pageok
pageok
pageok
I Disagree With What You Say, And I'll Riot If You Say It:

"Muslims Ask French To Cancel 1741 Play by Voltaire", says a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette headline, but the body of the article also suggests that there was more to it than asking: "On the night of the December reading, a small riot broke out involving several dozen people and youths who set fire to a car and garbage cans."

Claiming that a play, even by a great writer, ought not be performed — as a matter of morals and manners, and not as a matter of law — because it's unfair to your group is not inherently troublesome. Some Jews, for instance, have said it as to the Merchant of Venice; I'm not that sympathetic to such objections, but neither do I see much reason to condemn them. But I don't recall any cars being burned on account of the play, or riots involving even a few people, much less several dozen.

As I've noted below, I'm skeptical about attempts to lay the problem at the door of "Islam" (or "Christianity" or "Judaism," as the case may be) in the abstract. But I can say that modern Islamic culture, especially in Europe and the Middle East, has very troubling strands within it, and strands that I suspect go far beyond just the several dozen people who happen to have been rioting here.

Interestingly,

When Voltaire wrote the play in 1741, Roman Catholic clergymen denounced it as a thinly veiled anti-Christian tract. Their protests forced the cancellation of a staging in Paris after three performances — and hardened Voltaire's distaste for religion. Asked on his deathbed by a priest to renounce Satan, he quipped: "This is not the time to be making enemies."

Thanks to Peter Wizenberg for the pointer.

jjv (mail):
The Moslems should lighten up, it sounds to me like Mohammed and Voltaire are in the same place now. (he quipped).
3.9.2006 12:23am
Lev:
"The children of Voltaire won't fight to the death for her (Orianna Fallaci) free speech. Under a death wish of another sort, now they prosecute it."
3.9.2006 12:32am
Lev:
"Europe's ruling class has effortlessly refined Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death my right not to have to listen to you say it." Steyn
3.9.2006 12:34am
JB:
Without having seen the play, I'll say:

They seem to be on less shaky ground here. It's ostensibly about Muhammad, and considering its satiric nature probably doesn't say nice things about him. About on the same level, then, of those idiots at UChicago who protested army recruiting dressed as Nazis. Satire, but satire whose vehicle bears a biting edge. (Here I don't implicate Voltaire, but the people who decided to stage this play instead of Tartuffe, if they wanted to satirize religious fanaticism).

Which is not to say they should burn things. They should protest peacefully, and the play should not be performed again. In the article, it mentions Muslims complaining that gays and Jews get immunity from mocking (which shows how out-of-touch they are with modern American slang), but I think they draw the wrong lessons--maybe if you aren't seen as psychotic and violent, you get more respect.
3.9.2006 12:35am
John Jenkins (mail):
They should protest peacefully, and the play should not be performed again.

Um, no. They can protest all they want. That's speech. The play should be performed as often as someone wants to see it and is willing to pay to see it. Or, perhaps, as often as the troupe wants to put it on for free, for whomever wants to see it. The mob doesn't get to veto free speech because they don't like it.

Even if it's so that gays and Jews are immune from mocking, isn't *that* the problem, rather than the fact that Muslims are not? No one should be *immune* from any sort of criticism, however vulgar, profate, or crude. In the marketplace of ideas, the best ideas will win out without the need to suppress them. All this shows is that the rioters are not confident in their position and do not believe it can win out in a free market, so they seek to suppress the opinions of others. Pathetic, and it's even more pathetic that someone might be willing to defer to them.
3.9.2006 12:45am
Michael B (mail):
Renault: [affected with great indignation and surprise] "I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in this place!"

Croupier: [deferentially handing Renault his winnings] "Your winnings, sir."

Renault: [sotto voce] "Oh, thank you very much." [now loud and demanding] "Everybody out at once!"

Or, from a more recent and a more vital script:

EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini: [spoken earnestly, with furrowed brow] "We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression. We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right."

And accordingly, Fallaci is subjected to libels and slanders (and legal prosecutions), with the requisite and now common displays of great indignation.

This posturing and general affectation of being "shocked, shocked" has come to be - in true Pavlovian fashion - well habituated and so very, very common.
3.9.2006 1:51am
Kovarsky (mail):
Ha! Keith Olberman quoted the exact Casablanca exchange Michael B just quoted to describe Dusty Baker's halfass defense of Barry Bonds yesterday. It's a great exchange.

