Monday, May 15, 2006

Received pronunciation

Pajamas Media has a roundup of efforts to prosecute bloggers essentially for expressing an opinion. Michael Rubin describes his lecture trip through Iceland.

Word of trouble began to percolate in the morning of the first lecture. A local antiwar activist was demanding my arrest as a war criminal. My crimes were multifold: Writing an article blaming Saddam Hussein—not United Nations sanctions—for Iraqi deaths, and then advocating for Iraqi liberation. This made me responsible for “war-crimes and violating international law by indirectly causing the invasion of Iraq.” ... Rather than ignore the incidents, both newspapers and television reported it. I was already in Finland when I got an e-mail informing me that the police commissioner dismissed the lawsuit.

The incident would be laughable if it did not foreshadow a growing phenomenon seeking to criminalize debate that is sweeping progressive, libertarian, and antiwar groups at home and abroad. Blogger Juan Cole, for example, a popular anti-Bush pundit, demanded the FBI investigate how Walid Phares “became the ‘terrorism analyst’ at MSNBC.” On June 1, 2004, blogger Laura Rozen lamented that someone she disagreed with was not the subject of an FBI investigation. On September 20, 2004, libertarian Justin Raimondo urged the FBI to “indict the Neocon War Party for treason.” Perhaps hyperbole, but it is dangerous to smear political opponents with death-penalty offenses.

Paul Belien of the Brussels Journal is in a more vulnerable position. Following a rampage by a high school student against a Turkish woman, a Flemist toddler and his black nanny, he finds himself accused of inciting hate speech.

Following last Thursday’s Antwerp massacre the Belgian authorities have announced zero tolerance for racism. Belgian journalists, lawyers and politicians (including Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt), say that I am responsible for creating the atmosphere of hatred that led to the massacre. Some people even demand that I be prosecuted.

Belgian television and the Brussels papers say that the Antwerp shoot-out is the result of my writings. Regular readers of The Brussels Journal know my view well enough: I have repeatedly defended the view that Muslim immigrants are not to blame for Europe's predicament. The latter is entirely of our own making. Europeans have foolishly replaced God by the State as the one on whom they rely to take care of all their needs from cradle to grave. The religious vacuum has led to a demographic vacuum, because those who lose faith in God lose faith in the future as well. A civilization that has created a religious and a demographic vacuum is bound to perish.

The lights are turning out for Europe. If America follows Europe’s example Christendom is lost.

Belien provides further details.

During the past few weeks I have been under attack from the Belgian Left and the media. In February the editor in chief of the mass circulation weekly Knack (a supposedly centrist publication) wrote a piece entitled “Paul Belien and His Pals,” claiming that I was part of a neo-con conspiracy, led by Daniel Pipes (whom until then I had never met or spoken) and the Danish journalist Flemming Rose (of the Muhammad cartoons), who wanted “to anger radical but also moderate Muslims into violent action.

The Anchoress notes that certain political views can be literally dangerous to your health. A British anti-abortion protester has been denied health care because of his views.

Edward Atkinson, a 75-year-old anti-abortion activist, was jailed recently for 28 days for sending photographs of aborted foetuses to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. That draconian sentence was not deemed punishment enough: the hospital has banned Mr Atkinson from receiving the hip replacement operation he was expecting. ... Ruth May, the hospital’s chief executive, claims that the ban is justified because the “offensive” publications he mailed caused “great distress” to her and her staff and thus contravened the NHS policy of “zero tolerance”. Some may already feel that such policies make it seem as if a hospital’s priority is to protect its staff against the patients, rather than protecting patients from illness. This case goes farther, equating the posting of offensive photos with punching a nurse on the nose.

It would of course, be churlish of me to mention that insurgents are provided with medical care by US troops even if they had until moments before been shooting at American troops. In fact I am pretty sure that the Geneva Conventions actually require medical assistance to be given to wounded enemy when this is feasible. War is Hell, but it ain't got a patch on the Culture Wars.

Commentary

It's probably only fair to point out that individuals like Ward Churchill and Ted Rall have taken heat for their political positions. It's gotten hot on both sides. Nor is this kind of pillorying confined to bloggers. Robert Bork got the "treatment" back in the pre-Internet, pre-War on Terror days to the degree that his name became a verb. The incandescent exchange between Juan Cole and Christopher Hitchens over the translation of a Farsi phrase forshadows the future of at least some Internet discourse.

