Sunday, August 19, 2012

Battling Threat to Free Speech

The 1st Amendment right to free speech is at risk.  Other countries do NOT have that protection (Canada is an example), and have many rules/laws in place that limit their citizens' ability to express themselves, without severe financial and criminal consequences.

As a result, many people have come to see these limitations as the norm.  Speech or writing that "demeans" many protected groups (non-white, gay, women, etc.) is forbidden.  The speaker/writer may be sued for engaging in such expression.

In addition to these groups, another special interest has been given the right to be free from criticism - Muslims.  It has been interpreted so that CORRECTLY quoting the Koran or other Muslim writings may lead to a court trial - which may involve penalties including fines and jail time.

Jail time?  Yes.  For expressing oneself on topics freely - and that DOESN'T involve anything but the truth.

There are people who are trying to extend Resolution 16/18, which makes it a CRIME to:
limit speech that is viewed as “discriminatory” or which involves the “defamation of religion” – specifically that which can be viewed as “incitement to imminent violence.”

The religion that this resolution is concerned about - well, it ISN'T Christianity or Judaism.

It is Islam.

Pay attention to that phrase "incitement to imminent violence".  Well, who could be against speech so hateful that listeners are impelled to commit violent acts?

Me, for starters.

We are NOT talking about untruthful speech - adequate remedies exist for that.

We are talking about speech that some object to - the very same type of speech that the 1st Amendment was designed to protect.

So, under this resolution, all that has to happen to negate your 1st Amendment rights is for someone to object to it - and threaten violent actions.  This is a resolution that Obama's State Dept. was actively involved in passing.  Those that were involved point out that the resolution was watered down in the process.

That's no consolation - this time, the fanatics didn't have all the votes.  Wait until the effects of this resolution take effect, and opposition is silenced.  In time, it will begin to seem inadequate to stop dissent.

Then, stronger measures will be imposed.

One way that the Anti-Free-Speech (AFS) crowd tries to shut down dissent is to file frivolous lawsuits against the publishers of that speech.  The lawsuit doesn't have to have merit to cost the publishers quite a bit of money - which is NOT reimbursed once the claim is found to be without merit.  These are called SLAPP suits.

Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) has sponsored legislation that addresses this issue - and provides an appropriate response.  The bill:
Most of the text below (bill S. 3493, obtained through thomas.loc.gov) is written in dense legalese, but the first five or six paragraphs will give the reader an idea of what he aims to accomplish.

The purpose is to give the target of a frivolous lawsuit an opportunity to move for summary dismissal. Such a motion will force the plaintiff filing the suit to demonstrate that his action is substantive and not frivolous. If he fails to do so, the suit will be dismissed and the plaintiff required to pay the defendant’s costs.

Note that last, boldfaced part.  It takes away one common reason for folding in the face of threats - that the money one spends on lawyers outweighs the satisfaction of winning.

Please, contact your senator, and urge them to support this bill.  Later on, when the bill is brought up in the House, I'll be back to let you know, and urge that you contact your representative.

No comments: