General Question

GeorgeGee's avatar

I know the "Koran pastor" was an idiot, yet I feel a sense of loss that the entire USA now seems scared to burn a Koran lest some Islamic radical attacks you for it. Know what I mean?

Asked by GeorgeGee (4920points) September 9th, 2010

While I don’t want to burn a flag, a bible or a Koran, our forefathers died for those rights; the freedom of expression, to show our anger, and to perform acts of protest and civil disobedience. Now even the most asinine loudmouth Florida bigot is silenced by the threat of retribution, as Islamic hoards happily burn US flags. Doesn’t that seem wrong to you?
http://mmabbasi.com/2010/07/27/should-we-burn-american-flags-on-911/

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87 Answers

Whitsoxdude's avatar

We aren’t afraid, we just respect our muslim friends. Do you know ANY muslims personally?

laureth's avatar

Our forefathers also died for religious freedom, but look at how many Muslim Americans have been attacked lately. It’s like they might be afraid to practice their religion lest some “patriot” attack them for it. Know what I mean?

JLeslie's avatar

I know what you mean, but it is more than just worrying about the Muslime extremist. It is scary for the moderate Muslims. Of course he has the right under freedom of speech, but if he does not want to scare people he should not do it. He said his intent was to make a statement to Muslim extremists, but burning the Qur’an might feel threatening to all Muslims. It’s like burning a cross on someones lawn and telling them not to worry no one would ever harm them, we just wanted to make a statement.

I am Jewish and every time I am in a synagogue I feel like here we are if they want to bomb us. A woman down the street has a confederate flag flying, maybe she just wants to show her pride in the south, but to some that is a flag of hatred and scary. It doesn’t matter what specific intent that idiot reverend had in his mind, it matters how it will really be perceived.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

No, I don’t know what you mean – burning a book is not an act of civil disobedience because Muslims aren’t in charge of our country or government and our forefathers would turn over in the graves if they knew what separation of church and state has come to, in this country.

MeinTeil's avatar

Burn them because Muslims are doing squat to reel in their radicals.

Jeruba's avatar

I feel a sense of loss that the entire USA now seems scared to burn a Koran

Know what I mean?

To answer what you asked, I don’t, not at all. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think most of the USA is afraid of what will happen if they burn a holy book of any faith because I don’t believe most Americans have ever contemplated doing such a thing. It is not even remotely likely to them because they understand something about the principles on which our nation was founded. So why would they have any fear of it? It’s not as if it’s something a person were likely to do unwittingly or by accident.

There is nothing in me that makes me want to imitate the worst of our extremist adversaries. If the least orderly and circumspect among us have had their own outrageous intentions curbed, so much the better.

laureth's avatar

@MeinTeil – So, your strategy is, “The Qur’an burnings will continue until Muslim morale improves?”

MeinTeil's avatar

No strategy, just a statement.

I personally won’t by burning any holy texts but I can totally understand the frustration of ordinary Americans.

janbb's avatar

@MeinTell I, too, can understand the frustration of ordinary Americans but I don’t think vilifying bogeymen is a solution.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I am seriously thinking I’m not part of ‘most Americans’ – what are these Americans so concerned about?

MeinTeil's avatar

You ever been pissed off?

Burn something, it can be very cathartic.

JLeslie's avatar

@MeinTeil I don’t get it at all, I don’t get why you understand why they want to burn the Qur’an. It only makes sense if you think all Muslims are murderous hateful people. I don’t like the Christian right extremists, but I know many wonderful Christians, I would not think of burning their book, because I know it would offend all of them. And scare all of them.

lccurtis1's avatar

If you have to fear retaliation from your own religious followers then you must question the religion in which you associate yourself with. That alone says that your followers are extremist and nut jobs. Nowhere in any religious doctrine does it say kill others who don’t believe as you do. So people that take this to heart are morons no matter what religion they associate themselves with.

