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Author Topic: Russel Brand V. Westboro  (Read 4546 times)

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Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #75 on: February 14, 2014, 02:09:34 AM »
Just like Iniquitous Opheliac mentioned, by prosecuting groups like this, who at least in empirical factual terms, are just reporting the health status of abortionists, we will ultimately only be threatening our own freedom of speech in the long run.

If you disagree, that is perfectly fine, I certainly realize we may have a difference of opinion.

Offline Blythe

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #76 on: February 14, 2014, 02:18:36 AM »
So, you want it to be law that if you open your mouth and say, oh I don't know, "I hate gays" then you are guilty of causing someone somewhere to kill someone?

Really?

To be fair to Ephiral, the site she linked, if you look around in it...they advocate getting a hold of other people's personal information and distributing it to third parties, up to and including pictures of them and their close friends, home phone and address, criminal and civil suit records, a person's social security number, their license plate numbers for their vehicles, and the personal information of their family members, including videotaping or taking pictures of their close relatives, like their children.

They ask people to actively acquire that information and send it to them for distribution.

It's pretty damn harmful and a serious invasion of privacy. The type of info they want to collect could actually allow them to perpetuate identity theft. I really don't think free speech ought to be covering distributing people's social security numbers or other personal information to strangers. >_>
« Last Edit: February 14, 2014, 02:22:03 AM by Blythe »

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #77 on: February 14, 2014, 02:45:20 AM »
So, you want it to be law that if you open your mouth and say, oh I don't know, "I hate gays" then you are guilty of causing someone somewhere to kill someone?

Really?

That is the only thing I get out of that link.

No, I think if you open up your mouth to extreme militants (which this group is connected to) and say things like "This person is murdering babies and the courts won't stop it! Someone should really do something about that! By the way, here's their photo and home and work addresses.", and then those militants kill the person you targeted, and then you react by celebrating this murder... then you pretty clearly intended for your speech to result in a dead body. People who didn't intend that sort of reaction tend to be a little less jubilant about bloody violence committed on their behalf.

Again, it's real simple. If you want to be able to say what you want then you have to deal with other people spewing things you don't like having the same right. If you are willing to lose your freedoms, then by all means, fight to have their rights taken away. But don't be surprised when people like me say you're foolish.
I think that, when they come into conflict, my right to walk down the street without being beaten for the crime of existing should trump my right to spew whatever hateful violence-inciting bullshit I want without fear of consequence. I support others having the same rights in the same priority, because I am more of a fan of living, unmolested, uninjured human beings than I am of any collection of words that you care to name.

EDIT: A clarification: I am not in favour of allowing "speech I like" and disallowing "speech I don't like" or any subset thereof. I am in favour of disallowing speech that we know for a fact causes real, tangible harm to real people. I am for disallowing it in a variety of ways depending on various factors. Law is the most heavy-handed of these, a tool of last resort, but not one to be avoided entirely.

Much like the memes I see floating around about don't like gay then dont be gay... if you don't like what they have to say, don't listen.
It's not that simple - speech has consequences. For a less extreme example, how about this: Trans people in my country, as in many parts of the world, face a choice between risk of violence or risk of arrest every time they want to use the washroom in a public place. Often, the only answer is a complete and total distortion of their lives as they plan everything around going home frequently enough to take care of the issue. An opportunity came to change this, and was shot down. Why? Because hate-mongering activists painted us as wannabe rapists trying to get away with a crime that has never happened in recorded history. It's easy not to listen to the activists, but how would you suggest I go about "not listening" to their fists or the police they call?

Just like Iniquitous Opheliac mentioned, by prosecuting groups like this, who at least in empirical factual terms, are just reporting the health status of abortionists, we will ultimately only be threatening our own freedom of speech in the long run.

