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February 18, 2005

Comments

What a magisterial, thought-provoking post! Thank you, hilzoy.

I, for one, don't feel particularly threatened by people who disagree with me. If I did I'd feel pretty darned threatened, let me tell you.

Marvelous post. Every word of it.

All of that having been said I guess I think that there's more of a divide between thought and speech on the one hand and action on the other than seems to be popular these days. I'm skeptical about freedom of expression being extended too far beyond actual speech. For example, placing an advocacy sign on one's front lawn (subject to local zoning ordinances) is, reasonably, protected. Defacing that sign shouldn't be although there's not much difference between the expression issues involved.

Lovely post, Hilzoy.

I found another quote from Socrates, directly contradicting Paul Cella's assertion that Socrates approved of being condemned to choose between "death, silence, or exile" (though the whole Apologia contradicts Paul, dammit):

And now, Athenians, I am not going to argue for my own sake, as you may think, but for yours, that you may not sin against the God by condemning me, who am his gift to you. I am the gadfly of the Athenian people, given to them by God, and they will never have another, if they kill me. For if you kill me you will not easily find a successor to me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by God; and the state is a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you. You will not easily find another like me, and therefore I would advise you to spare me.

Hear! Hear!!!

And it's because I think that we are better people when we argue for our views against all opponents, rather than trying to protect ourselves from views we think might be dangerous, that I would not give the power to proscribe beliefs even to an omniscient and benevolent tyrant.

Nothing is lost in debating an issue opnely that shouldn't be lost (e.g., misperceptions, unjustified bias, undue arrogance). If you're right, a debate will confirm and solidify that. If you're wrong, you should want to know that. If you don't, consider donating your brain to science asap.

I'm very glad to see this on the front page. And from the reasonable eloquence of the prose, I knew it was you, Hilzoy, despite the lack of byline.

You might want to clarify this sentence in the fourth paragraph, however: "But prohibiting citizens from actually starting wars with one another -- with taking up arms against their fellow citizens or their government -- has always been illegal."

I too find something valuable in debating--or rather, more often, watching the debate--between civil people with diverse opinions. There aren't many blogs where real conversation happens.

If I might offer a bit of advice to main-page posters? Some of the less productive comments threads seem to result from posts that have been imported whole from other sites. On Sebastian's excellent "exhortation" post, some not-so fruitful argument arose from rhetoric that Sebastian was willing to admit had been aimed at his RedState readers. And I was interested to see that Bird's Stewart-Soros post had, last night at least, only generated six or so comments at RedState, unlike the 150+ comments of mixed condemnation and qualified defense here.

I'm not sure what I'm advocating here. Obviously, if you offer two different versions of the same argument, we readers will find out the discrepencies soon enough. But the readers--and the overall intent of this blog--do merit some rhetorical considerations. Arguments phrased for a more partisan audience won't serve this community well. At the least, we deserve some warning if an argument was written for another crowd. I didn't pay much attention to Sebastian's "clintonesque" because of his caveat. Anyway, an observation.

Excellent post. I found the cite of Milton quite moving. Currently rewatching Schama's series on the History of England, and last night was the episode on Cromwell and Charles I. Religious tolerance as expressed by Milton developed in a context, and with a cause.

I agree with the content. Part of my method of reasoning is to look for the best case in opposition to my beliefs, and the fact that so many societies have resisted pluralism may prove nothing, but may also indicate that a counter-argument, however weak, may exist out there. I will do some research and thinking.

"I think that arguing with people I disagree with on topics that seem to me to be incredibly important, and doing it without trying to shut people up or belittle them, makes me a better person, and strengthens my own hold on what really matters to me."

This is an excellent reminder of why I am here, which is good because I had been wondering lately.

Ah -- no byline? That's because I was trying to add one and hit the return key, hoping to add another line in the title, and the program decided that this meant "oh, post it now!" So I had to go back and add both thee byline and the last para., which for some reason didn't take. Oh well. -- Thanks, everyone.

psst...Cella should have an upper case "C" in title.

I think that arguing with people I disagree with on topics that seem to me to be incredibly important, and doing it without trying to shut people up or belittle them, makes me a better person, and strengthens my own hold on what really matters to me.

I just want to point out that this is how it's done, folks. Although (no slam against hilzoy, here) one can accomplish said disagreement using fewer...notes, as it were.

Thank you, Hilzoy, for your eloquent post.

Let me add, I don't think it is practical any longer for the government really to proscribe communication of ideas, however repugnant. In the old days of the Soviet Union it was illegal to own a mimeograph machine. Imagine trying to enforce that kind of edict nowadays. During the fall of the Soviet Union the regime's opponents employed e-mail.

To be sure, technical advances also can be used for surveillance and repression, and John Poindexter's ideas will no doubt be pursued, but the draconian measures that would have to be employed to effectively squelch free expression are probably not feasible.

I have read speculation about how the United States might respond to a more serious terrorist attack such as a nuclear weapon, and whether that would be the end of constitutional government. Tommy Franks voiced that idea, I believe.

Of course the prospect is horrible to contemplate and some of the arguments expressed about free speech lately are worrying. Yet what I have read recently here including your response above gives me cause to believe that the ideals our country stands for are still strong.

Edward: Yeah, I know, but for some reason the program doesn't let me edit titles. (I type in the changes, all seems well, and then it doesn't take.) Yet another casualty of the fact that I posted this when I was just trying to hit return, i.e. before proofreading.

Oh, and bravo, hilzoy. As always, said much better than I could hope to aspire to.

Thank you Emperor Joseph II, err, Slartibartfast.

hilzoy,

Login as Moe and it should...I just tried it...and it seemed to work.

Hey, I'm not demanding fewer notes. Not even suggesting it; just saying that one can respectfully disagree without going all hilzoy on us.

Login as Moe

aHA! So that's where the Stick of Power is!

"Oh, and bravo, hilzoy."

Slart, you're not an opera fan?

This is an excellent reminder of why I am here, which is good because I had been wondering lately.

I sure hope I'm not in part to blame for that feeling, Sebastian. I've enjoyed our debates, however heated they might get at times.

Then there's always this way to disagree with someone:

Howard Dean, the newly minted leader of the Democratic Party, and former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle made clear their opposing views on the war in Iraq during a debate marred by a protester who tossed a shoe at Perle.

Perle had just started his comments Thursday when a protester threw a shoe at him before being dragged away, screaming, "Liar! Liar!"

At least let the man lie first. Geeez.

Edward -- clever me read the first part of your post, thought 'aha!', logged in as Moe, and found the title all corrected. Thanks!

Throwing shoes! Wow. That's maybe a half-step up from rotten cabbage--and of course not nearly as refined as throwing cream pies.

Edward: At least let the man lie first. Geeez.

Oh, Perle's been telling lies about the Iraq war at least since May 2003 - and I'm sure he was lying for Bush before then, too, I just can't be bothered to go dig up the evidence on Friday evening.

That said, I tend to find hecklers with intent to disrupt the debate (rather than contribute to it) irritating when they're the opposition, and irritating/embarrassing when they're theoretically on my side.

Since we've waxed musical -- maybe he was under the misapprehension that he was in the Nutcracker.

Rather, this brings to my mind the famous image of Khrushchev at the U.N.

Ah, those Russians. So dramatic.