Trillian's avatar

I’m not “scared to burn a Koran” now because of anything. I’m not scared to burn a Koran period. I just have no desire to do such a ridiculous and pointless thing, any more than I want to hit a mailbox with a baseball bat or throw a stone through a window.
Yes, I probably would be fined or go to jail if I did that, but that is not what stops me. I simply have no desire to do any such thing. I do not feel that we have lost any opportunity that we may have had, like we should have burned those darn things last September when we had the chance.

MeinTeil's avatar

It looks like I’m going to have to explain myself:

I’m just an ordinary guy that doesn’t get completely bent out of shape when something controversial happens.

I’m also not the type of guy that is constantly falling all over himself to avoid being seen as politically incorrect.

When I see Idiots abroad burning American flags and our President in effigy, I just shake my head and wonder when everybody is going to grow up.

So when someone does something like a pastor burning a book I either giggle or sigh and get back to work.

Harold's avatar

Yes, I do understand what you mean. I also understand that you are not saying you would do it. It is a matter of they can do it, but we can’t. Here in Sydney, I know shops in Islamic areas that an Australian, or any other race, would be physically thrown out of if they tried to enter, but try doing that to a Muslim in an Australian-owned shop (not that you would). I do know MANY muslims personally, and some of them are great people. I have nothing against them as individuals. I just intensely dislike the system they represent. One of my students is from Tehran, and she told me that Sydney is just like Tehran used to be before Islamic law- Muslims slowly building up the power base, and people are too scared to say anything about it because of the PC among us.

Ben_Dover's avatar

The pastor was just using the Koran burning as a lever to get the muslims to stop the building near the 911 site.
The muslims have agreed. the Koran burning has been called off.

It was all just politics (many bloodsuckers)

FutureMemory's avatar

Can anyone explain to me what an “ordinary American” is? I am eager for enlightenment on the subject.

laureth's avatar

Current news seems to imply that no such deal was made. The Imam says he never made any deal with the Pastor.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/10/florida-pastor-cancels-burn-qur-an-anniversary-9-11

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Our forefathers did not die for the right that anyone could insult anyone else for any reason. That is a bastardization of the original intentions. Somewhere there must be some degree of emphasis put upon Reason. Our forefathers were Reasonable Men and they did not intend for their legacy to be butchered by the Unreasonable.

iamthemob's avatar

@FutureMemory, @Simone_De_Beauvoir – I was wondering the same thing myself.

Now even the most asinine loudmouth Florida bigot is silenced by the threat of retribution, as Islamic hoards happily burn US flags.

Personally, I’ll go out right now and burn a Koran. I feel safe doing that. However, I don’t really feel like doing it right now. It the “Islamic hoards” want to burn the flag, that’s fine with me. Seems a lot of effort to not prove any point whatsoever.

GeorgeGee's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I think you ought to review your American history. Mutual antagonism (including insults) was the rule of the day in revolutionary times. The more light-hearted insults included making up and singing bawdy and insulting songs about each other, which led to the song “Yankee Doodle”
http://www.loc.gov/teachers/lyrical/songs/yankee_doodle.html
And if you think burning a holy book was harsh, US revolutionaries not only dumped British tea, but also burned British ships, including the British revenue ship Gaspee. The British, not to be outdone, burned pretty much all of Washington DC in the war of 1812.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

So it seems that some insults are reasonable and others unreasonable. Which one leads to war?

phaedryx's avatar

The burning of the flag doesn’t endanger our soldiers in Afganistan:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703713504575475500753093116.html

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I have no idea what you mean. Burning a Qu’ran is spiteful and ignorant, and does nothing to deal with the issues at stake. It makes a peaceful coexistence with Muslims far less likely, and for the life of me I cannot work out what possible benefit the act might have. I know I will never have a desire to burn a Qu’ran, or a Bible, or a flag of any sort, so I don’t feel any sense of loss at all. Freedom of speech should not include such freedoms.

iamthemob's avatar

I know I will never have a desire to burn a Qu’ran, or a Bible, or a flag of any sort, so I don’t feel any sense of loss at all. Freedom of speech should not include such freedoms.

