Wednesday, January 12, 2011

When atheist Reason succumbs to hysteria we become like Them


The hideous mass killings and attempted assassination of a congresswoman in
Tucson, Arizona last week has created hysteria and knee jerk reactionary response from people from whom I would have least expected it. Perhaps my disappointment is my own fault as I tend to credit freethinkers with using the same reasoned approach to all issues and events, more credit than we apparently deserve.

Over the course of the past few days I received numerous invitations to join causes and pages on Facebook entitled “Prosecute Palin for Incitement to Murder” and “Remove Palin from Facebook.” Curious, I visited those pages and read some outlandishly speculative comments that were proffered as fact; comments so filled with rhetorical hyperbole, so incendiary and worst of all so unsubstantiated that had the people positing them been religionists I’d simply have shaken my head and said: “Typical.”

But these were largely freethinkers, atheists—people who dismiss the supernatural because they demand objective evidence; honor fact not conjecture; and hold rational thought in high regard, or so I thought.

“The shooter is a Teabagger!”; “This was all part of a well conceived Right Wing plan!” ; “Palin knew this was going to happen!”; “She broke the law and is guilty of conspiracy to murder!”; “We should change the laws for high profile people to hold them accountable for words that kill!”; “She went beyond free speech, like yelling Fire in a crowded theater!” When questioned as to the foundational evidence for these statements no substantiations were offered. The pyre was already stacked, the match struck, all they needed was the witch to be delivered to them.

I suggested examination of Brandenburg vs Ohio and Watts vs The United States to better understand the criteria for incitement to murder. Palin’s gun related rhetoric which appeals to her base and is part of her persona, and the crosshair target imagery do not even vaguely approach that criteria. The critical element being that direct intent to cause harm has to be proven and that mere hyperbole, humor, or offensive methods of stating political opposition are protected under the Constitution. I implored them not to confuse legal accountability, with the unethical/insensitive political discourse we all rightly and roundly condemn.

This wasn’t received well.


Never mind that my expressed disdain for the far right in general and Palin in specific are well documented. That I condemned her hate filled and inflammatory speech as ill advised and bad for the nation was not enough. My call for rational thinking was largely ignored, worse, it was taken as evidence of my right wing leanings and proof that I am a Palinist. I was summarily “unfriended” by at least one Facebook “friend.”

In the midst of all this I received this email from an atheist organization in the Southwestern US:


“The WBC [ Westboro Baptist Church] has added another irony as a right-wing extremist took the lifes [sic] of 6 people wounding 14 more (including Gabby Gifford) will be given hero status by this sick group. If you're in the area please do go to these funerals and help the blockade that will keep the evil of the right-wing out.”


I emailed the group’s organizer, commended her efforts to blunt Fred Phelps’ despicable plan, and asked for her evidence of the shooter’s “right-wing extremist” credentials. She replied she had none, but it was obvious. I explained that the right is claiming he was a far leftist, also without evidence. When I suggested that her inventive labeling of this maniac -- who could as well be far left, Independent, anarchist, or simply apolitical but deranged -- could damage her and her organization’s credibility she said this:

“Of course they're saying he's not one of them. That's how they twist things. Why does associating him with the right threaten my credibility? The right associating him with the left only strengthens theirs”. ...” I think that [picketing Fred Phelps’ demonstration] is a legitimate project for atheists who claim they are also humanists. If my credibility is hurt in the process of getting some action, so be it.”

Let me paraphrase her comment:
“... let truth and fact be damned; if they can posit conjecture as fact so can we; the means justifies the end; and besides what harm would it do, if I told a good strong lie for the sake of the cause? A lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be wrong.”

If that last phrase sounds vaguely familiar to you, kudos. You probably read the chapter in The Atheist Camel Chronicles that discusses the Church’s endorsement of lying for the faith. Here’s the actual quote:
"What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church ... a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them." - Martin Luther, in a letter in Max Lenz, ed., Briefwechsel Landgraf Phillips des Grossm├╝thigen von Hessen mit Bucer, vol. I.)