But having Pacino play Shylock did more violence to Venice than any riot.
3.9.2006 2:14am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
JB said:
and the play should not be performed again
.No no no no no no. Sorry, but that attitude really does drive me nuts. "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."

Oxblog, citing Keith Windschuttle, gives a wonderful historical example of precisely what our attitude must be:
Australian culture warrior Keith Windschuttle reports that Sir Charles Napier, the British Commander-in-chief in India from 1849 to 1851, signed an agreement with local Hindu leaders that he would respect all their customs, except for the practice of suttee, the incineration of widows. The Hindu leaders protested. Napier replied:
You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.
They don't make arguments about 'other people's cultures' like they used to.
Seriously, people should not be arrested or subjected to violence or threats of violence for putting on a satirical play -- even one that slanders relgion. Those who act violently in response should, and must, be arrested for thier crimes. It really is, or at least should be, that simple.

Anything else allows the intolerant to dictate terms to the tolerant, and the eventual death of free speech.
3.9.2006 3:18am
Tom Westberg:
Monday's WSJ had this article as well, with the headline:
Blame It on Voltaire:
Muslims Ask French
To Cancel 1741 Play
Alpine Village Riles Activists
By Letting Show Go On;
Calling on the Riot Police


The threatened (and real) violence was not hidden here.

This article describes reaction to the Voltaire play at the time as similar, but from the Christian side. It was seen as a thinly veiled criticism of Christianity.

Banned from Paris by France's Catholic king, Voltaire moved to Geneva. He quickly irked Swiss authorities, who burned one of his books. He then moved to a château a few miles from Saint-Genis-Pouilly and wrote a "Treatise on Tolerance." He later campaigned in vain to reverse a blasphemy conviction against a French noble, who was tortured, beheaded and then incinerated -- along with a copy of Voltaire's "Philosophical Dictionary."


My reaction to this isn't "the Christians did it so they have no right to criticise the Muslims," but rather a bit of irony.
3.9.2006 4:11am
ashok (www):
I like JB's thought. If free speech isn't used responsibly, then does it aid the stability of society? It seems like free speech as conceived now is mere taunting of those of us who are civil.

Most people who comment here are righty-libertarians. The Left is wholly libertarian in terms of morals, but not economics. Their embrace of victim's "rights" over free speech is not happening because they hate free speech - they are actually free speech absolutists. Using their free speech, they've insulted the War on Terror, aided and abetted terrorists through propaganda, and generally helped create the climate where radical Islamists think violence can be exercised against anything they don't like and there will be people to defend them.

Free speech was most certainly a factor in allowing radical Islam to feel like it could do whatever it wants in the West. Now we can't very well get rid of free speech, since all of us depend on it for the discourse that matters. So what ought we to do?

My own thought is we just need to talk about the responsibility speech implies in a free society more, far more, as opposed to defending every use of speech that is stupid as ultimately being "free" and thus "good." For example, we could discuss things like: How was Fahrenheit 9/11 not sued for libel successfully? How did the editor of that Danish paper escape nearly all criticism for saying that he wanted to "test" how far free speech extended (it may be his right, but that doesn't make it proper, moral, or befitting a grown man)?

If we don't grow up about our use of speech, we'll have free speech, alright - in the state of nature, one could say, man is certainly at his most "free."
3.9.2006 4:17am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
If free speech isn't used responsibly, then does it aid the stability of society?
The classic problem with free speech analysis is who decides whether any given speech is "responsible." The government? The mob? Those who are most willing to commit arson and murder? You?

I think there are a lot of liberals who don't realize how vulnerable they may be on this, and the danger of tit for tat. Want to criticize Christianity? Somebody is going to say that is "uncivilized" hate speach, and it means you have to go to jail. Want to provide information regarding abortion? Somebody is going to say that is horribly offensive, immoral, and sorry, but you're going to have to be killed. Criticize the war in Iraq? Sorry, but that is treason because it undermines the moral of the troops. Yep, you guessed it, somebody is going to say that you need a long spell in prison. After all, they really are deeply offended by your criticism, and have concluded that you are not civilized.
It seems like free speech as conceived now is mere taunting of those of us who are civil.
Those who are civil? The people who commit suicide bombings? Commit arson? Shoot those who have the audacity to criticize a religion that instructs a man to beat his wife if she misbehaves? (See Qur'an 4:34)?