An out-of-control partisanship implies it will become progressively harder to communicate through speech. This doesn't mean that the exchange of signals between opposed groups will diminish. On the contrary they will increase, except that messages will now be transmitted through pie-throwing, lawsuits, nuisance calls, threat letters, character assassination, denial of service attacks, Google bombs and what have you. Let's hope it stops there but maybe it won't. The written word also proved insufficient for expression in Europe seventy years ago and brown-shirted ruffians, brass knuckles, blackjacks, clubs and knives were pressed into the fray. And that was just the beginning. Communication survived all the way to the end but the content of the signal shrank to one expressive word. A word which was also an imperative sentence. Die.

37 Comments:

Blogger exhelodrvr said...

I think an even bigger problem is how groups react to people from within their own groups, who differ on particular issues. (i.e. a Republican who is "pro choice", a lesbian/homosexual/black who is Repbulican). That does more to stifle real debate and progress, imo, than what you wrote about. (Although I totally agree with the trepidation you feel on that aspect.)

5/15/2006 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The sad lesson of political correctness, the Duke lacrosse case, speech codes, the Mohammed Cartoons and fatwas galore is that intimidation definitely does pay, sometimes literally. When you think about it, this trend denigrates actual speech because it creates a higher form of expression, a mode of communication which grows out the end of a club or the barrel of a gun.

5/15/2006 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

wretchard,

"barrel of a gun"

Oh, the nostalgia, it has been years since I have heard the voice of that Progressive hero. The same effete comrades you reference were also overjoyed by the Cultural Revolution.

5/15/2006 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger K. Pablo said...

In the U.S., at least, I can point to the increasingly litigious nature of society in general to support a contention that Political Correctness has moved to the courtroom.

This over-arching trend might be related to other tendencies e.g., attempting legislation via judicial fiat, and an approach towards terrorism that resembles law-enforcement more than it does warfare.

The Judicial Paradigm of Conflict Resolution has, in large part, weakened societies to the point where they cannot even reckon with a phenomenon such as Islamism, which only believes in One Judge.

5/15/2006 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

Bork believes in legislating from the bench.

i.e. the IXth Amdmt. is an "inkblot".

Bork deserved what he got.

5/15/2006 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

So Bork deserved what he got, eh? As Hamlet said, "Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?" I hope I get to watch when Bork's vanquishers and those who defend them get what they deserve, too.

5/15/2006 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

The asymmetric threat is from those who would control the use of words as a means of legitimizing their own views while de-legitimizing their opponents. What makes it asymmetric is the mere fact that “Four legs good, two legs bad” and any moral person will know the difference.

The war of words has expanded as the markets for an insipid message has diversified and the sources of a point of view have expanded to near infinitely disparate channels of style. The calm voice in the wilderness has little sway over the Gaussian mass of Jerry Springer, Opra Winfrey, Martha Stewart and Donald Trump, who together have cornered the market for the inane. It is the voice of reason, like the BC’s Wretchard, that thinking people seek out and once they’re sated on the nourishing views and commentary, fast off of the empty calories of main stream drivel.

Campaign finance reform has proved to narrow the field of discourse and perhaps it was one of the first salvos in the war against free speech and the battle for control of the mind and its voting preferences. Apparently, all politicians are fighting to gain the interest of the undecided, like the 12 million illegal aliens that will vote their interests when they hear their surnames. Nonetheless, its seems that politics in America has become one never ending campaign, smearing from one election to the next. The politicians do not return in spring to sow their crops, but harvest, harvest and harvest the debutantes of spring. But like all things denuded of nutrients, the ground of the American constituency is becoming fallow.

5/15/2006 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

"Belgian authorities have announced zero tolerance for racism."

But, of course, exempted from this will most certainly be all those calls to jihad and the screetching of the imams for the death of the infidel.

Those in America who prattle on about fascism and Bush's police state haven't any idea what repression really looks like.

5/15/2006 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

"So powerful is the light of unity, that it can illumine all mankind!"