The lesson here is that the rationality that permits atheists’ rejection of myth doesn’t always translate into clear and measured thinking when facing broader real world applications. Under emotional duress hysteria displaces reason and the ensuing justification for abandonment of truth and fact reads as despicably as it does from a religionist’s pen. Lesson learned.

32 comments:

NewEnglandBob said...

Good post, Hump. You practice careful scrutiny and skepticism and reject free-wheeling thinking as a replacement for freethinking.

Dromedary Hump said...

Thank you Bob. That's a high compliment coming from you. Appreciated.

Robert said...

Claiming the killer is politically motivated in any sense has my biggest issue since this story broke. I feel the comments of the sheriff about hatred and prejudice were irresponsible just as much as I feel Rush Limbaugh's claim that Laughner has the backing of the Democratic Party to be ridiculous.

But, although I hate to beat a dead horse, I can't help but be reminded of peoples' conflation of the acts of the 9/11 terrorists and the effort to build the community center at Park 51. I'm sure there is a stark contrast in your mind, but I can't help but see the clear similarities in thinking: We see violence against a political icon and suddenly all the Right's rhetoric is to blame. We see violence done to a city by a handful of extremists and suddenly all Muslims are to blame (but only on a slow news day when the plans had been public for over a year before the story broke.)

I realize we may never agree on Park 51 and what it means, but in any case I'm seeing very clear parallels.

Reverend RobDiesel said...

My problem from the start was that people rushed to make it a political issue.
That's the same problem I have with "hate crime". I don't CARE what you think in your head, but if you murder someone, I will be all for you getting prosecuted for MURDER. Not for murder of a BLACK person. Not for murder of a POLITICAL person, or JEWISH person, or GYPSY person - no, for MURDER.

This guy took lives, and I suspect that he could just as well have been hung up on killing a religious person, a dog, or someone who drives a Prius.

So the political crap gets old and frankly, it makes me think that the people who push that agenda in this case may benefit from sitting down and STFU for a little bit.

Thanks for the post, Humpster. I'll pass it on to friends on both sides of the political hump, as I think they can all benefit from reading it.

Dromedary Hump said...

Rev..thanks. and I agree with your hate crime perspective.

Robert.. I don't entirely disagree with your parallel.

Susan said...

Robert, I have a question for you: Do you look at the Holocaust and think that all Nazis are responsible? There were plenty of Nazis who never killed any Jews. Or would you hold anyone who was a part of that ideology in suspicion?

And regarding Sheriff Douche-nik. He is as responsible for hateful rhetoric as anyone he points the finger at. This whole incident makes me fearful of what primitive creatures we are. Just look at the mob mentality. We have not evolved beyond with hunts and I fear my species.

EarlyOut said...

Fundamentally, I agree with your post, but I think you may be slightly over-generous in giving some people a "pass."

When your local friendly paranoid schizophrenic was convinced that aliens from Venus were the enemy, and were out to destroy the American way of life, he wasn't too much of a danger (unless, of course, he somehow became convinced that you were from Venus).

But now, if he watches nothing but Fox News, he's become convinced that it's not the Venutians he needs to worry about. He's repeatedly told that his own government is the enemy. There will be socialism, there will be death panels, there will be gun confiscations, there will be concentration camps, there will be imposed Sharia law, and so on, ad nauseam.

Now, he's got a new target. Clearly, the people that are preparing to do these terrible things to him have to be stopped. And he's often being told exactly who's responsible, with bull's eyes (metaphorical ones, if not actual ones) to make sure his aim is good.

And it must all be true, since he heard it on TV, not only from commentators, but from some politicians. He's heard some of his elected representatives telling him that armed resistance is the only way to put an end to the parade of horribles that's marching down the street in his direction.

