Saturday, March 29, 2008

The "Heckler's Veto"

Josef Joffe at the Harvard Institute for Middle Eastern Studies argues that Europeans are dealing with the Fitna incident in a traditional, but effective way. Joffe says that in Europe, pre-emptive censorship is far more normal than in the US due to an historical fear of communal violence.

European constitutional practice does not share the American tradition of the “heckler’s veto.” ... Yet in Europe, the mere expectation of communal violence against hateful speech routinely leads to bans and prohibitions. Significantly, the Dutch government has imposed no such sanctions on Geert Wilder’s Fitna. The Hague as well as the EU have merely condemned the 15-minute film. On the other hand, no television station would air it, so Wilders had to “premiere” it on the Internet.

In other words official Europe, while making a show of outrage, has pointedly exempted Fitna from the full force of proscription. Joffe says that Fitna is an instantly recognizable instance of provocation with which Europe has had a long experience in dealing, of the same sort employed by anti-Semites, Michael Moore or Al Gore. Provocation is as European as a pate de foi gras; but not all provocateurs are treated equally. Moore and Gore are given a pass because they are serving the official line, but Wilders the renegade may not.

The suggestion is that the Europeans are far better at their own style of taqquiya, or dissimulation, than are Americans. Authorities managed the Fitna problem by talking out of both sides of their mouths. In essence, they paid back the Arab world back in its own two-faced coin.

This time, Europe is walking the fine line between appeasement and self-assertion. The Dutch are a perfect example. No, they would not ban Fitna. ... On the other hand, the Dutch bent over backward to assuage Muslim rage, knowing full well that such fury is never spontaneous, but a convenient pretext for scoring another Big One in the “clash of civilizations.” Dutch diplomats were dispatched to assure Muslim regimes that Fitna was strictly a private affair—and by no means condoned by the powers that be.

But the most interesting part of the essay is Joffe's fascinating assertion that Europe has discovered that not standing up for causes is the essence of wisdom; that if European history teaches anything it's that nothing is worth fighting for. Better to settle things privately; as things work so much better that way that way. The European art of compressing arrogance and self-hatred into a single emotion has never been expressed better than in Joffe's paragraph.

What these emissaries did not cite, one surmises, is another, now safely banished part of our history. This is those three centuries of million-fold annihilation in the name of the One True God, be he the Lord or a secular Deity, as in the guise of Stalin or Hitler. To invoke this bloody past in defense of free speech would have been totally incorrect, the kind of cultural hauteur that would assign to the West a higher perch on the scale of civilizational progress.

But maybe it should be pointed out that the "now safely banished part of our history"; that those "three centuries of million-fold annihilation" did not come to an end on the tides of European widom but on the bottoms of Higgins boats on the Normandy beaches. The luxury of not standing up for causes was paid for by the long garrisoning of Europe during the Cold War; and to now assign to that luxury powers of salvation and wisdom is an interesting inversion, to say the least. Joffe ends:

Next stop is Germany, where a municipal theater in Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin, will premiere Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses on Sunday. Recall that this led to Khomeini’s death fatwa against the author in 1989 and innumerable eruptions of Muslim rage throughout the world. Recall also the submissive response by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie: “Only the utterly insensitive can fail to see that… Salman Rushdie’s book has deeply offended Muslims both here and throughout the world.”

This time, twenty years later, submission and self-assertion, rage and restraint are more balanced. For now.

What a world of menace is contained in the phrase "for now". The policy of kicking the can down the road also has its drawbacks: one of which is that the provocative exhibition in Potsdam is somehow a consequence of Robert Runcie's "restraint". He and his generation of officials kicked the can down the road, and see where it got us? Now the exhibition in Potsdam is going to pick the can up and what they will do with it is now going to keep many a Eurocrat up a night. Maybe one of the lessons of history should be that if you don't pick up cans, the cans you've kicked down the road may someday come back stuffed with gunpowder and sputtering fuse.

When officials send diplomats to assure the Muslim world that "all is well" while giving a tacit go-ahead for private individuals to continue, some element of randomness and chaos enters the process. From the days of the piracy on the Spanish Main to the ISI's support of the Taliban in Pakistan, governments have learned that there's no free lunch.

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Blogger John Aristides said...

Our speech rights have nothing to do with a heckler veto, and everything to do with a Government veto and the dangers of allowing it, accept in those cases where the government demonstrates a compelling state interest in banning the speech, where this interest is recognized by a majority of chamber-cooled judicial minds using a strict scrutiny test.