If you disagree, that is perfectly fine, I certainly realize we may have a difference of opinion.
In empirical factual terms, they put wanted posters targeting the people on that page into the hands of known militants, with a strong implication that they needed a killing, and all of the personal information they could gather. When these militants killed these people, they did not react with even feigned shock or horror or indignation, they celebrated it. These are established facts. So no, they are not just "reporting on the health state" of doctors. Unless you're planning on inciting people in a similar fashion, I don't see how restricting speech plainly designed to incite violence harms you in any way. The US famously doesn't allow you to shout "FIRE!" in a movie theatre because of the potential for harm - how exactly is this different?
« Last Edit: February 14, 2014, 02:54:43 AM by Ephiral »

Offline Iniquitous

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #78 on: February 14, 2014, 03:48:02 AM »
No, I think if you open up your mouth to extreme militants (which this group is connected to) and say things like "This person is murdering babies and the courts won't stop it! Someone should really do something about that! By the way, here's their photo and home and work addresses.", and then those militants kill the person you targeted, and then you react by celebrating this murder... then you pretty clearly intended for your speech to result in a dead body. People who didn't intend that sort of reaction tend to be a little less jubilant about bloody violence committed on their behalf.

I am assuming you do not live in the US. There are laws on the books that if your actions (this would be the whole turning personal, private information over to someone who then goes out and kills the person whose information you gave out) cause or help the murder of another then you are as guilty as the one who did the crime. You can and will be charged with the crime so long as the cops and DA can show what you did and how you did it. So... no reason to use this as an excuse to remove freedoms we enjoy.

Quote
I think that, when they come into conflict, my right to walk down the street without being beaten for the crime of existing should trump my right to spew whatever hateful violence-inciting bullshit I want without fear of consequence. I support others having the same rights in the same priority, because I am more of a fan of living, unmolested, uninjured human beings than I am of any collection of words that you care to name.

Again, there are laws on the books that make it illegal to attack someone. And again, you cannot dictate what is and isn't allowed to be said. Once someone tries to define what is acceptable we all lose. If someone is stupid enough to go beyond just running their mouth THEN and ONLY THEN are they guilty and subject to prosecution. Is it fair? No. But guess what - life isn't fair. It isn't fair for anyone.

Quote
EDIT: A clarification: I am not in favour of allowing "speech I like" and disallowing "speech I don't like" or any subset thereof. I am in favour of disallowing speech that we know for a fact causes real, tangible harm to real people. I am for disallowing it in a variety of ways depending on various factors. Law is the most heavy-handed of these, a tool of last resort, but not one to be avoided entirely.
It's not that simple - speech has consequences. For a less extreme example, how about this: Trans people in my country, as in many parts of the world, face a choice between risk of violence or risk of arrest every time they want to use the washroom in a public place. Often, the only answer is a complete and total distortion of their lives as they plan everything around going home frequently enough to take care of the issue. An opportunity came to change this, and was shot down. Why? Because hate-mongering activists painted us as wannabe rapists trying to get away with a crime that has never happened in recorded history. It's easy not to listen to the activists, but how would you suggest I go about "not listening" to their fists or the police they call?
In empirical factual terms, they put wanted posters targeting the people on that page into the hands of known militants, with a strong implication that they needed a killing, and all of the personal information they could gather. When these militants killed these people, they did not react with even feigned shock or horror or indignation, they celebrated it. These are established facts. So no, they are not just "reporting on the health state" of doctors. Unless you're planning on inciting people in a similar fashion, I don't see how restricting speech plainly designed to incite violence harms you in any way. The US famously doesn't allow you to shout "FIRE!" in a movie theatre because of the potential for harm - how exactly is this different?

And how many times does it have to be pointed out that neither Val nor I have a problem with the limitations that are already in place? We both have the view that to put MORE limitations on freedom of speech is a dangerous thing and not worth the risk. I think now you are arguing just to argue because you sure as hell aren't reading what has been said.

Offline consortium11

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #79 on: February 14, 2014, 06:41:11 AM »
I'd be somewhat hesitant about following Iniquitous Opheliac's assertion that someone is only subject to prosecution once they go beyond "running their mouth". Many states include causing the victim reasonable fear of immediate bodily harm within the definition of assault (for example Kansas has "Assault is intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm" and Tennessee includes "Intentionally or knowingly causes another to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury" within their definitions). Beyond that there are crimes beyond assault that follow a similar logic: "Menacing" and "Intimidation" being the main two. In such cases "running their mouth" is very much within those confines and it is not only once things escalate that they become crimes.

I'd also be somewhat hesitant about the assertion that "Because the minute a court rules that they cannot say what they believe with complete immunity from the law then the rest of us are going to find our rights to say what we want taken away." For the simple reason that it's already happened, albeit not the WBC.

