Tag Archives: First Amendment

“Piss Christ” and Garland

Piss-Christ

Ethics Alarms participant Other Bill raised “Piss Christ” on the comment thread to my post about the Garland, Texas attack, progressives’ and news media’s “hate speech isn’t free speech” confusion, and Geller’s supporters’ “gratuitously uncivil speech is laudable” delusion. He posted a column by George Parry, published under the heading “Think Tank” on a Philadelphia site. I’m grateful to Bill for raising the column, which he neither endorsed nor criticized. Titled Double Standard on Offending Christians and Muslims, Parry’s argument was…

  • “Christians objected to “Piss Christ” and the feces-covered Holy Virgin. And they rightfully wondered why their tax dollars had been used to promote these blasphemies. But their objections and questions were condescendingly dismissed by the secular left in the media and intelligentsia. …
  • “As if in one voice, the mainstream media and self-anointed intelligentsia argued that antiquated religious sensitivities must not be allowed to interfere with either an artist’s free expression or his right to government funding regardless of how offensive his work may be to Christians….”
  • “In Garland, Texas, on Sunday, two radical Muslims died trying to replicate the Charlie Hebdo massacre by mounting an armed attack on a “draw Mohammed” cartoon contest. We are not talking about drawings of Mohammed dunked in urine or smeared with animal dung. No, the gunmen apparently deemed the mere drawing of Mohammed to be an offense punishable by death…The overall media consensus has been to blame the intended murder victims for recklessly provoking the terrorists. Such provocation, we are told, is unacceptable and irresponsible behavior given the risk of retaliation by offended radical Muslims…”
  • “Better to question the wisdom of cartoonists exercising their rights than to acknowledge and vigorously confront and expose the elephant in the room, i.e., that there is a disturbingly large number of radical Muslims in this country who oppose our Constitution and who believe that murder is an appropriate sanction for those who offend Islam….”
  • “All of which leads to this question: Given their pusillanimous double standard, why should any reasonable or serious person believe, respect, or credit the self-serving mainstream media?”

That’s not the question. First of all, there is already no reason to believe, respect, or credit the mainstream media. Second, while Parry is correct that the analysis of the issues in the Garland attack have been largely incompetent and tainted by media dislike of Geller and journalism’s own cowardice (most news outlets were afraid to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, even though they were essential to reporting on the Paris massacre), his analogy with “Piss Christ” is no better.

The questions areContinue reading

68 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

The Garland, Texas Shooting, Free Speech and Ethics

Geller: Like it or not, the First Amendment was designed for her and people like her: infuriating people.

Geller: Like it or not, the First Amendment was designed for her and people like her: infuriating people.

Last Sunday, two men opened fire outside uber-Islam-hater Pamela Geller’s “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland, Texas. Both gunmen were killed by police, a security guard was wounded. Since cartoons of the Prophet have sparked killings around the globe, this was a risk, if not an inevitability, of holding such an event. That was undoubtedly one of the reasons for it, in fact: to show defiance of those that would cow us into self-censorship.

Since the episode, commentators and pundits have engaged in various levels of  confused ethical thought regarding the competition and the shooting, much of the confusion due to cognitive dissonance regarding Geller, who is beyond question an anti-Muslim bigot. So horrible is it to their delicate liberal sensibilities to have the principle of freedom of speech represented by Geller that rather than accept it, many would prefer to jettison freedom of speech itself. In this they seem to have forgotten that the reason for free speech is precisely to protect the most infuriating, inflammatory, controversial speakers, whether they be hateful fanatics like Geller, or Martin Luther King.

It really is remarkable that the First Amendment has survived so long, since those who discuss it in public the most frequently are journalists and politicians, neither of whom are consistently able to interpret it accurately.

Ethically, this isn’t hard, or shouldn’t be. In fact, not a single new issue is raised by the Texas shooting that was not thoroughly covered here five years ago:

1. No group, no matter how offended or righteous and no matter what its holy book says, is ethically entitled to threaten violence against those who say, or draw, things that they find offensive, including the offense of blasphemy.

