Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Daily Roundup Feb 13, 2008

After the Read More! Hate speech charges against Ezra Levant are dropped. In a counterbalancing development, five British students accused of downloading terrorist material are acquitted on appeal. Plus the killer menagerie of Palestinian TV.

Reason Magazine explains why the charges were dropped by the complainant. "By his account, then, Soharwardy had not heard of this whole freedom-of-speech thing until after he filed his complaint with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, and it took him two years to fully absorb how important it is to Canadians. During that time, he also took the measure of Canadians and judged them "mature enough" to look at cartoons depicting Muhammad without going on an anti-Muslim rampage. I think it may take a few more years for Soharwardy to get the concept at stake in his tiff with Levant."

Levant will now counter-sue. Some pundits say this is a victory for the democratic process because the two sides on the issue settled their differences with words, instead of bullets. Of course the words had to be uttered by lawyers who don't come cheap. Soharwardy will soon discover how expensive lawyers can be.

But the question still remains, why is a Human Rights Commission hunting down inoffensive cartoons in Canadian publications?

From In The News UK. Five Muslims accused of downloading Jihadi material were acquitted on appeal by a British court which rejected the prosecution's claim the accused were planning to attend a terror training camp. "The five men, all in their first year in higher education, were arrested last year after Mr Raja, who was a pupil at a London school at the time, left a note for his parents saying he was running away to fight for Islam. He had been in touch with the university students via the internet and went to stay with them after leaving home. But he returned to his parents' after three days following a phone conversation during which they pleaded for him to come back."

On the one hand the acquittal is a blow for free speech. I have to view or encounter a certain quantity of Jihadi propaganda in writing this blog. That act in itself should not be criminalized. On the other hand, I'm not wholly convinced that the students were "conducting research into terrorist ideology and denied having extreme political views". However that may be, the court was not persuaded the students were planning to participate in a criminal conspiracy.

The Irish Spy reviews the loveable animal characters on Palestinian TV. "First there was Farfur the Fascist Mouse. Then there was Nahoul the anti-Semitic Killer Bee. Now Palestinian television presents the latest and greatest in genocidal yet cuddly animal characters for children's programming: Assud the Jew-eating Rabbit!!" No, he isn't making it up. In fact, Jules Crittenden has more details on the same characters.

Because information warfare is a major mode of combat in the current world conflict the line between the thought and the deed is often separated only by an instant. To create categories of "thoughtcrime" is to commit civilizational suicide; and while the Left may like the taste of this poison, conservatives are often in the dilemma of having to regulate the very thing they wish to leave untrammeled. The Palestinian TV producers are arguably engaged in the corruption of children and it is a difficult proposition to argue this falls under "free speech" or "faith traditions". Where do we draw the line? In the innocent past it was once said that a judge should "know pornography when he sees it". Do we still know evil when we see it?


Blogger Zenster said...

Assud the Jew-eating Rabbit!!

Bring up the Holy Hand Grenade!

2/13/2008 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Brock said...

zenster: LOL. Well played, sir; excellent use of Python.

Wretchard: A thought occurs to me, and I am intrigued by how the recent (and coming) advances in neuroscience may shape the debate of policing "thought crime."

One of the reasons that speech and thought remain (rightly) unregulated in freedom-loving nations is that the standards of good and evil are so subjective as to make universal application of the law impossible. That may cease to be the case within the decade.

To quote the philosopher Yoda, "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." Fear and Hate are mental states that lead to a physical outcome (suffering) which we seek to outlaw. If we can measure them (and we can), and we can measure how Palestinian children's television program leads to them (and we will), and we can show that this programming has no redeeming virtues which cannot be delivered in a less harmful way (which I suspect is true), then perhaps we will be able to show with legal certainty that those television producers are proximately responsible for any terror crimes committed by their viewers.

Heck, maybe they're responsible for harming the viewers themselves, and can be arrested for child abuse (measurable, known child abuse - no different than leaving bruises or burns). We will be able to show in court, with medical imaging, the actual synapses of hate induced by their programming. Wouldn't that be a thing to see?

I'm pretty sure the above will happen, though I do not know when. I'm also pretty sure that lots of other cultures will have demons excised by this new legal theory.

2/13/2008 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger HotAire said...

The judgement on the UK students is at:

2/13/2008 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

Far, far better for all if the Canadian Human Rights Commission had instead thrown the case out.
...or had made a, shall we say, clarifying decision that put things in black & white in such as way that people would have to wake up.

Instead, multi-culti insanity slinks back into the semi-shadows, undefeated.

Hmmm... OTOH, did the HRC possibly talk the complainant into dropping it so *they* could dodge the controversy (from either side) that would have come with actually delivering a verdict?

2/13/2008 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Catholic doctrine gave a lot of thought to idea of "sinning by thought". If I remember my cathecism correctly simply knowing was never an evil in itself; the line was crossed when you mentally threw in with evil. Thus the offense was always a two-part process. First you had to be aware something was evil. This part was never sinful in itself. It was in the nature of man to "know".

But once a thing was perceived to be evil, a man's free will compelled him to choose whether to go further or reject the path. Only at this point, in the exercise of choice, could he be held accountable for his actions.

