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Author Topic: Russel Brand V. Westboro  (Read 4562 times)

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Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #125 on: February 15, 2014, 06:30:47 PM »
Consortium11, the difference between "the British Commonwealth" and "the US" or "the UK" is that the latter are modern, common-use colloquialisms. It is not commonly called the British Commonwealth and hasn't been for about sixty years. "Commonwealth nations" or "the Commonwealth" are accepted colloquialisms; "British Commonwealth" is not, and using it indicates that you aren't terribly familiar with the modern entity or how it works. Similarly, I'd accept people talking about "the United States", but if they started talking about "these United States" or the Cntinental Congress as if they were modern entities, I'd... strongly question what they were saying.

Most of them... look at the pre-existing major British precedents that have been taken as read by the various supreme courts. I've already used Donaghue vs Stevenson as an example but you can find more. Very few indeed did anything but continuing to use the established British precedents despite having their own Supreme Courts. The only area where I can think of where there is a significant change is on the death penalty, and that's not a particular surprise considering that the death penalty was what caused many of the Caribbean states to break away in the first place.
Well. If you mean in the sense that they inherited British common law where it did not conflict with their own laws... then the US falls into the exact same category, with the noted exception of Louisiana. So... not seeing the distinction. The rest of your post I have no real issue with, and I do appreciate the cite despite my difficulty in verifying.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #126 on: February 15, 2014, 08:03:13 PM »
Hopefully Vekseid will come across this thread and explain what he is meaning to refer to with British Commonwealth.

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #127 on: February 15, 2014, 08:46:56 PM »
Hopefully Vekseid will come across this thread and explain what he is meaning to refer to with British Commonwealth.

You're missing the point a little there Valthazar.  I don't think there is any dispute about what he meant by it.  The dispute is over whether his opinions on it, given that he used the incorrect name, are valid and in any way authoritative.  Actually, that's not right either.  The current dispute is over whether the British Commonwealth is an acceptable term but that's because we digressed.

Regardless, though, unless for some strange reason Vekseid thought he should host Elliquiy on servers located in the past, everyone involved knows what he intended to say and what was meant.

Offline Neysha

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #128 on: February 15, 2014, 08:57:39 PM »
Hopefully Vekseid will come across this thread and explain what he is meaning to refer to with British Commonwealth.

I don't want to hold anyones breath, but I'm going out on a limb and state that when he talked of the British Commonwealth, he spoke of the Commonwealth of Nations... which is commonly referred to as in colloquial English as the British Commonwealth and probably in reference to the 'major states' of the British Commonwealth such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand yadda yadda and probably less likely referring to say... Lesotho or Kiribati or Zambia.

When I read the quote, it seemed obvious to me that's what he meant, and when Kythia brought up the "in the past" snark I honestly didn't know what she was referring to because I've heard it referred to as the British Commonwealth ALL THE TIME by members of the (British) Commonwealth of Nations personally and on forums. I know that anecdotal evidence is a low standard here, but in this regard anecdotes are typically how such things like examples of language or term or phrase usage comes to me, not from some official minutes of some committee meeting or political declaration fifty to eighty years ago. Because language is about communication. And in most of my interaction with the term, British Commonwealth is used often.


And


When it's not referred to as the British Commonwealth, it's usually just as Britain and the Commonwealth or some variation of that which is barely a step below that term IMHO and certainly not something that runs contrary to the statements that calling it the British Commonwealth is a sixty year old outmoded term, the equivalent of calling the US Congress the Continental Congress.

So in my PERSONAL experience... British Commonwealth seems to be a very common term to use and I found this entire side tangent to be rather... odd and over pure semantics. ;)
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 09:05:18 PM by Neysha »

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #129 on: February 15, 2014, 09:53:13 PM »
If we're bringing in anecdotal evidence... well, the overwhelming majority of the people I interact with on a daily basis are Commonwealth citizens. I'm willing to bet that the same is true of Kythia. The term obviously struck her as odd, and I have never before heard the modern entity referred to as either the British Commonwealth or Britain and the Commonwealth.

Offline Neysha

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #130 on: February 15, 2014, 10:13:32 PM »
If we're talking about semantics and word usage, how are anecdotes going to avoid being used in this regard? We're talking about communication and colloquial language and word usage we use everyday, not just what's "official." I mean maybe the people on Spacebattles.com and AlternateHistory.com are extremely aberrant, but it seems unlikely. And I'm not lying about where they are from, and neither are they... I'm assuming. If they are... then... it's quite the coincidence...

And it's even been used on Elliquiy it seems, going from a basic phrase search:

http://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=155163.msg7093133#msg7093133

http://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=165560.msg1390234#msg1390234

http://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=12455.msg511066#msg511066

http://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=12468.msg502949#msg502949

I mean a lot of people use "Commonwealth" alone too, but it doesn't seem that British Commonwealth seems to be an outmoded term, certainly not on the level of other comparisons like the Federal Republic of Germany or Continental Congress or Bolivarian Blah Blah Blah of Venezuela.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 10:15:16 PM by Neysha »

Offline Jazra

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #131 on: February 15, 2014, 10:30:34 PM »
Context,


For the record, 'network neutrality' does not affect Elliquiy in the slightest. For everything, the US has been pretty big on the freedom of speech, and this is reflected in a lot of both legal and corporate culture. I wouldn't dare host Elliquiy from anywhere in the British Commonwealth or European Union.

This will probably not get overturned on appeal - the judge couldn't make a ruling any other way. The better solution is to lobby for the regulation to be put into place, or to ensure a separation of content providers, backbone providers, and end-connectivity providers. It's not like Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Facebook, and the like are nobodies. By their very nature these are extremely powerful companies with their own resources to fight this fight, since they're the ones whose bottom line risks the greatest impact.


In discussing a current issue like 'Net Neutrality (and given the reference to the European Union), "the British Commonwealth" can only refer to the Commonwealth of Nations, commonly known as the Commonwealth (formerly, the British Commonwealth). One might argue that it's both archaic and improper to refer to the British Commonwealth, while others may argue that people still occasionally refer to the Commonwealth by its older name, but I don't think you can seriously dispute that Vekseid's reference was to anything other than the Commonwealth.

While this point is an interesting digression, the larger issue of this thread (still a digression from the original topic) concerns regulation of hate speech. Ideally, I prefer laws and policies that discourage bad behavior but do not punish bad beliefs. In other words, IMHO, government should create laws and policies that regulate acts, but not speech. Thus, if you burn a cross on the lawn of an African American family (a hateful, abhorrent thing to do), I would prefer to criminalize his acts (trespass, intentionally terrorizing someone, putting someone in fear of their life, etc.) rather than the motivation or thinking that resulted in the criminal behavior. Punish the cross burner for his actions, not the content of his message.