The thing that was most offensive about the legitimate cartoons (i.e., not the planted fake ones) was that they had a point. The cartoon about heaven running out of virgins? Well, that is a part of at least some strains of Muslim theology, and it is being used to entice young men to kill themselves and others. That cartoon made a legitmate point. If it hurt somebody's feelings, tough. And if that person then decides to shoot me because I disagree with him, forgive me if I come to the conclusion that he is not "civil."
3.9.2006 5:04am
Kovarsky (mail):
charles -

what if he shoots someone else that doesn't agree with your vision of speech rights? still "tough?"
3.9.2006 5:33am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
what if he shoots someone else that doesn't agree with your vision of speech rights? still "tough?"
No. Indeed, that is my whole point.
3.9.2006 5:38am
Michael B (mail):
Of Keith Olberman. The self-regarding Olberman is to reporting (or whatever it is he does) what glossy popularizers and PR-enhanced white dwarfs like Letterman and Clooney are to social/political commentary, or what Ken Livingstone and Franco Frattini are to moral weight, proportion and clarity.

Actors and pretenders,
the tools of their trade:
microphones and mirrors,
PR agents and handlers,
a beguiled audience and
a stage.
3.9.2006 5:41am
Michael B (mail):
"My reaction to this isn't "the Christians did it so they have no right to criticise the Muslims," but rather a bit of irony." Tom Westberg

Yes, certainly so to some degree, though the parallels are limited and the ironies abound. More recently the ideological dogmatists of the 20th century speak to a certain irony. Too, Voltaire himself speaks in diverse ironic tones. This review of Roger Pearson's Voltaire Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom opens with the following:

"In the spring of 1761, an aging François-Marie Arouet (a.k.a. Voltaire) took it upon himself to rebuild the small parish church that stood on his sprawling estate at Ferney. The self-proclaimed Deist, mocker of the Biblical storyline, and indefatigable critic of ecclesiastical abuses spared little expense in this latest—and most curious—project of reform and reformation. In place of the old facade, he erected a new one in the modern neoclassical style, with two handsome bell towers, each capped with a gleaming dome. Over the altar, he installed a baldachino as well as an imposing crucifix (costing 1,200 livres) by a prominent sculpture from Lyon. A letter to the Pope, inquiring if his Holiness had any relics to spare, produced—somewhat disappointingly—a hair shirt once worn by St. Francis (Voltaire had been hoping for a couple of bones). And then, with the renovations complete, the manor lord did something that no one could have foreseen; he became a regular attendee at Sunday Mass—even, it was reported, receiving communion on the Easter feast day."
3.9.2006 5:47am
Michael B (mail):
"If free speech isn't used responsibly, then does it aid the stability of society?" ashok

Yes, some paradox is relevant here, but there's an absolutely critical difference between exhorting, encouraging, using suasion, etc. to get others to be "responsible" vs. using the coercive power of the state to restrict basic freedoms.

"How did the editor of that Danish paper escape nearly all criticism for saying that he wanted to "test" how far free speech extended (it may be his right, but that doesn't make it proper, moral, or befitting a grown man)?" ashok

He published twelve (12) cartoons in Sept. 2005. What ensued was nothing much until the Danish Imam Abu Laban toured the M.E. with those cartoons plus several other drawings of a markedly more severe character (which were never published in the Jyllands-Posten).

Fabricated cartoons worsened Danish controversy

More lies from Danish Imams

The Cartoon Offensive

The Muslim Brotherhood behind the Cartoon Jihad
3.9.2006 6:10am
Kovarsky (mail):
I'm so sick of hearing this:

Using their free speech, they've insulted the War on Terror, aided and abetted terrorists through propaganda, and generally helped create the climate where radical Islamists think violence can be exercised against anything they don't like and there will be people to defend them.

I absolutely defy you to show me one piece of data (a speech from a partisan is not data - i'm talking about some sort of intellectually credible study) that suggests debate on the war on terror "gives quarter" to the terrorists. 1 piece of data. 1. this is the most relaxed evidentiary burden you will ever get from a lawyer. 1. i defy you.

i mean you people act like a serious debate over separation of powers operates as a knute rockne speech to al qaida.

and, even if it did, knute rockne speeches sound good in movies, but have no real effect on the perofrmance of its audience. so 1 thing. 1.

also, you cannot "insult" the war on terror. it is an intangible object. it does not have feelings. i cant insult the war on terror anymore than i can insult the theory of relativity. but hey, if the war on terror has feelings, i'd like to cheer him up. i want to be like, "hey little buddy, i know that everybody talks about how much you mean to them, but you're probably feeling neglected. would you like an ice cream cone, and maybe some milk. i know we promised to commit a lot of resources to you and that you're kind of peeved because we just put 15 special ops in afganistan and we have horrible port security and wwe've created the largest vacuum for terrorist consolidation in the modern world. i know that sounds counterproductive, war on terror, but don't worry."

