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Event Focused on Mohammed Cartoons Happening Friday at UCLA (Not Far from the Law School):

Our local Objectivist club is putting it on:

Unveiling the Danish Cartoons: A Discussion of Free Speech and World Response
Misc Event on Friday, March 10, 2006 (7:00pm - 10:00pm)
UCLA Campus: Dodd 147

The Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed have sparked a worldwide controversy. Death threats and violent protests have sent the cartoonists into hiding and have had the intended effect of stifling freedom of expression. The reaction to these cartoons raises urgent questions whose significance goes far beyond a set of drawings.

* What is freedom of speech? Does it include the right to offend?
* What is the significance of the worldwide Islamic reaction to the cartoons?
* How should Western governments have responded to this incident?
* How should the Western media have responded? ...

Please note that the cartoons in question will be displayed at the event....

[Panelists:]

Dr. Yaron Brook is the president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute.... He was an assistant professor for seven years at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California ....

Kevin James began his professional career as a lawyer, spending three years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and another ten years as a litigator in high-profile entertainment matters.... [Since 2004, he has been a radio talk show host and a television panelist and commentator.] ...

Avi Davis is a journalist, documentarian, and commentator on Israel, the Middle East, and the Arab world....

Khaleel Mohammed is an Assistant Professor of Religion and a Core Faculty Member of the Center for Islamic and Arabic Studies at San Diego State University. He holds a Ph.D. from McGill University in Islamic Law, and his specialties include Islam, Islamic Law, and Comparative religion....

[Moderator] Dr. Edwin Locke, Dean's Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Motivation at the University of Maryland, has published more than 230 articles, chapters, and books on subjects such as leadership, work motivation, goal setting, job satisfaction, incentives, and the philosophy of science....

Should be an interesting program; I'm sorry that child care duties keep me away from it.

Le Messurier (mail):

"Avi Davis is a journalist, documentarian, and commentator on Israel, the Middle East, and the Arab world...."

Excuse my ignorance, but what the heck is a "documentarian"? Is it a field of study that looks at or shuffles documents? I'm 42 years beyond academia and I know things change, but even in the 21st century I don't think I'd put "documentarian" in my bio or CV.
3.10.2006 2:22pm
KevinM:
Does he perhaps make documentaries?
3.10.2006 2:27pm
Le Messurier (mail):
KevinM

Now there's a thought that past me by. In fact, Webster's on- line says just that: "one who makes a documentary" However my Websters unabridged says it is a "person who employs or advocates the stressing of documentary presentation". I think the second definition encompasses the paper shufflers :) I guess, as hard as I try, I'm still in a paper-age mindset rather than a digital,media one.
3.10.2006 2:45pm
Flydiveski:
Is not offensiveness an essential aspect of speech requiring protection? Does speech need protection if it does not offend? It would seem to me that inoffensive speech needs no protection; no one would be moved to suppress it. Only speech that might offend requires protection, because only offensive speech would invite suppression.
3.10.2006 3:00pm
James968 (mail):
>>>>* What is freedom of speech? Does it include the right to offend?

It used to be for the second part of that question, the default answer was "Yes"
3.10.2006 3:19pm
Nobody Special:

It used to be for the second part of that question, the default answer was "Yes"


But see obscene material, which is often referred to as "patently offensive" material.
3.10.2006 3:37pm
great unknown (mail):
Re: Nobody special

And that, as well as "we have to protect the children," is a quick and dirty way to undo all critical freedom of speech.
3.10.2006 3:51pm
Ellen:
Thanks for saying "child care," not "babysitting." When a father cares for his own children it's not "babysitting," even though many fathers use that term. "Babysitting" refers to care by a substitute, and a father should never regard himself as a such.
3.10.2006 3:55pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):




It used to be for the second part of that question, the default answer was "Yes"


But see obscene material, which is often referred to as "patently offensive" material.

And that, as well as "we have to protect the children," is a quick and dirty way to undo all critical freedom of speech.
All critical freedom of speech? The First Amendment was understood by the Framers to not protect obscene speech, slanderous speech, or that which incited riot. Yes, these are limitations on how you express yourself, but not terribly serious limitations.

If you can't engage in a serious political, intellectual, or cultural discussion without displaying female breasts or genitals, or engaging in a "prurient interest" discussion of sex, then I feel very sorry for you.
3.10.2006 5:16pm
Doug Sundseth (mail):
"If you can't engage in a serious political, intellectual, or cultural discussion without displaying female breasts or genitals, or engaging in a "prurient interest" discussion of sex, then I feel very sorry for you."

The first issue is not whether you can engage in "[a] serious political, intellectual, or cultural discussion....", but whether you can engage in "[every] serious political, intellectual, or cultural discussion ...."

