I have always been of the mind that all speech should be free. One should always feel free to express the worst in us, out loud, in public, where the speech can be tested against community standards and either be excoriated or accepted.
There are two events, recently published in The New York Times, that force me to wonder if there is a reason why some expressions should never be made public.
The first example concerns the murder trial of Ronell Wilson — who allegedly shot two undercover detectives in the back of the head — when he was arrested, handwritten scraps of a Rap song were found in his pocket describing the killings before they happened.

Hate Speech

The scraps of paper
were formally introduced as evidence yesterday, between testimony from
the city’s chief medical examiner and the investigating officers.
Alongside such standard evidence, rap lyrics have come up repeatedly in
the first two weeks of the trial, most notably in testimony from a
federal agent who recited a gang member’s violent, profanity-laden
verses for the jury in a halting monotone.

Prosecutors are making similar arguments across the country this year,
in courtrooms in Albany, Oroville, Calif., College Station, Tex., and
Gretna, La. Set to drumbeats or scrawled in notebooks, the rhymes of
minor stars, aspiring producers and rank amateurs are being accepted as
evidence of criminal acts, intent and mind-set.

Is this the sort of “free society” we want in America where people can
express their most wicked desires in print and in song and then act
upon that darkness in a real life, terminal, act?
Is there a point when — like shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre —
we are required to criminalize speech that directly endangers the
welfare of the rest of us?

Fantasy or not, should we allow bragging about killing someone in song?
If so, should we be later surprised if that speech is irrevocably acted
upon in the least interest of the best of us?
Does a song lyric promise the mindset of a killer in premeditation the
same way a spoken, direct, threat can warrant a death sentence — or is
all creative expression held harmless in the goal of us?

The second incredible example of hate speech finding purchase in a
public arena happened yesterday in Tehran during “The International
Conference on Review of the Holocaust.”

Hate Speech

In a speech opening the two-day conference,
Rasoul Mousavi, head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Institute for
Political and International Studies, which organized the event, said it
was an opportunity for scholars to discuss the subject “away from
Western taboos and the restriction imposed on them in Europe.”

The foreign ministry had said that 67 foreign researchers from 30
countries were scheduled to take part. Among those speaking today are
David Duke, the American white-supremacist politician and former Ku Klux Klan
leader, and Georges Thiel, a French writer who has been prosecuted in
France over his denials of the Holocaust.

Mr. Duke’s remarks late this afternoon are expected to assert that no
gas chambers or extermination camps were actually built during the war,
on the ground that killing Jews that way would have been much too
bothersome and expensive when the Nazis could have used much simpler
methods, according to an advance summary of his speech published by the
institute.

Should we condemn the Iran conference for wallowing in the dangerous
fantasy of rewriting history to serve an unveiled future want to “Wipe Israel Off The Map
— or should we celebrate the fact we know, on-the-record, precisely
the rationale and strategy for death and destruction and act on it now
to prevent anyone else from getting shot in the back of the head?

27 Comments

  1. David- Sure speech can have as heavy effect as cement block and guns, but who is going to regulate it. The same government that lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that led to deaths of many innocent soldiers who follwed the “logic” attached to these words.

  2. Hi David- Natural laws, are laws. Man made laws are notions; some more natural than others.
    i agree. Freedom of speech sounds like a good idea, ontil one looks deeper and sees that it is just another idea or notion. Inciting war through lies is not my idea of freedom that one should be given.

  3. fred —
    How, exactly are you defining “natural law” in contrast to laws made by men? The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines “natural law” as:

    The term “natural law” is ambiguous. It refers to a type of moral theory, as well as to a type of legal theory, but the core claims of the two kinds of theory are logically independent. It does not refer to the laws of nature, the laws that science aims to describe. According to natural law ethical theory, the moral standards that govern human behavior are, in some sense, objectively derived from the nature of human beings. According to natural law legal theory, the authority of at least some legal standards necessarily derives, at least in part, from considerations having to do with the moral merit of those standards. There are a number of different kinds of natural law theories of law, differing from each other with respect to the role that morality plays in determining the authority of legal norms.

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/n/natlaw.htm
    Further research indicates “natural law” is deeply tied to religion and is commonly known as “God’s Law” so I am really confused why you think that sort of “law” is better than the non-denominational sort that figures, at least philosophically in America, that we are a nation of laws and not men.

  4. If “hate speech” is freely permissible, then the individuals who hold the views not accepted by society can be challenged and corrected before hateful thoughts becomes acts of hatred.
    On the other hand, “hate speech” can become indoctrinization when spouted by “authority figures” (ie. teachers, religious leaders, famous people, politicians, parents, etc.) to people at an early age which could be very dangerous.
    So I don’t think the answer is clear cut.

