Donald Trump

Trump Keeps Trashing the First Amendment, Yet the First Amendment Is the Only Thing Protecting Trump's Vile Outbursts

Trump's bigotry "could happen only in America with complete assurance that no criminal proceedings will follow."

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Credit: Todd Kranin

Donald Trump has demonstrated nothing but contempt for the First Amendment. So far in the 2016 race, Trump has come out in favor of closing mosques, censoring the internet, and having the government impose religious tests designed to single Muslims out for abuse. Trump's views make a mockery of religious liberty, freedom of speech, and the venerable notion that the government "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

Ironically, the very principles that Trump keeps trashing serve to protect him as well. As free speech lawyer Floyd Abrams and law professor Ronald Collins point out in a new op-ed, Trump's statements "could happen only in America with complete assurance that no criminal proceedings will follow." Why? Because the First Amendment only exists in America. In several European countries, by contrast, Trump-style outbursts have resulted in criminal charges. Here's the scoop from Abrams and Collins:

In the Netherlands, right-wing legislator Geert Wilders faces a criminal trial next year for asking followers who attended a speech of his if they wanted "more or less" Moroccans in the nation, to which they responded "Less, less, less." The charge is that his remarks fomented "discrimination and hatred." In Belgium, a member of Parliament was convicted for distributing leaflets saying: "Stop the Sham Immigration Policy. Send European sub-seekers home" and "stand up against the Islamification of Belgium." The European Court of Human Rights affirmed the conviction on the ground that such language could lead to hatred of foreigners, especially by "less knowledgeable members of the public." In England an individual was tried and convicted for carrying a poster that showed the World Trade Center ablaze with the caption "Islam out of Britain-Protect the British People." The European Court of Human Rights let the conviction stand, concluding that since the poster constituted a "public expression of attack on all Muslims in the United Kingdom" that the speech could provide a basis for criminal sanctions.

All these rulings would be inconceivable in the United States because of the First Amendment. Unlike Europe where hate speech laws could place Mr. Trump in criminal jeopardy, in our better moments here we prefer to openly contest and condemn such odious speech rather than criminalize it.

Read the whole thing here.

Related: Donald Trump Has Now Trashed Religious Liberty, Due Process, Equal Protection, Private Property, and the Bill of Rights

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  1. “Pope approves miracle for Mother Teresa’s canonization”
    […]
    “”This is fantastic news.”
    http://www.sfgate.com/news/art…..706842.php

    Yes, it is. But not the way you mean.

    1. I bet only pun in a hundred will catch your drift.

      1. Hey, news from the city dump is better than another blowhard thread.

  2. But Donald Trump is only speaking Truth To Power. Free speech only benefits rich old white guys who can afford to speak the loudest and it’s high time we gave people like Donald Trump an equal right to be heard.

  3. I’ve often wondered how much criminal “justice” could be avoided if only victims (or their guardians) could file charges, and the only possible punishment was restitution for damages and all case and court costs. Theoretically you could file charges against a kid (or his guardian parents) for stealing an apple, and costs would include the lawyer, time off, etc. But aside from that, slander and libel, any degree of butthurt, etc would have to show actual damages, and not just “I was shaking so badly I couldn’t go to work” kind of nonsense.

    What I think in pessimistic times is that juries would find that yes, butthurt in the third degree, so bad you can’t concentrate at work, qualifies for restitution. But then people who were offended by that, who took time off work to picket the courthouse, would also have a case against the winner, and so the chaos would pile up.

    The devil gets inside me thinker sometimes and makes it a playground. It’s kinda fun!

  4. such language could lead to hatred of foreigners, especially by “less knowledgeable members of the public.”

    Detestable. This is a constant theme on the left. They assume that science and learning always vindicate their worldview. They never consider that there are more reasons for people to disagree with them than idiocy and dishonesty.

    1. Everyone is free to think whatever they want, believe whatever they want to. I don’t think “Science and learning” has the derogatory clout you were hoping for.
      And your worldview?

  5. Awwwww! Are we having a group Trump Pout at Reason today?

    Coochie coochie coo!

    1. Trump Pout sounds like an old-timey name for hemorrhoids.

  6. Love the ads:
    “New Solar Panels Leave Energy Companies Outraged”
    (image of solar panel ‘farm’ with three obviously Arab figures p-shopped in)
    Yep, GET them Ayrabs!

  7. What does that headline even mean? How is the first amendment the only thing protecting him? Does Reason honestly think that if there were no first amendment the government would necessarily be after Trump? Maybe but I doubt it.