ONE PIECE OF EVIDENCE.
3.9.2006 6:24am
Kovarsky (mail):
Michael B,

Very thoughtful point about olberman. Very thoughtful. Hey, by the way, care to point to anything that he has, you know, like, done?

How is it that you manage to never say anything substantive ever (here your entire post seems to do absolutely nothing other than invoke unrelated imagery that is just vaguely unfavorable: "olberman bad.") is this just a schtick you have and i don't get it?

But here is what has to be most embarassing for you: you gratuitously introduce a quote from Casablanca; I point out that the identical quote was used by olberman an hour ago, and you proceed to talk about how silly, self-regarding, and preening he is. DUDE, HE INVOKED THE EXACT SAME PASSAGE YOU DID. i'm guessing the irony is lost on you anyways.
3.9.2006 6:41am
Kovarsky (mail):
this is my favorite hit-you-with-a-2-by-4 over the head irony of the powerline crew these days:

(1) stop debating the war in institutionally appropriate fora, because it's seditious and emboldening our enemy

(2) but we can't possibly ever think of implying that its not always BRILLIANT to post a cartoon, even if it emboldens our enemy

i mean what is your malfunction? are you just missing a consistency gene?
3.9.2006 6:53am
great unknown (mail):
Olberman is actually rather competent, and amusing, as a sports commentator. Unfortunately, he is a victim of the Peter Principle.

Kovarsky:
Your comment is out of place until the "powerline crew" starts street riots, burning cars, and murdering people. The paradox of the right to criticize critics is inherent in free speech. Paradox never killed anybody.
3.9.2006 7:37am
Wrigley:

also, you cannot "insult" the war on terror. it is an intangible object. it does not have feelings.


Actually, while we're at it, I'd appreciate if someone explained how one wages war against a state of emotion. "Insulting the war on terror" is tantamount to "Lauding the table of ambivalence." Neither phrase makes any sense, whatsoever.
3.9.2006 10:05am
Hoosier:
"The twentieth century's dangers and disasters were largely attributable in the first pace to the specific insane ideas or mind-sets that took control of certain parties and populations. But in the second place, they were the result of the spread . . . of this infection into the cultures of law and liberty." Historian Robert Conquest, 2005.

I'm a conservative who respects, and, yes, likes France and the French quite a bit. The spread of this insane mind-set to France, together with the self-suppression of free speech by an intimidated populace, would be a terrible thing for the West. The French have their problems. So do we. But they've never allowed their intellectual and cultural life to be cleansed of a sense of humor and of fun. Unlike our universities and art mavens.

I'll miss them.
3.9.2006 10:06am
Hoosier:
Rereading my post, I was lazy with my wording. I didn't mean that I liked ALL the French people. A guy in my college WWII history class was annoying, and smelled bad. And I could have done without Derrida. But I rarely meet a Frenchman who conforms to the sereotype of the arrogant wimpy appeaser. Still, since I wouldn't want to condemn an entire nation, I don't want to laud one.

Kovarsky--You need to stop reading Powerline, my man. I mean, it doesn't seem to be doing you any good. I was with you on post #1: We debate wars. If we don't, then we aren't thining about them. And that's what we in the international relations field call "bad." (Sorry for the jargon.)

But the third post is off-base. People can argue without inherent contradiction that: (A) We shouldn't criticize the war effort of the administration; and (B) That we should publish any daned thing we want. They probably hold that the *reason* we need to win the war is to preserve our right to do #2. Isn't this the argument that libertarian--right and left--keep making? Don't compromise our liberties to win the war for freedom? And then they quote Adams?

As I've said, I disagree with the "don't criticize the war during wartime" approach. And I'm not any kind of libertarian. But the people at Powerline seem guilty of holding an opinion that differes from mine. Not one that is logically incoherent.

QED.
3.9.2006 10:23am
Hoosier:
"daned"=damned But ironic, no?
3.9.2006 10:24am
dk35 (mail):
Hoosier,

So, your interpretation of the Powerline p.o.v. is that we need to win the "war on terror" (whatever that is...I'm just using their language) so that we maintain the right to say/publish anything we want...except criticisms of the way the government is handling the "war on terror?"