  5. mark!
    Your comment once again creates many other wonderings.
    It’s interesting that those Rap lyrics in the first image in this article, if sent to the President or any other government official, would’ve been seen as a terroristic threat and the author would be put in jail as an enemy combatant wondering about if the writ of habeas corpus still applied or not.
    If, however, those lyrics are found after the fact of an identical act resulting in death as precisely described by those lyrics, the author’s intent is not to kill or to conspire or to terrorize but to merely express an opinion? The law, and its angles and quiet frames of discontent make not only for confusion, but moral ineptitude when applied inequally.
    Farrakhan’s hatred is well known and I suppose you could either say the USA is a haven for free speech or, more cynically, that there are those privileged few who always tempt distress and unrest and incivility yet get a pass while less powerful people remain in jail for lesser offenses.
    Aren’t Bin Laden’s words about the USA, no matter the audience or adversary, always “hate speech?” There are those who are inspired by hate speech and the eradication of others. I’m not sure if the angle on hating changes if you’re a follower or not.
    Here’s an interesting article wondering about Free Speech in America. Not all speech is free. There are limits and conditions set down to protect the common welfare and here are some of the ideas discussed in that piece:

    Is advocacy of illegal conduct constitutionally protected?
    Are false slanderous statements protected?
    Are obscene or pornographic words and depictions protected?
    Are commercial advertisements protected?
    Is nonverbal conduct protected when it is used to communicate ideas?
    In the United States, “freedom of speech” does not mean that every utterance is absolutely protected against governmental regulation. Obscenity is not protected at all, and commercial speech (that is, speech proposing an economic transaction, such as the advertising of food, medicine, legal advice, tobacco and other goods and services) is less-highly-protected than is other speech.

  6. “It’s interesting that those Rap lyrics in the first image in this article, if sent to the President or any other government official, would’ve been seen as a terroristic threat and the author would be put in jail as an enemy combatant”
    The question is why?
    Why would the Govt do that? Is that response not massively disproportionate to some writing from a lone individual? Is that not indicating more the Govt’s extreme stance than the words of one?
    And if he sent it to you and you complained the response would be “If he kills you, let us know”.
    In the above it is the Govt that is wrong, very wrong.

  7. mark —
    Your point about Russia is telling. They repressed freedom of religion during the Cold War years — yet churches still sprung up and people still sought out gathering together to pray during that time. The masses need their shared salves.
    So I guess that shows when the truth is crushed to the ground, it shall rise again, even if the government policy is to fall in line and not to free think.

  8. fred —
    You may not feel “natural law” is tied to religion, but if you research you see it most certainly is tied to God’s moral will.
    It’s important we use the shared understanding — and common defintions — to communicate with each other because if we make things up as we go along, creating our own meanings, then no one will ever understand someone else’s point.

  9. Your post is saying that when people say Hate that should they be allowed.
    My point about Russia was that when they say nothing they are equally seen as being wrong.
    Bring this down to a personal level:
    Would you rather fall out with someone and they yell at you, or fall out and they give you the silent treatment?
    I’d guess you would prefer the former because at least you know what they are thinking, why they are thinking it and you can attempt to get a discussion going no matter how wrong you may think they are.

  10. mark!
    I agree with you! There is a great paranoia in this country when it comes to public figures and their required idolization versus their nasty vulnerability to being shot at and assassinated by lone individuals.
    We have a government set up that ensures a clean and line of power if anything should happen to the president. That is what makes this country so unique. You can knock off the top guy, but you can’t throw us into a political tizzy because we have the next person lined up and ready to lead us.
    We have gone away from that a bit since the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy where the president becomes lionized as a leader of a nation of children and, without their fatherly stewardship, we are all lost at sea. That kind of Rock Star As President is dangerous because it goes against our founder’s belief that the role of the president is no more important or powerful than that of any other position of judicial or congressional leadership.
    So now we have elected paranoid kings who rule us with iron fists encased in iron gloves and we’re all the more bloody and bruised for it. We must be careful how and what we say and when and where we say it. There are bloggers who get visits from the FBI for certain things they say about the president on their blogs. If you write a threatening letter and send it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue you better expect a knock on your door to follow.
    I agree that those Rap lyrics should be just as threatening to you and to me, but the reality is there are those in America who get a hotter hand by birthright and a bigger stick for beating down others when it comes to retribution and restriction of free speech.

  11. Hi mark!
    I think I took your point and expanded on it — perhaps I wasn’t being clear after my switch from MacBook Pro 17” to simple, lonesome — but cute — MacBook.
    😀
    Let me try again…
    Russian = silence = a rising rabble despite the silence. They treat you with silence and repression, but freedom still finds a way to ring in the empty wake.
    Yes, I personally prefer dialogue over stunned or purposeful silence but just because someone freezes me out doesn’t mean I won’t respond and rise a response on my own much in the same way religion refused the silence in Russia.
    We know bloggers who get no comments — or turn comments off — who still have a lot to say to fill the perceived silence!
    😀

  12. I don’t like hate speech, but in some ways it is good to know when someone is spouting off so that we can take that into consideration when dealing with the person (or nation).
    Here’s what Iran’s leader is saying:

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has told a conference in Tehran questioning the Holocaust that Israel’s days are numbered.
    “Just as the USSR disappeared, soon the Zionist regime will disappear,” he said to the applause of the participants.

    If we enter into negotiations with Iran, at least we know where they are coming from. Just as it was good for voters to know David Duke’s racists positions, it is good for everyone to know that Iran’s leadership is anti-semetic and is possibly threatening to end Israel’s existence.
    If we kept everything quiet, people might think that Iran comes to the negotiating table with clean hand, when in fact, they come filled with hate.