Or if someone yells racist threats at someone and then beats them up, I would have no problem enhancing the penalty for the assault (it's a hate crime). In the US, we traditionally allow criminal enhancements if the victim is of a particular status (a senior citizen, a child, a police officer, federal agent, etc.).

But I don't care for interpretations of laws that result in convictions for posting Biblical passages that attack a class of people (Canada) or Denmark's conviction of conviction of the Danish-Iranian artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan for racism, after she claimed on her blog that she was “convinced that Muslim men around the world rape, abuse and kill their daughters.”

Of course, even in the Great Pumpkin Patch (aka the US), we don't have limitless free speech (fire in the theater along with time, place, and manner restrictions). Where I personally get squishy on free speech is things like revenge posts of naked pictures and slut shaming and tormenting a girl until she commits suicide. I'm not sure exactly what law would prevent those examples and still allow for the vigorous debate of ideas that I idolize.

My 57 cents (the inflation adjusted value of 2 cents),

Jazra
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 10:32:33 PM by Jazra »

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #132 on: February 15, 2014, 10:42:10 PM »
But I don't care for interpretations of laws that result in convictions for posting Biblical passages that attack a class of people (Canada)

Do you have more information on this? It's... extremely disturbing, and a pretty strong reversal of past Supreme Court precedent, which has traditionally held that the content of speech is dangerous to regulate. At least one decision I'm familiar with explicitly stated that it is perfectly legal to advertise blatantly illegal products and services. Not saying I don't believe you (our current government is poisoning a lot of things that are vital to democracy), but... it's something I'd like to follow up on.

Offline Jazra

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #133 on: February 15, 2014, 11:33:02 PM »
Do you have more information on this? It's... extremely disturbing, and a pretty strong reversal of past Supreme Court precedent, which has traditionally held that the content of speech is dangerous to regulate. At least one decision I'm familiar with explicitly stated that it is perfectly legal to advertise blatantly illegal products and services. Not saying I don't believe you (our current government is poisoning a lot of things that are vital to democracy), but... it's something I'd like to follow up on.

First, keep in mind that I'm often wrong. But I was referring to the Canadian Supreme Court's ruling upholding the conviction of William Whatcott (http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/12876/index.do).

Quote
"Passages of Flyers D and E combine many of the “hallmarks” of hatred identified in the case law.  The expression portrays the targeted group as a menace that could threaten the safety and well-being of others, makes reference to respected sources (in this case the Bible) to lend credibility to the negative generalizations, and uses vilifying and derogatory representations to create a tone of hatred: see Kouba, at paras. 24-81.  It delegitimizes homosexuals by referring to them as filthy or dirty sex addicts and by comparing them to pedophiles, a traditionally reviled group in society."

The Ruling is of course in the context of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees  guarantees free speech (e.g., freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication) only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. In essence, as I understand it, the right to free speech in Canada is balanced by competing Charter rights and other values essential to a free and democratic society such as a commitment to equality and respect for group identity and the inherent dignity owed to all human beings.

And I definitely overstated the case as there was more than Biblical passages, but I think the clear essence of Whatcott's hateful, vile speech was based on a not uncommon interpretation of many Christians' views of homosexuality:

Quote
"While the courts cannot be drawn into the business of attempting to authoritatively interpret sacred texts such as the Bible, those texts will typically have characteristics which cannot be ignored if they are to be properly assessed in relation to s. 14(1)(b) of the Code."

In other words, you assess the Bible (and other authoritative texts) in conjunction with Section 14(1)(b) of the Charter just as you would any other speech. And,

Quote
"While use of the Bible as a credible authority for a hateful proposition has been considered a hallmark of hatred, it would only be unusual circumstances and context that could transform a simple reading or publication of a religion’s holy text into what could objectively be viewed as hate speech."

Which of course means that in unusual circumstances, you can view a religions's holy text as hate speech. And by the way, the Bible is not the only "holy text" that contains passages that would arguably fall within any reasonable person's definition of hate speech (whether prohibited or not).

In any event, let me put my position this way, I would oppose any law that criminalized a person stating their often absurd, if not outright offensive religious beliefs. No matter how much I oppose the ideas represented by those particular beliefs. If Canada would not balance the right to free speech against the right to dignity in such as way that it prevents a person from stating their religious beliefs, then I think that's a good thing and I gladly concede the example of Canada without conceding my position on the issue as a statement of what I consider good vs. bad policy vis a vis governments right to regulate speech should begin and end.

« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 11:45:28 PM by Jazra »

Offline IStateYourName

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #134 on: February 15, 2014, 11:38:35 PM »

Of course, even in the Great Pumpkin Patch (aka the US), we don't have limitless free speech (fire in the theater along with time, place, and manner restrictions). Where I personally get squishy on free speech is things like revenge posts of naked pictures and slut shaming and tormenting a girl until she commits suicide. I'm not sure exactly what law would prevent those examples and still allow for the vigorous debate of ideas that I idolize.

My 57 cents (the inflation adjusted value of 2 cents),

Jazra

I'm reasonably sure that the "tormenting a girl until she commits suicide" involved the commission of numerous torts, violations of stalking laws, restraining orders, etc.  Maybe there aren't enough criminal avenues to punish the tormentors, but they and their families could be sued into oblivion for wrongful death.  And they should be.

Offline Jazra

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #135 on: February 15, 2014, 11:44:15 PM »
I'm reasonably sure that the "tormenting a girl until she commits suicide" involved the commission of numerous torts, violations of stalking laws, restraining orders, etc.  Maybe there aren't enough criminal avenues to punish the tormentors, but they and their families could be sued into oblivion for wrongful death.  And they should be.

Which flows with my prohibit actions not thoughts and beliefs dichotomy. Plus, remedies other than prohibiting the tormenting speech itself exist.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #136 on: February 16, 2014, 12:21:01 AM »
Aaaaahhh, this is a Saskatchewan Human Rights Code case. Yeah, section 14(1)(b) of the Sask HRC has come under repeated Constitutional scrutiny, and been modified and weakened as a direct result of failing the Oakes test, before. Its basic rationale is not dissimilar to a position I espoused here earlier - the constant background radiation of hatred and discriminatory attitudes tends to reduce the ability of minorities to participate equally in society. In short, this Charter-protected right is being brought into direct conflict with the Charter-protected rights of others. In such a conflict, the person who instigated it is... not likely to win, particularly against an already-vulnerable group. It's... not pleasant, yes, but I'll bite the bullet and say this seems like a pretty reasonable way of handling conflicts of rights. With regard to your "actions, not toughts and beliefs" stance, I'll note that speaking is an action that can have direct and real repercussions for others, and that (to my knowledge) no law has or ever could be passed in Canada that would restrict the freedom of conscience, thought, religion, or belief, given that those don't have a meaningful impact on society as a whole.

