Let's Give the Muslim World a Message:

"We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression. We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right."

No, really, that's what the EU Justice and Security Commissioner is saying, according to Reuters:

The European Union may try to draw up a media code of conduct to avoid a repeat of the furor caused by the publication across Europe of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, an EU commissioner said on Thursday.

In an interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph, EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said the charter would encourage the media to show "prudence" when covering religion.

"The press will give the Muslim world the message: We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression," he told the newspaper. "We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right." ...

Frattini, a former Italian foreign minister, said millions of Muslims in Europe felt "humiliated" by the cartoons.

His proposed voluntary code would urge the media to respect all religious sensibilities but would not offer privileged status to any one faith.

This isn't just about the EU's much more "reasonable" and "balanced" approach to free speech -- in words that I've heard from those who prefer the European approach to the American one, and would urge that it be adopted in America as well.

It's also about the EU's approach to appeasement, and to surrender. And don't tell me that the unnamed "consequences" are just public disapproval and strained international relations. When you say something like that against a backdrop of thugs burning embassies and killing people in reaction to your citizens' speech, appeasement and surrender are exactly what's going on, "voluntary" rules or not. Millions of Europeans should feel humiliated that one of their super-government's officials is even proposing this.

Thanks to Sister Toldjah for the pointer.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. "EU-Ministers Considering Arab Demands":
  2. Let's Give the Muslim World a Message:
Billy Budd:
"Appeasement" and "surrender" are basically subjective political descriptions of what is sometimes a legitimate response to an international situation and what is sometimes not. Obviously, Europe's pre-WW2 policy towards Germany was not effective. But similar policies in other scenarios might be more rational. The US, for example, has given in to China's land-grab of Tibet (and is in the process, sadly, of giving into its pressure on Taiwan). Is this an unwise policy, deserving of the negative labels "appeasement" and "surrender"? Arguably not: the US' interests in Tibet were not direct, and it needed China on its side to achieve its greater strategic goals (detente) at the time.

Anyway, my point is that your criticism of the EU's free speech policy is valuable, but simply labeling it as "appeasement" and "surrender" is basically just needless hyperbole. It adds nothing, really, to the substative conversation that this blog should be about.
3.6.2006 7:43pm
Cornellian (mail):
I think calling it "appeasement" makes exactly the point that should be made. The message is that reacting to violence by offering to suppress the right of free speech simply encourages further violence, and those inclined to engage in such violence will not welcome your offer, but rather despise you for the weakness that that offer implies. The word "appeasement" is the perfect word to convey that message.
3.6.2006 8:06pm
Commenterlein (mail):
This is just an incredibly hysterical reaction to a "proposed voluntary code of conduct."
3.6.2006 8:19pm

Anybody can propose a "voluntary code of conduct." But coming from the state, it seems more coercive. Put in a European context, it is conceivable that it could be a precursor to a law. Best to nip this in the bud.
3.6.2006 8:25pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
I think Karl Popper perhaps said it best in his book The Open Society and Its Enemies when he explained the "paradox of tolerance":
"Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols.

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal."
"The Paradox of Tolerance," Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. I, Chapt. 7, n.4, at 265 (Princeton University Press 1971) (emphasis added, italics in original).