And we can see why Baha'is are strongly prohibited from engaging in partisan politics, while supported and encouraged in efforts to deal with real-world policies!

5/15/2006 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

M. Simon,

From what I can find, Robert Bork was against legislating from the bench.

"Bork is best known for his theory that the only way to reconcile the role of the judiciary in American government against what he terms the "Madisonian" or "counter-majoritarian" dilemma of the judiciary making law without popular approval is for constitutional adjudication to be guided by the Framers' original understanding of the United States Constitution. Reiterating that it is a court's task to adjudicate and not to "legislate from the bench," he has advocated that judges exercise restraint in deciding cases, emphasizing that the role of the courts is to frame "neutral principles" (a term borrowed from Herbert Wechsler) and not simply ad hoc pronouncements or subjective value judgements."

However, the debate over Bork's nomination had little to do with legal theory. dward Kennedy argued against Bork thus:

"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government."

Not one of these accusations had any obvious connection to "originalism". They were also steamed up over his video rental history, which was leaked to the press. So whatever Bork's views were on legislating from the bench were they hardly entered into the popular debate. It is this type of tarring and feathering which constitutes "Borking". In my own view we ain't seen nothing yet.

5/15/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

annoy:

Good point about the abuse and manipulation of language. Orwellian word-bending is leading to the banishment or criminalization of certain thoughts and ideas. Gramscian re-writing of history and news reportage has recast history's most benevolent great power as its most wicked.

China's Cultural Revolution -- with its demonizing struggle sessions, its thought-crime witch-hunts and its guilty-by-birth scapegoating -- is, perhaps, the unparalleled example where things like this can end up.

5/15/2006 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger dbsfacs said...

Why so few comments? Repression from the Left is a very real threat. Ranks up there with islamo-fascism. Where are you regulars on this?

5/15/2006 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

annoy mouse,

Your 5:25 PM - "like the 12 million illegal aliens"

Excellent post with any number of possible references!

Talking about inane, insipid drivel, the President has completed his long anticipated, highly publicized talk on immigration.

5/15/2006 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

Without naming names, there are many Progressives who have never and will never forgive Judge Bork for firing Mr. Cox.

Among jurists, Judge Bork is considered a paragon of probity. But, all things must yield to the “Revolution.”

5/15/2006 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

And despite all the whining about 'stifling of dissent,' it is the so-called progessives who give us speech codes, routinely heckle speakers and banish language from discourse.

5/15/2006 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger rich said...

wretchard

Thanks for your thoughtful blog. It is a blessing. I, and I am sure many others, appreciate it very much.

5/15/2006 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

pie-throwing, Si!
lawsuits, Nyet!

5/15/2006 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Wretchard, is it possible that what we decry and bemoan in THIS thread is part and parcel of what you noted in your 'Still, Small Voice' post?

Namely, that we're reaching a point where LAW-MAKING imposes more INJUSTICE, and creates more problems than it solves?

Furthermore, We the People are understanding, NOW-TODAY, that there is a difference between 'law and order' and 'justice'...

You don't seriously consider a God-based government, with justice for majorities and respect for minority's rights, but that is what the One, Promised by Jesus, brought.

Your public comments on the nature and function of the Universal House of Justice will be welcome and enlightening, Sir.

5/15/2006 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Karridine,
How did it come to pass that the Universal House of Justice came to be located in Haifa?

5/15/2006 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger epops said...

Wretchard alludes to the events of 70 years ago in Europe, when the talking stopped and the fighting began. His comments brings to my mind another time and place, closer to home, namely the "Late Unpleasantness" that began when the talking stopped and the shooting started in 1861 at Fort Sumnter.

The bitterness of current political discourse seems more and more every year to resemble that of the 1840's and '50's, at least to my ear.

American pundits frequently speak proudly of America's "200 years of uninterrupted peaceful transfer of power", as though the Civil War didn't happen, or is somehow not included in that thought paradigm. But there is no reason to think that such an event couldn't happen again in America. The players and issues and battlegrounds will be different next time, of course. But it is beginning to be possible to see the outlines of our next civil war looming ahead through the fog of history.

5/15/2006 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

I don't understand why people aren't being charged with sedition.

