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Should the United States subordinate its own citizens' freedom of speech to the potentially subjective and violent responses of other people around the world?

I'll go with no on that.  You know, for the normal reasons: slippery slope, subjectivity of a given listener / reader / viewer, and overreaction.  And there's the whole settling in the colonies, fighting the Revolutionary War, and adopting the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights thing.  Having freedoms like that, plus some economic ones, were the point of that whole exercise.

What do you think?

Via +Jeff Jarvis - since I saw it on Twitter, it's really via @jeffjarvis.
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Speaking with some international colleagues today.  I think the article oversimplifies.  Alot of them understands the value of "freedom of expression".  They just don't believe the "freedom of expression" exists in the US so Obama and the US government is being hypocritical.

After all, this should not be surprising, since the US has been hypocritical in espousing other kinds of freedoms and then violating them indirectly by supporting despots.
 
Nothing good can come from the censorship of speech.
 
We already limit free speech for things in our culture that we consider objectionable.  Child pornography is just one example.  So while I don't condone mob violence, you have to ask yourself about the motivations of those who both made and then promoted the video in question.  It was certainly culturally insensitive and INTENDED to provoke the violence that it did.  So how different is that from a child porn movie which is known to be vile, but is illegal because of its immediate victims as well as its purpose is to create more child pornography.
 
Freedom of speech is a basic freedom that should be granted to everybody, but everybody should also care that their freedom doesn't affect the freedom of others.
 
Heck no, no and no. You can never get back what you gave away in response to violence!
 
The video in question was chosen arbitrarily, and put on everybody's agenda for discussion because of violence. There are no doubt hundreds or thousands of other pieces of content online equally offensive to Muslims, and there always will be.

The larger picture is that every sensibility in the world is offended by someone, somewhere.

This is going to happen again and again and again, with political actors reaching into the grab bag of Internet content and pulling out the next piece of "evidence" that "they" are out to get "us."

Free societies could decide to reward violence by censoring whatever the political opportunists choose to be offended by. But doing so will obviously only invite more violence, and also create a backlash (which is already happening) of people deliberately creating ever more offensive content as a reaction.

The best course of action is to censor nothing. 
 
Despite what I said above, I agree the answer should still be "no".

+Jeff Beamsley I think the difference is that a child porn movie actually harmed children in its making, while said movie did not actually harm anybody directly (though it might have hurt the reputation of participants).
 
     It what a private US citizen says can be controlled by the government on the basis of the damage that it causes in US foreign relations, there would be little reason not to expand it to domestic policies as well. Eventually the right to free speech would be lost altogether. 
     One can see the goodness of the American principle in action when one considers the response that verbal Muslim attacks receive in the US. It is not at all uncommon to hear of some cleric or political leader in an Islamic nation calling the US an evil nation and encouraging our demise. But US citizens for the most part ignore them. One does not see mass riots against Embassies, Mosques, or Muslim schools.
     US citizens respond civilly to foreign hate speech, because they recognize the value of free discourse and the right to express dissenting opinions. If Muslims expect to continue to be treated with some level of tolerance in the US they need to be willing to receive criticism graciously. 
 
The problem with the linked article is that it attempts to make the argument that speech should be limited because some barbaric people in another country may have a barbaric reaction to it.  It claims that the anti-muslim video has no value and at the same time argues that we should place value on disgusting reactions to it.

Muzzling ourselves under the guise of protecting order is a hideous idea.  Who do they propose should make the decisions about which ideas are too dangerous to protect?  Is the criteria based solely upon the extremity of the reaction caused by some particular speech?  I certainly don't want live under such reactionary ideals.  

"Free Speech" doesn't exist because every idea is possibly correct.  It exists so that we are assured that no potentially important ones get smothered.
 
No. The government wouldn't be able to do it anyhow. I'd be one of the first people to break such a law and challenge it in court. 
 