Perhaps the most notable group of cases are those relating to the "constitutional" (and I use that term loosely) Tax Protester movement. Such groups and individuals have repeatedly found themselves subject to prosecution for saying what are genuinely held beliefs, with perhaps the most notable being the injunction imposed on the We the People Foundation, which in essence prevented them from vocalizing their beliefs in any form. The basis for this was that by doing so they were in effect conspiring to commit tax fraud but the wording was left vague enough that it does not simply cover situations where they were actively advising to telling someone to commit the fraud but also situations where they simply "said" their views on why such acts were not fraud at all.

The US famously doesn't allow you to shout "FIRE!" in a movie theatre because of the potential for harm - how exactly is this different?

Pedants note: It's falsely shouting fire in a crowded theatre; there's no objection to someone shouting "fire" if there really is one.

Further note: Thankfully, the "fire in a crowded theatre" case has been overruled in most of the world (in the US I believe it was in 1969). It's a horrible case with horrible implications... but ironically considering the current topic if it was still the force it would be highly likely that the WBC could be prosecuted for their statements using the same reasoning.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #80 on: February 14, 2014, 06:46:28 AM »
I am assuming you do not live in the US. There are laws on the books that if your actions (this would be the whole turning personal, private information over to someone who then goes out and kills the person whose information you gave out) cause or help the murder of another then you are as guilty as the one who did the crime. You can and will be charged with the crime so long as the cops and DA can show what you did and how you did it. So... no reason to use this as an excuse to remove freedoms we enjoy.
Um. The time for this argument probably would have been before you were presented with an example where people did exactly as I claimed and faced no criminal charges for it, not in response to it.

Again, there are laws on the books that make it illegal to attack someone. And again, you cannot dictate what is and isn't allowed to be said. Once someone tries to define what is acceptable we all lose. If someone is stupid enough to go beyond just running their mouth THEN and ONLY THEN are they guilty and subject to prosecution. Is it fair? No. But guess what - life isn't fair. It isn't fair for anyone.
Remember the bolded part. It will come up shortly.

And how many times does it have to be pointed out that neither Val nor I have a problem with the limitations that are already in place? We both have the view that to put MORE limitations on freedom of speech is a dangerous thing and not worth the risk. I think now you are arguing just to argue because you sure as hell aren't reading what has been said.
Remember that bolded bit above? Remember  when you claimed that the moment a court said that a group couldn't say absolutely anything it wanted with complete immunity from the law, we all lose? Remember when you claimed that free speech dies the moment government suppresses speech X but not speech Y? Remember when you claimed an absolute right to say anything you want? Remember when, prior to this post, you said you found the existing restrictions on speech in the US acceptable? Wait, no, I made that one up.

Hopefully, you can understand why one might be a little confused here.

That said, I'll take this at face value: You hold that the US has the perfect level of restriction on free speech - all of its current restrictions are acceptable, but anything further is a slippery slope to tyranny. What makes the US perfect on this, then?

-You can intentionally incite others to wage a campaign of murder on your behalf, unless your targets are politicians.
-You can't arrange words or numbers in patterns that other people already have, except when you can. Note that this means you can't even say literally nothing at all for a certain specific period of time.
-You're encouraged to speak out when your employer is doing something illegal, unless that employer is the government.
-You can't lie to someone in order to get them to give you money, unless you represent a political or religious group.
-You can't lie about someone in a way that costs them money, but you can lie about them so you can assault them with impunity.
-You can't tell anyone when the government unethically and probably-illegally orders you to violate others' privacy, but you can say other things that communicate this just as effectively.
-You can't threaten someone with physical harm, but you can badger them into killing themselves.
-According to your argument above, information that can be gathered on a public street (photo and addresses) is private, but what's in your underwear can be disclosed by anyone with impunity, regardless of the harm it causes you.

From outside, this looks like a rather arbitrary set of rules; the only consistent pattern I see is "don't screw with the powerful or their money". Isn't that the exact thing you were afraid of? What makes this set of rules so superior to any and all other possible sets?

EDIT: I should note that, on review, I did miss Valthazar's first statement in support of US practice. This was my error, and I apologize for it. But... well, I reviewed the thread twice looking for yours. Maybe next time you could check whether you've actually said something before accusing me of failing to read it?
« Last Edit: February 14, 2014, 06:58:49 AM by Ephiral »

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #81 on: February 14, 2014, 12:47:24 PM »
That said, I'll take this at face value: You hold that the US has the perfect level of restriction on free speech - all of its current restrictions are acceptable, but anything further is a slippery slope to tyranny. What makes the US perfect on this, then?

