Sunday, January 9, 2011

Constitutional Ignorance Kills The Judge

What does one do when the authorities do not portray the U.S. Constitution properly?

Point it out at least?

When an Arizona Sheriff characterized the First Amendment in this way he was wrong:
“Let me say one thing, because people tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol that we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that,” the sheriff said during a press conference. “That may be free speech, but it’s not without consequences.”
(Sheriff Exudes Error, emphasis added). The error is to equate free speech with violent, false, or reckless speech, then to imply that our Constitution is weak to allow free speech because free speech is "not without consequences".

That is an ignorant view of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Americans have never been "free" to yell "Fire!" in a movie theater when there is no fire and when the person who yells it intends mischief.

That isn't freedom, it is intellectual debauchery.

We have never been "free" to print libel or speak slander, both of which would appropriately have consequences.

There are no consequences for having Free Speech, but many consequences for not having it, thus, the exercise is to know what Free Speech is and is not.

It would probably help to use the terms "legal speech" and "illegal speech" to clear the air of misunderstanding.

For example, recently a radio host was sent to prison for advocating violence against certain judges:
The ultra right-wing talk show host and blogger, once popular with white supremacists, protested his innocence and blasted U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter and the Chicago-based assistant U.S. attorneys who prosecuted him for manipulating the legal system to finally win a conviction after three trials.

“The charge against me was a lie from the beginning, and the verdict was invalid because it was based on fraud,” declared Turner, 48, of North Bergen, dressed in a dark grey prison jump suit

In a rambling, nearly hour-long diatribe, Turner accused the judge of “legal skullduggery” for changing the legal definition of a threat and ignoring more than 40 years of Supreme Court case law on freedom of speech and advocating violence.
(Shock Jock Hal Turner Goeth Down). The bad mouthed wing nut as well as the liberal sheriff both have an impure view of the First Amendment.

Perhaps we have all forgotten that decency really is cool, forgotten that decent Free Speech is as big as the sky, forgotten that Free Speech does include opinionated speech which does not advocate violence against those who hold different opinions, and perhaps we have forgotten that ad hominem speech on steroids is not Free Speech, but is for those void of the cognitive ability to actually use Free Speech effectively.

The thing is, free speech does not go into the utter gutter where hate filled vitriol is spewed like a broken sewer line run amok.

The fault for this ignorance must be placed upon the individuals who use it, but also upon those who advocate it.

That would be MOMCOM and the wannabe minions who are intellectually bankrupt:
Words matter, as candidate Barack Obama said in the 2008 election campaign. What to make, then, of President Obama’s pep talk last month to U.S. troops in Afghanistan in which he lauded them as “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known”? Certainly, he knew that those words would resonate with the troops as well as with the folks back home.

In fact, this sort of description of the U.S. military has become something of a must for American presidents. Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush, for example, boasted of that military as alternately “the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world” and “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known.”


I’m a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a historian who teaches military history. The retired officer in me warms to the sentiment of our troops as both unparalleled fighters and selfless liberators, but the historian in me begs to differ.


To use a sports analogy, we wouldn’t call the Pittsburgh Steelers “the finest team in NFL history” simply because they annihilated Penn State in football.
(William Astore). Astore goes on to point out what boils down to the national glorification of bullying, along with the glorification of bullying speech.

It gives new meaning to "the bully pulpit".

It is perverted when a giant of a man pummels a 10 year old kid and thereafter calls himself a great fighter.

It is perverted when politicians say in public that if they loose at the ballot box under the First Amendment, they will vote with their rights to sights under the Second Amendment; which is a clear advocation of violence by poor losers, and is not free speech.

When the wing nut crowd's sails become filled with the ill winds of enslaved speech, not free speech, then some decent people will inevitably die.

Like yesterday when a federal judge, a child, and others were killed by a cowardly bully who had them out gunned, like yesterday when a federal congresswoman and others were wrongly harmed, like yesterday when we saw that slave speech does not bode well for our tomorrow, because tomorrow must be free if it is to be American.