Original Post:
Karl Popper on Denmark, Iraq and Kurdistan
3.6.2006 8:26pm
Billy: There is a substantial difference between a country accepting that it cannot control what happens outside its borders and a country accepting that someone else can can control what happens within its borders.
3.6.2006 8:32pm
Barry Dauphin (mail) (www):
It is also a policy that allows the religious adherents to be the sole arbiters of what is and isn't offensive and neglects the idea that suppression of information might be "offensive" to some. It also privileges religious affiliation but no other kinds of affiliation. Why? What if some Muslim clerics (or whichever religious groups) decide that simply depicting the Star of David in a newspaper is offensive to Muslims...what then? If they burn buildings, is the newspaper supposed to exercise restraint in publishing a list of religious services because such a list will be deemed offensive by adherents of some religion? And while we are at it, which religions count (and which don't)? Will some government bureaucrats be placed in charge of deciding what is and isn't offensive to a religion, and on what basis can any secular government make such decisions?
3.6.2006 8:55pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
The reason the US accepted China’s aggression towards Tibet was it essentially had no choice at the time. Military action was not feasible, and diplomatic action was difficult seeing that we did not even recognize China when the so-called “People’s Liberation Army” entered Tibet. It didn’t help that the Republic of China as well as Communist China had never renounced the long-standing claim that Tibet was part of China. Moreover no country recognized Tibet as a sovereign entity. The US policy is more real politic than appeasement. You have to pick your battles carefully. On the other hand, “appeasement” is exactly the right word to describe the EU Justice and Security Commissioner’s proposal. Freedom of speech and the press are very important, a principles well worth fighting for. Shame on him, and shame on other cowards in the western world who advocate appeasment. But what would expect from a people who have lost even their will to reproduce.
3.6.2006 9:02pm
Well didn't gun control start in England as a reaction of the State to a fear of communist revolution. I think FDR even let the idea float by his head to do the same here but rejected it. I know they do not have our BOR nor do they want it but this is not the first or last time Europe has appeased or will. It is part of their culture not ours. It is part of BEING Western European. It kinda reminds me of what was said by some Democrats such as Senator Lautenberg when he tried after the Beltway Snipers to sell more gun control to prevent Terrorism.. He introduced a bill that would stop all firearm sales depending on the color of the threat level. Of coarse The level he set it at was the level it was at the time.
3.6.2006 9:14pm
Dan Simon (www):
I think it's naive in the extreme to believe that Signor Frattini has been intimidated into proposing a "speech code" by threats of violence from radical Muslims. If his desire had merely been to avoid personal physical danger or further conflagrations, he could easily have stuck to empty, harmless platitudes that neither surrendered nor provoked. Instead, he went out of his way in his statement to express positive sympathy with outraged Muslims and to support "voluntary" restrictions on speech of which they disapprove. These are decidedly not the words of a man coerced into imposing rules he otherwise abhors.
3.6.2006 9:23pm
magoo (mail):
Shouldn't the post headline be “Let’s Send the Thugs a Message”? Do you really mean the whole Muslim world? That’s who’s on the other side here?

In VC’s endless cataloguing of every offense committed by a Muslim or Arab, you’re usually not this candid about who you view as the enemy. The post shows that very intelligent people can hold a deeply ignorant and offensive worldview. We’ve come to expect this from other posters, but this is a new low for the Board’s namesake.

Professor, do yourself a favor and take some Muslims to lunch. You'll learn that most aren't cheering the killings from the sidelines.
3.6.2006 9:32pm

Shouldn't the post headline be “Let’s Send the Thugs a Message”?

I think that he was just quoting the EU Commissioner:

"The press will give the Muslim world the message: We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression...

But I agree that sometimes it's a little shady on this blog re: what people actually believe.
3.6.2006 9:43pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Of course Broncos is right: The title of the post is a direct reference to the EU Commissioner's quote. I most certainly do not endorse any part of the EU Commissioner's sentiments, whether it is that we should self-regulate the right of self-expression for fear of consequences from the "Muslim world," or that there's a single homogeneous "Muslim world" that we ought to appease.
3.7.2006 12:33am
Jess Askin (mail):
You oughta link to them cartoons again, Eugene. That'll show em.

Mess with the Best; Die like the Rest.
3.7.2006 12:46am
Wintermute (www):
3.7.2006 2:27am
What Barry Dauphin said. The slope of restricting speech is among the more slippery ones we have.

On another note, everyone keeps referring to "the cartoons." This leads me to believe, but offers no support either way, that everyone's conflating the 12 innocuous (and often funny) published cartoons with the 3 disgusting (and potentially illegal as harassment/intimidation) unpublished ones. Try having a conversation about this issue with a random person--enough people are spouting opinions on all 15 to...well...I almost want to ban them from opining, until I remember what the issue is here.
3.7.2006 3:41am
sbw (mail) (www):
It's a delight to have people wrestle with problems that, if we are lucky, will lead them to the conclusion that laws are no substitute for ethics; that rules are no substitute for a process by which one decides what to do.

Our schools are test-driven and knowledge-based. Nothing in the standards says students should learn to think. That has to change.

The gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and moral conduct by Shirley Robin Letwin, helps people begin to appreciate that decisions depend on context. Printing cartoons in a newspaper Denmark is different than shoving placards of cartoons in the face of people on their way to pray.

Funny how the European Union can be right and wrong at the same time.
3.7.2006 8:23am
DustyR (mail) (www):
Not to worry. Two days later, sock puppet Commissioner Franco Frattini, in an appearance with Mohammed Ahmed Sherif of the World Islamic Call Society, denied having suggested it.

EUObserver report is now behind a 'pay to read' wall, so check end of this Samzdata post for an excerpt:
3.7.2006 8:29am

If the Muslim world wishes not to be viewed as a monolith, and a violent one at that, it's incumbent on Muslims not to let the Muslim fundamentalists be the only public voice of Islam. As things stand, the violent Muslims seem to be the only ones who speak and are heard.