As to it being the Bible or any other "holy book"? That... really doesn't factor into a court decision at all. Why would it, under a secular government?

Offline Jazra

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #137 on: February 16, 2014, 01:28:31 AM »

As to it being the Bible or any other "holy book"? That... really doesn't factor into a court decision at all. Why would it, under a secular government?


Well, if I was going to argue that the right to espouse the views of one's holy texts should be a concern of to a secular government, and I was Canadian,

I would point to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that everyone has the fundamental freedoms of ...

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

Just so I'm sure that I understand, it's okay for a secular government to limit the ability of an individual to espouse the views stated in the holy text of whatever particular absurd religion they follow,

but, as you state, Canadian Supreme Court precedent has held that  ...


... it is perfectly legal to advertise blatantly illegal products and services.


See, this is the problem I have with the more intrusive forms of governmental regulation of expression. It protects the right of business to advertise illegal products and services, but apparently as a secular government has no particular interest in protecting the right of Christian whack jobs to say they hate homosexuality. Over time, public opinion is eschewing some of the more vile opinions, such as hatred of homosexuality. The majority of people are listening to the counter arguments and voting for things like the right to marriage between same-sex partners.

Now you point out rightly that speech is an action. But it's a special kind of action. Let's take for example the case of the Danish-Iranian artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan. She was convicted under Danish Penal Code Section 266b for condemning Islam as misogynist. She was arguing against the honor killings, the rapes, the misogyny directed against women by many men of the Islamic faith. Admittedly, when you say that a group of people is attacking women and destroying the lives of these women, then  you are going to bring negative attention to that group of people.

But I would argue that I want people thinking and talking about this issue. I want Islamic men to think about how others see the way some men interpret their religion and how some men who profess the Islamic faith treat women. And if I'm honest, I would say that I want them to change. But under the Danish hate speech laws, this discussion is never going to take place.

Or look at the case of Yaha Hassan, an eighteen year old poet who in his poetry, he writes about his upbringing and "says that everybody in the ghettos like Vollsmose and Gellerup steal, don't pay taxes and cheat themselves to pensions."

Now, people in his community have reported Hassan to the police stating that his poetry contains "highly generalizing statements" that offend many people. And Danish authorities are now preparing a Section 266b case against Hassan. In other words, Hassan is challenging his upbringing and the actions of some in his community via his poetry and his community is going to silence (through governmental action, the key point in this discussion) his criticism.

You'll note that truth is not a defense to a Section 266b case. So while I understand the points you make and empathize with them and am often frustrated by certain points of views and they way people choose to make their points, I would prefer not to vest in Government the power to criminalize particular viewpoints it dislikes or to suppress beliefs that it or some unspecified majority deem wrongful.

Just my opinion, others in this thread have made the case much more articulately.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2014, 01:31:30 AM by Jazra »

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #138 on: February 16, 2014, 02:23:21 AM »
Well, if I was going to argue that the right to espouse the views of one's holy texts should be a concern of to a secular government, and I was Canadian,

I would point to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that everyone has the fundamental freedoms of ...

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

Well. The Canadian judicial system tends to take a strong stance on protecting the rights of the individual. The only reason the Saskatchewan HRC exists is because your exercise of your rights can violate someone else's. In particular, Whatcott's stated goal was specifically to violate the Section 15 rights of gay people - and, as collateral damage, there's a strong argument that he heled to violate their Section 7 rights.

So, from the very beginning, we've got two sides with equally-strong claims - "I have a right to expression!" vs "I have a right to security of the person and equality under the law!". There is no ruling here that will not violate someone's rights. How would you go about resolving this conflict?

I would look at two factors: First, which violation would be less invasive and damaging to society? Here, I have to come down against Whatcott. Second, what does the body of Canadian law have to say? Well, the CHarter itself, and in particular Section 15 (the one he sought to violate) notes that remedying the socially or economically disadvantaged status of minorities is a valid function of law. So his case weakens further.

Just so I'm sure that I understand, it's okay for a secular government to limit the ability of an individual to espouse the views stated in the holy text of whatever particular absurd religion they follow,

If that espousal is violating or trying to violate someone else's rights, then yes. Again, you seem oddly focused on the fact that it's a "holy" book; why does it matter whether he got his views from the Bible or Lord of the Rings? What matters is the effect that it has on society and on the individuals he targeted. Do note that barring him from making "Bible-based" statements in no way violates his freedom of conscience, thought, or belief - he's still perfectly free to find gay people as icky as he wants, and to not have all the gay sex he wants, and to think of it as immoral and wrong. He's just not allowed to propagandize against them.

See, this is the problem I have with the more intrusive forms of governmental regulation of expression. It protects the right of business to advertise illegal products and services, but apparently as a secular government has no particular interest in protecting the right of Christian whack jobs to say they hate homosexuality. Over time, public opinion is eschewing some of the more vile opinions, such as hatred of homosexuality. The majority of people are listening to the counter arguments and voting for things like the right to marriage between same-sex partners.
An important distinction: Actually providing the illegal goods and services? Still illegal. Advertising them, though... I don't see any damage to society or to individuals' rights there. In fact, rendering such advertising legal may arguably serve a useful function, as it may help bring police attention to such businesses.

Now you point out rightly that speech is an action. But it's a special kind of action. Let's take for example the case of the Danish-Iranian artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan. She was convicted under Danish Penal Code Section 266b for condemning Islam as misogynist. She was arguing against the honor killings, the rapes, the misogyny directed against women by many men of the Islamic faith. Admittedly, when you say that a group of people is attacking women and destroying the lives of these women, then  you are going to bring negative attention to that group of people.
I'm much less familiar with Danish law than with Canadian, so... important question here. If she had said that there is a prevalent strain of misogyny within Islam (thus not painting all Muslims as misogynists but still calling attention to the issue), would that still be considered a violation? Has such a case come up? If thge answer is yes, then I think the Danish law and precedents go too far.

But I would argue that I want people thinking and talking about this issue. I want Islamic men to think about how others see the way some men interpret their religion and how some men who profess the Islamic faith treat women. And if I'm honest, I would say that I want them to change. But under the Danish hate speech laws, this discussion is never going to take place.
If the Danish law has the effect of stifling this discussion, then it is a bad law. If it leaves this avenue of discussion open as long as people aren't talking about how all Muslim men are misogynists, I don't see the issue.

Or look at the case of Yaha Hassan, an eighteen year old poet who in his poetry, he writes about his upbringing and "says that everybody in the ghettos like Vollsmose and Gellerup steal, don't pay taxes and cheat themselves to pensions."