Hey look only playing Devil's advocate here, y'all keep giving hilzoy the justly deserved praise. A start:

"To be less parochial, non-theologically minded conservatives have equally dubious grounds for adhering to a doctrine of human rights. Conservative thought holds that moral and political truths can be known, and that certain natural constraints (or revealed ones) govern human behavior. But the notion of human rights arose precisely because these ideas were rejected. While Locke attempted to soften the edge of this "strange new doctrine," the only internally coherent system of rights is that of Hobbes. If one cannot accept, with Hobbes, that "every man has a Right to every thing; even to one another's body . . . because there is nothing to which every man had not Right by Nature," then one cannot accept a rights framework. I know of no coherent case that can mitigate this harsh, but internally consistent, notion of the rights of non-political man.

Moreover, Hobbes's "warre of every man against every man" also denies the fundamental precept of conservative thought that man is a naturally political--a politikon zoan--and that the natural order is one of harmony, not war. Christians believe that the Fall has upset this harmony, but the orginal "state of nature," that state of man as created, is one of natural harmony and sociability. A rights doctrine rejects a view of natural harmony for one of strife, enmity and conflict. Within a rights paradigm, harmony is conventional, the result of contract among individuals, all of whom fear the other's right to take whatever they will by whatever means.

Nor does it do for conservatives to try to cling to a category of negative rights. One of my teachers at Boston College, Frederick Lawrence, has shown how the idea of "negative" rights is kith and kin with liberal positive rights. The notion of rights, from the Left or the Right is "the product of an attempt to define human equality independently of any religion or metaphysics." Rights theories of all political persuasion "are signaled by the notorious modern dichotomies between nature and freedom, nature and history, and nature and art, which were exploited till our own day by the movements of idealism, historicism and romanticism."

. .....Kenneth Craycraft, Intercollegiate Review, Fall 1991"

Craycraft

it should be everyone's civic duty to throw a shoe a Richard Perle.

well said.

debating only with those who agree with you isn't debating; it's cheerleading.

here, we debate some of the most critical issues facing us as citizens: the balance between liberty and security, the appropriate role of government in providing pensions; war.

The best threads and posts force us to examine our most basic assumptions and question how the topic of discussion interacts with those values.

like this post.

Thanks

Francis

Bob M: Actually, I do not think that human rights require as a foundation the idea that moral truths can be known. I, for instance, believe that they can, and yet I wrote this post. More to the point, many of the central figures of the Enlightenment thought that moral truths could be known too, but that didn't stop them from believing in toleration. (And even before the Enlightenment, consider Milton, who surely believed that moral truths are knowable.)

Too make a detailed argument on this would require what Slart would call 'too many notes', but three quick points:

First, the view that we should respect human rights is itself a moral claim, and anyone who didn't think that moral claims are knowable would have to think that we didn't know this one to be true either.

Second, one reason for believing in human rights (not the only one) is that you think not that moral claims are unknowable, but that they are not so obvious, in their detailed application to our world, that everyone who is not willfully blind will agree on them. (That there are rocks on our planet: obvious. That a given interpretation of quantum mechanics is true: maybe knowable, but not obvious enough for us to condemn those who don't accept it as unreasonable.)

Third, my last argument in favor of freedom of speech is all about moral improvement, and would be hard to reconcile with serious moral relativism.

Eek: Make that first sentence: I do not think that human rights require as a foundation the idea that moral truths cannot be known. Duh.

Damn it, as long as we're going into that, I'm going to link this.

"I think that arguing with people I disagree with on topics that seem to me to be incredibly important, and doing it without trying to shut people up or belittle them, makes me a better person, and strengthens my own hold on what really matters to me." ...to quote hilzoy

The point being (perhaps of Cella and Craycraft, I can't speak for them), do we listen to other's opinions on this blog because we have contracted to do so, or because we have formed a community. The arguments over Charles Bird, and the hosts' defense, might have more to do with a freely chosen association which would be negated by an authority (blog-king?) commanding Bird's right to speak.

Tacitus was banned, in part because he "broke the rules", but also in part because some people chose not to associate with him in this forum.

Working up a sweat on this, not my natural inclination, not really smart enough or educated enough to handle it, and trying not to link or get help from Cella. Hopefully, he can come around himself.

A community that cannot exclude is not a free community. It is a collection of atomistic individuals forced together by authority or contract. A "Rights Doctrine" even including free association cannot create communities or a polis. Speech that brings into question the identity of a community to the degree that its internal cohesion is endangered may be restricted.

As an example, an LGF or Freeper taken on as a poster at Obisidian Wings might well destroy it.

From Slart's link:

The protester was later released after authorities confirmed that Perle is a Jew, and that consequently no law had been broken.

He's attributing this to the AP? That's lovely.

The "he" being the author, not Slartibartfast, in case of confusion.

Interestingly “cella” in the title of this post seems to have reverted to lowercase.

Bob M: "A community that cannot exclude is not a free community. It is a collection of atomistic individuals forced together by authority or contract."

Why not? Can't a community come together on the basis of a shared view that it should allow all views to be expressed? And might it not maintain itself, even though it contained some people whose views were antithetical to that community? If it couldn't wouldn't that say more about the commitment of its members to their supposedly shared norms than anything else?

We can exclude people from our society. If they break our laws, we can send them to jail, and under current law we can kill them. The question is whether we should prohibit not just conduct, but the expression of certain views. I don't see why the answer 'no' makes us atomistic, or a collection of people forced together by authority or contract. We are, as a community, strong enough to tolerate dissent. And we are better for it.

Of course, a doctrine of rights cannot all by itself create a community; no mere doctrine can do that. It takes people who are committed to it, and want to live by it. The idea that this particular doctrine is inconsistent with the existence of such a community would be true only if dissent actually produced civil war. I have argued that it doesn't. And to me, if I worried that it might, my first response would be to go out and try to argue with people, not to curtail freedom of thought and expression.

Fine post, hilzoy.

Either the AP needs to fire someone(s) (for the original and the scrubbing) or I'm going back to avoiding that blog.

Either the AP needs to fire someone(s) (for the original and the scrubbing) or I'm going back to avoiding that blog.

From the comments:

You may want to correct the post because it appears as though the AP story itself has the “Perle is a Jew” remark. I did a double take.
Posted by HH

I know. I put that in there to see if people were paying attention. But I provided a link to the complete text for people to check it.
Posted by Jeff Goldstein

The last time I recall "I just wanted to see if you were paying attention" being an acceptable justification for that kind of stunt was in high school.

Well, again, that freeper you could not silence or ban.

This community(ObsWi) is founded on a shared set of values that differ somewhat from(if only in degree or breadth of the committment) the values that hold at RedState or DKos. A committment to pluralism and free expression being high among them. A kindness and sympathy/empathy in times of loss or stress another.

The cases and examples Paul Cella cites are mostly those who lack that committment to pluralism or desire to form a universal community(Nazis,Communists,Klansemen), or lack that empathy, or damage cohesion when it is necessary(time of war). The man who laughs at a soldier's funeral will be gently escorted away. People who celebrate 9/11 may generate violence.

The deeper argument is that a community whose only shared value is tolerance is not a community. And a pluralism where all values are treated equally under the law will soon disintegrate or necessarily descend into anarchy. I read a comment this week about Europe, and how its lack of assimilation has created a continent of enclaves and uncommunicative neighborhoods. Can't vouch for accuracy.

The people who founded this country took a different view. They had the odd idea that citizens should be trusted to make up their own minds who their leaders should be.

hilzoy, I really hate to bring up this history thing again but I have several questions regarding the above.

Why a Constitutional Republic?
Why the indirect election of both the President and the members of the Senate?

TTWD:

as to question 1, to protect the minority's inalienable rights.

as to 2a, to reflect the federal nature of our polity.

as to 2b, we don't do that anymore.