5/15/2006 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger Derek Kite said...

These are the voices of fear.

Two reasons; The riot season is coming, and I doubt that anyone is certain that it will be confined to France. The tension is palpable, and people will do anything to avoid having everything fall apart around them. Including harm to anyone annoying them with undesired messages. 'A prophet is not on his home turf'. Not the first time this has happened.

Second reason is even more dangerous. Europe (and much of the west) has maintained a concensus on multiculturalism and varying degrees of socialist practice. Those whose power is based on the advancement of these ideals is now being threatened. Their power is enormous. No entity has ever voluntarily given up their power and influence, and the more powerful, the more bitter the fight. As we have seen in many recent conflicts, there is no desire for anyone to back down for the good of the whole.

The only thing keeping a lid on things is that a large enough group still believe they have something to lose. There is a tipping point however, and Europe has gone past that point a couple of times in recent memory with very bloody consequences.

Derek

5/15/2006 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

epops,

Your 7:45 PM - "Civil War"

It took the mass secession of the Southern states to actuate the first American Civil War. It may take the invasion of the Southern states from the south to act as the catalyst of the next. La Raza’s troops are already in place. Viva Che!

5/15/2006 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Thanks, Derek. Nice response.

5/15/2006 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger 11A5S said...

the IXth Amdmt. is an "inkblot".

The Supreme Court itself has consistently ignored the 9th and 10th amendments. In one famous opinion the court said the 10th "added nothing to the [Constitution] as originally ratified." (US vs. Sprague, 1931) In other words, it is superfluous!

Of course the SC cannot recognize those two amendments since to do so would mean to surrender much of its own power. It would be like the Speaker of the House coming out in favor of nullification or the President endorsing the right of secession.

5/15/2006 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

The next example is Ayan Hirsi Ali who just had her citizenship's legality questioned because of the script "Submission". It appears that her next move might be in the US direction.

5/15/2006 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger Starling David Hunter said...

Just read this very short op-ed entitled Obstacle in the path of Democracy" in today's Gulf News, one of Dubai's leading newspapers. It seems very relevant to this discussion. While there is much that people will take issues with, one point is clear, people in this region know that Islamists are bullies who have no respect for freedom of speech or any other human liberty. Since the op-ed is so short, the whole thing appears below:

Obstacle in the path of democracy

The Middle East has been known for centuries for its tolerance and multiculturalism. Different races and sects have co-existed in peace and mutual respect for long. But in the past few years, extremism has cast a heavy shadow over the vital region. Groups, self-described Islamists, which claim to have the right to speak, and most dangerously act in the name of Muslims, have been trying to take over the politics in regional states. When opposed, they turn violent. They think democracy is a bad thing, but they don't mind playing the game to get the political muscle to bully their way into the decision-making process.

In the Gulf, it has been a long confrontation between these movements and the few liberal groups over such issues as free speech and thought. The most recent incidents are the threats made this week against a liberal news editor in Bahrain and the opposition to the appointment of a famous TV host as an information minister in Kuwait.

There is a tendency amongst Islamist movements to impose their own line of thinking on others. And that, according to many experts, is what makes it hard for democracy to progress in the Middle East. The people in this region must stop being apathetic. These groups should be told, loud and clear, to play by the rules.


I can't emphasize enough how little visible sympathy there is here in Dubai, the commercial capital of the Middle East, for the Islamists. There isn't anyone I have talked to who doesn't recognize that if Islamists come to power, the thus-far-successful economic experiment in the UAE is kaput and what liberties are enjoyed will rapidly disappear.

5/15/2006 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Doug,
The Lord of Hosts was first freighted down with a 90-pound collar, thrown in a filthy 'Black Hole of Tehran' for 7 weeks, and when He didn't die, He was told He had 48 hours to get out of Iran, in the middle of the bitterest winter in 40 years!

Exiled to Baghdad, He spent the next 10 years in one house, under house arrest.

But when His fame continued to grow, and glowing praise of the Glory of God reached Tehran's ears, He was further exiled to Constantinople for 2 years, (same thing: couldn't stop the people from seeking Him and falling in love with His Person) then Adrianople (same thing!) then finally to Akka, Prison City near Haifa. (Joan d'Acre = Joan of Akka)

In order to 'prove Him wrong' the ignorant mullahs and imams of His time FORCED Him to fulfill prophecies recorded in the Books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah, and Habbakuk; as well as all the New Testament prophecies.