Now, people in his community have reported Hassan to the police stating that his poetry contains "highly generalizing statements" that offend many people. And Danish authorities are now preparing a Section 266b case against Hassan. In other words, Hassan is challenging his upbringing and the actions of some in his community via his poetry and his community is going to silence (through governmental action, the key point in this discussion) his criticism.

You'll note that truth is not a defense to a Section 266b case. So while I understand the points you make and empathize with them and am often frustrated by certain points of views and they way people choose to make their points, I would prefer not to vest in Government the power to criminalize particular viewpoints it dislikes or to suppress beliefs that it or some unspecified majority deem wrongful.
That... strikes me as more problematic, unless there's something I don't know about the demographics of these regions. As I said above, I specifically reject the right to not be offended. However, what I'm vesting in Government is not the ability to suppress speech it doesn't like or that the majority don't like but that which is overwhelmingly likely to violate the rights of others and cause them harm. The Supreme Court here has actually told Parliament on several noteworthy occasions that existing laws are too restrictive and must be replaced or eliminated, or reviewed the legality and constitutionality of proposed controversial laws; in fact, the most recent major example of this was, among other things, a freedom-of-expression issue.

Offline consortium11

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #139 on: February 16, 2014, 06:52:40 AM »
Or if someone yells racist threats at someone and then beats them up, I would have no problem enhancing the penalty for the assault (it's a hate crime).

At the risk of dragging us off on another tangent...

Why?

I ask that as a genuine question as opposed to a facetious one, because it's something that is somewhat of a struggle in jurisprudence. Why should a racially motivated assault (and in this case let's say there was absolutely no doubt the assault was racially motivated) be punished more severely than an assault "just because". Why is it worthy of more severe punishment to attack someone because they're black then it is to attack someone because you don't like the look of their face in general? If a complete stranger attacks someone in the street then why is it worthy of greater sanction if they selected their victim because of race against them selecting a completely random victim?

There are in general four theories of punishment that work in conjunction with each other throughout criminal jurisprudence:
  • Retribution
  • Incapacitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Deterrence
Personally I find it hard to see how "racially aggravated offences" (to use a catch all term) fit into any of those roles. Does not someone attacked for reasons not to do with their race deserve retribution to the same extent as one who is attacked because of theirs... and if not why not? Why is someone who attacks because of race as opposed to other reasons more dangerous and thus needs to be incapacitated for longer? Setting aside how effective rehabilitation in general is in certain penal systems, why does someone who attacks because of race require more rehabilitation then one attacks because they think it's an appropriate response to someone "looking at me the wrong way"? And while the state certainly wants to deter racially motivated attacks, doesn't it want to deter all attacks?

Does that mean I think having greater punishments for racially motivated offences (or any similar category) is necessarily wrong? No. It certainly speaks to me to say that attacking a victim due to their race deserves greater punishment. My issue is in working out why.

On a related note, it may also be worthy of noting that in the UK at least "aggravated offences" of this type fall into a somewhat unique place in our jurisprudence. As a general rule aggravating factors (including motivation) come into play in the sentencing stage, be it through a judge's own opinion or through sentencing guidelines; in otherwise identical circumstances someone who attacks someone because of their hair colour or dress sense is guilty of the same offence as someone who attacks another because they thought they were having an affair with their partner, with the differences being dealt with in sentencing. That's not the same for racially or religiously aggravated offences... they are viewed as being separate crimes entirely.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #140 on: February 16, 2014, 07:01:57 AM »
The way I've always seen it is:
By beating you up for the colour of your skin (or whatever) I've done two things which society disapproves of.
  • Beaten you up
  • Based my actions on the colour of your skin

I'm not allowed to not give you a job because of colour, nor to refuse to serve you in a coffee shop.  Society disapproves of my making or withholding actions based on the colour of your skin.

As such, the increased penalty is because there are two acts being punished there, not just one.

Whether that's the reasoning behind it or no, I couldn't say.  But its a reasoning for it that has always struck me as satisfying.

Offline consortium11

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #141 on: February 16, 2014, 08:25:43 AM »
The way I've always seen it is:
By beating you up for the colour of your skin (or whatever) I've done two things which society disapproves of.
  • Beaten you up
  • Based my actions on the colour of your skin

I'm not allowed to not give you a job because of colour, nor to refuse to serve you in a coffee shop.  Society disapproves of my making or withholding actions based on the colour of your skin.

As such, the increased penalty is because there are two acts being punished there, not just one.

Whether that's the reasoning behind it or no, I couldn't say.  But its a reasoning for it that has always struck me as satisfying.

The issue here is that there are many things that society/the state disapproves of which are taken into account when sentencing but relatively few of them are included in the statutory penalty for a said offence. Perhaps the most appropriate of the ones listed is the catch-all "Offence motivated by hostility towards a minority group, or a member or members of it." The state accepts that one should receive a greater penalty for being motivated in an attack by the victim being a goth, ginger, a member of a political group, trans or a host of other "minority groups"... but by making laws distinct to race, religion, disability or sexuality with a statutorily based higher sanction it is implicitly placing these as more serious offences. Why is it of more concern if someone attacks someone because they're black then it is because they're trans (and trying to jerry rig trans-status into either disability or sexuality causes more issues than it would solve for me)?

Offline Jazra

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #142 on: February 16, 2014, 08:41:29 AM »
In response to your last post Ephiral and as kind of a pre-statement, I’m not Canadian or Danish. So I’m less concerned with the specific laws of a particular nation except to the extent that they illustrate my preference for robust free speech over the cocooning protection of what Glen Greenwald called the creeping tyranny of hate speech laws:

“I’ve written many times before about the evils of “hate speech” laws that are prevalent in Canada and Europe — people being fined, prosecuted and hauled before official tribunals for expressing political opinions which the State has prohibited and criminalized.” http://www.salon.com/2010/03/22/canada_5/

Greenwald’s also an interesting free speech example as at least some members of the US Government want to prosecute him for reporting on Edward Snowden by releasing and discussing particular documents that show the extent to which the NSA has invaded not just US privacy, but the privacy of the world. In any event, I’m going to give you the last word if you choose to post again, because I think we’ll have had ample opportunity to make our points.

Well. The Canadian judicial system tends to take a strong stance on protecting the rights of the individual.

To may way of thinking, Canada protects the rights of the group over the rights of the individual. When you point out that advertising illegal goods and services arguably serves a useful function and may help bring attention to such a business (the point of advertising) and then argue the actual advertising does not damage society or any individual’s rights, yet you applaud government silencing people who want to speak out against certain groups that they consider problematic, you lose me.