So, who's responsible for what happens? You may not be able to draw a straight line from commentator A to shooter B, but when anyone, on either fringe of the political spectrum, starts getting people all riled up about things that aren't actually happening, I think they bear some responsibility for the fact that some of the people listening to them actually believe what they're saying.

After all, if the government really is going to round us up into concentration camps, then armed resistance probably would be the right thing to do.

Yelling "fire" in a crowded theater isn't a crime if, in fact, the theater is on fire. But if there's no fire, the shouter has to answer for the consequences of his actions.

Dromedary Hump said...

Earlyout,
Well said. We have no disagreement.

Remember what I was saying, however. This article is about two things: 1- Legal liability/accountability. and 2- assigning blame before we know the facts.

I am cautioning against the hysteria of "non-think", the willingness to afix legal responsibility were none exists, and the seeming willingness to toss out the 1st amendment as a response to both.

Yes, the media and raving partisan politicians who enflame passions and provoke to attain an agenda are scumb. They are morally reprehensible, and ETHICALLY COMPLICIT for the actions of the deceived and maleable lowest common denomenator.

I do not know what the answer to that is...but I know what it's not.

GatorApe said...

Hump, great job. Indeed, I have passed this along as well to my relatives/friends (most of whom are on the other side of the fence politically and all are on the other side regarding religion) as it sums up my thoughts on this horrible event precisely.

As a side note, and off-topic, I recently bought your book -- loved it! -- absolutely wonderful read -- thanks for writing it. (Couldn't find an email address anywhere to pass that along privately. So, apologies to everyone else here for the off-topic note.)

Dromedary Hump said...

[[[ the following post came via email, and is reposted here with the writer's permission]]]]

This is a rational piece that would make the great philosophers proud!

I must say, though, that the ugliness of the event in Tuscon nudged an emotional rather than a rational response from me in my thinking and discussions. I believe that urge, however, comes from a desire to do something when we know we are helpless; our genes urge us to fight back for those we realize should not be victims. Your communicants on the internet were probably trying, however clumsily and immaturely, to fulfill that urge.

The perpetrator is obviously sick and rational discourse should lead us to help console the victims and find treatment for the mentally ill.
Hang in!!

Paul B.

Dromedary Hump said...

Gator,
Thanks. Glad the article was of value to you. And I very much appreciate your kind words about my book.
You can always reach me at atheistcamelchronicles@msn.com, or via facebook.

longhorn believer said...

Hump, I'm so glad you wrote this. I actually came to your blog today hoping for some rational thinking on this matter! I'm appalled by the reactionary behavior of some of my atheist friends on Facebook. They are just as bad about jumping to conclusions as everyone else! I agree with Earlyout. No, there is not a direct connection between Commentator A and Assassin B. But violent psychotic people are like loaded guns themselves. They are eventually going to go off, and that doesn't happen in a vacuum. Irresponsible media personalities provide an over-heated atmosphere of enemies and targets.

Also, I think it's important to distinguish between violent psychotic people and people with psychosis that will never be violent. I know the man at the center of this storm is violent, but I'm also appalled by the rhetoric vilifying him that takes such a hard line and cavalier attitude toward mental illness. He is being characterized as evil and demonic which only serves to allow people to set aside any feelings of empathy for people who are in emotional pain due to mental illness. If this is an act of evil, in a religious sense, then the responsible party is no longer a person with a mental illness, he is now a devil. We can punish him any way we see fit and ignore the fact that he could have been helped, and possibly still can be helped. I don't want to jump to any conclusions regarding Loughner or Palin, but Loughner seems to me to be a victim in this tragedy as well. Even if he doesn't have a mental illness, the over all attitude toward psychosis that this has generated is doing a disservice to our communities and our country. I'm not excusing his actions in any way shape or form, but the attitude in our society towards mental illness and the lack of knowledge on how to deal with it contributed to the situation just as much as the political rhetoric.

Finally, I too see the parallels between this situation and Park52. I'm wondering if you would care to comment further on that? It might require another blog posting

Dromedary Hump said...

Longhorn...
Thanks for your input.