There is (lots) of violence being committed in the name of Islam. If there's a population of Muslims who don't wish to be associated with the violence and hatred, it's their job to make themselves heard. And if there are no countervailing voices being heard, what should non-Muslims infer? After all, even if "most [Muslims] aren't cheering the killings from the sidelines", their silence and inaction doesn't do the rest of us any good. At best they are neutral. Except they're not, because their silence can only be interpreted as support for those who claim to be speaking in their name.

I seem to recall lots of westerners willing to dissocaite themselves from the actions of the warmongering western governments. One was even called "Not In My Name". Where's the counterpart? Where are the Muslims demanding free speech for all, even if it may insult the Prophet (pbuh)?
3.7.2006 8:50am
Jess Askin (mail):
"EV, you and me at the barricades on this one, my brother."

Lmao. That would require a great deal of masculinity and courage; I won't hold my breath. Lol.
3.7.2006 9:22am
Barry Dauphin (mail) (www):
The Muslim world is not a monolith, and we must remember that. Nonetheless, it is not enough for many nonMuslims to simply know this, but it is more important for those Muslims who believe that their religion is being highjacked by extremists to become more vocal. I believe many have, but the voice needs to be louder. It must be stated as loudly and as clearly as many Europeans dissociated themselves from the policies of the Bush Administration. Did the French support the war in Iraq? No. How do we know that? You couldn't turn on the news without hearing about it. That's at least how vocal moderates must become.
3.7.2006 10:16am

Except they're not, because their silence can only be interpreted as support for those who claim to be speaking in their name.

I agree that vocal Muslim moderates should be supported; but we should be realistic about how vocal we should expect people to be - and under what circumstances we should interpret silence to be support.

Do we really expect large scale demonstrations supporting freedom of speech, or against violence in Syria? Egypt? Iran? It takes a lot less courage to stage a "Not In My Name" demonstration in the U.S. or France than under such governments. Not to mention the non-governmental terrorist reprisals that a moderate Indonesian or Saudi Arabian Muslim might fear.

It's a lot easier to talk the talk when you don't have to walk the walk.
3.7.2006 11:39am
how about this,millions of europeans and americans should be humiliated with the bloodbath that we have cause in the middle east and other postcolonial nations and this is the least we can do?

Granted i don't necessarily agree with any curtailment of free speech, but if you look at recent statements and articles by Dr. An-na'im of Emory law, you'd see that these protests are a proxy for resistance that nations are prohibited to perform as a direct result of our historical interference and terror imposed in the name of democracy and free speech.

if we have the gall to tout free speech, we better start thinking about other human rights such as the right to life and liberty.
3.7.2006 11:44am

these protests are a proxy for resistance that nations are prohibited to perform as a direct result of our historical interference and terror imposed in the name of democracy and free speech.

I'm pretty sure that these protests are a direct result of years of cultivation of a "We versus Them" mindset that poses Islam versus the West. Various politicans and religious leaders vying for power have found such a mindset quite useful in harnessing people-power, while distracting persons from the abuse they inflict.
3.7.2006 11:52am
magoo (mail):
Broncos – Thank you for your posts. Regarding your observation that the Professor was simply quoting the EU Commissioner, your point is taken, but there is a difference. The EU Commission was acknowledging that the cartoons were offensive to the Muslim world generally (which is, of course, true), and thus his reference to the entire Muslim world seems entirely appropriate. The Professor (rightly or wrongly) interprets that message as one of appeasement of thugs. Characterizing that as directed at the entire Muslim world creates a much different dynamic for the reader.

In any event, I don’t mean to split hairs. I certainly take him at his word when he asserts that he doesn’t view the Muslim world as homogenous, but he’s kidding himself if he doesn’t recognize that this blawg has a decidedly anti-Muslim (not simply anti-radical) odor to it.

Amen to your latest comment.

I won’t be commenting here anymore. It’s too bad that a blawg that offers truly remarkable insights on the law is so diminished by a foreign policy amateurism that views Chirstopher Hitchens as the voice of reason.
3.7.2006 12:02pm
Richard Bellamy (mail):
The EU Commissioner meant one thing when he said the quote, but Volokh meant something different when he quoted him in context?

I think I read that story. Borges, right?
3.7.2006 1:21pm
Ken Arromdee (mail):
I agree that vocal Muslim moderates should be supported; but we should be realistic about how vocal we should expect people to be - and under what circumstances we should interpret silence to be support.