And why is it that you consider only "serious" discussions the subject of constitutional protection? (I'm assuming that your omission of other sorts of discussions was intentional. Please correct me if I'm wrong.) Surely not all "critical freedom of speech" is "serious".
3.10.2006 5:32pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

"If you can't engage in a serious political, intellectual, or cultural discussion without displaying female breasts or genitals, or engaging in a "prurient interest" discussion of sex, then I feel very sorry for you."

The first issue is not whether you can engage in "[a] serious political, intellectual, or cultural discussion....", but whether you can engage in "[every] serious political, intellectual, or cultural discussion ...."
As it turns out, the Court has cut a wide exception for serious cultural, literary, or scientific value. Sorry, but a film clip of three guys having sex with a woman (or a goat) doesn't qualify as serious discussion.


And why is it that you consider only "serious" discussions the subject of constitutional protection? (I'm assuming that your omission of other sorts of discussions was intentional. Please correct me if I'm wrong.) Surely not all "critical freedom of speech" is "serious".
By serious, I mean that which has real value. Satire and humor can be "serious" by that definition. You might want to argue that the First Amendment should protect everything, but that is clearly only an ACLU position, not one based on historical fact.
3.10.2006 5:55pm
anonymous coward:
"By serious, I mean that which has real value."

That certainly clears everything up.
3.10.2006 6:12pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Once again, the inimitable Cramer clears everything up for us deluded civil libertarians. "[O]nly an ACLU position" could assert that "the freedom of speech" includes the right to express things he (not to mention sometime majorities of the U.S. Supreme Court, or his real or imagined historical renderings of the Framer's sensibilities) finds offensive or lacking in "real value." John Stuart Mill wrote a pretty solid defense of the "real value" of virtually no limits on free expression, including that which is patently offensive, seditious or false in On Liberty. His account was much closer in time to the historical period of the Framers, and much of his political philosophy (his economic and personal liberalism, if not his utilitarianism) is much more resonant with their views than anything Cramer has to say, or for that matter what subsequent interpreters of the First Amendment have had to say. Does the First Amendment emobody something like Mill? Probably not. Is what expression is of real value subject to differing views? Emphatically yes. Should we trust governments to make that call, often on behalf of oppressive majorities or interested and powerful minorities? I don't think so. Why not set the bar as close to the side of free expression as possible? The value of history here, in any event, is pretty limited. The same generation that framed the First Amendment also framed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which under almost any view, including contemporary ones, violated the Amendment. Why should we care what they thought more than what they wrote, which at first glance takes us closer to the ACLU or Mill than to Cramer?
3.10.2006 7:28pm
James of England:
Clayton, I think that the protection of children can be used to justify much in the way of non-obscene speech regulation. The advertising of tabacco is an obvious example. Although I don't think that his speech should be protected, the teacher who compared Bush to Hitler would probably be under less pressure if he'd been speaking to peers. I'm guessing that most speech people would like to see banned could find a "protect the children" argument somewhere.

I don't know if that's what Great Unknown meant, and I agree with you that it's a ridiculous statment if he meant that removing obscenity protections "undo[es] all critical freedom of speech." Still, it seemed worth offering the benefit of the doubt. Doug Sunseth might note that the uncharitable reading of Great Unknown would mean that the claim that

The first issue is not whether you can engage in "[a] serious political, intellectual, or cultural discussion....", but whether you can engage in "[every] serious political, intellectual, or cultural discussion ...."

would then be unfair.

On a similar note, the answer to Flydiveski's question is that there are many forms of non-offensive speech that require protection. Campaign finance laws are a good example of the regulation of speech that should have a boundary. If we do not protect some political speech, we begin to run into the "republican form of government" limits, too, but the First Amendment is the first defense. No reasonable formulation of "offensive speech" includes reasoned discussion of SEC regulations as part of an electoral manifesto, but they get regulated anyway.

Incidentally, for some informative and entertaining treatment of UK Free Speech (and free association) issues, this is a must read article.
3.10.2006 8:47pm
britneysimpson (mail) (www):
They use the C {children} word anytime they want a way to take away our right or freedoms.
3.10.2006 9:57pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Thales writes:

The value of history here, in any event, is pretty limited. The same generation that framed the First Amendment also framed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which under almost any view, including contemporary ones, violated the Amendment.
It would help your argument if you understood the history in question. The Alien Act is irrelevant to this discussion--these are two completely separate laws.

The Sedition Act, as written, was not contrary to the First Amendment. It was how it was applied by judges and juries that put it beyond the pale. Once you reach that point, it doesn't much matter what the law says, if judges and juries are prepared to misapply it to the facts of the case.

As an example, if a judge and jury was prepared to convict someone for murder when they clearly acted in self-defense, it doesn't matter what the law says.
3.13.2006 1:14pm