Yes, it seems there weremany opportunities for people who knew and interacted with the shooter to take a proactive stance and get him some help. Whther he is completely insane, or if it's a case of nature + nurture, not sure we'll ever really know. I don't have sympathy for him per se, since in the log run we are all responsible for our actions, even if our ability to control them are diminished.

Having already written an article on tyhe NYC mosque issue, I'm not anxious to rehash it. But let me just reiterate: not everyone who opposes the "grd zero" mosque equates every muslim with the 911 terrorists. I don't. I fully agree they have every right to build there. But I think it's insensitive and counter productive given the climate and the proximity.

Shaw Kenawe said...

I've thought a lot about what happened last weekend and what has been our national discourse by way of talk radio, teevee punditry, and blogging.

Here's what I've been thinking:

Madison Avenue spends millions and millions of dollars on ad campaigns--all words and images--to get people to go out and buy crap they probably don't need.

And it works.

But now I'm hearing that images and words (gun sights, crosshairs, "don't retreat, reload," "We need to be armed and dangerous," etc. have no effect on anyone listening to this type of rhetoric. No effect after the last two years of hearing the government is coming to take away your guns, your rights, and that the guy in the White House is a Marxist, Communist, Socialist, Fascist Kenyan, unAmerican tyrant who want to destroy America and take away our freedoms.

Are the advertisers who spend imaginable fortunes to get a message across all doing this just to throw their money away? Or do the continual showing of images and blasting of messages have any influence on people?


I'm going with the idea that repeated strong messaging and provocative images DO affect people, otherwise why in hell would corporations spend billions of dollars on teevee and print media to get people to buy their stuff?

Why did we decide to not allow any cigarette advertising on teevee as a way to discourage kids and adults from smoking? And no hard liquor ad on teevee?

Can someone answer this?

Sarah Palin and her friends did not kill or wound anyone.

But we have to ask ourselves what influence the continual promotion of violent images and messages has on our national psyche.

Dromedary Hump said...

Shaw,
I think that's a legitimate observation and concern.

I do believe the hate and violence filled rhetoric does play on people's paranoia. If it didn't Limbaugh and Beck et al, wouldn't have such a strong following and make millons doing it.

But it's not a new phenomenon. The Populist movement of the late 19th century was full of consiracy promoting extremists who sought to rally support and fear that the country was being hijacked from within by a consortium of gold hoarding conspirators.

In the earl 60's many of Barry Goldwater's supporters genuinely believed Lyndon Johnson was a socialist or commie; that he wanted to turnover the country to the UN settting the stage for a one world goverment. And these were educated people most of whom you'd not call crazies had you not known their radacle positions.

The point here is that while the over the top sensationalsists have always been there, their rhetoric is not necessarily successful with the majority of the people. And the more educated people are, even if they are sympathetic to some of the sentiments, the less likely they are to be moved to over reaction.

Hell, I've watched Toyota commercials, Bob's Discount Furniture commercials, and commercials for insurance companies 20 times a day for years, and I haven't the slightest urge to partake of their services. May of them have the effect of repelling me. Not what the advertisers are after.

But, much like those people who are glued to their HSN tv and buy things they neither need nor can afford, so the rhetoric of hate and violence can indeed stir people to action. 99.99% of the time that action will express itself in more rhetoric; activism in the form of picketing, protesting, and supporting like thinking lobbiests; and of course voting. "Coming to take your guns" did much for the firearms and ammunition industries sales after Obama's election. You didn't see armed rebellion.

The other 0.01% of the time it may well be the missing catalyst in a crazy's anti-social actions. And that's the price we pay for freedom.

EarlyOut said...

This may be the price we have to pay for freedom, but there are some things that have changed since the 19th Century, and even since the 1960s. What's changed is the ability of your local friendly paranoid schizophrenic to be subjected to alarmist propaganda 24 hours a day, to amass a spectacularly deadly arsenal, and to travel quickly and easily to a place where he can put it to use.