    1. If there were no 1st Amendment, wouldn’t we already have federal hate speech laws like Europe has? I know it’s a counterfactual, but 2008-2010 would have been the perfect time to pass ObamaSpeech.

      1. Not to mention the fact that the plethora of campaign finance laws we would have without the First Amendment would likely make a Trump run significantly less attractive.

        1. Why? Trump seems to be financing himself, it’s even possible that at this point his campaign is making money!

          1. And do you think people who want campaign finance law are okay with billionaires being allowed to fund their own campaigns?

            1. The people who want campaign finance just want the other side not to be financed. However currently I suspect there is nothing proposed to stop billionaires financing their own campaign though that is probably because (afaik) it’s not happened before.

    2. The level of pantshittering the Reason staff is displaying has become hilarious.

    3. Still not reading the articles, John?

  8. having the government impose religious tests designed to single Muslims out for abuse.

    This would make a better article if you just left the real examples and didn’t use not real ones. I don’t get the appeal of lying.

    It should be pointed out that saying without the first amendment we wouldn’t have Trump is the same argument used to get rid of the first amendment.

    1. Is not letting a foreigner into the country “abuse”?

  9. Dear Reason staff,

    I didn’t believe it possible for people to so thoroughly shit their pants over a single person. I now stand corrected and am in awe at the spectacle.

    We get it, Trump is a piece of shit and no one should vote for him. I agree, lots of people agree, the majority of people if I remember correctly.

    A couple of thoughts:

    It’s impossible to be bigoted towards an ideology and people that subscribe to that ideology. A religion is just an ideology about how life should be lived, no different than any other ideology. I see no reason to give religion a special seat at the table of ideas that makes it immune to criticism and shunning. If someone wanted a database of Neo-Nazis would you be shitting your pants this bad? If not, why not? Most Neo-Nazis haven’t killed anyone either. If you must make your arguments, I would suggest dropping the whole bigoted shtick.

    Also, I read somewhere that Trump has only spent $300,000 so far on his marketing and media campaign compared to Jeb Bush’s $42 million. Perhaps you are contributing more to Trump’s campaign than you are taking away as compared to if you just ignored him.

    1. If you must make your arguments, I would suggest dropping the whole bigoted shtick.

      Good thing you’re the first one to use the term on this page, then, I guess.

      1. Check under the headline.

        You fail.

      2. Also stop trying to be contrary and cute. Reason writes and the regular commenters (obviously not a word but I’m inventing it) regularly use bigot and “Islamophobic” to describe Trump.

    2. So Trump sucks, but Reason should stop saying that he sucks because Muslims are insidious, dirty, and dangerous?

      1. Muslims are dangerous, and it’s not “collectivizing” or “bigotry” to say so.

        There’s a distinction that many fail to grasp. It would be bigotry to say that every single Muslim was dangerous. Obviously that’s not the case. But every single cigarette, or shot of whiskey, or hit off of a crack pipe, is not dangerous, either. One of each of those things is very unlikely to harm your health in a noticeable way, much less kill you. But statistically, the more of them you consume, the more likely you are to get lung cancer, heart disease, addicted, etc. And the more Muslims a society has, the more likely it is to have religious violence and oppression.

        It’s in our Enlightenment small-l liberal DNA to believe in religious freedom, which leads us to the false conclusion that all religions are alike. They aren’t. Islam has a strong political aspect, and has so much violence built into it that it’s the only religion where the more devout you are, the more likely you are to be violent about it.

        1. All religions are equally false, but they’re not all equally dangerous, and Islam is the most dangerous of the religions in the world today. That is true. It’s telling, though, that you use this fact as an excuse to justify your preexisting hatred of dirty brown people. They carry disease, you know.

          1. So you agree with his premise but then fall back on the ole, “yea but you hate brown people” routine.

            Pathetic and tired.

            Why do you presume someone has to be brown to be a muslim? Or that all brown people are predisposed toward Islam or some other non-European religion. Are you being racist toward those sacred brown people by projecting such an idea? If not, why not?

            Christianity was first spread to brown people so why do you take an attack on another religion as an attack on brown people? Perhaps you are being bigoted toward white and brown people together why accusing others of doing so. If not, why not?

          2. No, I don’t have “a preexisting hatred of dirty brown people.” Objecting to mass illegal immigration is something different. Try to grasp the distinction.

      2. I said no such thing. I’m merely pointing out the absurdity of the bigotry and “Islamophobia” angles that Reason and all other media are pursuing.

        There can be no such thing and if if someone does hate Muslims then I believe they are well within their rights and are not engaging in bigotry. Everyone hates someone because of their beliefs and ideas and religion should be no exception. Islam is a shit ideology.

