Terrorism

The Rioter's Veto

Can violence in the Middle East justify censorship in the United States?

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“In any war between the civilized man and the savage,” says the ad,  “support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.” 

On September 6, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) signed a contract to buy space for this message from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which had concluded that the First Amendment required it to accept the controversial ad. Less than two weeks later, WMATA declared that AFDI’s advocacy was not constitutionally protected after all, pointing to violent Middle Eastern protests blamed on Innocence of Muslims, an online video mocking the prophet Muhammad.

The idea that riots in other countries justify censorship in the U.S. represents a new form of heckler’s veto, making freedom of speech contingent on the predicted responses of the touchiest listeners anywhere in the world. Such a policy is dangerous to freedom of expression, providing a license to suppress speech deemed provocative, and to public safety, encouraging violence aimed at eliminating offensive messages.

WMATA said it was indefinitely postponing placement of the AFDI ad because of concerns about “security and safety.” Specifically, as U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer noted in an October 12 opinion explaining why she had overturned the transit authority’s decision, “WMATA cited two ways in which the ad could threaten public safety: (1) inter-passenger disputes on subway platforms that could result in passengers falling into the tracks or (2) a terrorist attack.”

Collyer mentioned no evidence supporting the first fear, which gives new meaning to the phrase “third rail of American politics.” And the only evidence of a terrorist threat was a general warning from the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration’s opinion that “WMATA’s Metrorail system is a unique target because of its close association with the federal government.”

Meanwhile, the same AFDI ad had appeared in the San Francisco and New York transit systems without prompting terrorism or platform fights in dangerous proximity to electrified tracks. The closest thing to violence was a spray-paint assault on a subway ad in New York by the Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy.

Collyer nevertheless deemed WMATA’s concerns “compelling,” part of the “strict scrutiny” test for content-based restrictions on speech in a “designated public forum” such as a transit system’s advertising space. But was banning the AFDI ad “narrowly tailored” to protect passenger safety?

Not so much, Collyer ruled. She said WMATA instead could have moved the ads away from those dangerous subway platforms, or it could have displayed them with disclaimers expressing its “disagreement.”

Collyer also rejected WMATA’s argument that calling Israel’s enemies “savages” amounted to “fighting words,” which according to a 70-year-old Supreme Court decision can be punished because they “tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.” The “fighting words” doctrine, which the Court never again used to uphold a conviction, applies only to insults spoken to someone in person.

Although Collyer reached the right result, her openness to the argument that speech can be restricted based on the anticipated violence of people it offends was troubling. So was her description of the AFDI ad as “hate speech,” a constitutionally irrelevant category.

The heckler’s veto also remains a threat in New York, where the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) initially turned down the AFDI ad on the grounds that it “demeaned” Muslims. U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer rejected that rationale in a July 20 ruling.

On September 27, three days after the AFDI ad began appearing in subway stations, the MTA adopted a new policy barring any message it “reasonably foresees would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace.” For defenders of free speech, those are fighting words.  

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  1. The threat of violence from a hyper-sensitive, supposedly religion-based group has led to self-censorship in the West for years now. Might as well make it official.

    1. Freedom of speech is under attack by the Christian Right.

      1. LOL, I think he was talking about the Jews, no offense to any of them but it’s true.

        1. You fucking morons. You know damn well I was talking about the Jedi.

          1. I thought you all were talking about the Baha’i.

      2. What would happen if office workers put large displays urging fellow workers to support Israel against the savages? I imagine supervisors would come by and remove them. Freedom of speech is under attack by offices.

        I can’t understand how so much concern is exercised over a display on a subway platform which we may or may not notice in the few minutes we spend waiting there.

        Meanwhile in our work places, where we spend the lion’s share of our productive life time, and where our creative energies are most sharply focused, our freedom to speak is proscribed without a breath of protest on our part. It’s not even worth a mention when it comes to laundry listing the ways freedom of speech is being frittered away.

        1. Ever heard of PRIVATE PROPERTY?

          1. Yes, I have. Are you arguing that the work place is privately owned so we should accept the owner deciding what we can and cannot say, but the subway is public property so nobody can rightfully proscribe our speech? I understand this if that’s your point. Doesn’t seem like the argument of a libertarian, though.

            Isn’t this paradoxical? If you argue for an enlarged sphere of private ownership, you are at the same time restricting your own right to free speech… Surely Libertarians shouldn’t let themselves be boxed into the position of having to choose one or the other.

            1. Here?s the thing. Suppose I invite you to my house to have dinner. Then you start saying something I dont like, then it is perfectly legal for me to tell you to either shut up or get out of my house. As simple as that.

              1. Freedom of speech is the right of the property owner to dictate who can say what and when? I consider myself libertarian leaning in many ways, less and less the more I read Reason, but this particular conception of free speech is not something I find compelling in the least.