These changes may make it necessary for us to modify our notions of what degree of freedom is compatible with a reasonable level of public safety. We can argue endlessly about whether that means restrictions on speech, restrictions on weapons, involuntary commitment, whatever, but it's an argument that we probably need to keep having. There's no such thing as settling these questions now and for always.

Think about DM with an AK-47 and a car, and you get the picture.

Dromedary Hump said...

Early,

Before the printing press in the
15th century only the church had access to the Bible and the aristocracy to any other manuscripts. The invention of the telegraph transmiitted news much faster in the 19th century; then radio and the telephone in the early 20th; then tv and fax machines. Now cell phones and internet.

With each of those innovations of communication came the potential for misuse, for enraging the masses, for influencing / controlling thought, for instigating reaction among the insane.

The horse and wagon, the steam engine / locomotive, the auto mobile, the airplane, the jet... and fututre improvemenst to human mobility will always increase humanmobility.

At any point along the way your caution about the influence of communucation or transport could be applied... and your proffering of rethinking rights could have been posited.

The freedom of expression is sacrosanct. Premptively truncating it in an attempt to prevent the lowest common denominators... the insane, deluded, or gullible ... from over reacting is not only incompatible with the 1st amendment, it is a recipe for total loss of free speech and tyranny.

I'll have none of it. I do not accept that man's technological innovations can justify reducing inalienable rights. I prefer to take my chances against the occassional AK-47, or 1898 Mauser autopistol, or the 1919 Browing machinegun, or the 1911 Colt, or 1921 Thompson wielding nut.

We'll have to agree to disagree on this.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Dromedary Hump said...

One last thought:
We are a nation of 300 million.
Everyone of us enjoys the freedoms upon which this nation was predicated.

Suggesting that the 1, or 10, or 100, or 1000, or 10,000 among us who are prone to be influenced by the flow of media transmitted opinion and availability of modern technology for ill may justify imposing new controls on free speech for the remaining 97% - 99.999% of us, should make us all realize the idea is patently unacceptable to a free people..

NewEnglandBob said...

Well put in those last two comments, Hump!

EarlyOut said...

So I suppose you would repeal all laws against threatening the President, making death threats against others, publishing kiddie porn, phoning in bomb threats, publishing libelous material about non-public individuals, etc., etc.?

It's very easy to proclaim yourself to be a First Amendment absolutist. Not so easy in practice, though.

Dromedary Hump said...

Early,

I wish you had stayed with your original premise and hadn't crossed the line of good judgement in discourse into erroneous and unwarranted statements of assumption.

I have no interest in repealing the statutes you suggest. I did not proclaim myself an abosultist. YOU have decided to declared me such.

There are limitations on speech which have a foundation in law. In short: speech that "directly" encourages "imminent" violent action against a "specific person or people" where it is "known or should be known" that it can or will "directly result" in injury or death is not protected.

It's true for the instigator of a lynch mob. It's true for falsly yelling fire in a theater. It's true for inciting armed rebellion against the government.

Saying "we should target democratic candidates [for ousting]"; or "don't retreat, reload"; are called rhetoric, not direct threats. The law is clear on this.

Let's stay on the side of reason here, and leave the excessive rhetoric, vitriol, and hyperbole to those without reason, please.

EarlyOut said...

Hump, you're the one who said, "The freedom of expression is sacrosanct." How are defining "sacrosant?"

I maintain that it's nothing of the sort. We have always accepted some restrictions on free speech as the price for creating a society that's fit to live in. The line between "acceptable" and "unacceptable" has shifted continually, throughout our history. The line gets moved because of changing conditions, because of changing societal norms, and so on.

And it's certainly not always a question of more restrictions on speech. If it were, the Alien and Sedition Act would still be the law of the land, and some movies would still be banned in Boston. Freedom of speech is something that ebbs and flows like the tide.