2. Encouraging such groups to do this by self-censoring is cowardly and a threat to free speech. Thus South Park and Comedy Central breached their duties to the nation, the culture and free speech by censoring a satirical animated series after receiving radical Islamic threats. As I wrote here: Continue reading

29 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society

CNN’s Chris Cuomo Gets An Ethics Dunce Hat Trick: Law, Journalism And Civics

dunce capBad day at CNN. First John Berman turns the morning news into frat boy jokes about “big stones” —a testicles reference! HAR!–and then CNN’s AM Big Kahuna Chris Cuomo humiliates himself and everyone associated with him by tweeting,

“Hate speech is excluded from protection. Don’t just say you love the Constitution…read it.”

Wow. Not only is Cuomo spectacularly wrong, but he was smug and arrogant about it. Much as censorious fake liberals who want to impose speech and thought codes on us all would like it to be the case, “hate speech” has no special status in the Constitution at all, other than its status as “speech.” Reason, in a rebuke to Cuomo that drips with appropriate but still somehow inadequate contempt, points out:

Okay, let’s take Cuomo’s challenge. Let’s read the speech part of the Constitution. (I hope this doesn’t take too long; I hate reading.) Oh, good, the speech stuff is right there at the beginning of the “things you can do” section:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. My copy of the Constitution seems to be missing this fabled “except hate speech, none of that” clause.

Well, then, it must be an exception found by the Supreme Court, right? Uh, no…Reason continues its schooling: Continue reading

22 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Rights

Ethics Dunce: GoFundMe

“DESTROY THE EVIL CAKE DISCRIMINATORS!!!!”

If GoFundMe isn’t going to have the integrity to avoid taking sides in complex political and cultural disputes, it is functionally useless.

Perhaps it should change its title to “GoFundMyPoliticallyCorrectCause.”

Pusillanimous GoFundMe caved in to pressure from vindictive gay marriage activists and pulled the crowdfunding campaign on the site that had raised more than $109,000 for the Christian-owned bakery,  Sweet Cakes by Melissa.

The cake shop in Gresham, Oregon, became ground zero for the same-sex marriage debate  in January 2013, when it turned away customers who wanted cakes for a same-sex wedding. The spurned couple filed a complaint to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, claiming their civil rights under the Oregon Equality Act had been infringed. In defense, the owners of the business stated that they  refused to cater  the wedding because of their religious beliefs, and thus their decision was protected by the U.S. Constitution. They subsequently closed the shop, and carried out their business from home. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries proposed a damages award Friday of $135,000 against Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners, for being in violation of the state’s anti-discrimination law. The award, which is not final, would provide $60,000 in damages to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 in damages to Rachel Bowman-Cryer for “emotional suffering stemming directly from unlawful discrimination.”

After taking down the page raising money for the bakery in the belief that they have been unfairly targeted, victimized and mistreated, GoFundMe said in a statement that the campaign violated the site’s policy against raising money “in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes, including violent, hateful, or sexual acts.”

Continue reading

27 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Public Service, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, The Internet, U.S. Society

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Cartoonist Garry Trudeau

The exquisitely rendered artwork of Gary Trudeau, circa 1970.

The exquisitely rendered artwork of Gary Trudeau, circa 1970.

“At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.”

—-Doonesbury cartoonist and relentless critic of the Right, Garry Trudeau, in a speech delivered on April 10 at the Long Island University’s George Polk Awards ceremony, where he received the George Polk Career Award.

Trudeau is a Yale grad, so perhaps we should cut him some slack muddled thinking. (Kidding!) However, in making his weak case that legitimate and socially acceptable satire only consists of “punching up,” he appeared to be advocating government prohibition of certain kinds of speech, to be designated by Trudeau and his ideological allies, who, of course, know best.