Francis

Great post Hilzoy

I would like to point out the converse of allowing opposing opinions (especially those considered beyond the pale)is good for those who hold those opinions. Because they will have to defend those opinions in an open forum. It might even change some minds. But if we proscribe opinion X. Anyone holding X is unlikely to hear (not X) because the people who support not X have nothing to respond to.

For example if the Mad Midnight Bomber (What Bombs at Midnight) was going around extolling the benefits of midnight bombings. The Govt then says no one can talk about midnight bombings. As an enforcment issue you will never get the MMB (WBAM) to stop talking about it, he will only stop talking publicly. He still might convince others that midnight bombings are a good idea. Yet because no one is talking in public in favor midnight bombings, people will see no need to talk about why this is not such a good idea. And the MMB (WBAM) will go on secretly gathering supporters without opposition.


(yes I know, calling for midnight bombings is probably incitement (and therefore prohibitied) I just wanted to include a Tick reference)

we don't do that anymore

I believe fdl that hilzoy referenced the "people who founded the country" in her comments.

The founders decided to include certain property as three fifths of a citizen. Why?

The very end of the "Bill of Rights" includes the Tenth Amendment. Why?

Certain of the founders enacted the Alien and Sedition Act(s). Why again?

Was the United States of America an "Open Society" at its founding? If it was, you will have to explain why so many of its "citizens" didn't have the right to vote at the very beginning. The right to vote was held by the minority, which doesn't mean that this was not a great country, it just wasn't an "Open Society".

I really don't believe you want me to go on because there is more. Ultimately the initial compromise failed, the Civil War ensued and "radical Republicans" passed the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Many of you know how much I enjoy discussing "civil liberties" and Lincoln but....

Bob, I've got to say that I don't really see how this follows:
And a pluralism where all values are treated equally under the law will soon disintegrate or necessarily descend into anarchy.

For one thing, the law enshrines certain values. American law in particular is not a simple list of what an individual can and cannot do.

Secondly, I would hope that pluralism wouldn't lead inevitably to chaos and anarchy because there really hasn't been a singular, unitary culture in the United States for many, many years.

I've been thinking about Burke recently, and so much of what he had to say about positive cultural associations--habits, prejudices, customs, what he sometimes calls the "English character"--happens beneath the surface of the law and the social contract. While his argument does get shrill in the Reflections on the Revolution, the sensible thing to take away from him, I think, is that these cultural values get mediated into Anglo-American common-law in the form of precedent. In a local community, individuals, memories, landmarks might form cultural values, in addition to the law. In national institutions, foundational law and precedent reflect cultural values. When the values of these precedents and institutions no longer reflect those of enough of the (armed) population, then you have a revolution.

This thought isn't really finished, but then, neither is my dissertation...

To put it another way, suppose we allowed the government to go into the business of outlawing certain opinions. For the sake of argument, I'll posit the form that this would take as passing a law proscribing the endorsement of or membership in a given ideology. If someone else can think of a better way to frame this, I welcome it, but I think that in order to debate the merits of this we have to first set out what it is we're debating /doing/ about /what/.

The first target of this law, we'll say, is communism. Congratulations, it is now illegal to advocate communism as being preferable to capitalism, or to hold membership in any organization that espouses such. We'll assume that "communism" is exhaustively defined in said law.

So who gets prosecuted? The members of the socialist workers party? The students who have a class debate about the merits of each system? Two people on the net discussing the Soviet Union? Someone handing out flyers about the evils of consumerism and excess capitalism? Someone wearing one of those now-fashionable shirts with a hammer-and-sickle on it? A collector of Soviet memorobilia?

The law is unenforceable without either being inconsistently applied or turning the country into something that is no longer America. And that's just the problem in deciding where to draw the line on one subject. Once you've given the government the power to decide that a given ideology or opinion is so dangerous to the fabric of the country that it must be proscribed, it demands that the next question be asked: who decides? To hear the GOP leadership right now, you'd think that the most pressing danger to our country behind Islamic terrorism is the thought of two gays marrying each other. Are we to make espousing gay marriage a crime? I'll guarantee you that the theocon wing of the party would raise a cheer if it were so, and they wouldn't stop to think about what happens when the pendulum swings the other way and we have a Democratic Congress and President.

This is not a power I want any elected leader, Democrat or Republican, to have. It is anathema to what this country stands for.

As a response to Cella and obliquely to BD, I agree with this wholeheartedly. But in keeping with one of my obsessions, I think there is an interesting point here that is being skipped over.

We look at the various words of the Founding Fathers, I am always struck by the radical nature, the notion of complete equality. However, in their context, equality was for male landholders. The nature of complete equality is a bit like a universal solvent, dissolving whatever social structure it is contained in.

Fortunately, social structures have evolved to recontain the genie of equality. I feel a certain sympathy towards conservatives who complain that things are not like they were in the old days. It is as fundamental a human opinion as any I can think of, and I don't begrudge them for holding it and if there is not a true committment to equality, it is very easy to rationalize.

Unfortunately, my feeling is that the evolution in social structures has been reactive, so that it is a zero sum game. What also disturbs me is that to be granted the level of individual autonomy that we demand, we have to cede more and more of our privacy. This whole discussion arose because of questions of terrorism, but there are a number of aspects that, at first glance, are unrelated, but I think are tied to this. It is not simply the increasing power of the state, it is the usage of public opinion and media to ostracize and the increased willingness of the courts to accept that we can penalize people for their thoughts as well as retroactive penalties for acts done.

I suppose that this plugs into Bob McManus' musings, but I think that if we look at this historically, Bob's notion of 'atomistic individuals' arises from our push for equality and space.


Jackmoron: as someone who lived thru the sixties, all I can is that it sure felt like there was more a single unified culture at the beginning than at the end. This unified culture was not necessarily a good one. The sixties were also an era in which speech generated violence; we can say that Lester Maddux and the Weathermen were the bad guys, but the violence was better avoided, and the community and sense of community broke down.

2)As far as societies under stress, I was trying to think about Iraq, and son-of-a-gun, I don't think there are many more restrictions in Iraq than there are here. Sadr can say a lot without getting arrested. Hmmm.

3) I think micro-examples can help in thinking about this. I gave the blog as an example. I'll give the US Senate as another. Where a Senator is not allowed to speak ill of another. Where there are no external rules, and any rules must arise out of an ad-hoc community built by people of wildly opposing ideologies. Speech is restricted in many formal and informal ways.

Magnificent, hilzoy. Brava.

Is there a message in the dropped second "m"? (You're not the only one, Bob, but maybe it's time I said something.)

I didn't live through the sixties, so I can't really gauge what you felt. But my reading about the period suggests that there was a more unified public culture underneath which teemed many diverse cultures that had little access or identification with the public one. Maybe I'm wrong about this, maybe I'm doing a post hoc ergo ante hoc fallacy.

It seems to me that the idea of a community needs some tightening up. I have some discomfort with the idea of US culture(s) as a single community, at any time. Our country is simply too large for me to think of it as a community without some clearer definition.

The micro-communities you refer to, this blog and the Senate, might be bad examples in this regard: they are both artificial communities, built with purposes in mind. Your average Springfield is a just a place where people live. In order to make the step from saying hi to their neighbors and enjoying the scenary for personal pleasure to feeling a moral obligation or civic duty, there's usually some idea of exchange or contract implicit.

In times of stress, it's the law of the strongest against the law of the contract. This was Burke's whole point: if you let the strongest rewrite the contract from scratch, everything that people liked about the old contract is void, and the new terms will be intrinsically unstable. Better to allow more people into the old contract, to modify it from within the existing framework, if necessary. (Burke really, really hated violence.)

