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Hate speech is legal…

I hear arguments from my fellows on the left against the types of speech that may have incited anti-abortion violence (“anti-abortion violence” a sort of oxymoron in itself). While I agree that morally the right should STFU a bit (or rather, tone it down), I disagree with any implication that censorship would be reasonable here.

What most people don’t know is “incitement to violence” in most forms is actually legal – something I didn’t know myself until reading the always excellent Glenn Greenwald:

That’s because I agree with what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 45 years ago in Brandenburg v. Ohio. That case overturned the conviction of a KKK member for giving a speech that threatened political officials (including the U.S. president) with violence. The Court invalidated as unconstitutional the Ohio law that made it a crime to “advocate . . . the duty, necessity, or propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform.”

The Brandenburg Court’s key reasoning: “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force.” Only incitement of imminent violence — e.g., leading a mob holding torches outside of someone’s house and directing them to burn it down — can be punished; advocacy of violence by itself cannot be (my most comprehensive argument against criminalizing ideas on the ground that they are “hateful” or “violent” is here).

I know it’s appealing to censor when it’s “the other guys”, but someday if the tables are turned, you might disagree. And, being an old fuck, I have seen the tables turned many times.

Welcome to Hell…

“We are on the brink of a disaster and this is the government of political suiciders. So welcome to hell.”

– Acting Ukrainian President, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, via The Bugle Podcast (also see BBC)

An understatement…

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

– Bertrand Russell

Luxuries to the few…

“I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few, and leave millions of God’s children smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.”

– Martin Luther King

In Britain, Labor finally gets its head out of its ass…

Will the Democrats finally do so too?

For the Conservatives, the deficit is just an excuse to railroad through the same old Tory Republican agenda: driving down wages, cutting taxes for the wealthiest, allowing house prices to spiral out of reach, selling off our national assets and attacking trade unions. You can’t cut your way to prosperity, you have to build it: investing in modern infrastructure, investing in people and their skills, harnessing innovative ideas and new ways of working to tackle climate change to protect our environment and our future.

– Jeremy Corbyn in The Guardian (slightly edited for American eyes)

Worth reading the whole thing here.

The sanctity of it all…

Via a friend, says it all really:

9-11-muffins

The new “anti-Americans”…

Just as the religious fundamentalists claim a lock on the truth of Christianity, the Republicans claim a lock on the truth of “patriotism”. I would argue that modern history shows both conjectures to be false, but particularly the later.

The thing is, when I was a kid while the Republicans were the “squares” fighting equality, growing social programs, and being eminently pro-war, they stood strongly on the foundation of our nation being great because we collectively banded together to end the great depression and win against the Nazis. They didn’t want to go back to the Gilded Age, they wanted to go back to the 50’s.

Patriotism and the greatness of our nation wasn’t defined on individualism” or that only certain “entrepreneurs”, “leaders”, or “job creators” made us great (though certainly we had our heroes), but rather the American society together as a whole made us great. That working together “in commons” we could solve the issues that plagued mankind immemorial. We would, as a nation, end poverty, end war, make energy abundant for all, cure the sick, end the drudgery of manual labor, and create a utopia where all would benefit.

That is not to say some would not benefit some more than others – what supposedly made “capitalism” better than “communism” was a degree of competition, but there were boundaries and the majority of the gains were to be in common. We weren’t communist, quite the opposite, but in a truly American way, we coopted what the best from other’s cultures and ideas to make ourselves better. We were willing to have high taxes, help the needy, place limitations for the betterment of all, and let the government work in our name. In doing so, beyond even the depression and WWII, it got us to the moon and held us against the ever expanding Communist threat.

Read the science fiction of the time and the repeated idealized world is one where robots work and there is a shared prosperity leaving all of us free to ponder greater questions, while our robot friends serve us Mint Juleps. The optimism of that “science fiction” has been turned on head today. If one is to look at the Republican platform, we would still have the robots, but those replaced would not share in the prosperity and the government. having not “earned” a cent for the “entrepreneurial class”, would get nothing. The “lazy” displaced, meanwhile, would be unemployed and scrapping for whatever food, shelter, and menial work they could find.

Why? Because they are not  the “creators” (or sons/daughters of creators) and therefor have no right to “share” the collective gains. No matter how hard the  “parasite class” might work, they do not work hard enough. Not being “leaders” they are not “deserving”.

I would argue this mentality turns the “patriotism” we were brought up with on its very head. We are no longer “one nation united”, but a nation of individuals, with only the individuals who have the wherewithal to reach the top being worthy. Ideas are all that matter, and no matter how many others it takes to make those ideas become reality, directly or indirectly, only those with the ideas deserve the returns. There is no “nationalism”, the core of patriotism, but only individualism. The rest should just come up with their own ideas, even if they are incapable. Even, ironically, if everyone only came up with ideas, there would be no one left to implement them.