So, we should be free to criticize whomever we want...oops, but not our own government. Perhaps this is more like carving out an exception, and not a true logical inconsistency. Though, you have to wonder how consistent they will be with a Democratic President.
3.9.2006 10:44am
Hoosier:
DK35--No.

And let's remember that I'm using K's summary of Powerliners, first because I'm responding to his comments, and second, because I have never read Powerline, and thus can respond only to the (alleged) summaries provided on this site by people who, well, don't like Powerline.

K. paraphrases the Powerline-American position as:

"(1) stop debating the war in institutionally appropriate fora, because it's seditious and emboldening our enemy".

No talk or "rights" here. The reference to sedition would disturb me, if it were a quote from some Powerline consensus. But I have to assume K. is just throwing it in here. What I'm left with is a prudential argument: Stop criticizing, becuase you are undermining the war effort. Why should this sort of argument bother me? Even K., who is rather upset by the blog (or whatever it is) doesn't claim that they are seeking to *legislate against* such speech. Nor does your sarcastic comment, viz., "So, we should be free to criticize whomever we want...oops, but not our own government" follow from any claims that have been made about Powerliners and their positions.

As an example: I think you should be "free" to tell Mike Tyson that he lisps like a little schoolgirl. But I might point out that it is not prudent to do so.

Lacking any other evidence about Powerline--and being familiar with many, many, many, many, many, many attempts by my academic collegues to cast the right as McCarthyite by distorting quotes--I will stand by what I said.

BTW--No one is supposed to challenge me after I write "QED." It's bad form.
3.9.2006 11:04am
tefta (mail):
Is everyone else as bored with Moslem rioting as I am?
3.9.2006 11:05am
dk35 (mail):
Hoosier,

Fair enough. Given that it probably isn't even possible to determine what the "consensus" of a blog is, let's leave Powerline to the side.

But Kovarsky actually started off that post as a response to a quote from another poster on this very thread, ashok, above, who specifically accused the American political left of "aiding and abetting" the terrorists. Now, I don't know what was in ashok's mind when he wrote that, but when you read it I don't think it's unreasonable to take away an implication that he is accusing left-wing critics of the elements of an actual crime.

Thus, I'll agree with you that I shouldn't have focused on Powerline. However, any simple google search will show you that Kovarsky is not imagining things when he said he's seen many a post in the blogosphere somehow connecting left-wing anti-war speech to (seditious) crimes.
3.9.2006 11:24am
Houston Lawyer:
I'm with Tefta on this one. Provoking riots among the ignorant and uneducated is an old and tired tactic. Yet every time it happens the MSM somehow feels that it must get breathless coverage. A tag at the end of a broadcast along the lines of "Muslims riot again in ______ over some pet peeve, not too many people killed" would be sufficient.
3.9.2006 11:30am
Hoosier:
DK--

I can't disagree with that. It's why I've enjoyed VC, Daniel Drezner, and a couple other blogs. Sanity tends to reign here.

The First and Second Amendments are funny things: We'd all be better off if fewer people exercized their rights.
3.9.2006 11:32am
Walter Sobchak:
Houston Lawyer,

I disagree. During the Paris riots the Muslim angle was downplayed. Tony Blankley had a piece yesterday relevant to this discussion.

I think we need to hear more of this -- I think the reactions to the cartoons were a wake-up call to many who didn't want to believe that the "troubling strands" within Islam are truly off their collective nut.

This will play into the irrational fears of some but will bring about rational concern in many others.

As our friend GI Joe used to tell us, "knowing is half the battle."
3.9.2006 12:01pm
Walter Sobchak:
I should have said,"For example, during the Paris riots..."

I think the MSM goes out of its way to downplay the religious angle either due to concerns of political correctness, concerns over fomenting hostility towards Muslims, or fear of reprisals.
3.9.2006 12:05pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):

Blameworthy vs. Unwise



I think much of this discussion suffers from a lack of appropriate distinctions between types of (what should be legally protected) speech. In particular the distinction between speech which is merely unwise and speech which is actually blameworthy is critically important in these cases.

Speech which is unwise is simply speech which will produce a bad effect and this effect should have been foreseeable at the time. For instance I tend to think editorials in the last election favoring Bush fell into this category as well as arguments denying globabl warming. However, even though I tend to think electing Bush rather than Kerry (I was one of the few people who really liked him) cost many people their lives the people who honestly published editorials for Bush ought not to be pillorized or taken to task for sharing their views.

