For people who constantly bleat about free speech and things “chilling” debate, the American left has gone full-bore Trotskyite in the wake of the terrorist attack in Garland, Texas. Instead of asking reasonable questions (like: why are we coddling obvious terrorists? why is an American Muslim congressman trying to prevent someone from obtaining a visa to the US based on their beliefs? and, yes, why is Islam hardwired with violence?) the left is now questioning the whether the First Amendment is actually operative when a pet minority group is offended. For instance, After Texas shooting: If free speech is provocative, should there be limits?. (This doesn’t rate up there with the Washington Post headline Event organizer offers no apology after thwarted attack in Texas)
The attack highlights the tensions between protecting Americans’ treasured right to freedom of expression and preserving public safety, and it raises questions about when – if ever – government should intervene.
There are two exceptions from the constitutional right to free speech – defamation and the doctrine of “fighting words” or “incitement,” said John Szmer, an associate professor of political science and a constitutional law expert at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“Fighting words is the idea that you are saying something that is so offensive that it will lead to an immediate breach of the peace,” Szmer explained. “In other words, you are saying something and you should expect a violent reaction by other people.”
The exhibit of cartoons in Texas might have crossed the line, Szmer said.
“I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect what they were doing would incite a violent reaction,” he said.
Except that what this idiot Szmer says (my gosh, did he become a “constitutional law expert” at the same place that trained Barack Obama) is just bogus. The Westboro Baptist Church picketing military funerals was permissible. Burning the flag has been deemed to not be “fighting words.” There is a Broadway musical mocking Mormonism. Nazis were allowed to parade through the predominantly Jewish town of Skokie, IL despite many of the residents being concentration camp survivors. The key concept in “fighting words” is that they have to be immediate and they have to be directed at an individual. “Immediate” does not imply tweeting about your plan drive 1000 miles from Arizona to Texas to attack a meeting that has been previously announced and to which admittance was by invitation only.
What Szmer is actually advocating is two things. First, he is trying to make the bull**** “microaggression” policies in effect on many university campuses the national standard. Second, he is making the victim the focus of investigation rather than the criminal. For instance, while you have a constitutional right to free speech you don’t have a right to wear whatever clothing you wish. No one, AFAIK, has successfully challenged a “no shirt,no shoes, no service” policy… so long as the proprietor agreed to participate in a homosexual wedding. The very fact that we have laws against public nudity (though I have to confess I don’t see the underlying grounds for these laws anymore) indicates that how you dress is subject to state regulation of a sort. By Szmer’s logic, if a woman — or man in this day and age –is wearing revealing clothing and raped we really need to ask them why they provoked the attack. I mean lots of skin is going to draw attention and some not-insignificant number of persons are going to be so sexually aroused that they simply can’t contain their libido. Or as a more witty person than me noted on Twitter:
— ClarkHat (@ClarkHat) May 5, 2015
The officially sanction hate group, Southern Poverty Law Center, was quick on the draw:
If the contest was intended as bait, it worked. Police say two men drove 1,000 miles from Phoenix, shot at a police car outside the event and were quickly killed by one of the hired guards. The shooting has been condemned by Muslim leaders, and Geller, too, has come under fire for staging an event many viewed as purposely provocative.
“Pamela Geller has every right to hold this event. And she should be able to do that — as ugly as others, including me, think it is — without facing any type of violence,” said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has Geller on a list of extremists.
Still, “I think decent people would say: ‘Why would you need to do that?’ ” Beirich said.
The real question “decent people” should ask is why is it assumed that Muslims will react violently to someone not taking their malarkey seriously, while it is assumed that Jews, Christians, Mormons, veterans, [insert your non-Muslim group here] will react to outrage by, well, acting civilized about it? This is a question that has been the 800-lb camel sitting in the corner of America’s living room since 9/11 and one that on one will answer in public though I think most people know the answer in their heart of hearts.