Unlike for our parents, America isn’t great because of “Americans” – a cooperative community that stood together and stood for something, but rather just empty jingoism. America is great now simply because it is America. Like grace through faith alone, ultimately empty without deeds. A broken covenant.

And so, in that regards, I would strongly argue the Republicans no longer have a lock on “patriotism”. In fact, their platform is an anathema to the patriotism our fathers believed in, the patriotism that included working together, that included sharing the gains, that even included sharing the hardships.

The Republican agenda is a radical agenda of change from who we were, not a “conservative” agenda, not an agenda that “conserves” the great nation our fathers left us after WWII. Instead it turns it into something else, something uglier, something that isn’t the “America” our parents fought and died for.

In short, they can wave their flags and show their “Don’t tread on my stickers,” (made in China no less) – but they are not the patriots anymore, they are the “anti-Americans”.

Journalism

Perfect description:

“Whatever a patron desires to get published is advertising; whatever he wants to keep out of the paper is news.”

– L. E. Edwardson, day city editor of the Chicago Herald and Examiner, 1918

More modernly ala Glenn Greenwald, we would call it “stenography”, but same point.

A little creative editing…

“Indeed, however heartened proponents supporters of same-sex marriage George W. Bush might be on this day, it is worth acknowledging what they have lost, and lost forever: the opportunity to win the true acceptance that comes from persuading their fellow citizens of the justice legitimacy of their cause candidate”

– Justice Roberts

Want to see what a Nazi looks like?

Look in the mirror. Want to see what a Jew looks like. Look in the mirror. Want to see what the Buddha looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a racist looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what an abolitionist looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a Fundamentalist Christian looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what an atheist looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a Communist looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a murderer looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a saint looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a Patriot looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a Red Coat looks like. Look in the mirror.

Strip away color and sex, and the list is infinite, both bad and good.

Why do I bring this up? Reading this article on Daily Kos. It says:

Extremists do not represent the religions, organizations, and non-believers they claim. They represent hate – hate in it’s purest form. They are the worst of the worst in human spirit. If there is a Hell, it’s from whence they came, and to where they will return.

I do not think they represent hate, nor love, nor a religion, nor a race, nor a political party, nor a group, nor a club, nor a team, nor anything in particular.

What they do represent is people. What they represent is you and me.

It is a mistake to try to bundle the “bad people” under some label, some characteristic, some defining factor. That is of course is human in itself, but it is part of the problem. We want to bundle people like this so we can make sure we can exclude ourselves.

They are the bad ones. Not us, not me.

That’s wrong. We are all capable of great evil. We are all capable of being Nazis, Confederates, rapists, murderers, torturers, terrorists, bullies, whatever. We are not by some magic different than those people. Our race, our color, our religion (or lack thereof), our politics – none of that protects us from doing evil. From being assholes.

I pride myself in thinking that I am not a racist, that I wouldn’t do the horrible things that our CIA did to so-called terrorists (and perhaps real terrorists). I entertain the fantasy that if I saw someone being brutalized, I would intervene. That if I saw a bully, I would not join in the fun.

And I probably wouldn’t.

However I have no illusion that had I grown up in a different time, a different place, with parents with different attitudes, or made different friends, or maybe even read the wrong books, or saw the wrong movies – maybe I would be the people I hate.

I have no doubt, had I been born in Germany with perhaps a father who admired Adolf Hitler and a culture that railed against Jews at every opportunity that I too might have become a Nazi. I would certainly hope not, but I’d be a fool to think I couldn’t.

The point is, we all have the capacity for evil, as we also do for good.

And there is the crux of the problem – we think we are doing good, when it is evil. After all the Nazis, as evil as we know they were, did not think they were being evil. They did not pray to the “great god Satan”, nor did they giggle to themselves on how horrible they were being, nor did they cackle with “bru-ha-ha-ha” when no one was listening.

They thought themselves doing good. Just as the Communists who sent their brethren to the camps. Just as the Southerners who fought to preserve slavery.

No one who is doing evil believes they are doing evil. We all believe, or find a way to convince ourselves, that we are the “good guys” and they are the “bad guys”. The Muslim Fundamentalists slaughtering children, they don’t think they are doing evil. They think they are doing God’s will. As do the drone pilots who’s missiles kill innocents everyday (and the politicians who order it, and the public that supports it).

So stop propping yourself by comparison. Stop patting yourself on the back for your luck.

You really don’t want to be evil? Don’t forget that like the rest of us, you are evil.

UPDATE:

To quote Walt Kelly:

Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of a cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self-conscious expostulation and the desire to join battle.

There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.

Or Simon Wiesenthal:

The were the same people who lovingly kissed their children goodbye in the morning and then a few hours later were gassing or shooting Jews.

and:

because only the person who has grasped it knows that evil lies dormant in most people and can break out at almost any time. Let no man say that such a ghastly dictatorship is no longer possible today. That is the true lesson from the horror of National Socialism: we must fight against it constantly, against evil, so that it does not emerge again.

(more on that topic here).