Friday, September 14, 2012

Theatre on fire

The 'yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre' (YF) reasoning goes something like this:

1. YF is very likely to cause a stampede, physical harms, psychological harm, and endangerment.

2. A person knowingly doing this, by definition, KNOWS this is the likely result of his actions.

3. Governments should restrict actions that are very likely to harm, and punish those that act in this way.

4. Governments should restrict such speech as is described in (1), (2).

Now consider this parallel argument

1. Given the state of the "Arab Street" this is true: In any way representing Mohammad in an unflattering light is likely to cause rioting, killing and property destruction.

2. A person knowingly creating and distributing such representations knows this is the likely result.

3. As above.

4. Governments should restrict the creation and distribution of representations as described in (1) (2), and punish those that act in this way.

It seems to follow from this that:

1. The ambit of our freedom of speech is contingent upon how those that hear the speech respond to it.

2.Who it is that will be punished or jailed for speech will also be contingent upon this.
3. Those that respond to offensive speech regarding themselves or thing they value, with restraint or counter-speech, assure by their mature and civilized response, that the offensive speech continues.

4. Those that respond like petulant demented lethal devil children assure by their barbarism and immaturity, that the offensive speech is reduced or eliminated.

5. Civilizations that react to such barbarity in ways that curtail the offensive speech act in a way analogous to familial abuse victims that attempt to change the behavior that sets off their abusers. As in those sorts of cases, this does not work, but reinforces, enables and rewards the behavior.

6. Only when abusers are held responsible for their abuse do you have a realistic chance of change of that behavior.

7. To hold people responsible, it is necessary to spell out clear consequences, and it is necessary also to follow through on the promise of consequences on a consistent basis, refusing special pleading.

8. It is not helpful for victims of abuse to continue to provide abusers with any material or other support that allows them to continue in the alpha position of that abusive relationship.

9. It is not helpful, nor in keeping with their duty for governments to remain passive in the face of events like those in recent days.

10. The US Government needs to wield its economic cudgel in the case, in a way serious and immediate.

11. Economic aid is one cudgel. It must immediately be either seriously cut, or cut altogether, with stringent conditions upon reinstatement, conditions accompanied by demanding metrics, that if not met, will assure continued loss of that aid.

12. Commercial/Private sector business is another cudgel. Something similar to (10) in this arena is warranted. If a state cannot or will not insure the safety of our consulates, they do not deserve our good relations, nor our blood and treasure. This is especially true of states that play Janus faced double games with us and the Arab street on an ongoing basis.

13. Access to US educational institutions is another such cudgel.

14. Continued aid or access to the benefits of good relations with the US, with little or no accountability has, to date, not softened attitudes toward the US in several countries in the ME. It's time to try something with considerably more bite.

15. In the interim, more effort toward energy independence is a good idea.