Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

On the Garland cartoon show attack

Much can and will be said about the attack in Texas and its aftermath, but here is what came to mind for me. On current trends, many outspoken Americans will soon be living in hiding or under guard. To me that’s a bigger story than whether I find their views unsavory. And of course it’s going to happen to many whose views I don’t find at all unsavory. That’s the lesson of Salman Rushdie and his translators, the Danish cartoonists etc. And even when many respectables are living in hiding, under guard, or dead, a large bloc of polite opinion will still look the other way. Something is wrong in that.

As for what can be done, as a writer, I naturally think in terms of what writers and editors can do. The PEN gala award was a good example of a positive step that deserves our applause. It would be a positive step if Yale University Press had printed the (very tame) Danish Mohammed cartoons when it published a book on that episode. It would be a positive step if CNN and other networks did not black out or crop out even very tame cartoons when covering the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the Danish Jyllands-Posten episode, or the winning Garland contest entry. When there is no solidarity, the minority of publications that remain uncowed stick out more, and so are in more danger.

The threats are nothing new: mobs ransacked newspaper offices and lynched editors in the Nineteenth Century, 21 died when unionists bombed the L.A. Times in 1910, and so forth. Somehow it didn’t shut them up, and I hope we have the resolve not to let it shut us up either.

Controversial speech, the Texas attack, and the murderer’s veto

The unsuccessful attack on an exhibition of Mohammed cartoons in Garland, Texas, near Dallas, is the most recent attempted mass murder on American soil endeavoring to silence expression bothersome to radical Islamists; it is unlikely to be the last. Some thoughts assembled from Twitter:

One early, ill-considered reaction from the legacy media:

But the legacy media coverage didn’t necessarily improve after a day for reporting and reflection:

As commentators have pointed out, the narrow “fighting words” exception in today’s First Amendment law is generally reserved for (at most) face-to-face insults likely to provoke an on-the-spot brawl, not to derogatory speech more generally:

Echoes of the PEN awards controversy going on at the same time:

On which memorably, also, Nick Cohen in the Spectator.

Earlier on the Charlie Hebdo and Copenhagen attacks.

More: Ken White skewers that awful McClatchy piece with its misunderstandings about “fighting words.” And don’t miss Michael Moynihan on those who would “make a bold stand against the nonexistent racism of 12 dead journalists by refusing to clap for the one who got away,” or related and very good Caleb Crain.

“Rejecting the assassin’s veto,” PEN to honor Charlie Hebdo

And very appropriately, too. But at least six literati, including Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, and novelist and New Yorker contributor Teju Cole, have withdrawn from next month’s gala to express distaste for the murdered cartoonists, a gesture about which Matt Welch has a few comments. More: New York Times, AP. And from fatwa target Salman Rushdie, who knows a thing or two about this topic:

“If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” Mr. Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”

Meanwhile, Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, has canceled an event on Charlie Hebdo, the university delicately citing a lack of “risk assessment.” [Channel 4, Belfast Live]

Free speech roundup

  • UK wrongful-speech laws sold to public “with mawkish appeals to the protection of the weak” but typically used by strong, rich and well connected [Charles C.W. Cooke on Galloway episode]
  • “Danish terrorist attack survivor: ‘It’s a fight that we can’t ignore'” [Lena Masri, Poynter]
  • “It gives me no comfort to have my constitutional rights trampled in a bipartisan fashion.” [Eric O’Keefe, quoted in M.D. Kittle, Wisconsin Watchdog profile of John Doe target Kelly Rindfleisch via @andrewmgrossman]
  • “I speak here of the rule of law, not the rule of feels.” [Ken at Popehat on BlockBot listings as non-defamation]
  • Rolling back SCOTUS’s First Amendment-based jurisprudence: “Hillary Clinton says she would support a constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform” [Washington Post]
  • “Court Rules San Diego’s Law Prof’s Blog Post Was Not Defamatory” [TaxProf]
  • “Another Day, Another Dumb New York Times Story on Corporations and Free Speech” [Damon Root, Reason, vs. Times columnist Timothy Egan]
  • Sounds promising: Robert Corn-Revere has a book in the works on free speech [Ronald K.L. Collins, Concurring Opinions]

Garry Trudeau vs. Charlie Hebdo

“Spare me your sanctimony about ‘punching down’ – when someone brings a gun to the fight, punching down is a kindness,” wrote Jason Kuznicki at the time of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. His words well anticipated the spectacle of cartoonist Garry Trudeau (“Doonesbury”) now suggesting that it is “hate speech” to challenge the claims of a major world religion some of whose fanatical adherents regularly menace cartoonists, journalists, scholars, and artists around the world. Eugene Volokh dissects Trudeau here, keeping his temper better than I suspect I would have done. And more from Amanda Kendal in the U.K.; pursuant to points both Volokh and Kendal make, the arbitrary and manipulable nature of the “punching up/down” discourse is an important clue to its intended use as a mechanism of control.