I think it's naive to claim that this is a settled question, never to be reexamined. If it were, the courts would never hear another First Amendment case. It has to be reexamined repeatedly, and there's nothing wrong with that. That's the genius of our Constitution - it's not set in stone, which would be a recipe for irrelevance.

Dromedary Hump said...

Early...
I don't make definitions up so lets stick with the standard definition of sacrosanct:

sac·ro·sanct   
–adjective
1. extremely sacred or inviolable: a sacrosanct chamber in the temple.
2. not to be entered or trespassed upon
3. above or beyond criticism, change, or interference: a manuscript deemed sacrosanct.

It doesn't say "absolute." YOU said absolute.

I never implied the Constitution was static. But what you seem to be pushing for is the criminalization of rhetoric that has already been found to be protected speech by at least two different court decisions from the 60's (as I mentioned in prior posts or in my article), and for which I'd have no appetite to reverse 40 yrs later.

I would sooner "target" your position; "draw a bead" on any efforts to gut our rights; and would "come out shooting" if such a insideous law was introduced.

There...now have me arrested.

Dromedary Hump said...

PS: EarlyOut.. looking back at your post I realized I over looked something you said: "Think about DM with an AK-47 and a car and you get the picture."

I get acompletely different "picture" than you do evidently. I have as much concern about DM as I do about The American naziparty coming to get me because of my Jewish roots. I am not paranoid and thus give neither of them a seconds thought. Interesting that you do.

I wonder if "... because of changing societal norms." you'd now propose a ban on the hateful and devisive speech of White Supremists, Neo-Nazis, KKK, skin heads, and Fred Phelps, et al. Have societal norms shifted to the point that somehow their right to express their perspectives in accordance with the 1st amendment are now null and void?

Maybe because the internet gave them a louder voice with the ability to connect with more like thinking imbeciles? Or because now they have access to AK's instead of muzzle loaders, and have cars instead of horses?

Shall we ban certain words? Shall we ban thoughts like Germany did with Holocaust deniers? Ban the drawing of Muhammed? Afterall... why not, it would add to civility. Lets not stop there. There are lots of ideas, words, and positions we could place new and improved limits on that "might" or "could" be perceived as enflamatory to certain people given societal changes.

Or we can all just grow up and respect the rights of the vast majority of sane people, and their ability to discern rhetoric from reality.

EarlyOut said...

Wow. You've managed to contradict yourself a remarkable number of times within just a few short sentences. Quite an achievement.

Which part of "inviolable" and "above or beyond criticism, change, or interference" do you think isn't absolute? How is "above or beyond... change" not the same as "static?" Perhaps you should make up your mind, instead of making up new definitions for words.

And when it comes to putting words in people's mouths, who ever said that we should criminalize rhetoric? I tossed out the idea that we might want to take another look at where we draw our lines, legal or otherwise ("not illegal, but maybe a bad thing to do, and deserving of opprobrium") as we have so often done in the past. For some reason, you've decided to turn it some sort of hard and fast advocacy of a fairly extreme position. I never said any such thing.

And don't tell me to grow up. Ad hominem is a "tell."

When it comes to someone like DM, if I lived anywhere near him, or if I'd been poking him with a stick, I'd sure as hell want to keep on eye on him. He's made death threats before - in fact, I wonder if the RCMP has had a chat with him, given Canada's laws about such threats.

Dromedary Hump said...

Earlyout...
The 1st amendment is not a play thing. It IS inviolable. It is above criticism, change or interference as it has been for 250 years. Its there to protect unpopular speech, even insane ramblings. That will not and cannot change. The reason the sedition and alien act was roundly condemned is exactly because it violated the 1st amendment.

I am being completely consistent, you however are not. You said:

"... who ever said that we should criminalize rhetoric? I tossed out the idea that we might want to take another look at where we draw our lines, LEGAL OR OTHERWISE ("NOT ILLEGAL, maybe a bad thing to do, and deserving of opprobrium")"

well, if you said public condemnation we wouldn't be having this conversation. The fact you said LEGAL (and now seem to be hedging) is an inconsistency. If a line is going to be drawn in regard to legality.. then to cross that line would make it "ILLEGAL." You can't have it both ways.