On the other hand there is speech like "Death to the jews," or "Blacks are an inferior race" which, even if they have no negative effects (say they just push people away from an etremist group) are actually blameworthy.

I suggest that the original Danish cartoons fell into the first category. They were unwise as they ultimately did more to hurt free speech to help it. However, I don't think they fall into the second category and I think much of the false furor here and elsewhere comes from an assumption that if they are 'bad' in some sense they must be blameworthy.
3.9.2006 1:12pm
Hoosier:
It frustrates me to read this calumny that "Muslim leaders" aren't doing enough to stop the violence. Or at least make it everso slightly less febrile:

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/46031
3.9.2006 1:24pm
ashok (www):
Hoosier &Michael B - thanks for your thoughts. I have my disagreements with you, but your thought does attempt to engage the more critical issues.
3.9.2006 4:19pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Kovarsky:

Bravo to all your posts, and the "little buddy" line about the war on terror had me literally laughing out loud (or LOL, as the kids say).
3.9.2006 6:08pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Great Unknown:

Kovarsky:
Your comment is out of place until the "powerline crew" starts street riots, burning cars, and murdering people. The paradox of the right to criticize critics is inherent in free speech. Paradox never killed anybody.


Actually I said that it was inconsistent to argue that questioning the war is sedition and that we absolutely must publish the cartoons. You seem to assume that I would have us not print the cartoons to achieve consistency. That is incorrect. I would allow people to talk about the war without labeling them traitors.
3.9.2006 6:34pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Hoosier,

I can't believe I even have to state this expressly, but whether there is actually a URL for a powerline page that actually says that is not my point. my point relates to the group of people whose opinions powerline represents.
3.9.2006 6:37pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Hoosier,

If the basis for the argument against war criticism is that it emboldens our enemy (which it is), and there is significant overlap between the people that hew to that position and those that believe emboldening our enemy should not matter to how we - both personally and as a government - handle the cartoon issue, then that is inconsistent.
3.9.2006 6:40pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Hoosier,

I generally find you thoughtful in the extreme, but I don't see how you ever thought that "sedition" did not evoke the relationship between legislation and free speech rights.
3.9.2006 6:46pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Speech which is unwise is simply speech which will produce a bad effect and this effect should have been foreseeable at the time. For instance I tend to think editorials in the last election favoring Bush fell into this category as well as arguments denying globabl warming. However, even though I tend to think electing Bush rather than Kerry (I was one of the few people who really liked him) cost many people their lives the people who honestly published editorials for Bush ought not to be pillorized or taken to task for sharing their views.

You state that an argument denying global warming is unwise. The obvious question that pops up is, "unwise to whom?" Other people, who are unpersuaded by the (lack) of evidence for globlal warming as a human-aided or created phenomenon would find arguments to the contrary to be unwise. The same goes for pro-Bush editorials. Other people will disagree with your position. In a society that values free speech, both sides can air their arguments, and the better arguments will ultimately prevail.

The problem with your categorization is that it invites name-calling rather than argument. Instead of saying, you're wrong and here's why I think that, you just shortcut and say that's unwise, or simply, you're wrong. At that point argument is impossible.

This categorization is even more dangerous in the blameless and blameworthy categories you set up. Presumably something that is blameworthy is something for which someone could (or should) be punished. This still implies the questions of what is blameworthy and who should decide it, much like the question of wisdom.

The less speech-protective you become, the more important the arbiter becomes. I've been pilloried already here (though not actually argued against) for suggesting that the optimal position is that of absolute freedom of speech (yes, even for obscenity, fighting words and incitement) because not everyone will (or should) ever trust the gatekeepers, and that in a free system of argument and dissent, the best ideas will win out.

No speech is *ever* blameworthy, because everyone chooses whether to be offended. Speech cannot compel one to act, *ever*. Once we're into the business of punishing thought (and we already are to some degree), then no prohibition becomes unreasonable. Given that you supported Kerry in the last election, I'm sure you'd be disappointed with the lines the current Court would draw. That illustrates why permitting government (or the mob, or even someone's delicate sensibilities) to act as a gatekeeper on speech is ill-advised and why advocating positions calling for any punishment for any speech is dangerous to all speech. You never know what kind of speech might one day be disfavored by those who serve as the arbiters of such things.
3.9.2006 10:07pm