New York Times

The New York Times Joins the 'ISIS Is Too Scary For Free Speech' Movement

The Grey Lady gets cold feet about the First Amendment.

|

In an article published yesterday titled "ISIS Influence on Web Prompts Second

PANIC!

Thoughts on First Amendment," Erick Eckholm of The New York Times spilled a lot of ink on the idea that the American style of anything-goes-including-really-bad-ideas freedom of speech is just too risky in the era of ISIS, a threat supposedly so great to our security that one of our most sacred human rights must be permanently curbed to defend against it. 

Eckholm's piece is not an op-ed, so it shouldn't be confused with a tacit endorsement of any of the ideas therein. But the headline and framing of the arguments clearly suggest that some of the "Second Thoughts on the First Amendment" include his own. 

The article dutifully and uncritically rounds up bad, panicky, unconstitutional ideas like Donald Trump's "close that internet up" proposal, Hillary Clinton's suggestion that the government exert pressure on private companies to block ISIS-related materials from their websites, and calls to ban even non-jihadist speeches by slain Islamist radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. But no one gets a bigger platform than University of Chicago law professor and avowed nemesis of free speech, Eric Posner.

From the Times article:

Mr. Posner supported urging companies like Facebook and YouTube to crack down on propaganda by the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL, but said that could never be fully effective. He proposed, in addition, passing a law to deter potential consumers from viewing dangerous sites. While the law would apply to all Internet users, his goal, admittedly limited, is to head off the radicalization of those he described as "naïve people" who research the Islamic State out of curiosity, "rather than sophisticated terrorists."

His proposal would make it illegal to go onto websites that glorify the Islamic State or support its recruitment, or to distribute links to such sites. He would impose graduated penalties, starting with a warning letter, then fines or prison for repeat offenders, to convey that "looking at ISIS-related websites, like looking at websites that display child pornography, is strictly forbidden."

Earlier this month, I took umbrage with Posner's idea that criminalizing dissemination and consumption of ISIS-glorifying materials would do anything to preserve national security from the threat of potentially explosive "naive people." Even Posner admitted that all he expected his proposed thought-crime law would do was put a "dent in recruitment" for ISIS. Posner also conceded in his interview with the Times that such a law would be struck down, probably unanimously, by the Supreme Court.

The article contains quotes from exactly two free speech proponents, one of whom gets to make the requisite "slippery slope" dissent, which is the easiest turn of phrase for proponents of more restrictive speech laws to roll their eyes at. Posner's University of Chicago colleague Geoffrey Stone is allowed a bit more of a substantive quote in defense of the First Amendment:

We've learned over 200 years of history that what seems like a sensible approach in the heat of the moment, in terms of restricting speech, is highly likely to be a bad judgment.

Unfortunately, Eckholm's conclusion appears to be that the seed of doubt has been planted among reasonable thinkers that the First Amendment is a weapon which our enemies will use to smite us, lest we fail to overreact. To make this point, he quotes Stone, of all people:

If more Americans who were indoctrinated by jihadist videos engage in terrorist attacks, they also agree, the court's thinking could change. "Five years from now, who knows?" Mr. Stone said. "You can imagine a scenario in which things get so terrible that you start watering down the protections."

"I don't think we're anywhere near that point now," he said.

Not now…but soon?

NEXT: Is Assortative Mating Responsible for Rising Income Inequality?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Well, it’s the NYT. What were you expecting, for them to suddenly come out as a big proponent of liberty?

    1. “Free Speech for Me, but Not for Thee,” ch. 1,987,538.

      1. Freedom for me to spew government propaganda and for you to shut up.

    2. You don’t think their big investor Carlos Slim is a free speech fan?

  2. The New York Times Joins the ‘ISIS Is Too Scary For Free Speech’ Movement
    The Grey Lady gets cold feet about the First Amendment.

    You say it as if the editors ever had convictions.

    1. Or were ever consistent supporters of free speech.

      1. If that they had feet.

  3. Finally, a well-regarded publication like the New York Times, an organization which has never benefited from nor fought for free speech, is beginning to see that while the First Amendment has many positive aspects, there are also negative aspects, and we have to do all we can to minimize those negative aspects so that we can remain safe from tyranny.

  4. The thing that irritates me about this entire discussion is that anti-speech activists assume that all forms of ‘taboo’ or ‘forbidden’ speech will, with a Svengali-like efficacy, convince even reasonable Americans to strap themselves with explosives and walk into a Sbarro in the name of ISIS.