It all depends on where you think power originates, and where you believe the worst dangers lie. Europeans believe that government has all power less that given to the people, and that the worst trouble comes from "communal violence" and rabble-rousers. Americans have another philosophy, and a different experience, one where government is a necessary evil which, when run by human all too human political animals, can be trusted to take a mile when you give an inch, then abscond with your yardsticks and charge you a shipping fee.

3/29/2008 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Elijah said...

How does one define occupied territories?

In the film, from 10:04 through 10:34 -

54,000,000 million muslims in Europe

Fifty four million

or from another source:

"We have 50 million Muslims in Europe. There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe - without swords, without guns, without conquests. The fifty million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades."

by way of your democracy we will invade you, by way of our religion we will dominate you


why attack a fortress from the outside when one can attack it from within?

do not our leftist friends teach that resistance is a natural response to occupation?

3/29/2008 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

The American Thinker has a good article on how Hollywood anti-war movies are flopping at the box office:
In the Valley of Elah (2007) - $6.8 million.
Redacted (2007) - $.06 million.
The Kingdom (2007) - $47.4 million.
Rendition (2007) - $9.7 million.
Lions for Lambs (2007) - $15 million.
Home of the Brave (2006) - $.04 million.
(HT: Cinematical)

"The Kingdom" - a drama about the FBI investigating a terrorist attacks on Americans in Saudi Arabia - ended up getting about half its $80+ million budget back in receipts.

The author concludes that Hollywood elites keep making the flops because they simply cannot concieve that the liberal, anti-war bubble they live in doesn't reflect mainstream views.

3/29/2008 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Beating Hollywood

I rode a C-130 to Kuwait with JD. Good guy. Bought Call Sign Vengeance. Great flick.

He's got 3 new DVD's out. Give 'em a look.

3/29/2008 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Reading this post reminded me of an article about Europeans' attitude towards the Iranian nuclear threat. Europeans are doing nothing, but privately hoping Israel will "take care" of the problem so the Europeans can peacefully go back to deploring the barbaric Israelis.

3/29/2008 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Europeans believe that government has all power less that given to the people, and that the worst trouble comes from "communal violence" and rabble-rousers.

Generally, the Continentals were right about communal violence and the dangers of free speech in the hands of violent demogogues like Lenin, the Black Hand, the Spartacists, the National Socialists & Hitler. And earlier times of mass death coming from freedom of speech.

Britain and America imagined, and imagined correctly as long as they were one strong culture, that they could tolerate a ton of free speech and not end up with the masses elevating tyrants.

Now the Brits have essentially imported a violent Jihad movement and in the name of freedom of speech, allowed the radicalizing poison to spread freely from Londonistan and UK websites to not only Brit students and prisoners, but back to the Subcontinent's peoples and former Brit colonies elsewhere with high Muslim populations.

In the US, freedom of speech used to be more rationally suppressed so it did not suppress other rights or jeopardize American lives - with sedition laws.

No civil liberty should ever be considered absolute and near-sacrosanct.

America could also deal with Euro or Asian-style libel laws so "truthers" and those accusing prominent Americans of being murderers, committers of genocide, racist, pet torturers, bribed corrupt souls, anti-Christian baby killers - should be prepared to defend their utterances in court and weigh that on opening their mouths.
Same on lawsuits where a news agency that releases classified info or troop tactical info that gets US soldiers killed has to answer for it in court against the US Government or families of soldiers.

3/29/2008 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Cedarford is both right and wrong.

Historically, free speech on the Continent is associated first the struggle between Luther and the Church, then the Thirty Years War, then the struggle between Calvinists and the Church, the Hugeonots, and such like.

Hundreds of years before Karl Marx was ever born. This is not a new thing. Free Speech on the Continent usually ended up in communal riots over how services on Sunday were conducted (and the power struggles that really pushed those conflicts). Given the historical sweep of Europe, from Roman Empire, to disunity under barbarian invasion, to the long struggle for dominance, empire, and unity in a new "Empire" it's not surprising that Free Speech was suppressed. But ...

England had lots of suppression of Free Speech. There, Free Speech was long synonymous with Gun Powder Plots, cabals intriguing with Spain and France to weaken England, ambitious Republicans like Cromwell, and so on.

Free Speech was protected because in the end it galvanized more people to the cause of the winning players (the Protestant aristocracy who ran England) and was seen as the key measure of their success than for their opponents (Catholic agitators who were generally unpopular, "dissenters" aka non-CoE Protestants, also unpopular).