I think about the damage to society done by the Ponzi’s and Madoff’s of this world, the damage done by people being tricked out of their live savings and homes as compared to the damage done by someone saying, “Homosexuality is a sin.” As a world, we thankfully are moving to more and greater freedoms for the LGBT community. And I am so grateful for this fact. We’re doing this despite the hateful opinion of so many people being expressed. But how really are the rights of the LGBT community violated when a Phil whatever-his-name-is from Duck Dynasty tells us his belief that homosexuality is sinful? I would far rather people counter his belief’s with their own. And while Mr. Duck Dynasty is still on the air, I think you will find that his ratings have taken quite a hit (not that it matters). But to me, in most instances, the strongest counter to hateful speech is more speech.

In Canada, they silenced the Whatcott character through Government action. I prefer the approach seen in the UK, where Russell Brand brilliantly exposes the WBC on television so that the world can judge their absurd positions. Or in the US, where a wall of bikers turns out to protect the funerals of fallen vets or the many counter protests (some brilliantly funny) put on against the WBC or simply going with a do not feed the troll tactic and ignore them. Personally, I don’t think the LGBT community needs governmental protection from speech. And I would far rather let someone tell me what they think and be given an opportunity to counter and maybe change their opinion than shut them up.

Turning back to Canada, we have the example of when the Bishop of Calgary, Frederick Henry, urged Catholics to fight against the legalization of same-sex marriage, calling homosexual behavior "an evil act,” Canada’s response was to file complaints for violating the Alberta Human Rights Act. I would rather let the man spew his opinions from his pulpit and ideally, I would see those opinions countered by others. But I don’t feel the LGBT community is irreparably harmed by knowing that some people don’t like them. Conversely, I do think people are harmed when they are tricked through false advertising into buying crap or turning over their money and assets to some slick clown like a Madoff.

I’m not satisfied with your argument, which appears to be that barring people like the Bishop from making "Bible-based" statements “in no way violates his freedom of conscience, thought, or belief - he's still perfectly free to find gay people as icky as he wants, and to not have all the gay sex he wants, and to think of it as immoral and wrong. He's just not allowed to propagandize against them.” In other words, as I understand your position, you can believe anything you want, you just can’t practice your religion publicly, you can’t tell other people what you belief. So what do these people do? Is it like ancient Rome or China where people go underground and gather together secretly in their homes?

I’m not happy with that view. I know in the past that not just society but governments used to universally condemn homosexuality. It wasn’t just considered icky, it was illegal. Over time, people’s opinions changed as did governments. Now we have vigorous … if imperfect … protections in place for the LGBT community. But more importantly, it has the support of the majority of people in Europe, the US, and Canada. If we go back far enough, we find a world where Jim Crow laws governed the right of non-whites to vote and you can still see in parts of Texas and the South the historical remnants of whites only drinking fountains etc.  Government’s benevolent protection for the LGBT community, etc., didn’t change people’s opinions about them or in the case of the African American and other non-white communities, what changes people’s opinions was activism, vigorous debate, protests, and confronting people with the hateful affect of their opinions.

But then, I would far rather know how a person feels about me and respond to that opinion then have them silenced and secretly hating me, plotting against me. Also, what groups are we protecting from bad opinions?

What about pedophiles, Catholic priests, felons, Holocaust deniers, members of the Northern Alliance, skinheads, the Aryan guard. Can I say that all members of the Aryan Guard are racist, misogynist pricks who should be rounded up and jailed? What about the Amish? Can I say that they’re a bunch of backwoods, technophobes who should be forced to attend normal schools and install telephones in their homes, etc.? Can I say that all members of the WBC should be silenced and locked away so they can’t spew their filth out on the community? What about polygamy? It’s a criminal offense in Canada (though prosecutions are rare). Will the government let me say that polygamists are all criminals and they should be locked up, etc.?

I know we can't say the Bible is “unbelievable” and written by people “drunk on wine and smoking some kind of herbs” at least in Europe given that the singer singer Doda (Dorota Rabczewska) was charged with violating the Criminal Code for saying just that in 2009. I personally like my freedom to say that whoever wrote parts of the Bible must have been as high as I get once or twice a month.

So I’m guessing the answer to all of these questions is either no or at least, the government has the right to suppress my speech if it chooses to. And then we come to the next issue, no one really cares if I attack skinheads, neo-Nazis, and the WBC in my speech. Probably some, but not a huge majority of people care if I attack polygamists. But probably a majority of people will care if I spew nonsense about the LGBT community. And I kind of agree in that I like and respect the LGBT community and kind of despite the neo-Nazi community and kind of don’t care for the most part one way or the other about polygamy. But I don’t necessarily want my government making those decisions for me. And IMHO, a lot of these hate speech protections are selectively prosecuted. The government steps in when a person gets too much attention or something said is too public. People don’t know quite what’s covered and what isn’t covered, so they start guarding their tongues in public.

I could go on and on, but I think we understand our respective positions. I've really enjoyed your comments, they've made me think, and now I’ll let you have the last word on this. I’m not much of a debater as you can probably tell.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2014, 09:37:14 AM by Jazra »

Offline Jazra

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #143 on: February 16, 2014, 08:52:08 AM »

At the risk of dragging us off on another tangent...

Why?

I ask that as a genuine question as opposed to a facetious one, because it's something that is somewhat of a struggle in jurisprudence. Why should a racially motivated assault (and in this case let's say there was absolutely no doubt the assault was racially motivated) be punished more severely than an assault "just because". Why is it worthy of more severe punishment to attack someone because they're black then it is to attack someone because you don't like the look of their face in general? If a complete stranger attacks someone in the street then why is it worthy of greater sanction if they selected their victim because of race against them selecting a completely random victim?


I'm not a huge fan of hate-crime enhancements. But I also am less fussed about them than criminalizing pure speech. We protect the elderly with elder abuse laws. If you abuse a child, you face worse penalties than if you abuse an adult. If you murder a federal officer or a judge, you'll faced a stiffer sentence than if you shoot down Joe Shmoe the plumber. So I'm willing to accept that if you attack a particular person, because they are a member of some protected class, you'll get a stiffer sentence than if you just beat up a random stranger.

On the other hand, I don't care if society doesn't choose to enhance a particular class as long as it does prosecute the underlying crime. For a long time, law enforcement would turn a blind eye to attacks on members of the LGBT community. If we go back in history, we used to see men strung up based on their color and law enforcement often used to devote little if any effort to solving those crimes. So maybe as a community, we needed to make clear that we do care when you kill a black man, because he's black, we do care when you beat up a man, because he's gay. And we have instituted enhanced penalties that emphasize society's view that if you engage in a particular hate crime, you're going away not just for the assault, but for an extended period of time.

We might want to say that if you spray graffiti on a wall, we're going to prosecute you for vandalism. But if you write swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on the wall of a synagogue, you'll pay a greater price in terms of how long you  are locked away from society.

In other words, I don't see these kind of enhancements as particularly problematic in terms of free speech rights. They may or may not be good policy.   