I was with you until the last sentence. Freedom of speech should include nothing else if it doesn’t include the right to be spiteful and ignorant. The spiteful and ignorant ideas are the ones I want tested in the marketplace of ideas. The more open and crazy our hate is, the more likely we are to see reasonable ideas as reasonable.

Freedom of speech requires, by its very essence, that we have no freedom FROM speech. We have to hear the bad stuff…and I think that this kind of expressive speech is just that sort of bad stuff, and just the stuff we should hear. Then we can figure out how to best respond.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@iamthemob I can see your point, but I think freedom of speech relies on the assumption that people are responsible. I totally support Germany’s law against Holocaust denial for the same reason. I’m pretty sure the US censors child porn and bomb making instructions, although arguments could be mounted against such censorship based on freedom of expression.

Radicals always squeal the loudest, and give an impression that their opinions aren’t that radical. This pastor has only 50 or so in his congregation, yet he has managed to get international attention, and I’m willing to bet many in the Middle East will distort the story to say it is a prevailing sentiment in the West.

I really do understand why people defend freedom of speech to such lengths, but I think it has gone too far. I have no idea how to draft balanced legislation against it, and I would be wary of any attempt, but there is a point at which it must stop.

Trillian's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I think I love you,

iamthemob's avatar

I’m pretty sure the US censors child porn and bomb making instructions, although arguments could be mounted against such censorship based on freedom of expression

They have to a certain extent – freedom of speech is limited, it’s not absolute. You can be held criminally responsible for speech designed to incite people to engage in criminal activity…like inciting a riot. Obscenity is also regulated but on a “secondary harm” theory that I personally find offensive (ironic kinda). And child pornography is totally illegal, for reasons that we can pretty clearly get behind – exploiting minors in a sexual manner when they are not of an age where they can consent to sex or consent to a contract is psychologically dangerous and legally nonsensical.

The problem with limiting free speech is that unless that limit is to prevent IMMEDIATE harm, everything is gray.

plethora's avatar

@Harold @MeinTeil @GeorgeGee WELCOME to Fluther, the land of liberal doublespeak. Glad to have you three on the site. Thanks for the perspective from Sydney @Harold

Here’s a word from my friend and yours, Ann Coulter, who addresses this issue perfectly, in my opinion. The following is all a quote:

In response to Gen David Petraeus’ denunciation of Florida pastor Terry Jones’ right to engage in a symbolic protest of the 9/11 attacks by burning copies of the Quran this Sept. 11, President Obama said: “Let me be clear: As a citizen, and as president, I believe that members of the Dove World Outreach Center have the same right to freedom of speech and religion as anyone else in this country.”

Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida lauded Obama’s remarks, saying America is “a place where you’re supposed to be able to practice your religion without the government telling you you can’t.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Obama’s words a “clarion defense of the freedom of religion”

Keith Olbermann read the poem “First they came…” on air in defense of the Quran-burners, nearly bringing himself to tears at his own profundity.

No wait, my mistake. This is what liberals said about the ground zero mosque only five minutes ago when they were posing as First Amendment absolutists. Suddenly, they’ve developed amnesia when it comes to the free-speech right to burn a Quran.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh ”...I think freedom of speech relies on the assumption that people are responsible…”

Yes that’s exactly what I was saying with “Somewhere there must be some degree of emphasis put upon Reason.”

Reasonable people don’t drive drunk. Responsible people don’t drive drunk. There are consequences when people are Unreasonable and Irresponsible. Our constitution was founded by Reasonable and Responsible men. They did not intend for Unreasonable and Irresponsible people to shanghi the constitution to put forth their egomaniacal agendas.

Freedom of speech must have a guardian. Otherwise any form of speech is acceptable. And I see no reason to allow lies and deception disguised as freedom to become acceptable.