Actually, it's about time for people, Muslims or others, to learn that no god or prophet or whatever imaginary friend can ever be more valuable than the least living, breathing human. If your preacher tells you otherwise, he's a criminal against both, humanity and your religion!
 
+Steve Tjiang Respectfully disagree.  Harm is harm whether direct or indirect.  The difference, which the courts attempt to sort out, is whether or not it is intentional.  In the case of the muslim film, it was clearly intentional.  

Again, there are limits, even in this country to free speech.  If you, for example, threaten the life of the President in public, you are going to get a visit from the Secret Service and your first amendment rights are not going to protect you.
 
Basically, the writer is saying that speech should be regulated based on another individual or community reaction to said speech. If you follow that logic, you won't be able to say much. The following statements could be illegal since they could offend someone:

1) Jesus was not the Son of God
2) Mohammed was not a prophet
3) Joseph Smith was crazy
4) Atheists are clueless
5) People who own Apple products are sheep
6) Dr Pepper is the best soft drink
7) White people can't dance

I could go on.
 
+Jeff Householder I fully agree, however because Statement #4 hurts my feelings as an atheist, I'll now go and beat up some guy who's totally unrelated to you.
 
Did I understand the article correctly?

It seems that it was holding up government suppression of people it didn't like (anarchists, communists, etc.) solely based on their political beliefs, and not on any criminal activities, as an example of a good thing and why suppressing free speech "used to be okay"? Really?

The fact that the Federal Government of the United States has often violated the rights of its citizens has never made it okay, or even remotely acceptable, even if the Supreme Court in some fit of judicial madness blesses it.

Using the conviction of Socialists being okayed by the Supreme Court during World War I to argue that suppressing speech today would be fine, while pointing to the Federal Government's "interference into States' rights" in eliminating segregation in the South as a model is particularly ironic, considering it was the Supreme Court in Plessy vs. Ferguson that put a big "Federally Approved" seal on institutional racism for the majority of the next century!

What a spectacular troll!
 
+Peter Jakobs I'm assuming that you are referring to the anti-muslim video when you reference "that video".  No one was physically injured, as far as I know, in the making of the video.  People died as a result of the violent reaction to the video in the Muslim world.  That doesn't absolve the murders in the mob at all.  They are responsible for the their actions.  I only point out that the violence that occurred was the result that the maker and promoters of this video HOPED FOR.  So while they may be protected under our current understanding of free speech.  They also are responsible for the consequences of their actions.  
 
+Jeff Beamsley What happened in Libya didn't have anything to do with the video... It was planned before the video was in the news.
 
I think it's pretty simple in regards to this situation.  We have two options:  Do we sympathize more with an offensive filmmaker or with people who murder to get their way?  I don't like either one, but I have no doubt which one I'd rather have.
 
+Jeff Beamsley I'll agree with you under the assumption that the film was intentionally causing harm, which seems clearly to be the case.

And I add this.  We should speak freely, so long as there is no intent to harm others. We should simply deal with those adults that act criminally or immorally as best we can, and in a way that is legal and moral. Illegal or immoral actions, by adults, can not be justified by blaming someone for teasing or taunting them.

edit: had I noticed that child pornography was used as an example in earlier posts, I would have commented differently.  I think it would have been appropriate to use the case of yelling "fire" in a crowded building. Child abuse is different and completely disgusting topic.
 
With our extradition of a foreign national that did something legal in his country but illegal in ours (talking about the British student extradited on copyright violations), we have opened the Pandora's box on the issue. Making the Muslim video is perfectly legal here, but if the Pakistani politician wants the dirtbag extradited to be executed, how can we object? We extradited the British student for a far lesser crime (in the perception of Muslims).
 
+Robert Arles Who gets to decide what's harmful?  If I think Christianity is an emotionally harmful philosophy does that mean Christians can't proselyte anymore?
 
Christopher Best brings up an interesting point.  These spontaneous riots were well planned and orchestrated -- likely by a leadership that has its own objectives.  It is also possible that most of the participants never even saw the video, but were only told of it to serve as a trigger.
 