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #144 on: February 16, 2014, 11:37:03 AM »
At the risk of dragging us off on another tangent...

Why?

Well. In Canadian legal theory, as I've mentioned in my discussion with Jazra, it comes down t recognizing that certain groups are placed at socioeconomic disadvantage due to attitudes and actions like this. If we want to work toward equality of opportunity, then it needs to be recognized that further victimizing and disadvantaging these groups is a negative action in and of itself, beyond what was actually done.

That said, I strongly question whether enhancements or harsher sentencing are an effective means to that end. I'm not sure what is, but we've seen in lots of other cases that harsher punishment isn't really much of an increased deterrent. Further, as far as I'm concerned, the role of a justice system is twofold: To rehabilitate the offender, and to minimize the damage they can do to society and the people around them until that happens. I think the idea of justice-system-as-punishment is toxic; nobody, offender, victim, or bystander, "deserves" anything, and all it does when we think in those terms is encourage abuse that serves no real end.



Jazra: I understand you don't want to drag out this discussion much longer, but there is one question I'd like to see your answer to. How would you go about resolving a situation where one person's exercise of their rights infringes upon another person's rights? This is part of what I don't understand about the other side in this discussion; the verdict from that POV appears to be "Let Person A continue; the effects on Person B are irrelevant." That strikes me as... a bit problematic.

To may way of thinking, Canada protects the rights of the group over the rights of the individual. When you point out that advertising illegal goods and services arguably serves a useful function and may help bring attention to such a business (the point of advertising) and then argue the actual advertising does not damage society or any individual’s rights, yet you applaud government silencing people who want to speak out against certain groups that they consider problematic, you lose me.

I think about the damage to society done by the Ponzi’s and Madoff’s of this world, the damage done by people being tricked out of their live savings and homes as compared to the damage done by someone saying, “Homosexuality is a sin.” As a world, we thankfully are moving to more and greater freedoms for the LGBT community. And I am so grateful for this fact. We’re doing this despite the hateful opinion of so many people being expressed. But how really are the rights of the LGBT community violated when a Phil whatever-his-name-is from Duck Dynasty tells us his belief that homosexuality is sinful? I would far rather people counter his belief’s with their own. And while Mr. Duck Dynasty is still on the air, I think you will find that his ratings have taken quite a hit (not that it matters). But to me, in most instances, the strongest counter to hateful speech is more speech.

Well. As far as Ponzi and Madoff go? Fraud is still fraud. They weren't advertising illegal services, they were illegally deceiving customers. I may have confused this matter; I'm sorry about that. On the other hand... well, to me it's about halting the spread of ideas that are toxic and harmful. The spread of the "Homosexuality is evil and should be punished" meme lead to disgraceful cases like Alan Turing and Oscar Wilde - clear losses to society. The idea that trans people aren't real lead to the humiliating and dangerous treatment of Avery Edison. The idea that rape victims are "asking for it" or that rape is okay in some cases leads directly to low reporting rates, re-victimization by police, and difficulty in accessing vital resources. The idea that "abortion is murder" leads directly to situations where unwanted children are raised in homes unprepared for them by people who are incapable and unwilling, as well as to dead women. We need to minimize the harm that these ideas do. I note, by the way, that both of the examples you've brought forth are cases where the infringing act was explicitly trying to violate the Section 15 rights of gay people. Canada's laws (which, while not perfect, I think are an excellent starting point) don't say you can never express a negative opinion about a minority - they say you cannot incite hatred, ie, turn public opinion in a direction that endangers people.

I'm all for letting ideas be pitched and countered in public debate and discussion. This thread should be a pretty good indicator of that. And it should be noted that we hardly enforce these laws in every case - I've personally been to a Heritage Front (neo-Nazi) rally in the most pblic place possible in my city, which went completely unmolested by the authorities who showed up. When these ideas run a real and immediate risk of causing harm to already at-risk groups, though... well, utilitarian values tell me that we should take the path of least damage, and that's very often stopping the speech.

I’m not satisfied with your argument, which appears to be that barring people like the Bishop from making "Bible-based" statements “in no way violates his freedom of conscience, thought, or belief - he's still perfectly free to find gay people as icky as he wants, and to not have all the gay sex he wants, and to think of it as immoral and wrong. He's just not allowed to propagandize against them.” In other words, as I understand your position, you can believe anything you want, you just can’t practice your religion publicly, you can’t tell other people what you belief. So what do these people do? Is it like ancient Rome or China where people go underground and gather together secretly in their homes?
My point was that this is about freedom of expression and only freedom of expression. I don't see how any other right is being infringed upon here - unless you're saying that "You must say that gay people must be disenfranchised by law" is a fundamental tenet of Catholicism, and one cannot be a practicing Catholic without it? He can still be Catholic. He can still preach. He can still try to convert others. He can still shout as loudly as he wants through whatever medium he wants that gay people are icky and gay sex is Satan's favourite pastime. In fact, though I disagree strongly with this*, there is an explicit defense against hate-speech charges "if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text". What he cannot do is build a campaign centered around the goal of denying gay people their Section 15 rights. (It's worth noting, by the way, that this was the explicit and stated goal of both of the notable examples you've mentioned.)

I’m not happy with that view. I know in the past that not just society but governments used to universally condemn homosexuality. It wasn’t just considered icky, it was illegal. Over time, people’s opinions changed as did governments. Now we have vigorous … if imperfect … protections in place for the LGBT community. But more importantly, it has the support of the majority of people in Europe, the US, and Canada. If we go back far enough, we find a world where Jim Crow laws governed the right of non-whites to vote and you can still see in parts of Texas and the South the historical remnants of whites only drinking fountains etc.  Government’s benevolent protection for the LGBT community, etc., didn’t change people’s opinions about them or in the case of the African American and other non-white communities, what changes people’s opinions was activism, vigorous debate, protests, and confronting people with the hateful affect of their opinions.
What we're talking about is protecting the rights of minorities. Building taboos is the most effetive way to go about that, absolutely. And a taboo with government backing... is a law. It seems that the alternative is to say that government has no place in protecting the rights of minorities, which seems to be a pretty big failure of a central function of government to me.

