Wherein Coyote is Thrilled to be Out of Step with Europe

After digging a First Amendment hole for itself in the Plame affair, the New York Times seems to still be hell-bent on narrowing the very First Amendment protections that probably kept its employees out of jail in the early 70's.  Specifically, the Times frets that the US is out of step with Europe in having a much broader view of freedom of speech:

Six years later, a state court judge in New York dismissed
a libel case brought by several Puerto Rican groups against a business
executive who had called food stamps "basically a Puerto Rican
program." The First Amendment, Justice Eve M. Preminger wrote, does not
allow even false statements about racial or ethnic groups to be
suppressed or punished just because they may increase "the general
level of prejudice."

Some prominent legal scholars say the United States should reconsider its position on hate speech.

"It
is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken," Jeremy Waldron, a
legal philosopher, wrote in The New York Review of Books last month,
"when they say that a liberal democracy must take affirmative
responsibility for protecting the atmosphere of mutual respect against
certain forms of vicious attack."

In the 1970's, members of my family worked in the oil industry, and we received numerous death threats of varying believability, and several of our friends received letter bombs or had family members kidnapped.  Many of these attacks and threats were directly traceable to certain media shows that featured editorial attacks on the oil industry.  So is the Times suggesting that the media should hold off on its criticism of the oil industry because this criticism created an atmosphere of hate in which these attacks were conducted?

No freaking way, because these calls to limit criticism and "hate speech" always have an ideological filter.  There is never a suggestion that the speech bans be even-handed.  Criticism of African Americans is outlawed, but exactly parallel language about white folks is A-OK.  Criticising Islam is out, but Christianity is a fine target.  Death threats against Haitian activists must be avoided at all costs, but death threats against corporate executives are no reflection on free speech or the media.  The article is quite explicit that by their definition, hate speech only applies to "minorities," which you can translate to mean "groups the political class has decided to protect."  You may be assured that members of the political class will find a way to get themselves included in this definition, so they can be free of criticism,

Kudos to Harvey Silvergate, who even makes the exact same point I have made about Hitler a number of times:

"Free speech matters because it works," Mr. Silverglate continued.
Scrutiny and debate are more effective ways of combating hate speech
than censorship, he said, and all the more so in the post-Sept. 11 era.

"The world didn't suffer because too many people read "˜Mein Kampf,' " Mr. Silverglate said. "Sending Hitler on a speaking tour of the United States would have been quite a good idea."

I will add that I am also happy to be out of step with Europe in terms of any number of other policies, including American libel law, or laws that make it ever so much easier to start a business, and European tolerance for a cozy business-political elite that, whatever their party, focuses on keeping their elite wealthy and powerful.

  • SD Mojo

    The fact that this topic is being debated, reported, or litigated (in Canada)means that we have already lost. When enough people reject American exceptionalism, America ceases to be exceptional.

  • Fred from Canuckistan . . .

    oh so glad to not be in Jolly old England . .

    "FUEL CRISIS: Forget warnings of panic at the pumps. Britain is set to lose nearly half its electricity in six years

    By Christopher Booker

    Time running out for our power network? Our capacity will almost be halved in six years

    Every day we hear that Britain is facing a 'fuel crisis'. The world oil price breaks records every week. The cost of petrol and gas soars. Foreign suppliers of gas and oil are holding Britain to ransom and charging exorbitant prices. The average family, we are told, faces fuel bills of £1,500 a year.

    Yet all this pales into insignificance compared with the real energy crisis roaring down on Britain with the speed of a bullet train as, within six or seven years, we stand to lose 40 per cent of all our existing electricity-generating capacity."

    rtr http://tinyurl.com/54zgre

  • http://www.aguanomics.com/ David Zetland

    Hear Hear! Let everyone say everything! All this "hate speech" stuff sounds suspiciously like "they hate us for our freedoms", i.e., delusional and subjective misinterpretations of reality

  • Luis Dias

    Ahahaha! Great funny comments.

    Well, I respect the blogger's opinion, but "free speech" in america is also a fantasy. You can always be charged of defamation, as far as I know, so where's the free speech? And history shows that unless we have some high respect for the minorities, we should at least protect them by law. In the ww2, the former was not present and the jews were almost wiped out in germany. You should understand that if USA had such an history, then you would have such laws. There's nothing special about the US apart from the fact that hitler wasn't born in it.

  • bbartlog

    The utilitarian defense of free speech has always left me a little uncomfortable. It's a weak defense; I much prefer one that is founded on the idea of free speech as an inalienable human right. Not least because I think that people who point to negative consequences of free speech are occasionally right. You can find cases where free speech has negative consequences. Once you acknowledge that, a purely utilitarian defense of free speech invites opponents to carve exceptions.