The system is broken when any nut job can bring the White House to its knees by demanding a phone call from a high ranking official in order to get them to reconsider their idiocy. If they make that call… OMG! The WACKO’s will be coming out of the woodwork.

Illuminat3d's avatar

It’s official the terrorists have won and the US have become a nation of pussies! All this outcry was motivated by fear! But i did learn something from all this:Being a violent son of bitch does earn you respect.

Trillian's avatar

“All this outcry was motivated by fear!” Do not presume to know what motivates me.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Speaking out against the Qur’an is freedom of speech. Burning one is an insult and could possibly be looked at as an act of aggression.

Two different issues people.

Speak out all you want. But I will not tolerate any book burnings in my country. This is America. We don’t burn the thoughts of anyone, regardless of how offensive they are.

What next? Will Jones then begin burning Freud, Maplethorpe, Mein Kampf?

WE DON’T BURN THOUGHTS OR IDEOLOGIES IN AMERICA!!!

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Burning books is the WORST FORM of Hate Speech Crime.

Whitsoxdude's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies It’s legal. If I want to burn a book on my bookshelf, I will.
I think that we all have the right to burn any book that we have bought ourselves, and I don’t want that taken away.
We aren’t talking Fahrenheit 451 here, most of the country agrees he’s an idiot. BUT he still has the right, and I would fight to defend that right.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

What’s the difference in burning the Qur’an and burning a Mosque?

Trillian's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I think we can work something out. I’ll just think pleasant thoughts about him/her and maybe write a shitty poem.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Book burning illustrates the decay of society.

Whitsoxdude's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I am sorry. But I do not see your logic at all. That makes zero sense… I am disappointed that you can’t give me an answer that makes me consider your point at all.

EDIT
This is not book burning on a mass scale. This is some wacko in Florida and his church.

iamthemob's avatar

@Whitsoxdude

I’m with you there. Let the stupid and crazy be stupid and crazy. We’ll be able to point them out to the people who seem to be on their side and say, “Is that who you really want representing you?”

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Whitsoxdude You didn’t ask me a question. So there is no answer for me to give you.

I did ask you a question.

“What’s the difference in burning the Qur’an and burning a Mosque?”

I’ll ask you another.

What society has ever benefited from book burnings?

And one more please.

Freedom of speech is about speech. No one is stopping Jones from speaking out against anything. But how is the act of burning considered freedom of speech? No words need be spoken to fulfill that act.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I personally do not agree with either the Mosque at ground zero, or with the burning of the Qu’ran. I do think that the Mosque backers are being that most politically-corrent annoying of things… insensitive. They should voluntarily move the site somewhere else, but if they don’t we live with it.

As for the Florida pastor, he is legally within his rights to burn as many Qu’rans as he likes, but now the “sensitivity” issue is on the other foot. He has apparently backed off, and I say “good on ‘im!”

As far as any of this making some folks upset… I really don’t give a shit.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@CaptainHarley ”...he is legally within his rights to burn as many Qu’rans as he likes…”

Did he get a burning permit? It is an act, as in action. That’s why he needed a permit.

No one needs a permit to speak.

Burning it and speaking out against it are two separate issues.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

That’s why freedom of speech is legal. It’s an act that doesn’t cause physical harm to anyone or anything. Burning causes physical harm to people and things. This is a vast chasm between burning something and speaking out against something.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Burning is an act of aggression.

Speaking is an act of discontent.

Whitsoxdude's avatar

I’m sorry. Perhaps I should have used the word response.
Burning a Mosque is illegal. Chances are if you are setting fire to a Mosque, it doesn’t belong to you.. You can go to jail, and you should.
Society has never benefited from book burnings to my knowledge. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world if one guy wants to burn some in protest.
As long as it’s on his property it’s legal

Unless it insights violence against Muslims.
He’s not doing it anymore, so it doesn’t matter anyway.
Thanks for taking the time to debate with me.

iamthemob's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies

Freedom of speech is about speech. No one is stopping Jones from speaking out against anything. But how is the act of burning considered freedom of speech? No words need be spoken to fulfill that act.

