24.11.06

The difference between 'appropriate' and 'legitimate' speech

I was recently asked by a commenter to make a post dedicated to a discussion of the limits of free speech. I have posted so often in defence of controversial speech that I figure it an interesting exercise to see if I/we can come up with a consistent principle that would exclude the obviously illegitimate and only that.

To touch off the discussion, Ted offered four examples of controversial speech.

This case is not as simple as the ones that were brought up in the comments section where the request was raised. But then again, nobody promised that the world had to be simple.

The first complication is that the above four examples actually represent three different cases of assembly (the two last pics are from the same picket on the same day) and eight different cases of speech: Four cases of physically picketing someplace, and four cases of publishing pictures of the picket.

This is not a trivial distinction: Even if one considers the picket illegitimate, it does not automatically follow that the publication of the pictures is also illegitimate, and conversely, even if the publication of the pictures was illegitimate, the picket itself may have been pure as the driven snow, speech- and assemblywise.

I will start by noting that I'll try to distinguish between legitimacy - as in 'should this be legal?' - and appropriateness - as in 'should this be frowned upon?' A large part of the difference is that the former is content-neutral, while the latter is not.

Prohibiting something is an act of force by the state - as Perlsø (The Pragmatic Libertarian) likes to put it, prohibiting something means being willing to send men with guns to somebody's house. For something to merely be socially inacceptable is another kettle of fish, since this does not, in a well-ordered society, imply threats of violence. Hence the reason to require more consistent justification for outright prohibition than for 'mere' social exclusion.

The reason that I attempt to make this distinction is that we are now moving from cases (the Cartoon Jihad, etc.) where I feel that not only should the speech be legal, it is also highly appropriate and should be approved by society, into a realm where I will probably often be saying that 'I condemn his speech (and I think we should boykott his business), but I don't think prohibition is warrented,' and doing so, I want to practice this bit of mental housecleaning to avoid the most glaring inconsistencies.

Having thus laid some of the ground for our foray into the matter, I will turn in before my brain starts leaking out of my ears due to lack of sleep.

See you tomorrow (or maybe saturday).

9 Comments:

Blogger Ted said...

Sometime, I am confused by the militant free speech advocates because I come from a background centered on the importance of complex social sets, not in the concept of "individual rights" that exist outside of social context for the sake of simplification.

Individual rights taken outside of social context seem idealistic, religionist and dogmatic. I'm trying to understand the argument being made.

On Dispatches I asked about zoning laws and free speech. Do they make a difference? The reason I asked is that the original complaint implied that the city had ceded authority to the NFL and that the picketers had not filed permits or paid advertising fees. If the city does this for the NFL, why not for the dry cleaner in a strip mall? The rights should be the same unless money is impacting on it. If money is impacting, then how do we determine value?

Second, I wanted to know what relationship there was between the rights of speech advocates and the rights of more ordinary people because superficially it smacks of class warfare as implemented. For example, a large mall and stadium may restrict this type of activity due to private ownership, but areas such as strip malls may have much less protection due to proximity of main streets, and sidewalks. An ordinary citizen running a five person operation can afford $10sqft in a stripmall but can't afford $40sqft in a detached mall like Banana Republic can.

Thirdly, Volokh has previously stated private residences should have greater protection from picketing except in cases of abortion picketing (see points five and six). The logic of this doesn't seem to make sense. Why would this be different?

To me, the logic so far appears to be that in tax funded public areas, the picketers should be unrestrained (except in cases where they are such as political free-speech zones miles away from political events), but private property such as private schools, detached, large shopping centers, and gated communities do not owe any access to the picketers -- despite using public infrastructure. This would imply that tax funded public areas offer less business value protection and less protection from being a captive audience to protest.

Broadly, it would appear to me that we have two classes of speech -- for the underclass (those that live on the greater public infrastructure -- strip malls, public schools, residences in ungated communities), and the overclass -- those that enforce property restrictions through self segregation. I guess the second would be closer to my understanding of the Libertarian model -- that self enforced separation is preferable to communal goals.

A small business owner toward the lower end of the infrastructure has to put up with picketers that destroy his value by picketing 50' away, while larger retailers, typically in Malls can restrict the value loss by barring them to the outskirts of properties. A private residence has no real protection from harassment, while a gated community can provide the privacy. In a publicly accessible residence the tax pays for post breach security, while gated communities offer pre-breach security.