And, I never suggested YOU have to grow up..read it again. I said "WE" as a people. This sensitivity and knee jerk reaction to words is inane.

Now, your taking that as an ad hominem attack, and you irrational fear of an internet religious jerk like DM, suggests paranoia. Get a grip, please.

Lets get beyond this because neither of us are likely to change either of our minds.

Dromedary Hump said...

CORRECTION; ABOVE I said 1st amendment is inviolate. That's incorrect... The statement in my prior post, and to which you responded, was that freedom of "expression" is sacrosanct.

Death threats et al are not protected freedoms of expression.

This is an important point we both may have gotten confused.

EarlyOut said...

"...freedom of "expression" is sacrosanct.

Death threats et al are not protected freedoms of expression."

What utter nonsense! So, expression is protected, without exception (that's what "sacrosanct" means). Unless we've decided that it isn't protected. Now there's a profound bit of Constitutional analysis.

Stick to the "atheist vs. deist" material, where you're on fairly firm footing. When you veer off into other areas, you manage to get yourself wrapped around the axle pretty regularly.

Dromedary Hump said...

Early...

What you fail to understand is that freedom of expression does not legally include death threats, threats of immenent harm. Thus.. freedom of expression is sacrosanct... without any conflict or contradiction, except in your mind.

What your missing is a simple understanding of of law. Let me help you, then we can hopefully put this to rest:
saying: "I hate your guts and hope someone beats the shit out of you and/or you're killed in a house fire." Is covered under freedom of expression...free speech.

saying: "i hate your guts and am going to drive by your home with an AK and kill you, then rape your wife and daughter." does not qualify as "expression," it is a direct threat of harm ... BY LAW.

So, before you hold yourself up as some font of intellectual superiority on Constitutional law, you have to distinguish between common parlance, and the legal meaning of things. Expression and Threat are separate terms and as such can not be in conflict or contradiction.

This should be crystal clear...even to DM, your arch nemises and boogie man.

I think we're done here.

Dromedary Hump said...

Early..
better example since I sense you are highly confused and not subject to rational thought at the moment.

statement: "Consensual sex between (non-blood relative) adults is sacrosanct in the USA."

dissenter: "How can consensual sex be sacrosanct what about rape? If rape is illegal consentual sex between adults is not sacrosanct."

"Rape is different than consentual sex. While rape involves sexual behavior it is excluded from the legal definition of consentual sex. Thus, there is no conflict, and the definition and practice of consentual sex remains sacrosanct."

anyway.. that's the best I can offer you. Think it over.

EarlyOut said...

You're saying that the law says that freedom of expression is sacrosanct. What you really mean is that the law says that freedom of permitted expression is sacrosanct. Those two statements are not the same thing.

It would the same as saying that "sex is sacrosanct" vs. "consensual sex is sacrosanct." Under the first formulation, rape would not be illegal (though one could argue about whether rape is sex, or just assault). Under the second formulation, it could be criminalized.

In this country, freedom of expression has never been sacrosanct. We've defined a whole range of forms of expression to be impermissible, outside the protection of the Constitution. The list is long, covering death threats, advertising unapproved medicines, libel, and, I hasten to point out, having a public school teacher lead the class in Bible studies for an hour every day.

We define some forms of expression as protected, and other forms as not protected. So which forms of expression fall into which category? That's not a settled question. Never has been, never will be. The line moves every time an appellate court tackles the issue.

Clinging to the notion that expression, in toto, is sacrosanct is the kind of dogmatism I expect from the faithful, not the rational.

Dromedary Hump said...

EarlyOut..
two things about your last post:
1. we are coming closer together in our terminologies and understanding.
2. I appreciate your turning down the hostility level; I prefer reserving that for theists.

We'll let your post above be the last word. As I said some time ago, we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.