                1. “Freedom of speech is the right of the property owner to dictate who can say what and when?”

                  I would add to that “in his property”
                  Property right means that the owner of something has the right to use that think at will. In the case of an office, it means that he can decide who enters and who has to leave. It is perfectly consistent with libertarianism for you to say: anyone who enters my house and says that he likes strawberries must leave immediately. Otherwise the property right would be fictional.
                  You decide who is allowed in your office, for whatever reason.

                  1. So without owning property, one has no right to free speech. It’s not a very attractive stance to me. Owning property to me is a check on freedom, I lived in different places and tried to travel light. Accumulating property is an impediment to me, and has always struck me as a vain and vacuous exercise.

                    1. mtrueman| 12.25.12 @ 11:46PM |#
                      “So without owning property, one has no right to free speech. It’s not a very attractive stance to me.”

                      Yeah, well, it’s not very attractive to a lot of people. And no one ever made that claim.

                2. mtrueman| 12.25.12 @ 6:51PM |#
                  “Freedom of speech is the right of the property owner to dictate who can say what and when?…”

                  Did you really miss it that badly?
                  Freedom of speech allows a property owner to discriminate between those he allows on his property and those he doesn’t.
                  See how easy that is?

                  1. Wrong freedom; what you have just described is “freedom of association”… and it has been dead since the 1960s. Otherwise, the owner of a private lunch counter who did not wish to associate with blacks could put up a sign saying “Whites only”.

                    In my view, he has a perfect right to do that; what he doesn’t have the right to do is call upon government to prevent competition which serves everyone. Let him watch as business goes elsewhere.

            2. The newspapers, the tv, the radio, the streets, all the property that doesn?t belong to your boss. You can exercise your free speech in any of those places. Otherwise anyone should have the right to enter your house and put a banner they like.

            3. I would think that your boss probably just wants you to STFU and work.

            4. I would think that your boss probably just wants you to STFU and work.

              1. Maybe he just wants you to pee into a cup. NOW!

                1. I got news for you mtrueman, you are not a libertarian. You have a liberal’s conception of free speech, if they conceive of it at all as a POSITIVE right, forcing others to put up with your crap and not call you on it. If your in my house and your being an asshole, it should be my RIGHT to throw you out.

                  1. American Is Back| 12.25.12 @ 9:56PM |#
                    “I got news for you mtrueman….”

                    Blind squirrels and nuts….

        2. Unless those office workers are renting space for those displays, your analogy is not applicable.

          WMATA makes space available to the public–for a fee–in order to display various messages. I doubt that your boss is renting space on cubicle dividers.

          1. So what exactly is the beef against the WMATA? As owners they have the right to put up or not put up messages according to their whim, and their motives behind their decision making are their business and no one else’s.

            1. It would be that simple if the government weren’t in the business of owning property.

              1. If property was privately owned then I wouldn’t have any free speech at all. It would be entirely subject to the veto of the owners. If anything this is distopian to me.

            2. Because the WMATA is the government! They aren’t the owners, the tax payers are. The state shouldn’t be running a transit system but if they are they can’t censor.

  2. Wait wait wait… You mean if we riot whenever they talk about taking away our rights, they’ll shut up?

    1. I wouldn’t count on it.

      1. Me neither, but that’s where the idea leads. If the Bitter Clingers were what they have been presented as, the calls for gun control would be muted by that threat. It seems to me the policy itself incites violence.

    2. Nah, libertarians aren’t violent enough. They’d run wild through the streets respecting private property rights and not initiating force. Nothing to fear there.

      1. Haha, the sword cuts both ways. Also, if we were using the restrictions of people’s rights to fight for people’s rights wouldn’t our heads start exploding? Time to invest in paradox-absorbing crumple zones.

  3. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me dude. Wow.

    http://www.Anon-is.tk

  4. Merry Christmas Bitches!

    1. Same back atcha, and here’s a heartwarming tale of gov’t incompetence.
      Now, it’s common knowledge that getting a really good cabinet-maker is more expensive than getting a fence-builder. And if you don’t offer enough you won’t get good cabinet work.
      Surprising to those who ‘manage’ our medical care, the same holds true among those who practice medicine:

      “Dearth of specialists sends poor to ER”
      ——
      “Doctors say meeting new government mandates to keep patients healthy and out of hospitals – a linchpin in reducing medical spending – will be virtually impossible without the ability to make timely patient appointments with specialists.”

      Yes, folks, the program isn’t failing from external causes; failure is *designed* into it from the beginning!
      http://www.sfgate.com/health/a…..144353.php
      Hope Santa got you what you really wanted this year (except for, well…)

      1. This is vicious propaganda. The Plan is perfect in every respect, it’s the populace that is defective.

        1. Now, if there was only a way to remove the defective units among the populace? Of course, it will have to be a large-scale operation. And efficient.