I think the important thing to realize is that we are all human beings, and we are all susceptible to being the recipients of comments or attitudes that hurt us deeply.  Just like you, Ephiral, I too have faced many remarks that left me feeling isolated and hurt.

But whether we view current US policy on the First Amendment to be ideal or not restrictive enough is simply a matter of opinion, based on our individual notions of a free society.  Just realize that IO is personally affected by the things WBC says, so if she is still supporting their First Amendment rights to protest, then clearly it is a concept that she values.  Just like you are passionate in your perspective, realize that we are as well.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #82 on: February 14, 2014, 12:56:01 PM »
I think Ephiral was asking for reasons beyond "I think so".  That old bugbear of evidence in a slightly different form, really. While it may be a matter of opinion, what he was asking for is why you hold that opinion.

I think at least.  Not to put words in her mouth.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #83 on: February 14, 2014, 01:16:57 PM »
I believe that Iniquitous Opheliac and I have both given our reasons - we've discussed how placing further restrictions on freedom of speech risks opening the door for further censorship, and earlier in this thread, I provided examples from Europe.  I understand that others may disagree with this potential risk, which is why it is unlikely we are going to see eye-to-eye on this issue.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #84 on: February 14, 2014, 02:42:17 PM »
Well, that's part of it. But you also support the restrictions as they stand. Going back to our earlier example: Why is it completely verboten to stop a campaign aimed at inciting people to murder doctors, but fine and dandy to punish an identical campaign against politicians? Your stated goal is to prvent the tyranny of government censorship - but you're perfectly fine with speech being treated as criminal or not criminal based on whether it's aimed at a member of government? This... looks a lot like akrasia to me.

Online Neysha

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #85 on: February 14, 2014, 02:50:26 PM »
I should note that, on review, I did miss Valthazar's first statement in support of US practice. This was my error, and I apologize for it. But... well, I reviewed the thread twice looking for yours. Maybe next time you could check whether you've actually said something before accusing me of failing to read it?

 ???

That's... an apology?

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #86 on: February 14, 2014, 03:01:18 PM »
Hardly my first here on E, unlikely to be my last. I know you're not particularly fond of me or likely to believe this, Neysha, but I do try to correct myself when I misstep. You and I are highly unlikely to agree on what constitutes such a misstep and it'd be severely off-topic, so I'm not entertaining discussion on that point right now, to be clear.

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #87 on: February 14, 2014, 03:41:06 PM »
Hardly my first here on E, unlikely to be my last. I know you're not particularly fond of me or likely to believe this, Neysha, but I do try to correct myself when I misstep. You and I are highly unlikely to agree on what constitutes such a misstep and it'd be severely off-topic, so I'm not entertaining discussion on that point right now, to be clear.

I'm not sure what you're talking about in reference to me but that's besides the point.

What I meant to imply was that the apology seemed insincere considering what followed directly after the statement of apology.

For not making that clear, I apologize.

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #88 on: February 14, 2014, 03:47:31 PM »
She was talking about two different people.  Sentences 1 and 2 were addressed to the world in general and referred to Val, the remainder was to IO.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #89 on: February 14, 2014, 03:48:53 PM »
...right. Should've expected as much. I'm not going to continue engaging you, Neysha, except to reiterate that yes, I do sincerely regret my error in reading, and my misapprehension and misrepresentation of Valthazar's position based on that faulty reading.

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #90 on: February 14, 2014, 04:02:10 PM »
She was talking about two different people.  Sentences 1 and 2 were addressed to the world in general and referred to Val, the remainder was to IO.

Ah okay, that... makes a bit more sense. Thank you.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #91 on: February 14, 2014, 09:26:30 PM »
Your stated goal is to prvent the tyranny of government censorship - but you're perfectly fine with speech being treated as criminal or not criminal based on whether it's aimed at a member of government? This... looks a lot like akrasia to me.

No, I am not.  For example, look at federal law 879(a)(3), which makes it a felony to threaten a major presidential candidate with death or bodily harm.