So too in America, where Free Speech galvanized and organized on balance more people to the American side than the Tory/Loyalist side. Particularly important where the state was weak. As it was, comparatively speaking, in both England (thin layer of Protestant Aristos who distrusted underlings and were obsessed with private estates guaranteed that) and America (the frontier meant little control other than social control).

The comparative advantage of England and America in the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries was that of lower cost of governance. Power was enforced through social persuasion via Free Speech, with far fewer police and pogroms and such like.

Cedarford is correct in that in both England and America there were real limits to Free Speech, not just from libel laws but social expectations and pressures. Which could be anything from a duel to a mob at one's door to lynching.

However he does not go deep enough IMHO. The roots in how the UK and later America, and the Continentals acted towards free speech lies in the social organization of the elite. Where an elite is thin, mostly obsessed with it's plantations or estates, and distrustful of subordinates it's easier to let lower classes self-organize.

3/29/2008 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger Your Correspondent said...

"...but on the bottoms of Higgins boats on the Normandy beaches."

This is an exaggeration. The Battle of Kursk had a lot to do with the survival of Europe, at least as much as the invasion of Normandy.

3/30/2008 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger Gary Rosen said...

"Cedarford is both right and wrong."

C-fudd is right much in the same manner as a broken clock. But he's usually wrong. By the way Fudd, who's been "alienating" more people here lately?

3/30/2008 12:50:00 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

It was all downhill after Kursk. They may have won an engagement after Kursk, but not a battle.

But, on the other hand, the russkies might have pushed on, had it not been for the Higgins boats.

3/30/2008 12:51:00 AM  
Blogger davod said...

"The Battle of Kursk had a lot to do with the survival of Europe, at least as much as the invasion of Normandy."

No. The battle of Kursk had to do with the survival of Russia, formally an ally of Germany.

Normandy, as with the African, Sicilian and Italian campaigns, had to do with taking Europe back from the NAZIS and their allies and collaborators. After WWII ended the war continued to keep most of Europe out of the hands of a similar ideology, that espoused by former NAZI ally the Soviets.

3/30/2008 05:53:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 03/30/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention updated throughout the day…so check back often.

3/30/2008 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger watimebeing said...

Based on content, I can understand if some stations would choose not to air Mr. Wilders film at certain hours. While it is important to understand the arguments about the Quran, and the reason certain of our friends and allies seem so damn'd unreasonable at times, the graphic nature of that film is not something easily digested by my wife and daughter or something I would display for my grandmother.

Funny, the "hecklers veto", as used in this case dissuades any thought at censorship here in America, and promotes civil disobedience in EU.

Heckling is not acceptable in Islamic cultures, according to proponents of the "book".

3/30/2008 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

...can be trusted to take a mile when you give an inch, then abscond with your yardsticks and charge you a shipping fee.

You sure you're not describing the airlines here?

3/30/2008 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wilder's film is Koranic verses, demagogues preaching murderous rhetoric and photographic evidence of Muslim mayhem. There is not an iota of editorializing in it. If Europe censors this out of fear ; it is an utter refusal to deal with reality and that same reality will eat their lunch. The only reason for Muslim rage can be that the covers of deception about their true aims are being pulled.

3/30/2008 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger j willie said...

it baffles me that anyone would waste time reading what cedarford writes. Among those with whom i disagree are some who are both respectful of others no matter what their opinions and intellectually engaging. On the other hand, there are the cedarfords, who remain, they believe, the biggest (bully) on the playground. i see his screen name and its "page down"/"next"....and continue to "page down"/"next" until i see that any pointless attempted engagement of him has ceased.

3/30/2008 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Gary Rosen said...

j willie:

You are wrong to compare C-fudd to a "bully". Bullies actually intimidate, harass, and sometimes harm their victims. C-fudd is just a pathetic cretin who causes nothing except his own embarrassment. He is more properly compared to someone who takes a shit on the floor of the boys' room.

3/31/2008 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger LarryD said...

Not Off Topic - Townhall: Chuck Colson column

In Sudan, as many as five million Muslims have accepted Christ since the early 1990s, despite horrific persecution of Christians by the Sudanese government. What is behind the mass conversions? According to a Sudanese evangelical leader, “People have seen real Islam, and they want Jesus instead.”

In Iraq, “More than 5,000 Muslim converts to Christianity have been identified since the end of major combat operations,” says Islam Watch. And just a few days ago, the first-ever Roman Catholic church was consecrated in Qatar, a Sunni Muslim state where the Wahhabi brand of Islam is practiced. This was the first time Christians in Qatar have been allowed to practice their faith openly. Ten thousand people attended the opening mass.

3/31/2008 08:18:00 AM  

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