        I don’t support Trump’s ideas but Reason can’t go five minutes without running a Trump article. I would like to know more about Cruz/Rubio/Paul/Clinton/Sanders and their strengths and weaknesses, laws and regulations that harm everyone and why, economics and why/how our current system is no good, alternatives to our shitty two party system, shitty court rulings, and so on.

        Not a damn Trump article every other article.

  10. Additionally, I can only speak for myself here, but I’m much more concerned about Sanders robbing everyone blind and fucking over the whole country and making us much poorer than I am about some Muslims being fucked over because they believe in superstitious nonsense.

    I am not concerned about Trump or Carson because they stand zero chance of being elected. Carson is already imploding and Trump will eventually cross one line too far.

    Also, in my opinion he can’t trash the 1st, 4th, or 5th amendments because those amendments are either already trashed or are under attack from multiple angles, with Trump being a single angle.

    1. Trump has far, far more than zero chance. I would not endorse Scott Adams’ prediction that Trump will win with 65% of the vote, but I think he may well win.

      1. If that happens, look to the Reason staff to spontaneously combust like a Spinal Tap drummer…..

        1. Heads would explode all over the political spectrum. It would be awesome that way. And there’s a large segment of the electorate that is so ticked off with both major parties that I think it has a good chance of happening. Like I say: Trump 2016: For the Lulz.

          1. Lots of heads would explode – almost all of them likely due to Trump pressing that red button, because… job stealing!

      2. He’s polling like what, 40% in the Republican Primary?

        That means 60% don’t like him. I don’t see him getting any support from other candidates supporters. Either you like Trump or you don’t.

  11. Did Trump go to Yale or something?

  12. I think pro-censorship people can have a consistent position.

    They want to censor people and ideas which are false and dangerous.

    They’re the people *warning* about the falsehood and danger, not the people who are false and dangerous.

    Therefore, their opponents should be censored, not them.

    They would admit, probably, the risk of their opponents taking power and censoring them, but they would compare that to losing a battle and having the enemy able to do you damage. It doesn’t mean you should refrain from doing damage to the enemy.

  13. More butthurt over trump…. Yummy!!!!!!

  14. The European Court of Human Rights affirmed the conviction on the ground that such language could lead to hatred of foreigners, especially by “less knowledgeable members of the public.”

    Ahhh, the noble contempt for the commoner.

  15. ??? No Judge, in the history of the US, has ever been a First Amendment absolutist.

    Which means that the interesting question is not what the First Amendment says, but what exceptions are going to be permitted to the First Amendment.

    For example, the First Amendment does not protect threats or child pornography. The First Amendment does not protect speech in furtherance of a conspiracy to commit a crime. The First Amendment does not protect libel or slander. The First Amendment allows an injunction to pre-emptively prohibit speech in certain circumstances.

    So you can say that you would make different exceptions to the First Amendment than Donald Trump, but it is silly to pretend you are the Champion of First Amendment rights, and Trump isn’t.

    Many constitutional scholars have noted that the First Amendment does not apply to groups seeking to recruit or to further violent revolution against the Government. Certainly, groups like ISIS, claiming to represent true Islam, are using speech to recruit and enable terrorist acts against American citizens, and to foment revolutions to create illiberal societies totally antithetical to American values.

    While Trump presents a very simplistic view, the reality is very grey as far as where these lines should be drawn. Trump, contrary our editorialists, deserves credit for at least acknowledging that some new lines need to be drawn in order to avoid the subversion of our way of life by violent revolutionaries and terrorists.

    1. No Judge, in the history of the US, has ever been a First Amendment absolutist.

      Because they are authoritarian traitors. I know it’s a tradition to violate the highest law of the land, but we should discard that tradition, not encourage it.

      Which means that the interesting question is not what the First Amendment says

      No, that is the interesting question, because it tells us whether or not the current government is actually following the constitution. Hint: It isn’t.

      For example, the First Amendment does not protect […]

      The first amendment very much protects those things. Authoritarian judges might say it doesn’t, but they are simply incorrect.

      So you can say that you would make different exceptions to the First Amendment than Donald Trump, but it is silly to pretend you are the Champion of First Amendment rights, and Trump isn’t.

      What!? You first start by talking about what arbitrary limitations judges have placed on the first amendment, and then move on to pretend that because judges have done those things, that individuals must agree with it. I don’t agree with those judges, so I am a champion of first amendment rights. Trump certainly isn’t.

      Giving up everyone’s fundamental liberties for safety is cowardly and unethical, even if that safety is real.

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