Do we really expect large scale demonstrations supporting freedom of speech, or against violence in Syria? Egypt? Iran?

Well, that's pretty much the point. We want to hear from moderates because it shows that the moderates have influence. Whether the moderates lack influence because they don't exist, or because they'd get shot for speaking out, doesn't matter--either way they aren't going to be affecting events much (unless there's a revolution).
3.7.2006 3:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Actually, we have seen large-scale demos against violence. That was when Muslims were the victims.

And it would be perfectly safe to have a large-scale demo in any of the states Islamofascism considers the enemy, which is to say, Europe and the English-speaking world.

I'd like to see a really, really difficult combination: A large scale demonstration by moderate Muslims against violence directed by Islamofascists against Jews. If that's too tough, how about non-Jewish non-Muslims, like us?

And I won't ask that it be held in Syria. Chicago would be fine.

There have been a number of observations that Germany during the Second World War held a large number of Germans who weren't warmongering anti-Semites. So? All they got for their virtue was being hammered into mush. Didn't do us or themselves any good.

Gee. Ya think that lesson might be promoted to moderate Muslims? Can't hurt.
3.7.2006 3:48pm
Bill (mail):
As always, I think you've got to consider the big picture. The E.U. directive does clearly send the wrong message, but that does not mean that its not consistent with the best approach to preventing riots, improving Muslim/Europe relations, or whatever goal you might name.

This case falls under the general principle of:

There's something clearly and severely wrong with this policy, but that does not mean that its not part of the best total policy all things considered.

To be more concrete, I can't think of any reasons why the E.U. "best practices guidelines" are inconsistent with policies that would seek to increase the growth of a middle class in Saudi Arabia (or wherever), seek to reduce the isolation of European Muslims, or allow Muslim women to participate more thoroughly in public life. Only careful study can determine whether self-censorship would promote or inhibit Europe's (or America's) efforts to accomplish these goals.
3.7.2006 5:02pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I'm waiting for the Middle East to issue its own best practices guidelines -- defining just what type of offense should or should not merit beheading, shooting, rioting, burning of embassies, etc.
3.7.2006 5:29pm
mrsizer (www):
Too bad those "millions of Europeans who should feel humiliated" can't vote the official out...

People get the government they deserve.
3.7.2006 10:02pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
The fundamental question, which we all seem to be avoiding, is the ultimate resolution of the conflict between European Muslims and non-Muslims. If the radicals are truly a small minority, then we can hope that majority will eventually act as counter force to the excesses of the radicals. On the other hand, if the radicals turn out to be more than a small minority then I see a grave problem. Either Europe will have to change its political and civil institutions to accommodate radical Islam or engage in mass expulsions. Europe has done this before. For example, after WWII the whole of the Sudeten German population was expelled from Czechoslovakia. Ethnic Germans were also expelled from East Prussia, Hungry, Poland and Lithuania. About 16.5 million people were affected. In fact Article XIII of the Potsdam Communiqué stated:

The Three Governments, having considered the question in all its aspects, recognize that the transfer to Germany of German populations, or elements thereof, remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, will have to be undertaken. They agree that any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner.

The actual mass deportations were anything but “orderly and humane.”

While such actions are ghastly to contemplate in a modern context, we would be foolish to ignore the possibility this will happen unless the Europeans are willing to surrender. The demographic time bomb is ticking.
3.8.2006 12:01am
Jonathan D.:
A similar mass expulsion and population transfer occurred before WWI with the mass transfer of Hellenized Greeks living in Turkey (almost to a man, woman, or child all Christian) for the few muslims living in what is modern day Greece.
3.8.2006 2:56am
Michael B (mail):
"We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression. We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right." EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini (an Orwellian title if ever there was one)

Consequences, indeed.

There are slippery slopes and then there are slippery slopes and then there are the slipperiest of slippery slopes. Free expression, as a foundational and core principle, is among the latter. Not only is it foundational but given the personal, inter-personal and broader societal psychologies involved (e.g., Stockholm syndrome, political demagoguery), the potential for such a core principle and foundational right to be eroded by kinder and gentler authoritarians, such as the goodly and earnest Justice and Security Commissioner, is conspicuous, or it certainly should be.

"People get the government they deserve" gets to the very heart of it. In ceding oversight of such basic principles to non-accountable authoritarians - even the very kindest and gentlest of authoritarians, together with their furrowed brows and bureaucratic careers and accomplishments - they will be getting almost precisely what they deserve. If they are lucky they'll get no worse than that.
3.9.2006 12:48am