Loathed and feared when He (and His family) were shipped in to Akka, after almost 2 decades of imprisonment, the Chief Warden beseeched Him to walk around outside, in real freedom, as he could no longer in good conscience keep Him jailed!

That's how He came to 'pitch His tent on Mt. Carmel'. His earthly remains are interred nearby.

5/16/2006 01:46:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Allen, (8:06)
And you bring to mind that, where there had been YEARS of acrimonious talk-talk-talk, when the Secession came, it came with startling swiftness!

5/16/2006 01:50:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Karridine,
Is there any easy way to characterise the average Israeli's reaction to the story?

5/16/2006 02:56:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Doug,
Yes.
By negotiated and mutual agreement, Baha'is do not actively teach in Israel.

The average Israeli usually learns about the Faith when flying BACK to Israel, and seeing the golden dome of the Shrine of the Bab, 20 miles out to sea!

Or they learn of the Faith, investigate it and declare their faith OUTSIDE Israel.

Most Israelis inside Israel are only marginally aware of the Baha'i Faith.

5/16/2006 06:07:00 AM  
Blogger Norman Rogers said...

Wretchard wrote, It's probably only fair to point out that individuals like Ward Churchill and Ted Rall have taken heat for their political positions.

Excuse me? The "heat" these gentlemen have taken is part of the free discourse we welcome in these United States. This is what our First Amendment is all about. This, as opposed to acttions by the state, e.g. jailing dissidents/denying health benefits.

Apples and orangutans, my friend.

5/16/2006 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/16/2006 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Norman makes an excellent point, Wretchard, one which does not, in any way, invalidate the point you were making.

Despite being proven a serial fraudster, Ward Churchill still earns a six-figure income and travels the college lecture circuit. Michael Moore is fetted with awards and wields political influence.

By contrast, Ayan Hirsi Ali, who fudged her asylum record to escape the sort of oppression people in the West cannot begin to imagine has lived in hiding for her criticism of her own religion, and is now being chased out of Europe. The blog Brussels Journal is blamed for inciting violence, for daring to criticize the incitement to violence spewing from 'leaders' of his country's Islamic community.

Apples and orangutans, indeed.

Again, a political Left which bleats incessantly about fascism and 'stifling dissent' should look in the mirror.

5/16/2006 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Similar to China ;-)
Except that the Dome would be rubble, ala the Taliban.
---
That's an odd setup, to say the least, but far from being the worst of all worlds, of course.

5/16/2006 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger Das said...

"A word which was also an imperative sentence. Die."
-- Wretchard

That is why I get so angry with the left when they give into the "bushitler" kind of ranting. Don't they realize that by invoking the worst evil out of context they are making way for the fraying of conversation - making way for Wretchard's single imperative word?

We are no where near Berlin of 1934 yet the left continually makes this crooked analogy with our leaders today. I suspect that conservatives can understand progressives but progressives cannot understand conservatives.

5/17/2006 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

I think it's a wilful mis-(or "lack of")understanding, das. After all, in that creed, "to understand all is to forgive all"... but you still need your implacable evil in order to stand against it, right?

How horrible that the existential struggle, which ought to be only between us and those who want to kill us for speaking and believing freely, should be morphing into (or maybe "should be recognized at last as really being") between us and those who want to silence and constrain us by whatever means - including the invocation of speech codes based on a feel-good "morality" that those doing the invoking don't recognize as the groupthink it is.

This is, I think, why the American experiment in representative government has proven to be so much more stable and successful than, say, the French one: those uptight Brits stopped at "Liberty, Equality," but the emotional French just had to add "Brotherhood." As soon as you start requiring, by law or by custom, love of neighbor rather than just tolerance of neighbor, in the absence of a religious code that is very clear that love of neighbor is likely to cost you dearly, you lay the groundwork for "hate crime."

Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom is insightful on the dichtomy between individualism and identity politics, which is absolutely key to understanding both ends of this existential threat we face.

5/18/2006 10:11:00 AM  

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