In education, again property rights enforcement seems to be distinct in free speech enforcement; private schools can have greater latitude in
allowing access to approaches for students and control of picketing than public schools. These picketers set up on the paths and in front of public middle and high schools throughout the USA, knowing that children will be deeply disturbed (I could cite actual cases, but this is a fundamental strategy -- to enrage a community by going directly to minors as a captive audience). The minors that ride the bus route are a captive audience mandated by tax collection.

Lastly, as you may recall, we've had doctors that provide abortion services identified, stalked and murdered because sites were outing them and depending on others to do the required intimidation. Those sites were closed down after the murders, but are becoming resurgent. Here, we have a site that identifies a doctor by name, by photo, her residence by picture, her car and her license plate. If she was in a gated community, her privacy and the safety of her family would be better protected. By living in the public infrastructure, the law protects her less than those with more complicated property ownership structures.

Just seems to me that critically looking, libertarian freech advocates are creating a separate protected class with the unrestricted free speech in the public forum.

16:14  
Blogger JS said...

Part 2 of the post is in the pipeline and, barring anything untowards, should go up tomorrow.

I'll note in passing, however, that you misrepresent what Volokh writes in two important ways: Firstly, he does not expressly give his own opinion, he analyses - though approvingly - a set of legal precedents.

Secondly - and rather more importantly, Volokh does not argue anywhere that abortion providers should be denied protection from harrassment by pickets - he argues (or rather, he cites a court ruling that argues) that a zone almost two hundred meter in diameter is too big.

There is an important - and not particularly subtle - difference between considering prohibition of pickets in front of private homes undemocratic (a point Volokh appears to disagree with) and considering prohibition of pickets anywhere within a city block of said homes undemocratic (the position Volokh actually does appear to agree with).

- JS

01:23  
Blogger Ted said...

I'll note in passing, however, that you misrepresent what Volokh writes in two important ways: Firstly, he does not expressly give his own opinion, he analyses - though approvingly - a set of legal precedents.

Agree; I phrased it poorly.

01:31  
Anonymous Peter Bjørn Perlsø said...

"Individual rights taken outside of social context seem idealistic, religionist and dogmatic. I'm trying to understand the argument being made."

Ted,

assigning too much social context to the actions, actual and potential, of individuals is itself religionist and dogmatic, and leads directly to collectivism.

14:49  
Blogger Ted said...

...assigning too much social context to the actions, actual and potential, of individuals is itself religionist and dogmatic, and leads directly to collectivism.

I agree and I note that you added too much. What I tried to say is that I find it unnatural to pluck "individual rights" from social interactions and examine them without attempting to understand how they fit the social structure, and if they're pragmatic enough to be of use.

I don't want to assign them too much social context, but I think there's a relationship and the relationship becomes more pronounced with population incursion.

As to collectivism, I find that word somewhat archaic and Randian. We're all collectivists in some pragmatic fashion.

A teacher asked his high school students what they could tell him about socialism and capitalism. One student raised his hand and said, "Socialism is fair but doesn't work. Capitalism works, but isn't fair."

Western democracies (the ones that try to keep up anyway), attempt to set a balance between these two ideas. Certainly, I believe that Europeans have done some good work with social democracy experimentation in the last 50 years, that I think collectivist ideas have not died away as utter failures; through rational moderation they have been kept in check (as have individual rights).

20:55  
Blogger JS said...

First off, my apologies for the tardiness of my response... I had a busy week and then my internet went fubar in a pretty big way that it still hasn't fully recovered from... But, in the hope that one or both of you guys are still hanging around (or watching via RSS), I'll give it a go. I see that many issues have been raised since last time. Well, sticking with the promised analysis of the abortion picketers you mentioned earlier, I have given the subject some thought, so that's where I'll start.

There are, as mentioned in the post, 11 different actions to evaluate, three cases of assembly, four cases of protesting and four cases of publishing footage from a protest.

I will begin with the latter: Since the pictures in question do not really harm anyone, I can see no problem in publishing them - always assuming, of course, that the people in view of the camera realise that they were being photographed. There is, however, one slightly sticky issue w.r.t. these pictures: The creeps name the names of the people whose houses they picket, and - as you mention - one of the pictures contains a licence plate. I'm assuming that they did not get permission to do this, which is inappropriate, to say the least.

This breach may be potentially illegitimate (in the sense of my above post) as well, if the picketers have a proveable connection to militant anti-choice terrorists (I do not use the word 'terrorists' lightly, but in this context it is certainly justified). If such a connection exists, or if a reasonable outside observer would make a strong such connection (if, say, a Planned Parenthood clinic had recently been on the sharp end of a high-profile attack), a credible argument could be made that the publication of the names constitutes a threat of violence, which would clearly violate the boundries of free speech.