What about pedophiles, Catholic priests, felons, Holocaust deniers, members of the Northern Alliance, skinheads, the Aryan guard. Can I say that all members of the Aryan Guard are racist, misogynist pricks who should be rounded up and jailed? What about the Amish? Can I say that they’re a bunch of backwoods, technophobes who should be forced to attend normal schools and install telephones in their homes, etc.? Can I say that all members of the WBC should be silenced and locked away so they can’t spew their filth out on the community? What about polygamy? It’s a criminal offense in Canada (though prosecutions are rare). Will the government let me say that polygamists are all criminals and they should be locked up, etc.?
Are any of the above visible groups that are systematically placed at a socioeconomic disadvantage due to inherent traits? Because... well, that's the definition we go by here. Looking over your list... maybe (and that's a whole other debate, really), oh hell no, close but not quite, absolutely not, nope, nope, no, no, no, and no. Further, in your final example (polygamy), yes you absolutely can say all polygamists are criminals and should be punished by law - because such a statement is so true as to be tautological (people who commit crimes are criminals by definition) and truth is an absolute defense. So... yeah, you're absolutely free to express (almost?) all of those opinions, and Canada's hate-speech laws won't - and in fact cannot - stop you in the slightest.

I know we can't say the Bible is “unbelievable” and written by people “drunk on wine and smoking some kind of herbs” at least in Europe given that the singer singer Doda (Dorota Rabczewska) was charged with violating the Criminal Code for saying just that in 2009. I personally like my freedom to say that whoever wrote parts of the Bible must have been as high as I get once or twice a month.
I'm with you on this - that is a terrible law, and I think that laws against offending religion are a major free-speech issue all over the world. I am by no means defending every restriction, or even most restrictions. What I am defending is restrictions aimed at preventing further victimization of identifiable already-disadvantaged minorities. This is not about suppressing unpopular ideas - it's about preventing them from becoming popular ones at the expense of the rights of others. As I mentioned above, even neo-Nazis are free to spew their filth as long as it's not hurting anyone. David Ahenakew is free to call Jewish people "a disease" and praise Hitler. Mark Steyn and Maclean's Magazine are free to insult, stereotype, and even explicitly lie about Muslims, as long as Muslims are not silenced or harmed by it. (In fact, the BC ruling in that case explicitly notes that human rights laws are not designed to silence political debate and should not be used in such a fashion.)

Do I think that Canada's laws are perfect? Absolutely not - I have huge issues, for example, with the policy of letting Customs and Border Services seize basically anything they find objectionable with minimal oversight, and force the victim to fight legal battles to get it back. Do I think that a lot of them are good ideas, and that the core principles they're built on are sound? Absolutely.

I could go on and on, but I think we understand our respective positions. I've really enjoyed your comments, they've made me think, and now I’ll let you have the last word on this. I’m not much of a debater as you can probably tell.
I'm comfortable with letting it stand here, and thanks for a very interesting discussion. You've made me think and consider my positions, and I appreciate that.

Offline Jazra

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #145 on: February 16, 2014, 12:54:34 PM »
Jazra: I understand you don't want to drag out this discussion much longer, but there is one question I'd like to see your answer to. How would you go about resolving a situation where one person's exercise of their rights infringes upon another person's rights? This is part of what I don't understand about the other side in this discussion; the verdict from that POV appears to be "Let Person A continue; the effects on Person B are irrelevant." That strikes me as... a bit problematic.

How would you go about resolving a situation where one person's exercise of their rights infringes upon another person's rights? An excellent and broad question, but I’ll answer here in the context of one person’s right to free speech clashing with another person’s right to be free of being attacked by the free speech of another. It seems like we have two ways to approach this. We can prohibit the person’s speech or we can place what might be called time, place, and manner restrictions on that speech so it doesn't inhibit the right of another to go about their day to day lives.

For example, if a woman heads down to the local abortion clinic for an abortion, if you let people come up to her and shout at her that she’s going to the hell and follow her into the clinic and you let states require doctors to make her listen to nine hours of lectures and watch copies of her sonogram before she can get her abortion, her exercise of her right to get an abortion becomes problematic. Now, you can simply ban any objection to abortion. People aren't allowed to make her feel bad about exercising my constitutional right to control her reproductive system. And if they do, you can subject them to criminal penalties for stating those beliefs publicly. But another approach might be to let those pro-stop-women-from-controlling-their-own-womb types to utter their beliefs from pulpits, in their little newsletters, and whenever they gather to sip espresso at Starbucks. But you limit their ability to follow the woman into the clinic. You limit when they can utter their protests when it directly impacts an individual.

If someone wants to wear a Bong Hits 4 Jesus t-shirt, you might limit their ability to wear that t-shirt when in school, because everyone has a right to education and you don’t want to let someone’s pro-Jesus, pro-Marijuana message inhibit the anti-stoner atheists. But you let the guy wear the shirt when he goes down to get high at the park with his stoner friends (maybe if he doesn’t have a medical marijuana get out of jail card or he’s underage, you arrest him for toking, but not for the t-shirt).

If I want to write poetry that expresses my feeling that growing up in the Church of Christ repressed me, etc., I can do this. But I can’t go into a Church of Christ, take over their pulpit and start reciting my poetry and interrupting their sermon. But they don’t need to prohibit my right to speak, just when and where I can speak. Just as a young man growing up in a predominantly Muslim community should be allowed to write poetry attacking what he sees as flaws in that community without facing criminal charges.  Now, if he stands out side their mosque and shouts his poetry, picks one particular member of the Muslim community and follows them around shouting heathen and reciting his poetry to them, then I’m going to want to protect that individual or the members of that mosque.

The fact that speech muzzling laws are rarely enforced is actually problematic to my view. One, you get inconsistent enforcement where the government targets the people they don’t like. And while I would agree that when someone’s expressive activities run “a real and immediate risk of causing harm to already at-risk groups,” government has a role in protecting the at-risk group. I just think we might differ on what is meant by “real and immediate” and “harm.” Second, these laws are broadly written and people can’t always tell where the limits are, so what ends up happening is that constitutional speech is often silenced, because people don’t want to risk prosecution.

Third, you appear to be fine with people attacking polygamists. Why is it a crime to attack men and women who love each other and want to marry, but it’s okay to attack men and women who love a lot of men and women and want to marry each other?  A person might point out the evils of polygamy … welfare fraud, abandoned children, men marrying young girls, etc., but then I would respond that yes, those are real problems, but why is polygamy a crime? What is the government’s stake in ensuring that a man only marries one woman and not two or that a woman only marry one man and not fifty? Go after the polygamists who abuse government welfare, abandon their children, etc., but leave the adult consenting polygamists alone.

Keep in mind, once many governments outlawed sodomy. Once the US locked up people of Japanese descent. I’m not smart enough to know which are the good groups and which are the bad groups all the time. I like a vigorous public debate on the subject and I suspect that eventually, polygamy is going to be legal. Do we then start locking up people who criticize polygamists, because it’s now legal? Is the sole arbiter of a good minority our government?