In 2009, Walter Bagdasarian posted this on a Yahoo finance message board: "Obama fk the n*****, he will have a 50 cal in the head soon"

"To be convicted under 879(a)(3), it is not enough that someone has made menacing statements. They have to have intended to threaten injury or death, and people viewing the words objectively have to regard them as threatening. In addition to these requirements under 879(a)(3), there is a separate first amendment test: the speaker's words must be a "true threat" which in this case the court defined as "a statement which, in the entire context and under all the circumstances, a reasonable person would foresee would be interpreted by those to whom the statement is communicated as a serious expression of intent to inflict bodily harm upon that person." (Source)

The San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit voted and determined that Bagdasarian's posts did not meet these tests.

In the same manner, the content you linked on that anti-abortion website are not making direct threats either.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #92 on: February 14, 2014, 10:01:52 PM »
You stated your support for restrictions as they currently stand in US law. I presume that includes, say, 18 USC 2385. The case I cited, had it been aimed at government officials instead of doctors, would clearly violate all three clauses as far as I can see. So... perhaps you should revisit your position?


Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #94 on: February 14, 2014, 10:19:21 PM »
The Smith Act came out in 1940, but many of prior applications (in the manner which you suggest) during the 'Red Scare' were found to be unconstitutional in 1957.

For examples, in Yates v. United States, it was ruled that, "the Smith Act does not prohibit advocacy and teaching of forcible overthrow of the Government as an abstract principle, divorced from any effort to instigate action to that end; the trial court's charge to the jury furnished wholly inadequate guidance on this central point in the case, and the conviction cannot be allowed to stand" (Source)

As a result, the content on the anti-abortionists website, which involves 'teaching'/conveying of the life/death status of abortionists would not be criminalized, had a similar law been present.

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #95 on: February 14, 2014, 10:30:54 PM »
"divorced from any effort to intstigate action to that end"... such as putting wanted posters and location details into the hands of known militants looking for a target for violence, an intent made plain by the way they cheer over the results?

I think you'll need a better cite than that.

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #96 on: February 14, 2014, 10:37:14 PM »
« Last Edit: February 14, 2014, 10:40:48 PM by Neysha »

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #97 on: February 14, 2014, 10:40:40 PM »
"divorced from any effort to intstigate action to that end"... such as putting wanted posters and location details into the hands of known militants looking for a target for violence, an intent made plain by the way they cheer over the results?

I think you'll need a better cite than that.

I would kindly ask if you could provide an example of the wanted poster, for the purposes of this discussion.  From what I have seen of these wanted posters from such organizations, as a singular specimen, they are not advocating any violence or threats in the manner in which they are written.  The location details are simply their location.

Neysha has mentioned some excellent points.  Ephiral, let us simply view this as a discussion of perspectives, rather than a clash of egos, because I notice you are ending your posts with a very competitive tone.  Several posts ago, I already said that we have different perspectives of a free society, so we are simply sharing our opinions here.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #98 on: February 14, 2014, 11:03:55 PM »
Ehh, fine, I'm out. Really can't be bothered with tone-policing crap that tries to dodge the actual thrust of my posts anyway.

EDIT: Okay, that sounded a lot more flippant than it should have. Longer version: I'm not being "competetive", I'm angry. I've seen cases - hell, I've been a case where, as a direct result of prevailing cultural attitudes and espoused positions on people who looked a little different, the police not only condoned a brutal assault but re-victimized me while I was sitting in emergency triage. So... yeah, it makes me headdesk a little to see people pretend that no real harm comes from speech, and the police will handle anything that does happen. I need to step away from this, as that's obviously colouring my arguments - but I do think that policing my tone instead of engaging with the actual point is counterproductive and a little insulting. And now for that step away.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2014, 11:34:14 PM by Ephiral »

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #99 on: February 14, 2014, 11:31:31 PM »
I am sorry to hear about your experience, Ephiral.  I was never suggesting that certain speech cannot cause harm on a personal level.  For example, Iniquitous Opheliac experiences personal emotional harm from the things WBC says.  The stance many of us having been taking in this thread, is that the cost of actively censoring this type of speech (whether through new legislation, or a more broad interpretation of existing law), will ultimately be worse than the potential short-term benefits of emotional peace that may come from it.

Edit:  Earlier in this thread, when I asked 'what harm does it cause?' that was in the context of political perspectives in public discourse.  In other words, I still firmly believe that administratively, it is not ethical to censor political views based on our individual perceptions of what may yield societal harm.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2014, 11:35:41 PM by Valthazar »