+Cheyanne Smith Looks like free speech, to me. It's obviously offensive to portray your opponents and savages, but it's within your rights...

"Savages" is probably how I'd describe most Philadelphia sports fans, after all. ;)
 
+Jeff Beamsley - harming children directly compared to potentially enciting lunatics are definetely two different things.....what if a huge sect of people worshiped blueberries and acted out and created public uprisings whenever blueberries were misrepresented. Would we ban Blueberry pies and stop showing photos of squished berries due to the potential sensitivity of this violent group?...where do we draw the line? do we send out a global survey asking everyone what really pisses you off? and then distribute that list and dictate that no one may address these subjects?
 
+Christopher Best being a Steelers fan from the Steeler Nation I guess the word "savages" has it's own connotations for everyone....To each his own tribe, or gang or sports team I guess.
 
Greece just arrested a pastafarian for parodying a saint on facebook.  Blasphemy laws are used only to harass and intimidate minorities.

Allowing criticism of religion is particularly necessary when it has so much influence on our laws and social values.  Southpark's movie showed Mahatma Gandhi in hell.  Offensive?  Yes.  Does it have social value to point out the ludicrousness of some of our religious views?  Also yes.
 
+Jeff Beamsley ok, there's a huge flaw in your post and I'll point it out for you: people died because they were murdered by a mindless mob of idiots. Those idiots would accept any reason to go out and riot. If you want to sanitize the world from things that offend them, you'll end up in a world that I'm sure you find as unacceptable as I do.
 
+Joe Naylor When I wrote "harm," I was referring to our current process of defining harm. Our courts do that, and I think it works reasonably well, though I'm definitely in favor of improvement.
 
My religion is knowledge, science, understanding, equality, and truth.  My religion is continually, and constantly mocked every time an ignorant politician attempts to explain why he doesn't believe in evolution, or why his mythology doesn't permit others to share the rights he has.  So I'm all for taking away the rights of free speech, in so long as it's applied equally across all things that may offend.  The world would be a much quieter, and peaceful place to live.
 
tinking about it, I'm majorly offended by the fact that we're actually even discussing giving up freedom of speech over this. Can I get legislation to outlaw such attacks on our freedom or do I have to go out and kill people to get my will?

(does anyone see the circular argument here?)
 
These attacks are political shenanigans enacted by vested interests in the countries in question...and there is no stopping that!
 
Thanks for your Tweets on this and for your share of my post (derivative of your Tweets, except to the extent I was adding my own opinion), +Jeff Jarvis.  As usual, you triggered an interesting discussion.

For what it's worth, I've agreed with Prof. Posner's early writings on contract interpretation.  We're just not seeing eye-to-eye on this whole First Amendment thing.
 
The Arab world has no fucking idea what is free speech. They think they are taking power away from something by demonstrating, when in fact they are exercising power they already have.

Power, though, comes with responsibility, and the critical thing to understand about freedom of expression is that your freedom to swing a fist ends where my face begins.

Not sure if it's our obligation to teach this to them, but Obama was completely right in his speech to the UN: I this hyper-connected age, you could not possibly constrain free speech even if you wanted to.

But I see it as their problem...
 
...does anybody realize that the "Laws of the streets" kinda rule in real society.  Nobody would think of going into a KKK rally and saying I hate white people. Similarily, nobody would go into a Biker Bar, and say I Hate Bikers.  Get my drift?

Even though you wouldn't do it because common sense tells you not to, your freedom of speech allows you to.
 
The question boils down to: If I have the freedom to call your daughter a whore, should you have the freedom to break my nose in response? Or should words only be met with words? Also, 1930s Germany and 1990s Rwanda showed how "words" can have serious consequences when people believe what is being said: A battle of words is not a "freedom" if only one side gets to speak.
 
+Tor Iver Wilhelmsen It's simple, free speech does not allow you to libel and slander freely. There is a whole library of case law (at least in the USA) around what is protected free speech and what is not.
 