    Presumably the real issue is that progs have invested so much time in molding generations of Americans to emote rather than critically think in order to push their brain-dead agenda that they are at risk of something more extreme taking root instead. I mean, if critical thought is out of the question, why not?

  5. Erick Eckholm of The New York Times spilled a lot of ink on the idea that the American style of anything-goes-including-really-bad-ideas freedom of speech is just too risky in the era of ISIS[…]

    And of course the answer is responsible speech, like the one maintained by established periodicals of good stance like The New York Times and not this messy and ugly collage of free speech we see in the Internet these days. Because order and cooperation are better than chaos and competition.

    Of course taking care of the mess would require scary men (and women) with guns, kicking down doors in the middle of the night, but who cares about those details right now? We have a crisis in our hands, for cripes sake!

  6. He proposed, in addition, passing a law to deter potential consumers from viewing dangerous sites.

    Am I the only one who can see the obvious solution to the problem of terrorism? Make terrorism itself illegal, dummies!

    1. Prohibition doesn’t work.

      1. Woooooooooosh

  7. I think we have reached the point where the next logical step is a “Jihadi Madness” movie. I knew this guy who once got the ISIS on him and he became an allah-fueled superhuman who couldn’t feel pain and couldn’t be reasoned with, etc.

    1. superhuman who couldn’t feel pain and couldn’t be reasoned with, etc.

      Hit and Run’s own John has been shooting up with ISIS?

    2. I hear Eric Posner can’t be reasoned with.

      1. And he WILL NOT STOP until the First Amendment is dead.

    3. “…a “Jihadi Madness” movie….”

      This would feature pure, white maidens ravished by brown heathens, correct?
      Pretty sure the story writes itself…

      1. I have seen many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many similar films, and I have a feeling this is going to make some money.

        1. Do you perhaps have a newsletter that I could subscribe to?

          1. An illustrated newsletter, por favor.

    4. Isn’t you Jihadi Madness movie every Islamonutter recruiting video, ever? Becoming “an allah-fueled superhuman who couldn’t feel pain and couldn’t be reasoned with” IS their sales pitch, isn’t it?

  8. Well if the NYT says it, it is clearly the sane, sober, rational moderate view.

    1. Or the hardcore leftist view, which is the same as moderate now that the goalpost has been moved sufficiently leftward. Anyone right of Mao is now a radical extremist.

    2. And remember, it’s only Reason who reports from a rigid ideological perspective and thus should be disregarded.

      1. Well, there’s no doubt that the NYT staff would consider the cosmos here as radical extremist right wingers. Imagine what they would think if they lowered themselves to read the comments. They would probably pee in their footed jammies and spill their tofu lattes.

        1. “Imagine what they would think if they lowered themselves to read the comments”

          They’d probably demand that the Justice Department issue subpoenas to silence this dangerous, anti-government rhetoric. LOL like that would ever happen.

          1. It would be known as the latter Woodchipper wars.

  9. The first and 2nd amendments are not compatible with a progressive utopia.

    1. They also have never been compatible with the United States of America, in practice, either.

  10. Here’s a wacky idea: how’s about we stop aiding the vile, worthless Saudi government, whose aide to Wahhabi clerics completely created the modern extremist Muslim movement?

    1. Because we don’t want to stop the worthless Saudi government from aiding Wahhabi clerics and creating extremists?

      I can’t really understand why the Sauds would do that anyway. Most of the royals in those countries are international playboys and hedonists who party all of the time. Aren’t they scared of the jihadists?

      1. They are protected because they bankroll jihadists.

        1. What happens when the jihadists get enough power that they start eyeing the Sauds’ oil riches?

          1. The Saudis go to war, that’s what.

            What do you think has been happening in Yemen, anyway?

    2. Well, not completely: there’s still the Shiite nuts from Iran, Hezbollah, etc.

  11. For supposedly “progressive” people they have pretty reactionary attitudes toward Freedom of Speech. How exactly is what they are saying different from 19th European aristocratic conservatives?

    1. Shhhh. We’re supposed to pretend not to notice all of the horseshoe politics going on around us.

      1. You misspelled horseshit.

    2. Progressive is a nice word for leftist authoritarian. Just take a look at the latest ‘progression’ of it on university campuses. They’ve just come right out in the open now about their hatred of free speech.