In doing this, Trudeau came very close to aping the popular theme from activists on the Left, especially on campuses, that “hate speech isn’t protected by the First Amendment.” “Hate speech” is an invention of progressives, and is generally defined as political or social criticism of members in good standing of their club, or groups and individuals they sympathize with or approve of.  Saying that you hope Rush Limbaugh’s kidneys fail is funny and deserved;  saying Mike Brown engineered his own demise by attacking a cop is hate speech. It’s easy when you get the hang of it: just look at the world like Gary Trudeau.

Earlier in his speech, he talked about “red lines” in satire, and blurrily–that is, inarticulately enough that he has plausible deniability, called for restrictions on “hateful” cartoons like those that prompted Islamic assassinations in Paris: Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

How Can Schools Teach Students About Citizenship And Rights When They Don’t Know What Rights Students Have?

Sorry about this, Tiffany, but your school definitely can't suspend ME...

Sorry about this, Tiffany, but your school definitely can’t suspend ME…

Today’s example of totalitarian school tactics committed by administrators who should be attending classes rather than overseeing them comes to us from Memphis, Tennessee. Highland Oaks Middle School suspended three students for posting a teacher’s mugshot on Instagram. Eighth grade teacher Tiffany Jackson had been arrested for driving with a suspended license, and a student discovered her mugshot online. He posted it,  and many more students re-posted the picture.

How could students posting public information on their own Instagram accounts be grounds for punishing them?  It isn’t. The school has no right to do this, and suspending students for such protected conduct just serves to intimidate them  and other students from exercising their rights as citizens.

That, of course, is the idea.

I agree that it wasn’t kind or fair of the students to set out to embarrass a teacher, but that’s a matter for discussion—education, perhaps— not discipline.

There has been a disturbing amount of deliberate or ignorant trampling on student speech lately, notably the University of Oklahoma expelling students for a constitutionally-protected racist chant, but also in high schools across the country where personal social media posts have been and are being treated as grounds for discipline. This is not to be tolerated from educational institutions in a democracy. Schools are fond of n0-tolerance: I can’t think of any conduct that should be less tolerated than teachers and administrators trying to control legal conduct and protected speech by students that occur off school grounds. We need to raise citizens who understand and respect individual rights, not burgeoning fascists who think that authority can and should shut down speech and conduct it doesn’t like.

At Highland Oaks Middle School, administrators eventually overturned the suspensions. I don’t care: fire them.

For this has to stop.

Meanwhile, welcome to the Streisand Effect, Ms. Jackson! Thanks to your employers trying to cover-up your offense by muzzling your students, everyone is seeing your mugshot. Just trying to do my part to discourage this blatant abuse of power….

_________________________

Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Facts: WNC Action 5

 

5 Comments

Filed under Education, Government & Politics, Rights

The Case Of The Too Candid Catholic Teacher

"You can unzip it, Patricia, when you work somewhere else...."

“You can unzip it, Patricia, when you work somewhere else….”

Apparently I missed another “media firestorm,” so allow me to catch up, particularly since the analysis of this story has been muddled beyond comprehension.

Patricia Jannuzzi, a religion teacher at Somerville’s Immaculata High School, posted this on her personal Facebook page:

jannuzzi-fb-post

This being the internet, after all, someone sent it far and wide, with resulting embarrassment to the school. Jannuzzi, a theology teacher with Immaculata for 33 years, was ordered to de-activate her Facebook page after an online petition   demanded that she be punished. Jannuzzi was placed on administrative leave,  and the school administration notified alumni, parents and students, in a letter that said in part,

“This episode has reflected not only on this teacher but, by extension, on Immaculata High SchoolWe regret deeply any hurt this has caused to any individuals and the negative light in which it has cast our school….Although these were posts to a personal social media page, Immaculata High School recognizes the need to ensure that our faculty, staff and students full understand the behaviors expected of them as members of our community and recognize our intolerance of discriminatory behaviors of any kind.”

Points: Continue reading

33 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Gender and Sex, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, The Internet