Wendy Kaminer On The Right Not To Be Offended

Wendy Kaminer hits the nail on the head about avoiding offense.

If we have a right not to be offended, then we have no right to give offense. That means we have no reliable, predictable right to speak, because in diverse societies there are no universal opinions or beliefs that are universally inoffensive. If we have a legal right to feel emotionally safe and un-offended, we have a legal obligation to keep silent, which we violate at our peril. Emotionally safe societies are dangerous places for people who speak.

-Wendy Kaminer, On College Campuses, The Danger of Playing It Safe With Ideas, November 21, 2014

John Stuart Mill on Freedom of Speech

We have now recognised the necessity to the mental well-being of mankind (on which all their other well-being depends) of freedom of opinion, and freedom of the expression of opinion, on four distinct grounds; which we will now briefly recapitulate.

First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions, that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.

-John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

That Time the Supreme Court Unanimously Ruled Films Were Not Protected By the First Amendment

Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio (1915) was a Supreme Court decision that shows just how far we’ve come with protections for free speech in the intervening years and the risks entailed in any backsliding on free speech rights.

Mutual Film Corporation was a conglomerate that produced movies during the early 20th century. In 1913, Ohio enacted a law creating a censorship board that had the power to ban films.

Mutual Film Corporation filed a lawsuit against the state of Ohio, and lost. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that films were not protected by the First Amendment.

The exhibition of moving pictures is a business, pure and simple, originated and conducted for profit like other spectacles, and not to be regarded as part of the press of the country or as organs of public opinion within the meaning of freedom of speech and publication guaranteed by the Constitution of Ohio.

Of particular interest is that a major part of the Court’s reasoning was that the act of showing a film was purely commercial speech,

The exhibition of moving pictures is a business, pure and simple, originated and conducted for profit like other spectacles, and not to be regarded as part of the press of the country or as organs of public opinion within the meaning of freedom of speech and publication guaranteed by the Constitution of Ohio.

Irish Woman Faces Potential Hate Crime Prosecution for Banner Attacking Democratic Unionist Party

According to The Guardian, Ellie Evans, 24, was contacted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland after she carried a banner attacking an Irish political party for its opposition to gay marriage.

During Belfast’s Pride Parade in August, Evans carried a banner reading “Fuck the DUP.” The Democratic Unionist Party holds the most seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly and opposes abortion and same-sex marriage.

According to The Guardian,

The investigation was prompted by a complaint from DUP politician Jim Wells, who told the Guardian that the slogan constituted “incitement to hatred and potential public disorder”.

Evans, originally from Essex, confirmed that two PSNI detectives questioned her under caution on Monday. She said that in a later phone call she was told that the PPS would decide whether she should be prosecuted for a hate crime or a breach of public order.

. . .

Wells, who avoids swearing, said: “If someone at an Orange Order march held up a banner stating, ‘eff Sinn Féin’ or if someone from a religious group held up a placard with the slogan, ‘eff LGBT’ at parade that would be a clear breach of the Parades Commission’s rules barring offensive slogans.

“This ‘eff The DUP’ placard is exactly the same,” he went on. “I don’t mind if they hold up banners criticising the DUP, saying we are idiots or whatever. But to use a swearword is tantamount to an incitement to hatred and potential public disorder.

“You may not agree with the DUP but we represent 300,000 people and are the largest political party in this province. They deserve some respect free from offence. As a unionist I would find it unacceptable and offensive if anyone used that same slogan, that same swearword against any of the nationalist parties here.”

German Court Upholds Ban Against Anti-Erdogan Poem

A German court has bizarrely upheld a ban that prevents German comic Jan Boehmermann from reciting or republishing a poem that he wrote criticizing Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to the BBC, it was the numerous sexual references that the court found unacceptable.

I frequently see people argue for the United States to abandon its expansive First Amendment protections and instead adopt a more European approach to speech (especially with regards to so-called “hate speech.”) What could possibly go wrong?

Or, alternately, if saying Erdogan is a goat-fucker is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

This English translation of the poem has been floating around the Internet, but I could not track it down to the original source. Many thanks to the translator.


Defamation Poem, by Jan Böhmermann

Stupid as fuck, cowardly and uptight,
Is Erdogan, the president,
His gob smells of bad döner,
Even a pig’s fart smells better,
He’s the man who hits girls,
While wearing a rubber mask,
But goat-fucking he likes the best,
And having minorities repressed,

Kicking Kurds,
Beating Christians,
While watching kiddie porn,
And even at night, instead of sleep,
It’s time for fellatio with a hundred sheep,

Yep, Erdogan is definitely
The president with a tiny dick,
Every Turk will tell you all,
The stupid fool has wrinkly balls,
From Ankara to Istanbul,
They all know the man is gay,
Perverted, louse-infested, a zoophile,
Recep Fritzl Priklopil

Head as empty as his balls,
Of every gang-bang party he’s the star,
Till his cock burns when he has a piss,
That’s Recep Erdogan,
The Turkish president.

Thomas Jefferson on Freedom of Conscience and Speech

“I am for freedom of religion, and against all manoeuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another: for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.”

-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799