    “Sending Hitler on a speaking tour of the United States would have been quite a good idea.”

    I think here I would have to side with the guy (Churchill?) who said we were lucky that Hitler didn't speak English. I have listened to his speeches (I speak German) and he did have an eerie power of oratory.

  • tehag

    "There's nothing special about the US apart from the fact that hitler wasn't born in it."

    And one more: Hitler (Stalin, Castro, et. al.) didn't achieve power here, nor have his imitators:Dewey, H. Wallace, Sanger, Obama (well, not yet).

  • BlacquesJacquesShellacques

    I'm Canadian and optimistic. The recent extreme follies of our Human "Rights" Commissions are the beginning of their end. The sunlight shining on them will burn them out.

    As for Mr. Dias, bad news, you're wrong on all counts. The USA has free speech. You cannot be charged with 'defamation, although you might get sued if you defame someone, but even if sued the courts will not prevent you from repeating the statements. You can continue the defamation until you are bankrupt but no hand will be raised to shut you up. Google "Prior Restraint".

    The USA does protect minorities by law - its Constitution and many of its laws blither on about "All men are created equal". Geddit? "Equal", and it means equal, not like in Europe where some pigs is more equal than others. George Orwell made a laughingstock of European notions of equality and minorities many long years ago. Europeans are also all Bourbons: they have forgotten nothing and learned nothing.

    What's special about the USA is that it's not run by Europeans, who are totalitarian to the bone.

  • Luis Dias

    "nor have his imitators: Dewey, H. Wallace, Sanger, Obama (well, not yet)."

    Ahahaha! Obama is like hitler and stalin. Oh boy. Godwin's law anyone?

    "As for Mr. Dias, bad news, you're wrong on all counts. The USA has free speech. You cannot be charged with 'defamation, although you might get sued if you defame someone"

    Which is it, mr Blacques-not-very-coherent-man? You cannot be charged with defamation, but "might" get sued? Is it a charge or not? DOH!

    "You can continue the defamation until you are bankrupt but no hand will be raised to shut you up."

    Unless we are talking about nazism in germany, you just described how things are dealt with in europe. So spread your totalitarian bullshit in your insanity house instead.

    "What's special about the USA is that it's not run by Europeans, who are totalitarian to the bone."

    What's special about the USA is that it's run by a majority of complete idiots who believe their capital is NY, that OVNIS are proof of alien's existence, and that europeans are totalitarians. Nevermind that you live in a country where invading other countries and turning them into medieval ruins is helluvajob and great for excitement news coverage! Nevermind that you live in a country where your leader invokes god's wisdom whispering in his ear that iraq was to be invaded. Oh, no, that's not dangerous rethoric, not at ALL. Fear the totalitarian europeans who advised for so long the stupid mistake that was invading a sovereign country with no reason other than oil.

    Man, do you live in coocooland? Oh boy, why do I even ask!

    Well, fear us then. Because for the first time since the middle 20 century, we have a common coin, and you can't simply inflate your economic turmoil at our expense, without destroying the dollar. Fear is the only tool of the monopolists who for too long have dominated the globe economics. Well, now you have competition. So fear us, if you are truly a fool. For the best of answers is not fear but hope and work. Globalization is here, and unless you start working hard, it will hit you hard!

  • http://hallofrecord.blogspot.com Bruce Hall

    Warren,

    I had a similar post that I took down. After reading the article three times, I decided that the NY Times could be given the benefit of the doubt because it covered both sides of the issue... which is what reasonable reporting is all about.

    Initially, my reaction was the same as yours, "Sit on it, NY Times." But even if their point was that we are too lenient in our freedom of speech, the point that comes across is that we are fortunate to have such an open interpretation of that freedom.

  • BlacquesJacquesShellacques

    Oh Mr. Dias, what a response, lovely, let me deconstruct it a bit.

    Charged v. Sued:

    1 "Is it a charge or not?". It's not a charge and only a European would pretend to misunderstand the difference between criminal and civil matters.

    2 "Unless we are talking about nazism in germany, you just described how things are dealt with in europe."

    Oh really? Are the Balkans no longer part of Europe? Did all of those corpses in the various bits of the former Yugoslavia get shipped in from somewhere? Are the various collapsed pieces of the old USSR un-European entirely? And that's just recently. Europe has a long, violent, nasty history and the USA has none, except for slaves, and over 100 years ago they fought amongst themselves a huge war to end slavery. I have personally seen how Turks are treated in Germany within the last 2 years so I don't believe your fairy tales about how well the Europeans treat minorities. And surely the Jews can see what's coming at them, again, from the lovely Europeans.

    "So spread your totalitarian bullshit in your insanity house instead." OK, I will.