This is one of the many reasons that suspending certain rights guaranteed by the old contract in times of stress should be weighed very very carefully. By doing so, you are implicitly using force to trump the contract, thus undermining the validity of the agreed-upon law. Which trickles down into a diminished sense of civic duty...

Ach, too long.

Damn hilzoy, you Rock!!!

The only conclusion one can reach after reading this communist propaganda is that you are in bed with Osama Bin Laden.

One of the ironies of BD's post lauding Cella was that he lamented Soros' "waste" in spending money on improving America when there was so much tyranny overseas that needed to be worked on.

Well, it seems that if Cella's view is the growing majority view in this country, then Soros' money is well spent here combatting a budding tyranny.

Another example of why this is the best group blog. Bravo, Hilzoy.

[b]TTWD[/b]

What's your point? Seriously? You're doing a lot of alluding some kind of grand beard-strokey AHAAAAAA idea, but you're not explaining what it is or why, exactly, it's relevant to the thread.

If you need someone to explain why representative democracy is better than direct democracy, then you're really arguing basic political fundamentals I'd have thought anyone with half a brain could grasp, so given that you obviously think you're clever and you're not just posting a long winded version of "duuuh?" I think everyone here would appreciate it if you came out and made the point you're trying to make, rather than posting all those rhetorical questions and making us guess what you're talking about.

Incidentally, if your point is "even the founding fathers believed that sometimes it was necessary to ignore the will of the people and that's why they made a representative federal republic rather than a direct democracy," well, y'know, I'll gladly take the paragraph out to explain it to you. I just don't to insult your intelligence by explaining the obvious until I'm sure you genuinely don't get it, and aren't just taking the piss.

Dammit! HTML not BBCode!

Friendly PseudoMoe fix pls!

McDuff,
Timmy is not Macbeth, despite the fact that he may hold on to the idea that whoever first yells "uncle" is going to hell and despite any desire on your part to yell 'Turn, hellhound, turn!" Besides, Macbeth was apparently no hellhound...

McDuff, actually I was trying to gently point out that the start of this country was a compromise on several different levels resulting in the constitutional construct we had until the "radical Republicans" changed it and those changes carved out a significant portion of the people in the decision making process.

If you don't understand the above, then you don't understand our history, please carry on.

Timmy - since you can say what you mean (as you just did in this comment at February 19, 2005 08:09 AM), why don't you do it more often? You made two incomprehensible comments on this thread earlier - if this is what you meant to say, why didn't you just say it?

Jes, I did say it, in my opening comment to hilzoy. The subsequent retorts were just blow back to someone's snarky comment.

I did say it, in my opening comment to hilzoy

No, you didn't.

actually I was trying to gently point out

Timmy, you may feel that rhetorical questions are gently pointing things out (along the lines of 'could you pass the salt?') but I think I speak for a number of people when I say that they make it appear that you don't want to actually put any flesh on your thoughts and therefore are trying to avoid taking positions you have to defend. I'm sure that's not the case, so perhaps you might want to avoid rhetorical questions if you don't want to give that impression.

TTwD
I just don't see what the fact that America initially limited its franchise to white males tells us about it being an "American tradition" to offer subversives the choice of "silence, exile or death." Were non-white males subversives? Was their speech limited by statute in other ways? What's your point?

Interesting eighth-of-a-point about the Alien & Sedition Acts, but, if I recall correctly, these laws were a huge flashpoint for the 1800 elections - TJefferson campaigned on their repeal, and won, overwhelmingly. No one was ever charged under the Alien Act, and Jefferson pardoned all those convicted under the Sedition Act, while Congress restored all fines paid with interest. (source) So...what? Speech controls are instituted and then completely rejected as unconstitutional by Thomas Jefferson, who ought to know. Tell me again about the "American tradition?"

Two thoughts:

First, although I am a "Cella fan" in many respects, excellent post Hilzoy. I've heard of praising Athens to the Athenians, but this -- "we have, in short, always been willing to offer to subversives the choice that Athens gave to Socrates: silence, exile, or death" -- is ridiculous.

Second, however, Timmy the Wonder Dog's point in his February 18, 2005 (07:23 PM) post is absolutely correct. The founders did not envision the America we see today (well, Hamilton may have, but it's not reflected in the Constitutional text). Today's society is a direct result of the Civil War and the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. This really was a second "war of independence" and a second "constitution" -- and we all should appreciate it as such.

BTW, a quick piece of advice: Although I disagree with TtWD with some frequency, the man knows his history. I've come to discover that many times when he says something seemingly oblique, it's simply because he's at a deeper layer of the onion than I'm at.

von -
TTwD's comment is arguably correct, but that doesn't make his comment relevant to Cella's ridiculous assertion that Soros is bucking an "American tradition" of silencing, deporting and killing subversives, and little to do with any pro/con argument about "open societies" as such. It's just a hobby horse Timmy likes to ride.

von:
Not to want to make this thread - which should be centered around hilzoy's most excellent post on the notions of an "Open Society" - into a Wonder-Dogpile; but Timmy's interjection of American History 101 discussion-points into the thread (per his 2/18/05 7:23 comment) does read poorly, since his main point [I suppose]- "Was the United States of America an 'Open Society" at its founding" - is, in typical Timmy style, garnished with a couple of generalized historical questions, and a seeming OT comment about Lincoln (complete with baffling reference to "radical Republicans"). All good questions, to be sure (and you -and Timmy- are quite correct about the major differences in the pre- and post-Civil War political structure of America), but what this has to do with the main thrust of hilzoy's rejoinder to Paul Cella's remarks about "subversives" is not at all clear.
It does, however, lead to another question which is probably more suited to a separate post: if we are indeed (or not) an "Open Society" how much of our present attitudes towards the level of "openness: that we are willing to tolerate is a historical artifact, and how much is a creation of modern times?

This is an excellent post. But I don't think Paul Cella's remarks actually deserve respectful disagreement. Sometimes the only appropriate response is "not only no, but hell no", and "what the hell is wrong with you?"

I would like Charles Bird to give a straight answer as to whether he agrees with Cella or not, and if not, why he approvingly quoted him.

Timmy, you may feel that rhetorical questions are gently pointing things out (along the lines of 'could you pass the salt?') but I think I speak for a number of people when I say that they make it appear that you don't want to actually put any flesh on your thoughts and therefore are trying to avoid taking positions you have to defend. I'm sure that's not the case, so perhaps you might want to avoid rhetorical questions if you don't want to give that impression.

Oh my God, that's what I do!

I think it is particularly disgusting to diagnose the cause of fascist Spain and Nazi Germany as "too much free speech," given that it was precisely the idea that some speech was too dangerous to be permitted that the fascists rode to power. Martin Niemoller's famous quotation begins, in most versions, with "first they came for the Communists"; the Nazi party was, in the 1930s, more openly anti-Communist than anti-Jewish.

The majority isn't going to outlaw speech it LIKES. If the majority condemns speech enough to want to jail people for uttering it, you are not in any danger of the same majority voting those people into office. If you are in any danger of the majority voting those people into office, it's certainly not going to send them to jail for their speech. No one tried preventing the KKK from marching in the 1920s when they were terrorizing the entire South.

On the other hand, if you give it the power a majority WILL jail its non-violent political opponents, who present no danger and may even be right. This has been proven time and again.

A minority can still endanger a country through acts of violence or betrayal. But violence, treason, conspiracy to commit acts of violence, and direct incitement to violence are illegal already.