Precisely where to draw the line on what a 'reasonable outside observer' would infer is probably impossible to codify, since it is so very context-dependent. One might argue that the fact that abortion-related terrorists exist is in and of itself sufficient to create a credible threat. I disagree with this stance, however, since it would have rather far-reaching implications for public debate: If the mere existence of anti-abortion terrorists is justification for banning publication of the names of abortion providers without their explict permission, then - by the same logic - the mere existence of - say - eco-terrorists would be justification for banning the publication of names of Exxon Mobile corporate executives without their permission. If this standard is applied across the board, it would be very, very hard to criticise corporate executives.

Next, I'll consider the content of the protests themselves. I don't see much justification for prohibiting the speech here either: Nobody is harmed, threats are not made, and there is no slander or libel (there is a lot of lies, but lies do not libel make). Again, however, this is with the caveat that if a connection to anti-choice terrorists is provable, or if a reasonable outside observer would make a strong such connection, this appraisal would change dramatically. Judging solely by the pictures presented, I cannot know whether this was the case in this particular instance.

The one exeption to this rule is the one where the picketers are standing outside a school. I believe that schools should be religiously 'neutral ground' - a place where children can come and learn without being subjected to missionaries out to make a quick convert, just as they should be protected from used car salesmen out to make a quick buck (or, to pick on a particularly disgusting American custom, army recruiters out to find teenagers for the meat grinder).

In this respect I disagree with Brayton et al that restrictions of speech must always be content-neutral. Religious proselytizing is simply another kettle of fish from political debate, which is again far removed from commersial advertising, which is a different issue again from academic discussions. Lumping all or some of these together in all-or-nothing packages simply overlooks the important, qualitative differences.

In this particular case, however, the above concerns appear to not apply, since the sidewalk in front of the school is used solely as a staging point while they wait for buses (as claimed in the picture caption). In that case, the proximity of the school is probably (again judging from my the limited context) incidential. Banning people carrying signs that are to be used in a demonstration elsewhere from sidewalks

Then, lastly, there is the issue of assembly. In and of itself, there should be no issue with protesting and picketing, but picketing a private residence is a rather thorny issue. There is an implicit threat in the very act of marching around in front of the house of a private citizen with signs saying that he is a murderer, and as such, I would come down on the side of those wishing to protect private citizens from picketing. I agree with Volokh, however, that such restrictions should be limited in nature. Whether the limit should be ten meter or a hundred is, I suppose, a socially malleable number.

Also, there is the issue of the duration of the protest. Standing outside a person's workplace or home can in and of itself constitute harrasment, irrespective of what your signs say, or even whether you have signs at all - if you doubt this, ask any celebrety whether they like to have fawning fanboys picketing their home...

So, to wrap it up, I suppose that I would be in favour of the police clearing this rabble out from in front of their victims' houses, and that I could see situations where they should be prevented from publishing some of the information that their website contains.

Now, on to your first reply in this thread. Firstly, I mislike your use of the term 'militant free speech advocate' in this context. I for one do not consider myself militant in any way, shape or form. The closest thing you'll get to militancy from me is my advocacy of forcible annexation of the Papacy, followed by very public trials of various ecclastic officials for crimes against humanity. This, however, has little to do with free speech...

Second, you raise the issue of whether public institutions can lend or lease public land and resources to private interests, and whether such leased or lend land qualifies as public or private land in terms of speech and assembly. This is, of course, a complicated issue. On the one hand, there is a compelling case to be made that a city should be able to build housing and rent it to citizens to ensure that citizens have access to affordable housing suitable for human habitation. On the other hand, it is hard to draw a simple line between what a city can sell/lease/lend and what it should not be allowed to sell off.

In your concrete examples, I think it is relatively easy to see why the city has a legitimate reason to treat the sporting event different from a shop in a mall: The sporting event is a temporary (and presumably relatively rare) event, while the mall is (one would hope) a permanent fixture in the area.

This difference alone justifies treating such an event differently in terms of issuing permits for picketers. If a politician comes through a street on a campaign photo-op, you'll expect authorities to be rather more tight-fisted with their picketing permits than usual - if for no other reason than to ensure a (relatively) smooth flow of traffic.

