20 July 2017

Free expression, even for the worst

Back in May I observed:  "If you claim to support free expression even for people you disagree with, but in every actual specific case that comes up you find some excuse for doing otherwise (calling it 'incitement' or 'hate speech' or whatever), then you are not a supporter of free expression."  It's an important principle.

One of the most disgusting and hypocritical obsessions to be found in our politics is hatred toward Israel.  Nearly every other government in the Middle East is guilty of worse human-rights violations than Israel, and many treat minorities worse than Israel treats the Palestinians.  During military counterstrikes against the terrorists who target its civilians, Israel has gone to almost absurd lengths to minimize civilian casualties on the other side, such as warning them of military operations in advance by telephone.  Yet it's Israel that is the target of protests, boycotts, disinvestment, etc.  The obsessives point to this or that Israeli leader or policy, yet the crusade against Israel remains the same even when leaders or policies change.  Why, it's almost as if the campaign against the Jewish state were actually just the latest incarnation of some sort of deep prejudice stretching back through almost 2,000 years of Western history.

All that being said, this is outrageous:

But now, a group of 43 senators -- 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats -- wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: Anyone guilty of violating the prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

There's much more at the link.  See also this letter from the ACLU on the bill, which is causing at least one Congressman to reconsider his support.

Yes, the viewpoint to be criminalized here is morally bankrupt, hypocritical, and probably rooted in the oldest and ugliest bigotry of them all.  But freedom of expression must apply to every viewpoint, even the most repulsive, or it means nothing.  In a free society, the proper response to bad ideas is to refute them, not silence them.  Moreover, a free society must define free expression as broadly as it can -- even to include forms of expression such as boycotts, something the courts have already affirmed.

This law is such a flagrant attack on the First Amendment that it's unlikely to survive a court challenge even if it passes; recently the Supreme Court unanimously upheld freedom for even repugnant expression.  But Congress should know better than to pass it at all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a topic that is close to my heart... Thank
you! Where are your contact details though?

20 July, 2017 04:08  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Anon: There's an e-mail address in the profile.

20 July, 2017 04:48  
Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

I'm sorry to say that one of my Senators, Ben Cardin, is a co- author of this ham-handed posturing. I think it unfortunately gives ammunition to Israel's enemies here and abroad in that it plays into false stereotypes about Israel's influence. This is already helping turn up the heat on an issue (the boycott) that I believe does not get that much traction in this country anyway. Now, by virtue of this ill- advised bill, it's in danger of becoming a "wedge" issue driving civil libertarians to take a stand against the region's only democracy and our valued ally. Not good.

20 July, 2017 07:27  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I missed this one in The Intercept ... what a read! The penalties to me is silly ... by the time this country is done regulating everything we see, say and hear ... heh, heh, heh, heh, heh {:-) we'll all qualify for prison. Sorry for laughing, but it has gotten so ridiculous. I may as well just live on my son- in- laws ranch down in Mexico when I start drawing my Social Security (he has 2 homes on it, with only the hired hands he has living in one of them, he gives them a small salary and place to live basically to keep it up), which he told me I'm welcome too any time I want. I'm alwayz hearing the Israel criticism too, since I visit so many progressive sites on the net. I can understand how they may not love Netanyahu, but Israel has more to it than him ... and yes, I understand the Palestinians frustration. But what you say about the violation or suppression of the First Amendment is straight. There is plenty of shit I dont like to hear, but I'm totally against banning it from public view, I just choose what I want to listen to or read ... simple. I was listening to the news the other night ... think it was PBS on the tele ... they were showing charts on what countries approve of Trump and what countries dont ... Israel and Russia had about the only majority support for Trump, but I dont think it's the majority of Israeli or Russian people in my personal view of these charts or whatever. I dont even tell folks we had Jews in our familia these dayz ... because of the politipop hatred of Israel.

20 July, 2017 08:09  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

As you may have noticed, I have lived in Israel and am a strong supporter of its existence. I just want to say that I agree with you one hundred percent. Not only is the behavior of these jackasses fundamentally wrong, no matter what country may be involved, but in the end, as you suggest, it is actually harmful to Israel, giving ammunition to those who want to portray the tiny Jewish state as dominating politics around the world and somehow forcing its will on everyone.

20 July, 2017 16:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey very interesting blog!

22 July, 2017 02:07  

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