I have said, and will say again: the Bush administration has done much less to punish dissent than Nixon in the 1970s, Mayor Daley in 1968, Joe McCarthy & pals in the 1950s, and the Wilson administration during World War I, and that's just off the top of my head--I would be pretty surprised if there weren't many other examples this century. (Note that I'm talking specifically about punishing dissent--they have done their best to insure that dissent was ignored; and that dissent did not reach the President's precious, delicate, ears. As far as mistreating immigrants they hold their own and as far as mistreating suspected enemy forces they more than hold their own. But those are all separate questions.)

I had thought this had less to do with Bush's good will than with the American public's unwillingness to put up with some things. I figured that if Ashcroft's DOJ had done to Howard Dean or Ralph Nader what Mitchell Palmer's DOJ did to Eugene Debs, the entire country would have flipped out. But combine Cella's remark, and Charles' approval of it, with the ever-more-common characterization of Democrats and liberals and people who opposed the Iraq War as "traitors" and "on the other side", and...this is starting to freak me out a bit. You are also starting to freak out Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum, and many many other people.

Because look, this is after a longer period without a terrorist attack than I thought possible after 9/11. That period will probably end one day. If the leaders of the right are becoming vicious now, what will they do then?

This is from a speech by Abraham Lincoln that Digby linked to:

Will they be satisfied if the Territories be unconditionally surrendered to them? We know they will not. In all their present complaints against us, the Territories are scarcely mentioned. Invasions and insurrections are the rage now. Will it satisfy them, if, in the future, we have nothing to do with invasions and insurrections? We know it will not. We so know, because we know we never had anything to do with invasions and insurrections; and yet this total abstaining does not exempt us from the charge and the denunciation.

The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

(I'm not, obviously, seeking to compare the Bush administration's policies to slavery. They are wrong, in certain cases horribly wrong, but they are very clearly not that wrong. I am saying that the leaders of today's Republican party, the most vocal supporters of Bush and the Iraq war in the media--they will not be satisfied until we are "avowedly with them.")

Because look, this is after a longer period without a terrorist attack than I thought possible after 9/11.

Really? I assumed that we'd be unharmed for about ten years. Long enough for Al Qaeda (or whichever band of merrie men decided to go for broke) to plan, long enough for them to suss out our defenses... and long enough for us to forget.

Was the United States of America an "Open Society" at its founding? If it was, you will have to explain why so many of its "citizens" didn't have the right to vote at the very beginning. The right to vote was held by the minority, which doesn't mean that this was not a great country, it just wasn't an "Open Society".

Short answer. Clearly, the ideal of the founding fathers was an open society, although their expression of it was still full of flaws. The fact that those flaws existed does not mean that the ideal did not exist, or that they did not seek to make it the central principle of this country. Sometimes you just have to fix a few things at a time, and hope the next generation carries the fight to the next level -- rahter than rejecting the ideal because the founders were not perfect (which seems to be your point).

Many of the writers of the Constitution owned slaves -- does that put them on par with Stalin or some other despot? No -- it just made them hypocrits to some extent (which they knew, but their conscience had only enough guilt about it that they frequently only freed those slaves at the master's death). But fortunately their vision and ideal is want endured -- which is why the principle of an open society has endured and shaped our country for the last two centuries, rather than its slave-holding legacy or disenfranchisement of women.

I for one, demand that we all wear powdered wigs in public to reflect the original intent of the founders.

I want to add on to Katherine's wonderful post upthread. I have been thinking about my strong negative reaction to Charles's two posts about the Nutty Professor and Sebastian's post from jane Galt. Why do I find those posts so offensive? it isn't because I agree with either the nutty professor or the reporter. Katherine's post helped my clarify my feelings: I think such posts are (consciously or unconsciouusly) part of a larger pattern of truly reprehensible behavior displayed by the right over the last five years or more.
This is the patterrn i see: the media is used by the Bush administration or its supporters for intimidation, the dissimination of untruths, slander, disinformation campaigns and the distribution of propaganda paid for with tax dollars. The rightwing rank and file and the rightwing blogisphere either ignores or supports this behavior. At the same time the rightwing bloisphere and media is used to hunt down, target, and harasse inndividuals for the "crime" of making one imprudent remark. A mountain is made of a mole hill. The amount of outrage is not porportional to the importance of the remark, leading me to conclude that the real agenda is either to intimidate or distract the public attention from the far more widespread and harmful remarks coming from the right.
When i assess someone's comments i use a scale that includes the truthfulness of the comment, the amount of harm or good done, and the importance or relevance of the comment. The amount of harm or good is of course related to the audience size and crediblity of the commenter. In orther words when my wingnut co-worker says thhat Democrats have betrayed America, i do not think his comment merits widespread publicity or critism. His comment isn't rue, it comes from a person wh has no audiance or credibility and the only harm done is to hurt my feelings. On the otherr hand when George Bush lied in his first State of the Union address i do think he statement deserrved widespread comment and criticism because the staement wasn't true, he has an enormous audiance, he has crediblity with many people, and his lie had huge connsequences.
Using my scale of values the nnutty professor and tth reporter do not desserve widespread notice, let alone that they be houunded out of their jobs. The nutty professor's statement was stupid, but, until the rightwing blogishaerre and media chose to broadcast him, he had a very limited audiance and only the credibilty a few individuals might or might not choose to invest in him. The very worst his statement could do is hurt the feelinngs of a 911 survivor (in a very periferal way I'm one). so what is the point of perseverating on and on about him? What scale of values is being used that would make him important? i really wouuldlike Charles to answerr this questtion, especailly given his supprt for Rush Limbaugh. After all Rush says things that are evverry bit as offensive as the nutty Professor, buut Rush has ahuge audiance, credibility with a cerrtian subset, and has been spewing hate and slander for years. If only thethinn-skinned wouuld object to Rush, why shuuld we get excited by one remark from an obscure professor? What is the agenda here?
jane Galt presents herself in a reasonable sounding way. i used to read herr regularly because i wanted to acquaint myself with a differnt point of view. But what scale of values is she using when she joins in the feeding frenzy now focused on the reporter? he made one statement, quickly retracted, to a restricted audience. Even if the worst possible construction is put on his statement its worst effect would be to hurt soldiers' feelinngs and to reinforce the perception some Arab reporters havve of being targets. He had only a miniscule audience dbefore the rightwing blogisphere decided to pile on and and make a big noise about him... Since he repudiated his own statement i douubt his statement ever would hhave been widely acepted. so by my scale he was wrrong but not important. jane thinks he's important. In contrast she stated clearly without reservation that she knew Bush hhad decieved the public about his reasons for going to war. And she added that she did not think he was obligied to be honest either with the taxpapyers woh pay for the war or the soldierrs who died in it. (that's not how she phrased it, of course, but I have correctly conveyed her meaning) She also wrote an apologia for the Swift Boat Liars. What scale fo values is she using?
Why are isolated remarks by relatively unimportant indiviuals the focue of so much outrage while years of slander, dishonesty, intimidation, and disinformation is ignored.minimized, or rationalized away?
(please excuse the typos. i can't see the screen well ehough to edit and my hand tremor is particularly bad today)

Kathrine,
Thanks for the Lincoln quote, I think it is the 2nd best response to Cella. Also, I'd like to hear this mysterious issue TtWD has w/ ole Abe and freedom.

Von: I've heard of praising Athens to the Athenians, but this -- "we have, in short, always been willing to offer to subversives the choice that Athens gave to Socrates: silence, exile, or death" -- is ridiculous.