Your conclusion that the logic employed by Brayton et al revolves around public vs. private ownership seems correct to me. This, however, is where I would expect a disagreement between me and those fine gentlemen: I believe that the government can and should in some cases intrude on who you're allowed to exclude from your property.

Taking your examples in order of appearance, I'm opposed to the American version of private schools; in Scandinavia the tradition is that our 'private' schools get public funding (although not as much as public schools) and must follow most of the rules of public schools. Otherwise their certificates won't count towards the mandatory minimum years kids must spend in school, they won't get public money, and their exam papers won't count towards entrance requirements in public education (which is almost all education except for very specific vocational education such as graphic design).

Still, the private schools have more freedom to set their own rules, however, which is the thrust of your point. While I abhor the tendency to use private schools as a way for rich people to 'protect' their children from associating with children of poor people, I think that this additional leeway is an acceptable compromise between three seemingly contradictory positions:

1) The state has a legitimate interest in making sure that children recieve quality education. 2) Mandatory schooling is a third or more of a child's life for nine years. It would be utterly unreasonable to deprive parents of the oppertunity to educate their children in - say - Rudolph Steiner schools or schools with a more international focus than the public school system (whether parents should be allowed to inflict Rudolph Steiner 'education' on their children is a different matter of course ;-)). And 3) The public school system is a coercive instrument and thus should not subject its recipients to something like Steiner 'education.'

Your next two examples are more clear-cut: I'm opposed to the very existence of large, detatched shopping centres - they are boring, they are an eyesore, and they leech small cities of their life - and even more virulently opposed to such a thing as a gated community, which I see as nothing more than a ghetto for rich people. We have enough ghettos of poor people, allowing the obscenely rich to cluster together does not exactly help matters.

But, I hear you cry, what if some incompetent city planner or politician allowed such things to be constructed? Ok, I'll admit that my rant about their value to a city was dodging the point. Especially since there is a much better answer:

To take gated communities first, they have roads in them. As you rightly point out these roads connect to public roads, and the presense of a public road network enhances their value many times over. In fact, I would argue that the value of such roads on their own is negligible compared to their value in connection with the network as a whole - thus, the value of such roads is created by the public network, even in the event that their cost is carried by their 'owners.'

Even if these roads are private (and I think that the notion of private roads is absurd - in fact roads and railroads are two of the specific examples I have cited in the past of things that should not be privately owned), it is thus perfectly reasonable to demand that they allow all traffic to use them, and generally obey the same rules as the public road net to which they connect and to which they contribute traffic (with all the associated wear, tear, and congestion).

If this means that such a thing as a gated community is impractical, well bully for them. If some road owner doesn't like that, then he's perfectly free to disconnect his bit of road from the network - then he can lord over his worthless piece of tarmac all he likes...

Large shopping centres face some of the same concerns: They can be roughly divided into 'store' parts - the space that they rent to shopowners and that the shopowners then decorate in whatever way they desire - and 'walkway' parts - the parts that customers move around in when they go to or from the stores, and the 'walkway' part is subject to an analysis that is precisely analogous to any other private road or sidewalk.

Thus, while you are perfectly correct to note that superficially free speech advocacy in some cases smacks of class warfare, this is only a superficial resemblance - the problem in all the cases I have seen has been an unreasonable definition of property rights, not an unreasonable definition of speech and assembly rights.

Oh, and by the way, I'm not a libertarian, I'm a member of a Danish socialist party, an association that hardly seems typical for your run-of-the-mill libertarian. Free speech, it would appear, isn't a left-right-issue :-)

- JS

05:10  
Blogger Ted said...

Let me read through it. Be back later.

19:07  
Blogger Ted said...

I've been busy doing the things a Ted does.

Anywho, I think this got a bit more complex than I anticipated. I look forward for a new exposition in a direction that I hadn't seen, but I haven't seen it here yet. Not that I blame you; I appreciate the effort.

1. I do call them militant free speechers for a reason. Because they pick a fight on principle, yet we all know there is no total free speech. It's commonly restricted across the board legally. Then we get into arguments about the kind or quality of speech we should protect. The fact is there are many reasons that I won't be motivated to defend speech that I don't find overly compelling. Call me a coward that picks and chooses.

2. You call these seperate events, and they are but they show a pattern of activity that is the fundamentally the same and not very subtle. I don't mind the religious nuts if they keep to themselves, but I'll be damned if I'm going to defend them while they're making me eat shit. If these people were interfering with big business, they'd be stopped. As long as they're interfering with private citizens at their residence, it seems to be allowed. That's America for you.