+Jim Ashley We all regard child pornography as repulsive.  It is just an example of how free speech in this country IS NOT unlimited.

As far as where we draw the line, that's why we have a legal system.  But there is a fairly clear line there.  At the moment, it doesn't include deliberately provocative films like the one in question.  So people in this country can do things that are intentionally provocative and irresponsible.  I don't condone the mobs or the violence either.  ALL those involved are responsible.  
 
+Peter Jakobs Might be a huge flaw in my post if I had actually suggested that we should attempt to "sanitize" the world from intentially offensive propaganda.  I didn't say that.  

What I did say is that those in the mob who murdered or injured people are responsible for their actions. I also feel that those who created and promoted this video are also responsible.  

We have simply chosen as a society to treat this a free speech because WE don't find it offensive.  There are plenty of other things that we DO find offensive/dangerous that are NOT protected as free speech.

Again, I'm not supporting or excusing mob violence or dictatorships.  What I am saying, however, is that our particular interpretation of what is offensive and what isn't doesn't give us the right to pass judgement on any other society that may have a different list.
 
+Jeff Beamsley Child pornography is always the red herring in this debate.  The problem isn't the expression, it's the exploitation/rape of a minor that's required in order to express oneself.  It's akin to a snuff film.  The expression is such a back seat to the murder, that I don't see grounds for the argument.  Freedom of expression should never include physically or mentally harming another individual, and expression which does so should not be protected.  It's not really the grey area you're tying to make it out to be. 
 
+Ryan Thompson I picked child pornography because it was something universally disgusting and clearly outside the bounds of free speech.

It simply supports that fact that even in this country, free speech has legal limits. 

The only other point is our response to mob violence.  First, there is no excuse for those that take the lives of the innocent,  But there is also this dimension of shock that something as harmless as a video could cause this level of violence.  Well there are things that we do in this country that other societies find just as difficult to understand.  Capital punishment is one example that comes to mind.  
 
Please, enough with the child pornography example, it bears not at all on the free speech issue.  Child porn is criminal not because it expressed erotic ideas about children, but because children are exploited or even raped in order to produce it.  Its no different than filming a murder, you're still going to get arrested for murder and anyone who traffics in the video is an accessory after the fact.  Its not about controlling expression, its about stopping crimes that have nothing to do with expression.  As for the actual video in question, the idea that we'd stifle free speech because of this kind of reaction is abhorrent to me.  What about the people that peacefully object to something that offends them, do we go on offending them while accommodating anyone who commits violence?  Next time I see something on Fox News or MSNBC that offends me will the federal government rush to silence them if I start throwing bricks through windows?  Of course not, I would never be allowed to hamper their free speech in that way.  Our government exists to protect our rights, if it stops doing that its time for a new government.  And to +Christopher Best  I say, savage yes, but we are noble savages :)
 
Please, everyone, consider the violent protesters in the Muslim world are not even a plurality of Muslims. Loud extremists always appear bigger, don't fall for it. Most all Muslims are quiet, mild-mannered people who don't say much (indeed they are afraid of these other Muslims).

If you allow the extremists define what Islam is for the rest of the world, the non-extremists have nowhere to go. And those on the fence are forced to take sides. This is how the extremists win. You have to understand it takes a lot of courage for non-extremists to fight back. You have to go more than halfway.
 
The freedom of speech must be preserved. That goes hand in hand with having the freedom of the free flow of information, aka an uncensored internet. The internet is connecting the world, allowing the flow and transfer of ideas, and making the world smaller and flatter from our perspective. Everybody's business is becoming everybody else's business. Having the free flow of information and the freedom of speech will allow all of us talking primates to open our minds to new ideas, new perspectives, and become more open minded and accepting individuals. Why do you think that cities always hold a lot more liberal and open minded people than rural towns hold? You're exposed to so many more perspectives and new ideas in a city than you are in a rural town. It's the same with having a free, open, and uncensored internet and the freedom of speech. Sure, people are going to disagree and ugly episodes will crop up, but in the end, the more exposure humans have to other different humans, the better off our species will be.
 
