this doesn't even include the acts of terrorism since then.

Posted by: murmeister on February 16, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Re: Blue-state courage

Stephen Colbert said something after the 2004 election like we in blue states must thank the red states for saving us from ourselves. We here are too close to the terrorism and the homosexuals to see them accurately.

I belive, and FDR backs me up with the Four Freedoms, that Irving has the basic human right to say the Holocaust didn't happen, the moon is made green cheese and that George Bush is, in fact, a clear and melodius speaker of the english language. Any other way ends with the creeping restrictions into freedom of speech that will end with the people who want to call George W. Bush a terrorist in these comments being guilty of a crime. It's happened before, here in the U.S.A., despite the First Amendment.

Making Hitler's speeches illegal wouldn't have stopped the Holocaust. Hitler and the Nazi's repeatedly broke the law and the German government couldn't or wouldn't stop them.

The irony of bringing up libel laws is that IRVING, under Britain's medievel libel laws, sued an American historian named Deborah Lipstadt who'd deigned to engage and demolish his so-called evidence. Lipstadt was forced to prove, in court, the Holocaust happened, which her attorney did by tearing Irving to shreds on the stand. Charles Taylor wrote a great story about it for Salon.

Posted by: witless chum on February 16, 2006 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Did I fall asleep and wake up in the Nineteenth century, by chance?

Sure doesn't seem like the Twenty-First...

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on February 16, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

fiat lux,

Of course the laws in Germany and Austria are there because of history. Being a German myself, the initial reason for them after WW2 should be pretty obvious.

That said I think we could live without those laws today.

Of course in that case we Germans would have to live with foreign media and - maybe - Kevin Drum "scolding" us whenever any lunatics or fringe parties in Germany then would publish such lies in Germany. Like in "see, see those Germans".

Actually I believe the laws arent there any longer because of fear of ourselves. Theyre there to avoid "public relations" problems with foreign countries and media. Including US media.

Generally, speaking about free speech. There are restrictions in Europe. On the other hand...
Ever heard about designated "free-speech zones" in the USA? Or access restrictions on supposedly public political rallies in the USA? Just asking?

Posted by: Detlef on February 16, 2006 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Actually I believe the laws arent there any longer because of fear of ourselves. Theyre there to avoid "public relations" problems with foreign countries and media. Including US media.

Very good point. Once a law like that is on the points it's very hard to withdraw without facing headlines such as "Germany Legalizes Holocaust Denial!" Which, the German experience aside, is another general reason to avoid passing such laws in the first place. They'll be with you long after they've outgrown their usefulness, and will lead to lots of unforeseen side effects.

Posted by: Stefan on February 16, 2006 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

You can say whatever you want. Just don't expect anyone to hear it.

Posted by: Wombat on February 16, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

What if you glorify the terrorism committed in the name of the British government? Iraq, the American Revolution, and all that. Would that get you in trouble?

Posted by: Rufus on February 16, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

The next step after telling people what they can't say is to tighten the noose until the only thing left that's legal to say is, "Yes master."

Yossarian (of Catch-22 fame) couldn't quite accept that, neither should any free person.

Posted by: MarkH on February 16, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK
Here's a tip: It's a little hard to defend the notion that even offensive speech should be free when Western governments don't really seem to believe it themselves.

The same argument works for, e.g., adherence to UN resolutions, and other international security agreements and frameworks.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 16, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Iran renames Danish pastries; Republican's rename French fries.
Loons of a feather

Posted by: Mike on February 16, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

>Iran renames Danish pastries; Republican's rename French fries.
>Loons of a feather

Awesome. Talk about drawing the diagram.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on February 16, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

You have the right to free speech
As long as...
...you're not dumb enough to actually try it!

"Know Your Rights" - The Clash

Posted by: Red on February 16, 2006 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave, John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
His soul goes marching on.


Posted by: rea on February 16, 2006 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Sadly, Tony Blair has cracked under the pressure of trying to hold onto power.

This should actually remind you not to hate bush so much. All the world leaders of democracies are facing similar pressures right now to destroy the republic to save it. Many of them are failing the test of history to one degree or another.

Meanwhile, the law against 'glorifying' terror is indeed too vague. Prosecuting people who directly call for violence is okay, but glorifying could go as far as to include explaining the motivations of the people behind it. Down this road lies only intolerance and stupid, uninformed decisions.

Posted by: glasnost on February 17, 2006 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

Damn! I'm going to get fined for trolling without a license! I agree that Blair's position seems impractical and silly, if not dangerous. I was just playing devil's advocate(and had to leave for work shortly after posting).

I only rode the tube about 20 times and never even had to pull my pistol.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on February 17, 2006 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

Try saying ' God is about to speak through a burning bush' in Amerikkka without being locked up.Killthepresident Matt Taylor

Posted by: professor rat on February 17, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

McKinney's topic


Read this to see what Cynthia McKinney was trying to tell America. She was ruled 'out of order' and stopped.

Posted by: MarkH on February 17, 2006 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, I know! Let's criminalize "hate crimes" because they're the wrong sorts of thoughts and then turn around and say what somebody says shouldn't be criminalized in Britian!

Excellent. So it's okay to punish somebody for thoughts but not words?

This makes my head hurt.

Posted by: Birkel on February 17, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

It's not just David Irving.. it's Germar Rudolph and Ernest Zundel and others.

Holocaust denial is going to erupt here very soon, because Jews have been lying about it for over a half century... this was a very lucrative gig.

Anyone read Churchill's memoirs??? not a MENTION of death camps. Jews died, and so did gypsies... but not in the numbers stated... not nearly as many as Russians...

and not in the way Jews said they died.

This is some very large crow to swallow... and whe n it's finally digested by the west... Jews will find that their largesse to rewrite such history was the same at buckshot to the crotch of world jewry.

20 million Russians died a worse death than Jews in WWII... you want to know who is fueling the holohoax movement? -- RUSSIANS for one.

They know... and they are still angry.

German Rudolph was just a hapless chemist... he was hired to analyse the blue residue on the walls of the showers.... he did... and jews hated the results...

The residue was delousing agent... Germany was losing the war, and their camps were filled with typhus and little food....

the crematoriums were to dispose of the dying.... we had them too by the way....

This INDUSTRY is on its last legs.. having sacked the banks of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland... jews have lots of secret enemies... lots of angry Russians, Gypsies, Germans, Austrians, and Swiss....
now they are finishing up on Lichtenstein... quick before the revisionists get a knuckle hold on speech....

it's all over Hersh..... its all over.

Go Islam.... who would have thunk this would be the source of truth in the 21st century.

what an unlikely allie to save the west from jews.... this time for good.

Posted by: Ashley on February 18, 2006 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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