It's still more ridiculous to claim that Socrates approved of this choice.

Although I disagree with TtWD with some frequency, the man knows his history.

Perhaps he does. But my question still stands: why can't he simply say what he means? His habit of dropping in rhetorical questions or oblique historical references without explanation convey the impression that his intent is to disrupt the thread, rather than contribute to the conversation. If that's not his intent, perhaps next time he wants to join the conversation, he could try simply saying what he wants to convey.

Many of the writers of the Constitution owned slaves and wanted to keep them. This issue alone, explains a good portion of the construct of the US Constituion.

Katherine, have you ever heard the phrase "Albany Democrats"? Abe was eloquent, he also didn't tolerate dissent, was ruthless in the prosecution of the war and embraced the concept of total war just ask the people of Georgia.

But my question still stands: why can't he simply say what he means?

I've assumed that by making historical analogies, I expand your horizons Jes.

As an example, were the presidential elections of 1864 and 1868 within the framework of the constitution given that certain southern states were not allowed to participate. Is that concept in line with an open society?

Lincoln won the election of 1860 with only 35% of the vote. Did Lincoln have the mandate to save the Union?

Lincoln is viewed by many historians as this country's greatest president, despite violating the constitutional rights of many of its citizens.

Jes, should I go on or have I made my point.

Timmy: I've assumed that by making historical analogies, I expand your horizons Jes.

But if you don't bother to explain what you're talking about, or how the historical analogy you think you're making works, how on earth do you expect to expand anyone's horizons? Again, why not just say what you mean, illustrated, if you like, by historical analogies/references? It might take longer, but it would mean your comments actually contributed to the discussion.

Timmy the Wonder Dog: As an example, were the presidential elections of 1864 and 1868 within the framework of the constitution given that certain southern states were not allowed to participate. Is that concept in line with an open society?

Why wouldn't it be? Those states didn't simply threaten rebellion. They actually took up arms against their fellow countrymen, spilling a whole lot of blood in the process. Where do the principles of an open society say that the act of rebellion must be tolerated?

How about a TtWD rhetorical question watch? I count 9 in this thread.

with the ever-more-common characterization of Democrats and liberals and people who opposed the Iraq War as "traitors" and "on the other side", and...this is starting to freak me out a bit.

Free speech means that you and I will hear or read things that we disagree with so strongly that they are frankly shocking. I don't know who exactly characterized Dems as "traitors", but I do not think that it was party leaders as was the case in these incidents:

****
(from COMMONDREAMS.ORG, btw)

NASHVILLE, Feb. 8 — In a withering critique of the Bush administration, former Vice President Al Gore on Sunday accused the president of betraying the country by using the Sept. 11 attacks as a justification for the invasion of Iraq.

"He betrayed this country!" Mr. Gore shouted into the microphone at a rally of Tennessee Democrats here in a stuffy hotel ballroom. "He played on our fears. He took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure dangerous to our troops, an adventure preordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place."

The speech had several hundred Democrats roaring their approval for Mr. Gore, the party's 2000 standard-bearer.

****
(from BBC online)

"By putting us in the first ranks of the hated in the earth, Tony Blair is the one who has betrayed this country, not me and not you.

"If there's a treason in this picture it is those who have sold our country to a foreign power, who have decided that it is our fate to be the tail of a dog whose head is the virtually imbecilic right-wing republican fundamentalist George W Bush." - George Galloway

****

"When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil," said Harkin.

****

And I'm happy that there is an admission that the Bush admin did not suppress opposing views.

Note that I'm talking specifically about punishing dissent--they have done their best to insure that dissent was ignored; and that dissent did not reach the President's precious, delicate, ears.

I am thrilled that President Bush has such thick skin. I think that he knew all about the various movies, music videos, plays, 60 minutes shows, NOW with Bill Moyers episodes (paid for in part by my taxes), NPR shows(tax again), Tim Robbins claiming on the Today show that his freedom of speech was being suppressed, etc, etc.

Oh and the books. Oh so many books, with their characterization of Republicans and conservatives and people who supported the Iraq War as "deserters" and "liars" and "theives" and "War Profiteers"

Let's look and see what we can find on some online book sellers:

Deserter : George Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans, and His Past
by Ian Williams

Editorial Reviews
...Deserter strips away the illusion of Bush as "commander-in-chief" to reveal a hypocrite who has betrayed his troops and his country.


Customers who bought this book also bought

* Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush by John W. Dean
* Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror by Richard A. Clarke
* House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties by Craig Unger
* Bush Family Fortunes - The Best Democracy Money Can Buy DVD ~ Greg Palast
* The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception by DAVID CORN
* Chain of Command : The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib by Seymour M. Hersh


American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush
by Kevin Phillips

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
by Al Franken

Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy
by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill
by Ron Suskind

The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy
by David Brock

Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror
by Anonymous

The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and The Media That Love Them
by Amy Goodman and David Goodman

The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century
by Paul Krugman

Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America
by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose

Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency
by Robert C Byrd

Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire
by Roger Burbach

Bush Versus the Environment (04 Edition)
by Robert S. Devine

The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity-A Diplomat's Memoir
by Joseph Wilson

The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq
by Lakshmi Chaudhry and Christopher Scheer and Robert Scheer

Thieves in High Places: They've Stolen Our Country and It's Time to Take It Back
by Jim Hightower

Dude, Where's My Country?
by Michael Moore

Publisher Comments
"When the powers-that-be succeeded in ignoring and then silencing the nation's widespread dissent over war, one man stood on an Oscar stage and, in front of a billion people, outed the commander in chief for his fictitious presidency and his fictitious..."


***

Look, I voted for Carter, Mondale, Bush, Clinton and Bush. I pointed out to my young son that the movie "Wag The Dog" was NOT TRUE. This movie was made in 1997 before Kosovo happened, and was not a deliberate attempt to derail Prsident Clintons election - he was well into his second term - it was just an unfortunate coincidence. On the other hand, "Farenheit 911" did deliberately misrepresent many facts.

That's just the way of the world. We're going to have to just deal with it. If you must, you can ban Bird Dog or tacitus, (I don't think any of the bigshots are thinking of banning BD even though that post was a pretty weak cut and paste - though much better than what I could do.) but the cat's out of the bag with talk radio and blogs, and the genie can't be put back in the bottle. We aren't going back to the halcyon days where the evening news and Time and Newsweek were the gatekeepers of all news. (and the Post and the Times) This Pandora's Box of dissent from the right has been opened, and metaphors and accusations will tend to fly around without anybody who can control all of them.

I was going to make a point, but I forgot what it was. Hilzoy that was great writing that you just did, and all the main posters at ObWi are way cool, I'm not quite as p/o 'd as I was when I swore that I'd never read it again, and well yeah I do sneak a peak now and then, but really really I am going back to only lurking, I think I've had too much coffee.

Oh, now I remember what I wanted to ask about

Charles Bird, who IS your number 1 favorite conservative talk show host.

I don't listen to Rush very much, but I will tune in momentarily to see if Walter Williams is a guest host. He is a hoot!

Also Hugh Hewitt is pretty funny, and he has discussions, for instance, with Bill Press (author of one of them there anti-Bush books) and they actually like each other. Plus, he has Lileks (and other Northern Alliance guys) and Steyn, etc. How can you beat that?

Well, go right to Milt Rosenberg on the internet:

http://wgnradio.com/shows/ex720/audio/index.html

OMG Professor Rosenberg is AWESOME!!!