Thus merely happening upon an an incitement to murder or understanding that it is an incitement to murder; or even cataloguing and studying it does not constitute any sort of offense. I don't doubt there are many policemen who are today examining whatever jihadi site you care to name. There are Muslims in the same case. But we don't consider the policemen engaged in evil, nor even the Muslims who look and reject what is offered.

The men we worry about are those who accept this incitement to murder in their hearts. The British court cannot of course look into the Muslim student's hearts. All they can do is infer from their actions. And since their actions did not conclusively prove they were engaged in criminal conspiracy, they got off.

I remember when it was fashionable to argue that debates about "sinning in thought" were ridiculous. But now we know that 'spirits' do exist -- in the form of memes and information -- copycat crimes are statistical proof of that; we know that certain kinds of information, like incitement to hatred, are in fact simply acts waiting to be eventuate in a probabilistic sense. Suddenly we realize that "sinning in thought" and perhaps "sinning in word" does matter. And we come full circle.

But we ought not to forget the crucial element of freedom. The freedom to know and to choose must be preserved in all of this. If liberty means anything, it means the being open to the risk of evil. It's an occupational hazard on the earth. The Problem of Evil is twinned to the Gift of Freedom.

We can do what we want but must always be prepared to pay the piper. The price of admitting the existence of freedom is the necessity of accepting consequences. As I told one leading member of the Communist Party of the Philippines once, God exists because the Devil exists; the Devil exists because Hell exists; and Hell exists because there had to be somewhere to put the top leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

2/13/2008 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger HotAire said...

"A person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism" - Terrorism Act 2000, s57.

The students possessed extremist literature (and a U.S. military manual). The Court in effect ruled that they had not possessed it for the purpose of inciting terrorism. There was evidence that at least some of them had a plan to go to Pakistan, train, then go on to fight in Afghanistan. The court accepted that the final stage would have been terrorism.However, there was no evidence that they possessed the literature with intent to incite terrorism, hence the court's decision.

2/13/2008 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

Interesting idea there Brock. I think it was Dennis Prager who said that in his experience most human evil came from people who would seek out bloody vengeance based on what they believed to be strong justifications. Is it possible that bloody vengeance is the essence of human evil?

2/13/2008 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger HotAire said...

In the 1980s, a (white, British, Christian) teenager, who was perhaps dissatisfied with his life, told me he wanted to go to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. He never did.

In the recent case, that desire to fight against evil, and thereby to give meaning to a life by risking it, went further. But I think the court was right. Firstly, it seems clear from the judgement that the charge brought could not be sustained. And secondly,dreaming the heroic dreams of young men should not be a crime, even when it is really on the side of evil that the fantasist would fight.

2/13/2008 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...


On sin in thought I'd add some finer distinctions:

There is the knowledge of the act.
There is the knowledge of the basic urge that sometimes genuinely can't be helped.
Then there is the niggling awareness of the pull to actually follow through with it -- in other words, temptation.
Then there is rejection... or action.

There is still a big difference between being tempted and resisting, versus tempted but hadn't quite got around to doing it yet for practical reasons.

2/13/2008 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

I've always thought it interesting that nine out of the Ten Commandments regulate our actions but one of them attempts to regulate our thoughts. We are instructed not to commit the act of murder, not to commit the act of stealing and we are instructed to act in a manner that honors our parents and act to observe the Sabbath. Then we get to the one about "Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife". Covetting is an internal process beyond our control. We can choose to act on our desires or to resist them, but denying they exist may be beyond our control. Divine thought control? The origin of political correctness (Don't even THINK about it!)?

I've always wondered how that one made the list.

The Brits are still acting in the pre-911 mode of treating terrorism as a criminal act. Let the potential terrorists commit a crime, then punish them. Unfortunately, this proves difficult to enforce on homicide bombers targetting innocent civilians.

2/13/2008 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

A few years back there was a case that truly showed the difficulties of “thought crimes.” A man in the U.S. who had been convicted of sexually molesting a child was found to have authored stories about such molestations on his home computer. These were not plans to commit further crimes but were pure fiction.

He was convicted of violating his probation and was sent back to prison. Needless to say, this is a difficult case. There was no evidence that he tried to get those stories published or even shared them with anyone. On the other hand, he had been convicted of that same crime. I wonder if a bank robber who was paroled and then proceeded to author novels on robbing banks would be treated the same? I doubt it.

I guess the child molester was locked back up on the basis that his mind had not been “made right” by his incarceration. Based on that concept, a Muslim who seeks information on how to commit terrorism must be presumed to have the same kind of “disease.”

2/13/2008 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

Peter G said,
"Then we get to the one about "Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife". ...I've always wondered how that one made the list."

I think because in the old days it was the fast track to adultery or murder (the other guy's, or yours) and blood feuds. IOW a particularly dangerous slippery slope, easily destructive to the larger community:
Attraction (which genuinely can't be helped)-> fantasy->flirtation -> uncomfortable awareness of brewing temptation to act -> to *real* temptation -> then falling off the cliff of actual infidelity.

2/13/2008 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

You're probably right.

Note, however, that it is okay for a woman to covet another woman's husband. Maybe God needs to revise the Ten Commandments or maybe Gloria Steinman was right all along and God's a woman.

No wonder the Archbishop of Canterbury is "confused".

2/14/2008 03:39:00 AM  

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