The fact that the city protected large interests -- the NFL -- but uses different standards for smaller business and private citizens is deeply troubling. I doubt that Brayton even read the original complaint that indicated the city was using the police department in the interest of econimic development. Eh, whatever.

I watched RoboCop years ago and thought it a cultish, if interesting movie albeit a bit violently pornographic. Over the years I've come to view it as prophetic.

3. Re: Mohammed cartoons -- I saw this on another site, but it applies:
During the Muhammad cartoons affair, I read an essay on a blog arguing that proper satire is directed against the powerful in one's own society. Thus, it's legitimate for an American to mock the President, or for a Catholic to mock the Pope.

On that basis, the Muhammad cartoons were not legitimate satire, since they were directed against something outside the satirists' own society (Islam) and against people less powerful than the satirists (the Muslim world, as opposed to the wealthy, powerful Western world to which Denmark belongs).

In other words, real satire speaks truth to power, and comes from the people who live under that power. The Muhammad cartoons, on the other hand, spoke power to the powerless. They were bullying masquerading as satire.


Anywho, thanks for replying...

02:16  
Blogger JS said...

I've been busy doing the things a Ted does.

Heh. I have had exams for the past 2-4 weeks, so if you hadn't waited to reply, you'd have been waiting for my reply anyway...

I look forward for a new exposition in a direction that I hadn't seen, but I haven't seen it here yet. Not that I blame you; I appreciate the effort.

If one has spent some time discussing a topic, it is not surprising that most arguments seem familiar. It is my own modest hope, however, that the reasoning evolves a little in every discussion - or at least that a few weak links in the reasoning are exposed and mended.

1. I do call them militant free speechers for a reason. Because they pick a fight on principle, yet we all know there is no total free speech. It's commonly restricted across the board legally. Then we get into arguments about the kind or quality of speech we should protect.

This is a common argument in favour of limiting speech. There are two main reasons why I cannot accept it. You have probably heard them before, but I think they are worth repeating here, for the sake of completeness if nothing else.

The first objection is that there is a qualitative difference between the examples usually cited in concert with this argument - such as libel, slander, threats, harassment, incitement to crime and/or incitement to riot - and the speech that the arguer wants to ban - nonviolent protest, people carrying cardboard signs, sit-ins, even insults. The first set does a real, discernable harm. The second, by and large, does not.

If you can point out where people carrying signs and picketing a company or NGO for a couple of days (I have already agreed that I would have no problem with banning picketing of private residences across the board) cause any real harm, then I might be easier to persuade.

I am not, and I wish to make this crystal clear, saying that you cannot remove picketers who occupy the sidewalk in front of the same company or NGO for weeks on end - that crosses the line into harrassment, which should clearly not be tolerated.

Precisely where speech becomes harrassment is, of course, difficult to define consistently, but clearly, required elements are that it is systematic, prolonged and targetted. By this standard, by the way, most fundies picketing PP clinics could be restrained on grounds of harrassment - but this has nothing whatsoever to do with what they are saying - a group of chanting Hare Krishnas could be removed on precisely the same grounds.

The second problem is where to draw the line. And who to draw the line. If the standard is not provable harm, then what should the standard be? When should society forbid speech? When it makes someone, somewhere uncomfortable? That would rule out most if not all of the litterature on my bookshelves. When it is stupid an uneducated? That would rule out most of Hollywood. When it makes you or me uncomfortable? What's so special about the two of us that it justifies raising our gut feeling up to be the law of the land?

Give me a consistent set of criteria and we can talk. But I am not prepared to accept legislation along the lines of 'I know it when I see it.'

(As an aside, I take issue with your use of the term 'militant' in this context. I think it devalues to term to carelessly attach it to groups that do not use or condone the use of extralegal armed force.)

Finally, if I understand you correctly, the main thrust of your point is that there is a fine line between principle and fanaticism. This is, of course, true. I would point out, however, that there is also a fine line between pragmatism and appeasement. You are right that some fights are not worth picking. But I disagree with you on whether this is one of them.

The fact is there are many reasons that I won't be motivated to defend speech that I don't find overly compelling. Call me a coward that picks and chooses.

I won't. I will, however, call you inconsistent. That's not necessarily a problem. Nobody can save the whole world, and everyone needs to pick his fights with some amount of care. But I think it is important to realise when one is being inconsistent or unprincipled. To do otherwise is to lie to oneself.