          Ovens. All of these schemes end in ovens.

          1. No no no. Ovens are like high speed rail. A big money sink that can’t be easily moved. What we need are portable units, perhaps under AI control. A “Normative Optimizing Mansized Adjunct Device”. There’s this guy named Jackson Roycurd or something that’s working on it.

            1. “Normative Optimizing Mansized Adjunct Device”
              You know who else had NOMADs…

            2. KILL ALL HUMANS!

  5. Progressives and Islamist are the new baptist and bootleggers.

    1. I am having a problem figuring out which is which. The Muslims don’t want alcohol, but the proggies don’t want me to drink either. Can we call it an asshole and asshole alliance?

      Merry Christmas!

      Reason was better when Postrel was an editor!

      (Need to get the beer, wine and spirits flowing)

      1. Almost everyone gave everyone else a new gun this year. Oddly, I love the new pump air rifle the most. It’s nice popping cones in the back without having to hike a half mile to the gulley to shoot. We’re all going down there later, getting liquored up and target practicing with the new stuff. Goddamned awesome Christmas this year.

        1. We had a very cosmo christmas.

          With donations to the Brady Campaign in each others name.

        2. Yeah, it’s also nice to go shoot for a few hours on a few dollars instead of over a hundred bucks as well. Love those pellet guns.

    2. No, baptists and bootleggers pretended to hate each other. Proggies and muzzies pretend to love each other.(well, at least the proggies do)

  6. Every Christmas we seem to lose some good actors. So far it’s been Charles Durning and Jack Klugman.

    1. “the vast majority practice a moderate form of Islam.”

      Shame on me; I’m left with the thought they use sharp knives instead of rusty, dull ones.

    2. They are moderate Muslims because, hey, they didn’t kill the Christians.

      1. Sadly, that’s how their thought process probably goes.

      2. That’s because they’re waiting for the church to be built so that they can torch it when the Christians are inside.

    3. FYI.

      Jakarta has a population of 10 million. A protest of 200 idiots throwing eggs is hardly alarming. We’ve had far more stinky people at most Occupy protests.

      Further, how many of you snarky commenters have ever been to Jakarta or spent time getting to know its residents?

      On a side note: this short clip uses the modifier “rotten” three times when describing the eggs. I doubt the eggs were rotten. Indonesians don’t hoard their eggs for months hoping for an opportunity to throw them. They eat their eggs in a timely manner as well as throw their eggs in a timely manner.

      1. Further, how many of you snarky commenters have ever been to Jakarta or spent time getting to know its residents?

        I’ve been to Jakarta and Bali, and I lived, worked, and traveled extensively throughout S.E. Asia. Now, I’m not an expert in the Cultural Oology of Indonesia; however, I am educated enough in the region to recognize that those “200 idiots” are an expression of an institutionalized discrimination, endemic to the Malayosphere, against religious minorities. I’m sure it hadn’t escaped your notice that in the previous article it was reported that the police didn’t do much to prevent the rioters from intimidating the Indonesian Christians on their own property.

        1. You said “those “200 idiots” are an expression of an institutionalized discrimination”.

          You have no way of knowing that. Would violence by 200 KKKlansmen be an expression of institutionalized discrimination in the USA?

          Is it possible the egg throwers were not protesting Christmas or Chritianity but that it was a land dispute?

          You say you’ve been to Jakarta. Based on your comments, I’d guess you’ve never lived there for a significant period of time. I have.

          Go to any shopping mall in Jakarta today and you will see it more garishly decorated in Christmas ornamentation than any in America.

          I have experienced ZERO religious discrimination during my time in Indonesia.

          With regards to the Police: If you were familiar with Indonesia, you would know that the Police there are as non-confrontational as ours are confrontational. In a word, they are complete pussies, and almost never confront a mob. They mostly stand around moving their arms in a “calm down” manner, stalling for time until people settle down enough to convince everyone to go home. They use this procedure in all cases. Watch a mob/police scene on Indonesian TV, it is comically embarrassing.

          You say you’ve been to Jakarta. Based on your comments, I doubt you’ve lived there.

          1. “You say you’ve been to Jakarta. Based on your comments, I doubt you’ve lived there.”

            Sorry for the repeat of that.

          2. Would violence by 200 KKKlansmen be an expression of institutionalized discrimination in the USA?

            Is this a serious question?

            When Klansmen were actually engaging in violence without police preventing/stopping it segregation was the law of the land, which kind of deflates your argument.

          3. Would violence by 200 KKKlansmen be an expression of institutionalized discrimination in the USA?

            Ummm….yes?