    "What's special about the USA is that it's run by a majority of complete idiots who believe their capital is NY, that OVNIS are proof of alien's existence, and that europeans are totalitarians."

    You will have noted from my comment above that I travel in Europe. I am fluent in German and speak French passably. My experience is the Europeans are far more ignorant and insular than Americans. Both places have their ignorant and stupid, but only the Europeans are self righteous and smug and it makes their ignorance invincible. Americans are often ignorant but rarely smug about it. They are just completely disinterested in many things, especially you, and it drives you crazy.

    "Nevermind that you live in a country where invading other countries and turning them into medieval ruins is helluvajob and great for excitement news coverage! Nevermind that you live in a country where your leader invokes god's wisdom whispering in his ear that iraq was to be invaded. Oh, no, that's not dangerous rethoric, not at ALL. Fear the totalitarian europeans who advised for so long the stupid mistake that was invading a sovereign country with no reason other than oil."

    Mr. Dias, read my original comment. I do not live in the USA, but rather in Canada, so all your insults are wasted.

    Are Euro-weenies still talking about "medieval ruins"? Is that like the "brutal Afghan winter"? The American invasion did a reasonable minimum of damage and the Americans are, at their own expense, repairing the place, which was a dump before the war started. Just like they repaired Europe a while ago. At their own expense. Please let me know when Europe is prepared to cut a big check for anything remotely like that.

    If W said he talked to God before the invasion, and I don't recall that, well good for him. Don't I frequently hear European leaders invoking God?

    The tired, discredited old meme of "the invasion was for oil" always interests me because it's so unreal. Are you saying the Americans seized oil? Because, you know, the fact is, they didn't and don't. They buy it. For cash. At market prices. But don't let facts interfere with your argument, Europeans never do.

    "Well, fear us then. Because for the first time since the middle 20 century, we have a common coin, and you can't simply inflate your economic turmoil at our expense, without destroying the dollar."

    Actually, we don't fear you. Please note that I am laughing at you. Hopeless, bumbling, incompetent asses, blithering about 'common coin' when you have economic growth and unemployment worse than the USA's even when the USA is in a bit of a slump.

    "Fear is the only tool of the monopolists who for too long have dominated the globe economics. Well, now you have competition."

    Like I said, no we don't have competition, not from you, maybe the Chinese or other Asians, but Europe? Nah. And as for monopolists, the Americans pioneered trust-busting. The Europeans always loved their monopolies and still do. Its a totalitarian kind of thing. Big Government, Big Companies, Big Egos.

    "So fear us, if you are truly a fool. For the best of answers is not fear but hope and work. Globalization is here, and unless you start working hard, it will hit you hard!"

    "Working hard": The best for last. France has a legal prohibition on working hard. 35 hours a week maximum. In the USA and Canada we have no such thing, and guess what, we, and in particular the Americans, work much, much more than the sleepy, dozy bumbling totalitarians that mooch around an economically stagnant Europe whining about the USA but too chickenshit to fund their own defense.

  • Zach

    "You can always be charged of defamation, as far as I know"

    You know nothing. As was pointed out earlier, defamation is almost always a civil matter, not a criminal one. The few states that have criminal statutes on defamation rarely enforce them, due to Constitutionality concerns.

    Defamation (via libel or slander) is actually difficult to win in the US, even with the relaxed standards of proof in civil actions ("a preponderance of evidence") as compared to criminal cases ("beyond a reasonable doubt"). First, truth is an absolute defense. As long as I haven't breached a contract (an NDA or similar) or professional privilege (medical confidentiality, legal confidentiality, etc.), anything that I say about you that I can prove is true, regardless of how damaging it is to you, is fair game.

    Second, you have to prove that you suffered actual, quantifiable damages as a result of my remarks. This is where most defamation cases get thrown out.

  • Zach

    Oh, and speaking of American ignorance, which version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire features a guy who doesn't know which of {the sun, the moon, Mars, Venus} revolves around the earth, and also features 56% of an audience that thinks it's the sun, and another 2% that thinks it's Mars? It sure wasn't the American version (cough cough French cough).

  • George Weinberg

    There's nothing special about the US apart from the fact that hitler wasn't born in it.

    Hitler wasn't born in Germany either.

  • JPGR

    GREAT post, I could not agree more. Look at what Mark Steyn is going through in Canada where "hate speech" is not free speech. It seems that here in the US, when someone is really spewing actual hate speech, they just embarass themselves or passers-by laugh and ridicule them.

    Let's hope cooler heads prevail when Pelosi and co. reintroduce the so called "fairness doctrine". What a load of sh*t...the only fair thing about it is for her benefit, that no one can dissent from her ultra-liberal views.