In the end, I would say that Canada is a remarkably free society and it also is a society that does have strong protections of the right to free speech. If I compared the US to Canada, there are going to be cases where I like Canada’s result and cases where I like the US result. For the most part, no one advocates total unfettered free speech. It’s always a balancing act. I think many European countries have tilted the balance too far toward silencing a robust and necessary debate. I would far rather be attacked with words than weapons. And I’m not sure allowing a person to attack me with words means that they are more likely to attack me with weapons. But I am afraid if I silence them entirely, they might act out in some other way later.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2014, 12:58:14 PM by Jazra »

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #146 on: February 16, 2014, 01:43:07 PM »
How would you go about resolving a situation where one person's exercise of their rights infringes upon another person's rights? An excellent and broad question, but I’ll answer here in the context of one person’s right to free speech clashing with another person’s right to be free of being attacked by the free speech of another. It seems like we have two ways to approach this. We can prohibit the person’s speech or we can place what might be called time, place, and manner restrictions on that speech so it doesn't inhibit the right of another to go about their day to day lives.
Again, I feel that it's necessary to point out that Canada, in particular, walks a third path: We don't prohibit any speech entirely, and we try to avoid time-and-place restrictions (it's been done, but is hugely frowned upon). Instead, we look at the impact of that speech on society, and block it when there's a clear or very likely negative impact. Protestors getting too close to abortion patients, for example, is likely to incite violence and blocks access to women's health services. These same people can say what they want "from pulpits, in their little newsletters, and whenever they gather" - unless, as in the examples you previously brought up, what they're saying is still going to have a chilling effect on women's access to health services. your other examples are handled neatly by a principle that holds just as well in Canada as in the US - "freedom of speech" is not a requirement to provide a platform, and schools are allowed considerably greater leeway in the authority they are permitted to exercise on their property than any other government organization.

The fact that speech muzzling laws are rarely enforced is actually problematic to my view. One, you get inconsistent enforcement where the government targets the people they don’t like. And while I would agree that when someone’s expressive activities run “a real and immediate risk of causing harm to already at-risk groups,” government has a role in protecting the at-risk group. I just think we might differ on what is meant by “real and immediate” and “harm.” Second, these laws are broadly written and people can’t always tell where the limits are, so what ends up happening is that constitutional speech is often silenced, because people don’t want to risk prosecution.
I'm confused here. This isn't inconsistent enforcement, it's that most speech, even most hate speech, doesn't actually fit within the scope of the law. Inconsistent enforcement is actually far more likely in a prejudiced society. The rest, I suspect, is a cultural difference - up here, there's generally reasonably solid trust in the Supreme Court to protect the rights of citizens, and the basic standard is that any law infringing on any right must be aimed at a valid goal of government, rationally connected to that goal, and have as little impact on rights as possible.

Third, you appear to be fine with people attacking polygamists. Why is it a crime to attack men and women who love each other and want to marry, but it’s okay to attack men and women who love a lot of men and women and want to marry each other?  A person might point out the evils of polygamy … welfare fraud, abandoned children, men marrying young girls, etc., but then I would respond that yes, those are real problems, but why is polygamy a crime? What is the government’s stake in ensuring that a man only marries one woman and not two or that a woman only marry one man and not fifty?
I am fine with calling polygamists criminals because polygamy is a crime. Whether polygamy should be a crime is a different matter altogether, and for the record, my position is a firm no on the well-established principle that government has no place in the bedrooms of citizens. However, until challenged, the law stands, and truth is an absolute defense of any and all varieties of speech.

Keep in mind, once many governments outlawed sodomy. Once the US locked up people of Japanese descent. I’m not smart enough to know which are the good groups and which are the bad groups all the time. I like a vigorous public debate on the subject and I suspect that eventually, polygamy is going to be legal. Do we then start locking up people who criticize polygamists, because it’s now legal? Is the sole arbiter of a good minority our government?
When it comes to matters of law? Then yes, government (in the form of either the executive or the judicial branch) is the arbiter, because they're the only ones who can make or strike down laws. As to public debate... well, I'm not really seeing much restriction of any reasonable debate. You're perfectly allowed to argue that a given protected class of people no longer faces the disadvantages these laws were supposed to address, and thus they shouldn't be protected any more. You're perfectly allowed to talk about problematic trends in the Muslim or Christian atheist or gay or black community. What you're not allowed to do is try to skew society in a manner that is prejudiced against these people, or deny them their rights. I want as much healthy public debate as possible on all manner of subjects - but part of "healthy", to me, is "inclusive of all members of our society" and "connected to reality". If black, or Jewish, or female, or gay voices are silenced, we all lose. If community standards and policy are set based on false perceptions, we all lose. Why should we encourage these outcomes?

In the end, I would say that Canada is a remarkably free society and it also is a society that does have strong protections of the right to free speech. If I compared the US to Canada, there are going to be cases where I like Canada’s result and cases where I like the US result. For the most part, no one advocates total unfettered free speech. It’s always a balancing act. I think many European countries have tilted the balance too far toward silencing a robust and necessary debate. I would far rather be attacked with words than weapons. And I’m not sure allowing a person to attack me with words means that they are more likely to attack me with weapons. But I am afraid if I silence them entirely, they might act out in some other way later.
I do think a lot of European laws go too far. I fully admit no small amount of personal bias, but I think Canada's balance is a pretty damn good one - and part of that is that it aims to be explicit, plain, and directly supportive of a multicultural society with diverse points of view. For the rest... well, no. Allowing an individual to speak raises the probability that he will attack by an insignificant margin, and silencing him raises that probability by a greater margin. But allowing him to speak in a manner that turns the community against you or denies you equal protection raises the probability that that you will be attacked by someone very significantly. This also has chilling splash effects.

A concrete example from my own life: I am a Liege. My government has made it abundantly clear that it does not see me as a minority worth protecting, which leaves me in essentially the position you're proposing: Anyone is free to say pretty much anything they want about me, and there's no penalties for any social consensus on how icky or evil I am as a person, and as a direct result of that, this is pretty much how I'm viewed by a majority. Know what? It's goddamned terrifying. Medical services for Liege-specific issues were basically unavailable as of this time last year, and I'm still pretty much unable to access them. I would love to be publicly out - having to mainain a double life is constant, stressful work - but that would run a significant risk of making me unemployable and subjecting me to violence, and I'd face an uphill battle in making the police care about it when I was assaulted. Buying goods I need for my mental health is an exercise in gut-wrenching fear. And honestly? My experience is one of the easiest and most painless I've ever seen.

I say this not because I want sympathy or pity, but to show you an insider's view of a prejudiced society. This is how it feels, when we allow community attitudes to run unchecked however they want and provide no protection against their worst excesses. I believe in social justice - including activism, public campaigning, and, yes, protection for minorities - because I want a society where nobody has to feel this way or deal with this bullshit. I want a society where everyone has as equal an opportunity to excel as possible. And I see a government that actively pushes back against attempts to prejudice society as a vital component in that battle.