Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Detonating Speech (Tuesday LINKS)

As someone who writes every day in my own little corner of the Internet, I think about the "freedom of speech" a lot.  Not so much whether the unfettered right exists, but what it means when we talk about the freedom to speak.

As a preliminary matter, our 21st Century conversation has repeatedly confused the freedom of speech with the freedom to speak without consequence.  The latter does not exist, has never existed, and should never exist.  If you are wrong, you are open to correction.  If you are offensive, you are open to scorn.  If you are harmful...well that's where things get tricky.

Preliminarily, defamatory speech has civil penalty, which I ascribe more into the category of "consequence" than "crime."  The standard for proving defamation is unsurprisingly high, particularly for public figures (yet that will not stop them from threatening suit every time they hear something about themselves they don't like).

When it comes to criminal penalty, U.S. law circles around obscenity and hate speech.  Unlike other countries, the United States has not made hate speech illegal.  The only circumstance in which speech inciting violence is not protected is if the "violence is imminent."  This can be contrasted against much of the world where not only is hate speech illegal, but so are certain ideas (i.e., Holocaust denial is illegal in 17 countries).

You are going to hear the name "Nakoula" a lot over the next two weeks.  He is the 55 year old film-maker that produced the Anti-Muslim film alleged to have incited riots across Libya and Egypt.  He is going to kick the tires on what free speech means in the United States.  Not so much criminal penalty (although investigators immediately looked into a 2010 bank fraud sentence), but rather the consequence of free speech.  When the Ayatollah issued a fatwa "death sentence" for Salman Rushdie in 1989, the British government assigned four police officers to provide security for Rushdie at the expense of tax-payers.  To what extent do we not only allow free speech, but also sponsor it.

And while we may all agree that these elements of the Muslim world that boil over in response to sought after slight cannot be permitted, it takes little reflection to think of the anger and threatened violence towards the Westboro Baptist protesters who held signs saying "Pray for More Dead Soldiers."  Admittedly, that comparison is weak, but the deep offense underlying each is similar.

What does freedom of speech mean?  It is simply allowance?  Or are we sponsoring speech?


Matt Wieters can't stop hitting home-runs.  O's win in Seattle 10-4 and are within a half game of the Yankees, who did not play last night.  Tampa Bay, however, did play, and lost to the Red Sox, putting them 5 games behind the Orioles.

42 year old big-bat Jim Thome could re-join the Orioles as early as Friday.

A transportation study conducted by Howard Hughes concluded that a transit bridge over Route 29 connecting downtown Columbia and Oakland Mills would not be used often enough to justify the expense.  The County will follow-up with an economic impact study to see if the overall effect of the bridge, in terms of economic activity and property values, justifies the expense.

Ezra Klein looks at a confluence of poll numbers and campaign turmoil suggesting that Mitt Romney is in a bad place with less than two months to go

From The Baltimore Sun: "Casino owners, labor and other interests spent more than $3.6 million to influence lawmakers during last month's special session to expand gambling in Maryland — a figure that comes to about $900,000 a day for the four-day session, according to disclosure reports filed Monday."  I can't wait until the fund-raising reports come out in February.  Can. Not. Wait.

A 40 year old man who came onto the Long Reach High School campus to fight a 16 year old (and lose) plead guilty to second-degree assault and will serve 60 days in jail.  That may not seem like much, but I can't imagine a man known to have lost a fight to a 16 year old will have a very pleasant stay in State prison.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Matt Wilson takes a really interesting perspective on the "latter-day HoCo Nader Raiders" and what it must be like to be in constant pursuit of a "gotcha" only to come up with air.  It only takes a shallow step into Howard County community affairs to hear of a hundred malicious conspiracies dancing on the head of a pin.  One simple follow-up question "What do you have to prove that?" normally ends up with a disappointed scowl and the dismissive retort of "Well they don't have any of this out in the open, of course, but we all know its happening."  Yes, of course.  Now let's all get in the Spruce Moose.

That's all for today.  HUGE thanks to all of you that contributed towards LARS over the past three days. 

Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!