            Is it possible the egg throwers were not protesting Christmas or Chritianity but that it was a land dispute?

            Possibly. But that doesn’t take away from the well-documented abuse of non-Muslims in both Malaysia and Indonesia. You know the history of East Timor, right? How about the abuses of indigenous Paupans or Amadhis? The race riots against Chinese Buddhists back in the 70’s (if memory serves right)? One must have their head buried deep in the sand (or is it rectum?) to ignore the long and sordid history of hate in the Malayosphere.

            You say you’ve been to Jakarta. Based on your comments, I’d guess you’ve never lived there for a significant period of time. I have.

            Correct, I was based out of Bangkok. So what? Do you think personal anecdotes outweigh the vast amount of documented events of discrimination? Do you deny that 80% of Indonesians want faiths other than Islam to be outlawed in their country? Have you ever asked your Indonesian friends their feelings about hudud laws? [cont]

            1. [cont]

              I have experienced ZERO religious discrimination during my time in Indonesia.

              Great! Now go hand and hand with a local Muslim girl down to the masjid in an average pondok and have this conversation:

              Imam: How can I help you today?
              You: I want to get married.
              Imam: Excellent, you’re a Muslim, yes?
              You: No.
              Imam: You plan on converting, yes?
              You. No.

              Tell me how the rest of the conversation goes.

              With regards to the Police: If you were familiar with Indonesia, you would know that the Police there are as non-confrontational as ours are confrontational. In a word, they are complete pussies, and almost never confront a mob. They mostly stand around moving their arms in a “calm down” manner, stalling for time until people settle down enough to convince everyone to go home. They use this procedure in all cases. Watch a mob/police scene on Indonesian TV, it is comically embarrassing.

              Amnesty International respectfully disagrees.

              You say you live in Jakarta. I suspect you’re actually living in Stockholm.

              1. “Tell me how the rest of the conversation goes.”

                Call on me! Me! I know the answer!!!

    4. Muhammad was a homosexual

  7. Lesbians share their kiss on twitter

    1. Wait… Rosie O’Donnell’s a woman? Color me shocked! Shocked I say!

    2. You will burn for that one.

      1. Nobody forced you to click the link.

        1. Fortunately I caught the headline in the URL.

          1. I make a point out of examining the URL to see if it’s got a headline. Unfortunately, some sites, such as the Wall Street Journal, don’t include a form of the headline in the URL.

        2. Thanks for the warning.

    3. thanks Arch.
      I have the flu and was already barely keeping down my lunch until I saw that.

  8. This definantly proves that we need to make our country more diverse by opening up the borders. Look at Britain. They have millions of muslims, and look how the new citizens assimilate into their society and defend free speech as much as any white would. I recently read about how tens of thousands of muslims marched in London for free speech to be protected. I want THAT for my country.

    1. I WILL let my eggs get rotten for that.

    2. American Is Back| 12.25.12 @ 1:07PM |#
      …”as much as any white would”…

      Sleazy Racist Is Back!

  9. The response to any rioters veto should be a concerted campaign of exactly the type of speech that got vetoed.

    The best way to combat terroristic threats against speaking an idea is to speak louder.

    1. But on the one hand, people are afraid to.

      And on the other, people really hate Christians and pity muslims, at least the left (and thus the media) so they agree with the rioters

    2. Civil disobedience is dependent on the general decency and “fair-mindedness” of the society at large. It is a conceit in the West because it works on Western audiences, the same has proven to not be true of the Islamic world.

      Engaging in more of the same type of speech (namely, not being Muslim and celebrating a non-Muslim holiday) would almost surely result in murder and mayhem.

  10. Cowards, traitors and dhimmi’s all. Hurry…let’s put DC under sharia law.

  11. 1st amendment abridged under the pretext of preventing 3rd world riots. 2nd amendment to be abridged under the excuse of safety in elementary schools. 5th amendment abridged already, see NDAA/2012 section 1021, authorizing indefinite detention of U.S. citizens. Democratic Party is rolling Chicago style . . .

  12. Muhammad was a homosexual

  13. very super blogos thanks admin sohbet & sohbet odalar?

  14. This definantly proves that we need to make our country more diverse by opening up the borders. Look at Britain. They have millions of muslims, and look how the new citizens assimilate into their society and defend free speech as much as any white would. I recently read about how tens of thousands of muslims marched in London for free speech to be protected. I want THAT for my country.
    ???? ??? ???? ???????
    ???? ????? ?????
    This definantly proves that we need to make our country more diverse by opening up the borders. Look at Britain. They have millions of muslims, and look how the new citizens assimilate into their society and defend free speech as much as any white would. I recently read about how tens of thousands of muslims marched in London for free speech to be protected. I want THAT for my country.

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