January 21, 2015

Left Wing University Official Declares Speech Must be Censored Because Islam Is Too Violent

I’d say it was unbelievable, were it not for the fact that those who support the surrender of liberty in the face of Islamic barbarism have been parroting this talking point for the last couple weeks.

In 1919, the Supreme Court ruled speech that presents a "clear and present danger" is not protected by the First Amendment. Crying "fire" in a quiet, uninhabited place is one thing, the court said. But "the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic."

Twenty-two years later, the Supreme Court ruled that forms of expression that "inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace" are fighting words that are not protected by the First Amendment.

If Charlie Hebdo's irreverent portrayal of Mohammed before the Jan. 7 attack wasn't thought to constitute fighting words, or a clear and present danger, there should be no doubt now that the newspaper's continued mocking of the Islamic prophet incites violence. And it pushes Charlie Hebdo's free speech claim beyond the limits of the endurable.

Now Wickham uses two old Supreme Court cases to support his argument – but he fails to note that the justices have since restricted, limited or overruled elements of the decision. For example, never since the Chaplinsky decision has the “fighting words” doctrine been held to be a valid reason for respecting freedom of speech – indeed, shortly thereafter in Terminiello v. City of Chicago the Court held that the purpose of free speech was to provoke and invite dispute, and that the angry response of those who opposed the message was not grounds for shutting down the speaker. Similarly, the Court rejected the “fire in a crowded theater” argument in Brandenburg v. Ohio, holding that only speech intended to and likely to incite violence loses First Amendment protection.

Now consider the Charlie Hebdo cartoons themselves. They are designed to invite dispute regarding religious sensitivities and provoke discussion over the degree to which religious believers have the right to impose their faith’s rules on non-believers. The threat of violence comes from offended Muslims, not the magazine. What’s more, no reasonable person can argue that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons are intended to incite violence. Wickham’s argument fails all around.

But let me offer a different take on this, using the author’s argument.

It is clear that the actual danger is not drawings or words that mock Islam and its sacred things. The actual danger is Islam itself and the belief that its followers are entitled to engage in mayhem and murder to force others to abide by the tenets of that faith. Therefore the clear and present danger is not the speech or the cartoons – the actual clear and present danger is Islam itself. Maybe the time has come to ban Islam and the Quran in this country, and to close all the mosques in America as a threat to public order. After all, that would get to the real source of the violence – and would be the least restrictive means of dealing with the problem of violent outbursts over Muhammad cartoons.

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Comments on Left Wing University Official Declares Speech Must be Censored Because Islam Is Too Violent

Mr. Wickham,

The last time I looked at a map, Paris was in France (notwithstanding Paris, Texas and a number of other late comers). The American constitution and the SCOTUS may be admired, but neither has the force of law there. Nonetheless, the concept of free speech has been on their shores for some time. Why not quote their courts and legal documents?


Thanks for posting this. Although I agree that Islam is a clear and present danger, I would not support any infringement on their freedom of religion. However, I would support (similar to the campaign finance laws) a public posting of their donars and (similar to truth in advertising) a public posting of the verses they most often preach.

|| Posted by Mark, January 26, 2015 07:46 AM ||

I don't support such infringements either -- but if we are going to use old and inaccurately applied precedents to suppress anyone's liberty, let it be those who commit violence rather than those who have the audacity to speak and publish freely.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, January 27, 2015 07:11 PM ||

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