This is a form of expressive conduct – conduct or actions which have the same sort of expressive intent as speech and therefore protected by the first amendment. It’s why, under Texas v. Johnson, burning the flag is considered an act of free speech.

Sometimes, a symbolic act expresses more meaning than words ever could. Such acts meant to communicate something should be considered free speech in many contexts. Of course, burning a mosque is dangerous in ways beyond burning a flag or a book will most often be.

Brian1946's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies

“What’s the difference in burning the Qur’an and burning a Mosque?”

What would be the effect or message of tossing a burning copy of the Qur’an into a church and as a result burning down the church? :-)

phaedryx's avatar

I’m going to expand on my previous statement.

What about the classic “shouting fire in a crowded movie theater”? Should free speech be allowed if it is endangering soldier’s lives? Making a political point is one thing, but I it can be made without endangering lives and this particular “free speech” is irresponsible.

iamthemob's avatar

What about the classic “shouting fire in a crowded movie theater”? Should free speech be allowed if it is endangering soldier’s lives? Making a political point is one thing, but I it can be made without endangering lives and this particular “free speech” is irresponsible.

The incitement examples are linked to immediate danger of those present and around the speech being made.

The problem with the example here is that the argument is that the speech will be used by extremists to show how they are right in thinking America is against Islam. Therefore, it is outrageous speech by Christian extremists being used by Muslim extremists to try to incite people outside the U.S. ... essentially, it’s being used by the people it is speaking against. That is the opposite purpose of the speech as originally intended – to limit speech based on this example, you have to say that statements made by one side which can conceivably be used by the opposing side to bolster their point should be limited.

That ends up being a whole lot more speech than intended. And in fact, the case involving the pentagon papers demonstrated that even when it comes to state secrets, we have a “clear and present danger” test (this has been refined, or perhaps muddied, depending on your viewpoint) that there needs to be an immediacy or a certainty in the harm caused by the speech, and caused DIRECTLY by the speech.

I actually find arguments here that we should be limiting our first amendment rights frightening. I’m not one for slippery slope arguments in most cases, this is one where these kinds of limits seem step one to thought policing (extreme yes – but free speech is the cornerstone of a free democratic society).

poisonedantidote's avatar

Self control is not a sign of weakness, while I doubt that the kind of people who enjoy forming angry mobs would understand that point, not burning them is the best decision.

Now, I doubt that this pastor has called it off out of any sense of morality or nobility, it is more likely that his motivation is selfish, i.e. his own safety, his reputation, his income, or whatever. And this does give the entire thing a feeling of defeat, but the feeling is unfounded. Logically, there where three possibilities with this situation: burn them, don’t burn them, be stopped from burning them. Burning them would be exercising free will and freedom of expression, not burning them would be exercising free will and freedom of expression, being stopped from burning them would have been an invasion of the man’s freedom of expression. What happened is he chose not to burn them.

If we assume he did not choose, that he was actually coerced, threatened, or blackmailed in to not going ahead with it, this is still not a violation of his freedom of expression. It may seem like it, but it is not, because if he really did have the courage of his convictions, those things would not have stopped him. Its not the same as being arrested. In those situations, if you are determined, you always take a stand, and he did not. So, if he was blackmailed, or not blackmailed, he did not have what it takes to go through with it, meaning, deep down, he freely chose it was not worth it.

I think the thing to take away from this, is ideologies are never going to be possible in an imperfect world.

JLeslie's avatar

@plethora this morning I watched Pat Buchanan say Obama should stop the guy and worry about the legal ramifications afterwards. Mika Brezinski, a liberal, was the one talking about freedom of speech regarding the issue. On my facebook it is mostly the liberals who don’t want the President to take action. My experience is opinions on this book burning seems to not really fall down party lines.