2. You call these seperate events, and they are but they show a pattern of activity that is the fundamentally the same and not very subtle. I don't mind the religious nuts if they keep to themselves, but I'll be damned if I'm going to defend them while they're making me eat shit.

If they are 'making you eat shit' on a semi-regular or regular basis, you should be able to get a restraining order. The right to free speech does not come prepacked with a right to dog other people's coat-tails day in and day out. If they are 'making you eat shit' in a fashion that a reasonable outside observer would consider threatening, you should be able to get a restraining order (and they should get a fine). If this does not happen, then something is, as the saying goes, rotten in the state of Denmark.

But if they are protesting for a few days outside your office, then I'm sorry, that's the price of living in a free society. If you want to be allowed to take part in demonstrations against attacking Iran, then you have to accept that the christopaths, creationists and other total fucking morons can demonstrate against civil liberties.

If these people were interfering with big business, they'd be stopped. As long as they're interfering with private citizens at their residence, it seems to be allowed. That's America for you.

I already agreed with you that big bizniz should be castrated. But I find it, to use your own terminology, deeply troubling that you would suggest that we adopt the same ethical standards as big bizniz. I would further argue that if we extend your logic beyond speech to the issue of taxes, we swiftly reach an absurd conclusion, namely that since big bizniz largely does not pay taxes, we might as well do away with taxes altogether.

The fact that the city protected large interests -- the NFL -- but uses different standards for smaller business and private citizens is deeply troubling.

I read the complaint. And while I agree with you that it is likely that the city did special favours for the NFL that would not have been extended to other ventures, I must again stress the difference between a single or very infrequent major event and a permanent business. In the former case, it is clear that the usual rules w.r.t. assembly must sometimes be waivered, if for no other reason than the fact that in most cities such major events push the infrastructure above design capacity.

I watched RoboCop years ago and thought it a cultish, if interesting movie albeit a bit violently pornographic. Over the years I've come to view it as prophetic.

I have never seen RoboCop, but when it comes to prophetic movies, it's hard to beat the way Alien describes Wayland Yutani Corporation.

3. Re: Mohammed cartoons -- I saw this on another site, but it applies:
During the Muhammad cartoons affair, I read an essay on a blog arguing that proper satire is directed against the powerful in one's own society. Thus, it's legitimate for an American to mock the President, or for a Catholic to mock the Pope.

On that basis, the Muhammad cartoons were not legitimate satire, since they were directed against something outside the satirists' own society (Islam) and against people less powerful than the satirists (the Muslim world, as opposed to the wealthy, powerful Western world to which Denmark belongs).

In other words, real satire speaks truth to power, and comes from the people who live under that power. The Muhammad cartoons, on the other hand, spoke power to the powerless. They were bullying masquerading as satire.


I must confess to being stumped. You openly conclude that under this definition of satire, only Christians can satirise the Pope and only Americans can satirise Bush. I would further conclude that no-one can satirise me, since I wield little or no power.

I would normally follow these conclusions by a sentence starting with the words "Since these conclusions are manifestly absurd." Some of the best satire of the Christianity is done by non-christians (think Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Some of the best satire of creationists is done by anti-creationists ( http://craptaculus.com/eac/ID/index.shtml , www.venganza.org ).

Further, even if we accept these patently ridiculous criteria, I would argue that they have little or no bearing on the cartoons in question. First, they were not aimed at 'the Muslim world,' whatever the hell that means. They were aimed at a group of Danish ayatollah-wanna-bes and their far too prominent role in Danish political debate. Those cretins are Danish citizens. Many of them were born in Denmark. That makes them part of Danish culture, whether we like it or not. That they happen to represent a part of Danish culture that I'd rather we did away with does not change this fact.

Second, fundie muslims is easily among the most powerful (rather, the least powerless) religious cults in Denmark. If you want to look for a threat to secular society in Denmark, the Islamic Society of Denmark [sic] and their fellow travellers are pretty near the top of the list.

Third, the cartoons were not satire, and JP never claimed they were. They were an in-your-face, gloves-are-off provocation aimed at said ayatollah-wanna-bes. And JP was very up front about that right up until the point where they started furiously backpedaling. Yes, it was bullying, and yes, it was intended to get the religious right's panties in a bunch. I happen to think that bullying and pissing off the religious right is an immensely worthwhile thing to do, regardless of whether said religious right has power or not.

Anywho, thanks for replying...

Oh, you are most welcome. I quite enjoy the conversation. Thanks for hanging on even when I am a tad slow on replying.

- JS

04:49  

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