  13. Chris!
    Let me ask you this, then… let’s say… for some reason… there is a “Mad Blogger” out there who has decided — for whatever reason he does not like you — and day after day he calls for your murder and the murder of those from you love on his blog.
    He’s smart enough not to use the word murder. He might what he wants to happen in just fuzzy enough language that he isn’t breaking laws or slandering you — but his intent is clear.
    Do you support that blog as an example of free speech?
    Would you try to shut him down?
    Would you report him to anyone to seek protection for you and those close to you?

  14. Ah, but Chris, those who call for murder rarely carry out the act. It is the misguided that are influenced by the hate speech that do the dirty deed.
    You will be gone; your original accuser will be free, but satisfied, because the deed was done by an unknown, misbegotten, follower who was never on the danger radar until it was too late.
    Now go run this scenario by your wife and see what she says.
    :mrgreen:

  15. Dave —
    The lyrics in question in today’s article were in the shooters pocket and allegedly written in by own hand. The prosecution is trying to make the case that setting down murderous thoughts on paper, and then acting on them, makes the crime (of creating art?) premeditated murder.
    There have been teen suicides blamed on the lyrics of rock music and some claim some songs, if played backwards, inspire young people to kill because the brain can subconsciously decode those songs’ encoded urgings:
    http://www.av1611.org/rock.html

  16. Hi Chris —
    Right, but his defense team is saying it was a song about a bullet in the head, but not in the undercover detectives’ head so it can’t be premeditated because there wasn’t a specific enough pondering.
    There are lots of thugs out there who do get off and who do a lot more harm coming out of prison than they did to get in there in the first place.

  17. I agree, Dave, that people are responsible for their own actions — and inaction — but as feeble minds become elected leaders and where any glint of a wild thought becomes a negative influence, we are quickly slipping down a hole of degradation and accusation that will only take us lower.
    Peer pressure is a valuable commodity in the “fitting in” of a life into society and so imitation — and copying the successes and failures — replaces real experience.
    There is a great responsibility to act responsibly so if you are imitated — even unwittingly — you bring even more light into the world instead of darkness.
    Good luck on your results tonight!

  18. When the feeble minded are too weak to be elected on their own, they can be appointed into positions of power when their elders retire.

    (Cook County Board President Bobbie) Steele also urged Democratic committeemen to replace her on the county board with her son Robert Steele, who works for the Chicago Park District.
    And why wouldn’t she? After all, it’s become the norm for elected officials to demand their offspring succeed them. Todd Stroger, despite an uninspiring political career, was slated to run for county board president at the behest of his ailing father. Chicago Ald. William Beavers, who will take over John Stroger’s commissioner seat, wants his daughter to succeed him on the Chicago City Council. A couple of years ago, U.S. Rep. William Lipinski, of Chicago’s Southwest Side, was re-nominated during the Democratic primary, but he decided to retire and got party leaders to replace him on the general election ballot with his son Dan, who easily won election. Names like Madigan, Hynes, Joyce and Daley also dot the multi-generational political landscape.

    Of course, when all of the people running the government are lock-step in support of each other, votes don’t really matter.

    Wednesday, the Cook County state’s attorney ruled that Todd Stroger cannot vote on most matters that come before the board. He may only vote, the state’s attorney wrote, when a tie occurs among the 16 commissioners.
    “He don’t need to vote. I’m his vote. He’s got nine other votes. So why does he need a vote,” said William Beavers, (D)-4th District county commissioner.

  19. Hi David,
    I bet in a couple of years, there will be some sort of movie about the political dynasties where the parents select their children to take over the reigns of power and even the most uninspiring of people wins by virtue of daddy’s or mommy’s name recognition.
    And, knowing the hardball politics people play in certain parts, if the people don’t vote the way they’re supposed to vote, there might just be a Mel Gibson movie to be made. 😉

  20. David- Can we share this understanding with others, from someone proving his validity with not just words, but also his sharing of his innovative music with the many people who consider him, “the master,” with good reason, in relation to music.
    All a musician can do is to get closer to the sources of nature, and so feel that he is in communion with the natural laws.
    Author: John Coltrane

  21. Mark wrote, “Louis Farrakhan is banned from Britain because of his Hate Speech – yet is free to roam in the USA.”
    Louis Farrakhan was banned not because of so-called hate speech but because of his views on the state of Israel. The ban was applied because some prominent Zionists in the UK successfully pressured that government.
    The press has for many years labled Farrakhan as racist, anti-Semitic and anti-everything based on out of context statements and fabrications.
    The following are some in context text and video statements that set the record straight:
    Farrakhan’s response to the 911 attacks:
    http://www.noi.org/statements/transcript_010916.htm
    Farrakhan on the “War on Terrorism” and Iraq:
    http://www.finalcall.com/pressconference/
    Farrakhan’s press conference in Cuba:
    http://www.finalcall.com/media/cuba/
    Farrakhan’s speech to Atlanta Black Clergy:
    http://www.finalcall.com/webcast/Atlanta-Clergy-2005