I understand that your comparison to Park 51 has to do with people being offended. But, burning the Koran will incite murderous hateful crazy people. This man, it could be argued, is inciting a riot. You can’t yell fire in a building. Still, I am not sure what my opinion is in terms of the President or the federal government interfering in the issue.

tedd's avatar

I don’t want them to burn the quran because its ignorant and hate filled, and if you’ve paid any attention to history you can figure out where book burning has often led.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Trillian You and @Simone_De_Beauvoir play nice, I can share. Oh, and I’m a ‘him’.

@Illuminat3d It has nothing to do with being scared to speak up, it is about how to go about it. Muslims are not enemies that must be taunted and subdued, they are people of differing opinions with whom we can have an amicable coexistence if only people would stop the hatred and incendiary acts.

BraveWarrior's avatar

Personally, I don’t think it is right to burn Qurans, just like I don’t think it was right for Christian Bibles to be burned by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Holy book burnings spark hypocrisy Disappointing that the media doesn’t bring that point up with the debate about the Qurans. It may be viewed as a freedom of free speech protest, but it is not prudent or wise considering the possible ramifications (often revenge is taken out on Christians in Muslim countries) and could possibly be viewed as a “Hate Crime” the same as painting Nazi symbols on a Jewish Temple.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@BraveWarrior Jews have synagogues, not temples. Their temple was destroyed long ago.

BraveWarrior's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I guess nobody told “Temple Beth El” :) And yes, I am aware that the previous Biblical Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. L’Shana Tova!—

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@BraveWarrior Never heard of it, but I stand corrected.

JLeslie's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh are you serious? You never heard of it?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@JLeslie According to Wikipedia, the only temples by that name are in the US, Canada or Morocco, and I don’t really keep up with news from any of those countries. I’m not even sure which one you are referring to, or why it is famous.

JLeslie's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh it’s not famous. There are temple Beth Els in FL, in NY, Alabama, California, cities all around the country. Jews use temple and synagogue. Some argue the name temple should be saved for when the temple is rebuilt on the mount, but it is not that the other places are not temples, it is that some people prefer to symbolically reserve the name temple for the one we are waiting for in Jerusalem, so they prefer we call other places of worship synagogues. I think Christians are more weary about this more than Jews generally. Are you Christian? I generally use synagogue in case there is someone int he crowd who prefers it.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@JLeslie I’m an ex-Christian and an atheist. I haven’t had that much to do with Jews though, so apart from the Christian account of ancient Judaism and having read the Jewish texts that are in the Bible I don’t know a whole lot about it.

janbb's avatar

A number of either Reformed or Conservative Jewish congregations use the designation temple as part of their names. It’s not the Temple, it’s just a temple. “Are you going to temple?” or “Are you going to synagogue?” are both acceptable questions. (The Yiddish term is “shul.”)

JLeslie's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh oh. I wasn’t trying to berate you, I hope it did not come across that way. It just seemed surprising you had never heard of Temple Beth El, or any other temple, since you were correcting someone about using temple. But, I guess now as I think about it, it makes sense in a way.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@janbb Thanks. I thought the term ‘temple’ was more appropriate for Ba’hai and Seikhs than Jews, since ‘synagogue’ is an exclusively Jewish term.

@JLeslie Certainly not. I’m perfectly happy to be corrected!

JLeslie's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh in case you want examples so you better have a picture of what we are referring to.

Alabama
Florida

There are tons more if you google

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@JLeslie Thanks, that helps a lot!