Hilzoy, Edward_, etc., I'm asking you all to give it a listen. There is nobody better, and he is not really a right-winger, but a smart guy who reads books and loves good conversation.

Now, back to the lurker cave.

They wouldn't be rhetorical if you had a sensse of history.

Ahh, but Timmy, if you read my 8:06 post, you might have realized that I'm noting basically the same thing others are arguing you are (though you haven't actually come out and state what you are defending). I guess I was wrong, you are afraid of taking positions you have to defend. That, or your sense of history doesn't actually extend to keeping track of what arguments people actually make.

Paul Cella's argument sounds, very, um, dare I say it - European. Specifically German but other continental Europeans also have that sort of view point ingrained into their constitutional and political system. It is a direct result of the 1930's and the rise to power by democratic means of the Nazis. The Germans even speak of being a vigilant democracy. Anti-constitutional speech is a crime. Parties that are deemed to not respect basic constitutional values of democracy are banned. Not coincidentally the German (rough) equivalent off the FBI is called 'the Office for the Protection of the Constitution"
But I'm surprised at an American conservative like Cella making an argument that is the basis of hate speech laws - does he really believe that someone like Prof Thomas Woods of the Politically Incorrect history should be waiting for his trial? Does he want all those neo-confederates in jail? Does he want fundies who argue that god's law trumps American law like Judge Moore under federal felony charges? I assume he would like that for the extreme left but this concept is a double edged sword.

Timmy: They wouldn't be rhetorical if you had a sensse of history.

Well, Von said (above) that you "know your history". So I presume you have a detailed knowledge of [American] history, to which you are mentally referring when you ask your questions, and inside your mind, the questions look like clear points you're making, not rhetorical questions, and certainly don't look incomprehensible.

The rest of us don't have that benefit. We don't know what point you're trying to make, because you don't tell us. Many of us don't have a detailed knowledge of American history, and while I'm always happy to learn, I know I'm not going to learn anything from someone who doesn't bother to explain what he's talking about.

Say what you mean. Illustrate what you're trying to convey with examples from American history, if you like.

But again, if you simply throw in a rhetorical question based on a reference to American history that you virtually have to be you to understand, you're not contributing to the discussion, and indeed, it looks like you're trying to derail it.

should I go on or have I made my point

Timmy, you have made one point very clear: many incidents of American history do not reflect our expressed ideals. But this much has always been obvious.

What's not so clear is how you think this all fits in to the larger question of how should we act now. Is it worth the effort to continue to move toward those ideals? Or do we want to say, freedom of thought is all well and good, but we can't afford it right now, and, look over there! Jefferson and Lincoln had feet of clay too!

For myself, I think that if we want to call ourselves the shining city on the hill (and I, for one, do) we have to live up to our ideals. That's what makes the shine. If we want to preach American exceptionalism, and claim to be the guardian of freedom and democracy around the world, we have to practice it at home. And that means putting up with intolerant or nasty opinions, as our Constitution says we should, and punishing only actions, not thoughts or speech.

DaveC
Thanks for the recommendation to Milt Rosenberg's show, some interesting stuff there. I found that he has a blog that is an old school blog, which just has links to other interesting things with very little opining. Good stuff.

What's not so clear is how you think this all fits in to the larger question of how should we act now.

Well we should first act in our national interests which I've said many times before. An Open Society is a fine objective as long as you separate liberty from license.

Our Constitutional Republic is a sound example of the overall practice of democracy but don't make it into something it never was. When one talks about civil liberties in a time of conflict historical analogies are always apt in discussing the swing of the pendulum.

Our Constitutional Republic is a sound example of the overall practice of democracy but don't make it into something it never was.

I think we have an obligation (if not a historical license, per se) to do exactly that though. Make it into something it never was, something better.

I think we have an obligation (if not a historical license, per se) to do exactly that though. Make it into something it never was, something better.

Excellent response, Edward.

"Well we should first act in our national interests which I've said many times before. An Open Society is a fine objective as long as you separate liberty from license."

Sentiments, Timmy to which I am sure we would all concur (I know I do) - there's really not much to argue.
However, the main thing, IMO, and I think a point off of which the thread has wandered, is more one of execution, not concept. Separating "liberty" from "license" (and the consequent definition of how much, and what sort of "license" is bad enough to warrant official suppression) is a tricky decision, and has to done (when it must be done) by someone.
Exactly who it is who we (as a nation/society/polity) empower to make these kind of decisions, and what type of constraints they must work under, in order not to "go to far" in limiting political expression is, I think, the hardest decision to make.
I posed this question to Paul Cella in Thursday's thread (somewhat sarcastically, I must admit), and his response was a flat comment that he trusted "We The People"'s elected representatives to do that job. A position with which, btw, I highly disagree, much for the same reasons that hilzoy referred to in her main post.
A reading of our history, and the inescapable fact that said representatives are human beings like the rest of us, with all human failings, including those like fear, prejudice, intolerance, ideological bindness,lust for power, etc. leads me to think that the less power we give to Government to regulate what we can say, publish, or post the better off we are.
Reading through Lincoln's Cooper Union address that Katherine linked to above (2/19, 12:02pm) - I noticed that he touched on this very point: on the issue of slavery, its proponents, through the mechanism of their representatives in government, were attempting to further their cause by putting severe legal constraints on any expression of anti-slavery advocacy, wherever and whenever they could. Lincoln pointed out that, in effect, banning the expression of a viewpoint was highly unlikely to make it, thereby, just go away.
So far as I can, the USA has managed to prosper pretty well, economically, politically, and intellectually by operating under a system of relatively liberal regulation of expression, even if such expressions are occasionally offensive to one bloc or another, and I see no reason to change it, regardless of the opinion of ideologues as what dangers such-and-such a "subversive" ideology may or may not pose.

Jay C., I assume by "relatively liberal regulation of expression" you actually mean either "relatively limited regulation of expression". Am I off base?

Oops, strike the "either". Bad proofreading.

A couple of points, hilzoy.

I take the argument to be about whether the state should make it unlawful to hold certain opinions, not about whether individuals can or should reject those opinions as false or immoral.

I think your premise is wrong, and that flawed premise permeates through your entire post. Paul very clearly said, "The moment that the Open Society decides that certain opinions are unacceptable, and thus worthy of social, political and legal sanctions against them, it ceases to be an Open Society." Since the term "legal" was already mentioned, I understood "political" to be taken in a broad sense, such as office or coffeehouse or church or blog politics.

At 3:15pm in the post in question, Paul said, "Most often what we are talking about is social in nature. Legal measures have only been used rarely."

As I understand Paul's words, his concern with the Soros concept is not so much that all questions be raised, but that all questions are given equal value and importance. The fact is that questions and opinions are always given value judgments both here and pretty much anywhere else for that matter. If I were to opine that blacks and Mexicans are subhumans, for example, Paul's statement that "we have always been willing to proscribe certain opinions, to place a high enough price on holding certain views that most people simply give them up" is entirely apt, because the social and political price for my having these views would be intolerably high. The legality of it wouldn't even enter the picture, so I'm a little baffled by some who claimed that Paul supports some form of governmental thought police.

On the "legal" plane, Paul said this at 3:59pm: "The legal measures have tended to come into play when the faction in question is perceived to constitute a pressing threat to the security of the nation. Thus, we socially ostracize neo-Nazis, because there is little reason to fear that they might actually take a shot at violently overthrowing the country. But we went farther with Communists because they were (rightly, in my view) perceived as an immediate threat; and we go further with radical Muslims, for obvious reasons." I don't see how or why that is so disagreeable, hilzoy. Given that, I think that the object you're slapping is reddish and fishy in nature.