ok, +Jeff Beamsley , I see your point, but this still begs the question: who get's to decide what should be exempt from free speech based on which groups acting offended?
Here's where I draw the line: if actual people are verbally attacked (such as gays, blacks, minorities) to the point that they are effectively pushed out of society.
Most of those "rules" are actually not laws but common sense and a majority consensus in society. It's just not ok to use hate speak on any of those groups. I have to say, I am no American, I'm German, we have a slightly different situation here, but in essence, it's very similar.

So, I do, in general, agree with you that there are things that can be said that lie outside of what society agrees on as being acceptible. Not all of this is necessarily legislated, much of it is just frowned upon by the majority. This video, I think, is such a case. However, the neighbouring cases of the Danish Mohammed Cartoons were not, despite the fact that they sparked similar outrage in the "islamic world" (a stupid term btw, and I whish I could come up with a better one).

What makes both cases special is that no living person was attacked or ridiculed or even just portraied. It was a guy that has been dead for almost 1400 years!
And so, he was shown having Sex? Read up on Mohammed, he was married to at least 9 women, maybe even 12 or 14 and he had slaves and concubines, some of which he later married, some not. He had eight children. I think the guy had a lot of sex, and for his own benefit and that of his many wives, I hope it was damn good!
Can you be offended about reality?
Do we have to stop talking about reality?
Do I have to fear that someone somewhere will be killed because I looked up this information from Wikipedia and re-posted it here?

Hurt religious feelings are a free ticket to be offended by anything and everything. Saying that Jesus, in all probability, was not born from a virgin will get some christians offended, stating that we evolved from monkeys will get people from christian and islamic faiths offended. In both cases, a majority of those otherwise holding that religious belief will agree, virgin birth is a fable and creation is a myth.

So again: where to draw the line?
When 10 people go out on a riot?
When 100 people go out on a riot?
When 1000 people go out on a riot?
When 1 innocent person gets killed? 10? 100?

Dan Dennett wrote about religious extremism that it's time for he moderate religious to take responsibility for what is done in the name of their religion. Many religions have a values system that is turned on it's head: the crazier the ideas you are willing to believe in, the stronger your belief, the higher you are valued. That can lead to a situation where those that are valued the highest commit the worst atrocities, because they are closer to the deity. This is the hard part for religions: they have to let go the old idea that the farther you are from reality, the closer you are to god. That leads to trouble with reality.

I'm an atheist, as I said above, and I hope that, one day, we'll see a world without religion. Not in my lifetime, I'm pretty sure about that.
Until then, I take the freedom to laugh about religious nonsense, I use my rights to push back against religion where it invades my life and I have the courtesy to treat anyone who is moderately religious like an intelligent person, despite the fact that I have my doubts when I look at the nonsense they are required to believe.
I will not accept that any rights will be cut down because they collide with some religious belief somewhere on this earth, small or mighty.
And neither should you.
 
+Saleem Yasir what I do "if someone presents some fake and blasphemous stuff against your parents, religion or any other thing, you love more than your life or any thing else"?
Simple. First I look at who it is saying so. If it's someone who is obviously stupid or out to provoke me, I ignore him. We have a sying in German "why would the oak be worried about the dog peeing at it".
If it's someone I value, I will seek a dialog with them, trying to figure out why they did so.
If it's someone I cannot ignore, I will make sure my point is seen, too. Peacefully and with dignity.
Point is: there's nothing that I love more than life, and there should not be for you. If you're religious, that's fine, but if you let your religion overrule your own morality, if you let religion dictate who you can accept and who you must hate, you have a problem.
 
The child pornography example is relevant when the law extends to also cover things like drawings and text. Witness the American ("safe" in a country where the courts have decided these are legal) who was arrested at the Canadian border for having a Japanese comic book depicting under-age sex.
 
