Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Free speech and "hate" speech

Let's go over this free speech issue again. Here's the text of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Seems pretty clear that the ads on Muni buses that some find offensive are legal under our Constitution. That's the thing about the First Amendment: it protects all kinds of speech, even ideas that make right-thinking San Francisco progressives uncomfortable. Any criticism of Muslims, including apparently violent jihadists, makes SF progs uncomfortable. They have a hard time articulating that discomfort. In fact, as I've pointed out before on this blog, they usually don't want to talk about it at all when Muslim extremists intimidate the media, as if standing up to bullies and terrorists is somehow intolerant and implicates all Muslims. 

The Bay Guardian published nothing during the riots over the Danish Mohamed cartoons, and no one here in Progressive Land but District 5 Diary has published those cartoons. Beyond Chron couldn't bring itself to go as far as the Chronicle---which at least published a feeble editorial on the subject---publishing nothing about the cartoon riots that killed 100 people around the world. When some Islamists bullied Comedy Central into pulling an episode of South Park, Beyond Chron again published nothing, including my letter to the editor on the subject.

There are at least two online petitions---here and here---trying to get the MTA to pull the ad, attacking Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer as their main argument. But the character of those two and and their other supposedly offensive opinions are irrelevant here, since it's the actual text of the ad that's the issue: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel, defeat Jihad." 

You can argue with the politics implied in that statement, but that some Muslims are practicing terrorism that can be called "savage" is surely true. There's nothing "Islamophobic" about the statement, since it doesn't mention Islam or Muslims, just jihadists, by which I assume they mean violent jihadists.

Nor is it a "hate" message, since it conveys antagonism only for jihad, not Islam or Muslims in general. After all, most victims of jihadist terrorism are other Muslims.

SF Weekly's blog had this head on its item on this controversy: "Muni Runs Pro-Israel Ad on Buses, Calling Palestinians 'Savages.'" Of course the ad doesn't mention Palestinians or any other nationality, not to mention that there are jihadists who want to destroy Israel from a number of other countries.

Like the Bay Guardian, its competitor for market share in SF, the SF Weekly published nothing about the cartoon riots. Wouldn't want to upset their sensitive "progressive" readership!

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