  1. It'll be interesting to see how the political ramifications of this play out over the coming months. Personally, I think it'll be forgotten all too soon enough. We've simply become emotionally calloused to these events now, and the 24/7 warnings of terror threats and other assorted boogeymen hiding under every bed.

    I read somewhere shortly after the event that T-Party spokesman were already railing against the dems for implying that T-Party rhetoric might have somehow instigated this delusional idiot (among his many mental deficiencies, basic spelling, reasoning, and argument have to be high on the list). Expect their righteously indignant defense of past practices to ramp up considerably in the coming days and weeks, practicing their stock-in-trade - the best defense is a good offense.

    All that said, the dems catered to this kind of stuff during the healthcare debate by caving on every little detail that the right-wingers were able to whip their idiot followers into a frenzy about. One thing the right wing IS smart enough to know: If a particular tactic works, keep on running it until it doesn't. Basic football/war strategy that; not tremendously innovative or cerebral, but often terribly effective, especially in the face of an opponent who refuses to adapt.

    Expect a few weeks of bloviating, contrition, and relative calm in the political acrimony, followed by more of the same with new and increased vigor by spring. A little thing like a few people getting shot by a lone gunmen with no obvious alliances to any particular political brand isn't even going to make a ripple in the long term political calculus. Call it just another small cost of doing business in a society where love of guns, violence, militarism, and empire are all glorified attributes.

  2. "... dems catered to this kind of stuff during the healthcare debate by caving on every little detail that the right-wingers were able to whip their idiot followers into a frenzy about. One thing the right wing IS smart enough to know: If a particular tactic works, keep on running it until it doesn't."

    Cunning instinct reacts that way ... "if I am so wrong, why do you keep caving in to my demands? ..."

    So, the caving of the dems, the bad 'strategery' under the guise of bi-partisan compromise, is a contributing factor.

    That much is obvious.

    Why the young shooter did what he did is as mysterious as the amygdala of the nation, which gets us into this type of psychotic behavior in the first place.

  3. This famous Donald Rumsfeld quote comes to mind:

    Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.

    Let's see how many times we hear it invoked in the next few months.

  4. The young shooter may himself have been a victim of bullying. Yes, we have a problem understanding free speech and how it differes from a clear, present and imminant danger. For example, shouting fire in a crowded movie theatre is different from shouting fire on a sparcely populated Boston Common.

    The makers of violent video games will tell you this has no influence of making people more likely to act out, and the makers of guns will tell you the same. The Progressives disagreee. The fact is, acting out is different from murder for hire. Here in the Boston area, where gun laws are vigorsly enforced by an agressive drop a dime operation, we now see headlines of how people are attacked and killed with knife weilding perps.

    Not long ago, an MIT co-ed was arrested at Logan Airport because she was wearing a "motherboard" glued to her T-Shirt. LOL Techies are wack, don't they know?

    I am alarmed at the failure of Progressives to vigorously support the 1st Amendment. Perhaps this will be a teaching moment? My guess is Palin will NOT be the instructor?

  5. Dredd,

    Why any particular historical actor does what they do might not be as important as their overall historical circumstances.

    I feel quite sure in saying that six months from now young "numb-nuts," whose name already eludes me, will already be forgotten. Not that he/she won't be replaced by 3-6-12 of his cohorts just itching to take his place.

    That's what happens when the bottom falls out and the working class loses even the remote illusion that there's an even playing field.

  6. Kathy,

    The shooter was more than likely entirely psychotic if his incoherent ramblings can be trusted. What part bullying might have played is entirely speculative at this point. As one who was subjected to a fair amount of same in my youth, I'd have to say that I discount the value of such defenses in the extreme. No defense of bullying here, but I do have to add that the term is a little bit paternal with regard to teens or younger, when the same behavior in adulthood is merely termed "aggressive." One might well advise teens to just "get used to it," OR, indeed, "GET OVER IT!"

  7. There is no mystery about what Hal Turner was doing even using the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Hal Turner was doing criminal speech, trying to mask it as free speech.

    The historical perspective is right now.

    Both the history and the now are quite clear as the perpetrators use obfuscatory rhetoric like cowboys do when they drag a tree behind them to try to cover up their tracks that are cast in logical concrete.

    You are still only fooling yourselves.