Trillian's avatar

I thought we were playing nice. We divvied you up life a pie! @Simone_De_Beauvoir, I’ve slept since then so I’m not a reliable source, but were we not playing nice?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Oh you were, just hoping it stays that way. I’m flattered!

laureth's avatar

As Benjamin Franklin said,

But since so much has been written and published on the federal Constitution, and the necessity of checks in all other parts of good government has been so clearly and learnedly explained, I find myself so far enlightened as to suspect some check may be proper in this part also; but I have been at a loss to imagine any that may not be construed an infringement of the sacred liberty of the press. At length, however, I think I have found one that, instead of diminishing general liberty, shall augment it; which is, by restoring to the people a species of liberty, of which they have been deprived by our laws, I mean the liberty of the cudgel. In the rude state of society prior to the existence of laws, if one man gave another ill language, the affronted person would return it by a box on the ear, and, if repeated, by a good drubbing; and this without offending against any law. But now the right of making such returns is denied, and they are punished as breaches of the peace; while the right of abusing seems to remain in full force, the laws made against it being rendered ineffectual by the liberty of the press.

My proposal then is, to leave the liberty of the press untouched, to be exercised in its full extent, force, and vigor; but to permit the liberty of the cudgel to go with it pari passu. Thus, my fellow-citizens, if an impudent writer attacks your reputation, dearer to you perhaps than your life, and puts his name to the charge, you may go to him as openly and break his head. If he conceals himself behind the printer, and you can nevertheless discover who he is, you may in like manner way-lay him in the night, attack him behind, and give him a good drubbing. Thus far goes my project as to private resentment and retribution. But if the public should ever happen to be affronted, as it ought to be, with the conduct of such writers, I would not advise proceeding immediately to these extremities; but that we should in moderation content ourselves with tarring and feathering, and tossing them in a blanket. (Source)

In other words, Franklin thought that freedom of Speech is best accompanied by the freedom to whack that person with a stick (or tar and feather him) if he spreads things that are untrue. If you exercise your freedom of speech, it doesn’t mean that you are necessarily free of dealing with the results of that exercise. (Target, for example, has learned this the hard way lately.)

My point here is that if this guy burns the books, he ought rightly to face the consequences. No one is taking away his free speech, they’re just completing the circle. Sadly, it’ll be our bravest Americans who take those bullets, not the zitbubble pastor.

@FireMadeFlesh – I was right with you in not understanding what it would accomplish, right up until you said that this act should not be included in “freedom of speech.” I must respectfully disagree. Even if I don’t understand it, they have the right to do it, and that’s the cost of free speech – allowing speech that disagrees with yours. I just wish that preacher and his supporters got a trip to Afghanistan to…see what happens.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@laureth I’m quite prepared to allow speech that disagrees with mine. In fact I would grow suspicious if everyone agreed with me. However I think some things are so far gone, and so obviously benefit no one, that the state has a responsibility to protect people from themselves. There was an ‘artist’ here in Australia who ignited controversy by running an exhibition with nude photos of a girl just entering puberty. Given too much freedom, people will harm themselves and others.
This pastor crossed the line of rights, in my opinion, because he decided to attack and deride a view opposed to his own. If he wrote an essay, or a letter to the editor saying why he thinks Islam is evil, so be it. Burning their sacred text is too much though, because he is violating the right of Muslims to feel at home in the US. I don’t dispute his right to say whatever he wants, but it must be done in the right way.

plethora's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Would this same reasoning apply to demonstators in AZ who trample our flag underfoot? Not being smart. Serious question.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@plethora Most definitely. Desecration of a flag is not the way to promote healthy civil debate.

I should add that if a cause is important enough to someone, they will break the law to make themselves heard. If, for example, a law was passed that said no one was allowed to speak against the government, I would break that law because I hold that right to be more valuable than staying on the good side of the law.

iamthemob's avatar

This pastor crossed the line of rights, in my opinion, because he decided to attack and deride a view opposed to his own. If he wrote an essay, or a letter to the editor saying why he thinks Islam is evil, so be it. Burning their sacred text is too much though, because he is violating the right of Muslims to feel at home in the US. I don’t dispute his right to say whatever he wants, but it must be done in the right way.