Earlier on Trudeau and Doonesbury here and here. More: David Frum; Jesse Walker (Trudeau inaccurate re: actual editorial posture of Charlie Hebdo); Ken at Popehat (“journalists who confront and defy blasphemy norms are helping to make the point that religious offense is no excuse for murder. If that’s punching down, let’s punch harder.”)

Free speech roundup

  • Operator of consumer-gripe sites repels subpoena seeking identity of disgruntled consumer posters [Paul Alan Levy]
  • “ACLU: Cancellation of Redskins Trademark Was Unconstitutional” [WSJ Law Blog]
  • Islamists’ targeting of writers and intellectuals in the West for murder is happening rather too often to count as random noise [Eugene Volokh, case of Tennessee professor] American secularist blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh [Guardian]
  • “Philadelphia is the latest locale to insist that photographing police performing their jobs is a crime”; Third Circuit asked to consider First Amendment’s application [Reason]
  • Lawyers for British member of Parliament George Galloway demand £5,000 each from Twitter users over disparaging retweets [Popehat, Independent]
  • With net neutrality done, is it OK yet to talk about how far Left Robert McChesney and the grossly misnamed organization Free Press are? [John Fund, earlier]
  • Ohio judge goes wild against citizen who privately criticized him [Ken at Popehat, more, Jonathan Adler]

Free speech roundup

  • “Victory for ‘Caveman’ Blogger in Free Speech Fight – the right to give advice about what to eat” [Institute for Justice, earlier]
  • “Is an academic discussion of free speech potentially traumatic?” Given campus trends, it might soon be [Wendy Kaminer]
  • Logic of rejecting heckler’s veto points likewise to rejecting its savage cousin, terrorists’ veto [Ronald Collins]
  • Someone tried to yank a Minnesota urbanist’s engineering license because of things he wrote on his blog. It didn’t work [Strong Towns; compare first roundup item]
  • Departing NPR ombudsman would take free speech law back to ’50s, and that means 1850s not 1950s [Volokh, earlier]
  • The last time I saw Paris, it was making a fool of itself in litigation [Mediaite, Huffington Post, earlier on city’s threats to sue Fox]
  • Argentina: state uses control over soccer broadcasts to beam propaganda denouncing opposition [David Kopel] “Dissenting voices silenced in Pakistan’s war of the web” [Jon Boone, Guardian]

After Copenhagen: live-tweeting Flemming Rose at Cato

On Sunday an Islamist gunman attacked a panel discussion on “Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression” being held at a cultural center in Copenhagen:

One of the panel speakers, and the likely target of the attack, was Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who appeared on the March 2013 al Qaeda magazine Inspire “hit list,” along with Charlie Hebdo’s Charb, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and others. Vilks has faced many perils, some of them in the U.S., since drawing a sketch of Muhammad a decade ago.

I am particularly proud of my own Cato Institute for publishing and recently hosting Danish editor Flemming Rose, who like Vilks appears on the al-Qaeda hit list. Rose is foreign editor of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper in Denmark that published the famous Muhammad cartoons and nearly a decade later remains heavily guarded by police. In the wake of Sunday’s attack, I decided to tweet some highlights from a November Cato panel in which author Jonathan Rauch, known for his writings in defense of free speech (and an old friend), interviewed Rose about his new book The Tyranny of Silence and its implications. Referring to the famed page of Muhammad cartoons:

Remember, this panel was taped in November, which makes Rose’s next comment especially poignant:

A major theme of the conversation was hate speech laws, widely adopted in Europe, but not in the United States due to our First Amendment jurisprudence:

“It basically boils down to a wrong reading of the reasons behind the Holocaust,” Rose said (31:30). It wasn’t free speech that cleared a path for the Nazis: “In Weimar Germany you had hate speech laws on the books” (32:15). And in fact the “vast majority” of European hate speech laws now in effect date not to the period after 1945, but to that since the fall of the Berlin Wall (34:30)

Now the idea is ramifying:

While the U.S. Supreme Court has been a bulwark against hate-speech prohibitions, their advocates have made some inroads in academia:

But it’s complicated:

Which drew in Greg Lukianoff himself with a comment:

This was to become the most shared entry in my series:

There was also a side conversation (you can read it here) about a comment by Lars Vilks, the attacked Swedish artist:

I read “meaningless” in this context to stand for “futile”: a madman unable to achieve his goal does not become sane, but may switch projects. The way to make an attack on speech futile is make clear that the resented speech will continue unbowed or even intensified, as Vilks has done by continuing to pursue his work and proclaim his views in public and without apology — good advice for us on this side of the Atlantic, too.

Earlier on the Charlie Hebdo attack; on wobbling U.S. leadership in international forums on the speech topic; on blasphemy laws, and my piece in Time last month, “Blasphemy Is at the Front Lines of Free Speech Today“.