+Tor Iver Wilhelmsen there is still a difference between a scene that has molested and abused children and continues to do so, and a scene that mocks a guy who died almost 1400 years ago, would you agree?
 
Sure, but the point is that all societies have some form of restrictions of speech. The difference is what restrictions, and what justifications people come up with to defend them. Also: WikiLeaks.
 
+Tor Iver Wilhelmsen yes, I agree, and the point of it is?
I believe that any attempt to reduce freedom of speech and expression should be met with a large amount of push-back. There needs to be a very good reason why we should taboo something. "You hurt my religious feelings" is not a good enough reason, if it's coupled with "and therefore, I'm killing random people", it's a definite no!
 
+Saleem Yasir I'm all for a peaceful world, but why would that require me to respect somebody's religious belief?
Why not you may ask?
Here's why the request to respect religious beliefs is inacceptible:
Religious doctrine, belief, sensitivity etc is arbitrary. It is not anchored in anything that is real or demonstrable. I'm sure you are aware that, in early islam, it was ok to depict Mohammed and that this was only outlawed in later years. Same goes for the dress code for women.
I strongly believe that it's inacceptible to ask the world to comply to rules that are entirely arbitrary. This is not limited to islamic rules and sensitivities but includes all religious beliefs.

I suggest a different way to peace, however:

As stated above, I agree with Daniel Dennett that it's time for the moderate believers of any religion to step up and take responsibility for the atrocities committed in the name of their religion. The number of people rioting in the name of islam is small, tiny, when compared to the overall number of believers. I'm certain that the majority of muslims does not endorse those actions and would rather live in peace and also resolve this peacefully (you seem to fall into that group). I do firmly believe that it's upon you to call those to order, who bring a bad name to your religion by reacting with violence. Not you personally, but you, all the moderate, peace loving muslims. It's your responsibility.

Murdering people in the name of religion is not a virtue and it should be rejected by the good people of the same faith first and foremost, that will earn you respect for your society and the world will gain a positive image of your religion. The enemies of your belief are those who commit violence and murder in the name of your religion and those who tell them to do so. That is where we should start, that is where peace can be found.

Look at draw Mohammed day - why do you think that exists? Because billions of Muslims look at it, shrug and mind their business (ie, behave sensibly) or because a few 100 use it as an excuse to get outraged about it? Honestly, noone would have the slightest interest in drawing your prophet, if it wasn't for this insane overreaction. Take it away and there won't be any reason for an action anymore.

We, the secular society, have no way, and indeed no reason, to obey every religious rule ever invented by the various members of cults around the world (and so do you, you probably only follow the rules of your own religion and would upset many people in other beliefs, if they were willing to be upset by you).

Again: it's upon you to solve the problem, I'm sure the world wants to live peacefully with Muslims, but it's not the world that owes you peace, it's you who owe the world peace.
 
Wow. Words can't express how bad Jeff Posner's argument is.
 
There is always a say I am responsible for what i say  not what you understand
 
+Saleem Yasir Ok, so all it takes is extreme fundamentalism to squash freedom of speech? That doesn't fix the problem - it makes it worse.  It puts the crazies in charge of what is acceptable.  From where I see it, people who react violently to criticism of any sort must worry that their argument is weak.  The faster they learn to ignore what other people say, then the faster peace will come. That's how to fix it - I'm sorry, but it's time for them to be brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century (or the 15th century if you go by the Islamic calendar).
 
+David Jarvis I fully agree, to put it in other words: the so called "Islamic World" needs their own period of enlightenment and humanism.
 
... or secularism. The real progress in the "Western world" picked up speed when a capitalist middle class and the "free thinkers" started to gain power at the expense of the archaic church. Now Christianity is like a quaint hobby, separated into a shed load of quarreling cults, some closer to Islam value-wise than others. And no longer able to outlaw science or burn heretics. Well, except quite a few places where they exert some influence and spread their ignorance...
 
Les musulmans sont pacifiques. Ils veulent juste q on les ecoute
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