      1. You Know Which Other Country had University students calling for the end of Freedom of Speech?

        1. Mao’s China?

        2. These days, probably most of them.

  12. Didn’t all of the Democratic Senators vote to gut the first amendment.

    1. I seem to remember someone at least talking about sponsoring a bill to repeal or water down the first. Who was that? I’m sure it was a Democrat.

        1. I should have figured that Reid had something to do with it.

  13. Hmmm. Never occurs to these guys that that newfound power of the government that they were so eager to grant might someday be used against them.

    The older I get, the more I realize that A Man For All Seasons should be required viewing in high schools, if only for the Devil Speech.

    1. Hilary Mantel has a sad.

    2. Too religious for public schools, probably. It would be censored out like Linus’ speech from the production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

  14. Popehat showed Posner to be a deceptive piece of shit a week ago.

    1. This is pretty good:

      When the law is against you, argue the facts. When the facts are against you, argue the law. When the law and the facts are against you, you are Eric Posner.

      1. Eric POSner, I lol.

  15. Where’s my shocked face? I thought it was right here on the desk, but i don’t see it. Oh well.

  16. It really is surprising how cowardly so many people are in the face of these threats . . .

    If there ever were a significant, legitimate, domestic terrorist threat here in the U.S., they would find that people on the left are eager to capitulate.

    1. Well they have an opportunity to gut the first amendment so why not use it?

    2. And the fact that they’re too fucking stupid to realize that acting cowardly will be seen by the jihadists as weakness and will further embolden them. I mean, I can’t even blame the jihadists for that, there’s nothing more disgusting than a bunch of fucking men acting like giant pussies.

      1. Forget the jihadis.

        What would they do with an all American, homegrown, IRA style, separatist bombing campaign?

        Capitulate, that’s what.

        The left loves to smear the right as American Taliban. What would they do if something like that really emerged?

        Depend on honest right wing people to fight the domestic terrorists and call for capitulation to the root causes of terrorism, that’s what they’d do.

  17. you first asshole

  18. ISIS is just a stalking horse. The people that the NYT really wants to shut down are the bitter clingers, “extremist” Republicans, Tea Party types, the Koch Brothers, gun owners, woodchipper owners, and those waco-bird, anti-government libertarians.

    When it comes to shutting down ISIS on the web, any government censorship office will be just another government agency. When it comes to shutting down the political enemies of those running the government, that office will transform into a model of ruthless efficiency.

    1. Ding ding. “Never let a crisis go to waste”.

    2. After all, aren’t we constantly told that “domestic extremists” are a bigger threat than Muslims?

  19. Eckholm of The New York Times spilled a lot of ink on the idea that the American style of anything-goes-including-really-bad-ideas freedom of speech is just too risky in the era of ISIS

    Oh, really? Then why the fuck did he write *that*?

  20. I read the article and actually it was pretty balanced. This is a warning that people out there are trying to take away our rights, and characterizes the arguments for both sides nor do you offer any other arguments so I don’t see why you are hyperventilating about it. But yes they are trying to start a War on Speech now that the War on Drugs is dying down. They think we should follow the lead of Europe (France and Belgium): ‘”zero tolerance” of extremist preachers’ : http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12…..lgium.html

  21. It simply astounds me when someone wants to ascribe Constitutional Rights to sworn enemies of the United States of America., whether they be foreign or domestic. Stupid is as Stupid does. We’re arguing over a straw dog here folks. For cryin’ out loud… political correctness IS MIND CONTROL and SPEECH CONTROL beyond what Lenin, Pol Pot, and Kim could possibly imagine. But, the American masses abide by it like the freaking Zombies they are. Not a thinking soul is left to stop the insanity. Congratulations to our public schools and secondary education system!

    1. No the people who think we need to protect people from scary web sites because what about the children are the zombies creating zombies. Use your brain, it might hurt a little at first, that’s a good sign.

  22. I do not understand this terrorist freak out, 20 people or so die (which happens every week in Chicago) and everyone is tripping over themselves to reinstate all of the failed 9/11 policies and then some.

  23. We should try to impede ISIS’ efforts. They’re providing the important public service of showing u which Millenial submorons really need shooting.

    1. The one who is king u from an edit button needs at least a wounding.

      1. AAARRRGH!

        “The one who is keeping us from…”

  24. We should not try to impede ISIS’ efforts. They’re providing the important public service of showing u which Millenial submorons really need shooting.

  25. Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with it.

    http://www.GoneAnon.tk

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.