I find it ironic (is that the right word?) that my questions and opinions of Soros and Stewart have caused some people to want to make the price high enough for me to simply give them up. Furthermore, I am left to conclude that this very weblog is far from an open society concept since my raising an issue in a post has caused some to want me to be banned from editorship. Not very open in my view.

Another thought. JerryN brought up this paragraph:

An open society is a society based on the recognition that nobody has a monopoly on the truth, that different people have different views and interests, and that there is a need for institutions to protect the rights of all people to allow them to live together in peace. Broadly speaking, an open society is characterized by a reliance on the rule of law, the existence of a democratically elected government, a diverse and vigorous civil society, and respect for minorities and minority opinions.
Jerry didn't provide a link to the paragraph and I couldn't find it on my own, but if the quote is accurate, Paul may very well be misunderstanding what the OSI philosophy is about, since OSI has clearly judged what its preference is, and it may not be as open as Paul would believe.

Furthermore, I am left to conclude that this very weblog is far from an open society concept since my raising an issue in a post has caused some to want me to be banned from editorship. Not very open in my view.

Nonsense. Believing that someone has a right to hold and espouse a given viewpoint without legal repercussion is entirely different from wanting one's community to welcome them, or give them a platform for spreading their viewpoints.

You are comparing your editorship, it seems, to the right of an individual to have an espouse an opinion. I am comparing it to the desirability of a paper granting someone with noxious, extremist viewpoints a job writing editorials.

I find it ironic (is that the right word?) that my questions and opinions of Soros and Stewart have caused some people to want to make the price high enough for me to simply give them up.

That's because your questions were based on false premises, your opinions were not grounded in fact, and your post was nothing but a transparent attempt to smear Soros by linking him with Stewart's negatives, all your post facto justifications to the contrary. There's no victimization here, you're simply the recipient of precisely the kind of community pressure and ostracism that an advocate of open societies believes is appropriate for offensive viewpoints.

Furthermore, I am left to conclude that this very weblog is far from an open society concept since my raising an issue in a post has caused some to want me to be banned from editorship. Not very open in my view.

BD, I brought that up so you would not have to.

Look, Edward_ and hilzoy are really, really liberal thinkers. Thats why they got you and slart and sebastian on the blog. They made a concious effort to do that. The folks who want you off are regular commenters that are not allowed editorial priveleges.

You are a good debater. Write some humongo original posts, like hilzoys, as well.

Back to lurking. I type slow and only on weekends.

Charles Bird: I think your premise is wrong, and that flawed premise permeates through your entire post. Paul very clearly said, "The moment that the Open Society decides that certain opinions are unacceptable, and thus worthy of social, political and legal sanctions against them, it ceases to be an Open Society." Since the term "legal" was already mentioned, I understood "political" to be taken in a broad sense, such as office or coffeehouse or church or blog politics.

Charles, did you read any of the rest of the paragraph you quote? Hilzoy specifically addresses your criticisms with regard to the social component of Paul's comments thus:

I do so for several reasons: first, Cella claims to be disagreeing with Soros, and Soros has never (as far as I know) said that individuals are not entitled to reject the views of others; second, he talks about 'proscribing' opinions, and 'proscribe' means 'prohibit'; and third, his examples in the comments yesterday were of our government outlawing opinions. If he simply meant that I should feel free to try to shun Nazis, then he is arguing against a nonexistent opponent, and describing his position in seriously misleading ways.

Huh. Did you miss this part of Cella's comment?

"Fortunately, the United States never has been, is not, and (please God) will never become an Open Society. We have always been willing to proscribe certain opinions, to place a high enough price on holding certain views that most people simply give them up; we have, in short, always been willing to offer to subversives the choice that Athens gave to Socrates: silence, exile, or death.

That George Soros is trying to overturn this American tradition does not speak well of him."

Again: Straight answers please. Do you agree or disagree with this?

Do you think that it was or would have been right during the Cpld War to jail people, or fire school teachers and college professors and low-level government bureaucrats, for belonging to the Communist party, or for being suspected of belonging to the Communist party, or for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee & name other suspected members of the Communist party, or for refusing on First Amendment grounds to take a loyalty oath? Do you think it is right to take analagous actions in the war on terror?

I am talking about cases where there are no serious allegations of violence, espionage, direct incitement to violence, or conspiracy or complicity in any of these crimes.

If so, how do you propose to determine which groups are so dangerous that legal sanctions against their speech are necessary? Radical Muslims don't actually stand a chance of overthrowing the U.S. government. They might try, and they might murder people in the course of trying, but so might people like Timothy McVeigh, and Eric Rudolph, and the perpetrators of the small handful of murders and rapes committed every year on account of the victim's sexual orientation. What's the cut off # of murders? Is it in the dozens, the hundreds or the thousands? Is there a statute of limitations?

Or do you merely object to indirect incitement to violence when it threatens you? (Given that if I remember correctly, you oppose sentence enhancements for hate crimes--not penalties for speech, but the sort of sentence enhancements based on motive that we use all the time in the criminal justice system--I suspect this is the real test.)

If so, should people accused of these things receive the normal procedural protections before they are sent to jail, or will those be suspended too? If they are suspended, how do you propose to separate the innocent from the guilty? Should we just take Congress' word for it? Or should we just take the President's?

If you don't propose sending them to jail but you do propose firing them--again, what sort of chance do they get to prove they are not subversive? Or is the burden on the government to prove that they are?

Whether we're talking jail or loss of employment, where exactly would you draw the line? Do they have to endorse violence personally? What if they opposed violence against civilians but supported it against military targets in Iraq, or they opposed violence against the United States but supported it against Israel? What if they did not endorse violence of any kind but they belonged to an organization whose other members had endorsed violence, or if they disagreed with terrorists' means but agreed with their ends? What if they opposed the terrorists in every way, but took a position, such as oposition to the Iraq war or the administration's treatment of terrorism suspects, that was deemed "objectively pro-terrorist"? Where would you draw the line, and why do you trust Congress and/or the executive to draw it in the right place? (You seem to be rejecting the Supreme Court's means of drawing the line as set forth in Brandenburg v. Ohio, so I assume you want them to those unelected judges to stop being so gosh-darned activist. Perhaps I'm wrong about this.)

"I find it ironic (is that the right word?) that my questions and opinions of Soros and Stewart have caused some people to want to make the price high enough for me to simply give them up."

It is not ironic or surprising or in any way noteworthy that people who strongly disagree with your opinions would like to convince you to change them.

"Furthermore, I am left to conclude that this very weblog is far from an open society concept since my raising an issue in a post has caused some to want me to be banned from editorship. Not very open in my view."

Well, did it happen? People asking for it to happen doesn't prove anything about this weblog, just as your expression of your desire to see the United States cease to be an open society doesn't actually make it so.

If hilzoy, Edward, von, Sebastian, & Slarti had decided not to have you continue as an editor, you'd have the beginning of point. They haven't though. Not a single one of them has suggested they're so much as considering it.

But, of course, no weblog or publication of any sort is entirely open. Only some people are given posting privileges, always. And a few people are banned from commenting. So it's not entirely open. I'm okay with that. I admit: I don't think every weblog or newspaper should follow the same guidelines for publishing people's work as the United States follows for imprisoning or denaturalizing or deporting people.

(I'm not taking any position at all on whether it would be justified, now or ever. I'm just saying, being exiled from authorship at one small obscure weblog is so much less extreme than being stripped of United States citizenship as to make the comparison silly.)

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