Thankfully, you live in a country that allows you to state that. And where you can state that you hold someone responsible for their opinion. I agree with you that the right was abused, but it is then our right as citizens to determine how we react. The right to free speech is not predicated on the right to promote healthy civil debate.

The first amendment is first not only in number, but because it has always been considered primary in that it is from that right that all other rights in a democratic society flow. We have it because we know it will be abused, because we know it will be used improperly, in order to ensure that it is US and NOT the government or the police who can decide what we want to listen to, and what we want to say in response.

The ability to attack and deride a view opposed to one’s own is what the democratic process is based on.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Fair enough. I am open to criticism and ideas on this point, because I have only thought about it in a cursory manner. I just have the natural reaction whenever someone goes beyond the borders of reason that the state should be protecting society from those people. We have had Islamic leaders come out here from time to time, and say such classics as “a Muslim cannot have a non-Muslim friend, only an acquaintance”, as well as promoting domestic violence etc. I just cannot accept that they have a right to say such things, and the same goes for people of other persuasions who go too far. I’m just starting to study justice and law though, so I am very much open to correction.

plethora's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I disagree with you and agree with @iamthemob I hate to see our flag trampled upon or any sacred scripture of any religion burned, but we do have the right in the USA to do exactly that and The ability to attack and deride a view opposed to one’s own is what the democratic process is based on.

What interests me the most is that Islamic extremists on the other side of the world now have the right to take from us the rights bestowed by the First Amendment by threatening violence if one of their scriptures is burned by one lone citizen in the US. Further, the President of the United States stood up and confirmed the rights of the extremists, thus weakening the posture of the US. He literally backed down from the threats of the Islamic extremists by begging the guy in Florida not to burn the Koran. (And why do I think Gen Petreaus was ordered by POTUS to make his whining statement. If extremists can influence our actions in Afghanistan, then it is time for all troops to come home, for sure).

Then I see Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf today on TV in an interview state that the Mosque near ground zero cannot be moved because it would anger Islamic extremists. In not so many words, the friendly Imam, our buddy in the Muslim world, and a person we surely don’t want to offend lest he feel not welcome in the US, says that there will be blood in the streets, from his “enforcers” unless the Muslims get what they want.

I really don’t want to hear another person on Fluther talk about how we don’t want to offend our Muslim friends. The only Muslims we need as friends are the ones who break ranks and join us. The “gentle” Imam is not one of those.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@plethora Was the threat of violence really the reason? I would imagine there are stronger arguments from moral and social grounds.

Also why are you making this about the US only? Isn’t a principle like free speech able to be generalised to other countries? I was trying to talk about it as an abstract concept, and what form it should take in a hypothetical constitution.

iamthemob's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

I’m with you on your natural reaction. That is, in fact, my natural reaction as well. But we have to accept hearing and seeing this as part of the payment of the right to do and say what we need to to express our feelings about the state of the law, the government and the world.

plethora's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I can’t argue hypothetical. Jane Fonda had the right to go to North Vietnam while a war was going on and debase her fellow countrymen. (I have forgiven Jane for that. I do not hold it against her.) Still she was not punished for that action. In the US any citizen has the right to say anything.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@iamthemob So do you favour the rights-based models of ethics/justice?
@plethora Okay, I can accept that. Excessive freedom (if indeed there is such a thing) is preferable to the other end of the spectrum, so maybe it is the best position at least until the right balance can be found.

iamthemob's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

That depends – you’d need to flesh out more what I’d be committing to, and what the alternatives are. (maybe best done through PM – considering this is a GQ).

laureth's avatar

My point is entirely this: if you take away, by force of law, someone’s right to expression, there is nothing stopping the government from taking away your right to expression when the tide changes, the pendulum swings, and the Other People are voted into office.

Now, to reasonably have discourse with the person holding views you oppose, and thusly convince them that what they’re saying or doing is stupid and ought not be done, that is OK. That’s using your free speech the same way, and everyone is free because of it. Using the long arm of the law to say “thou shalt not” means that no one is free.

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