Sunday, October 10, 2010
Is Hate Speech Protected?
Bill O'Reilly makes a respectful and respectable case below but I disagree with him. There are already too many infringements of free speech to admit any more. And note that what Fred Phelps says (God hates f*gs") is essentially what St Paul says in Romans chapter 1. Censoring ANYONE from preaching a Bible message anywhere at any time would be a huge collapse of America's civilizational foundations
Put yourself in this position: You lose a son in Iraq. He is killed fighting for his country. You arrange a funeral for him, an event that is emotionally devastating for your family and friends. Outside that funeral, protestors hold signs saying that God killed your son because he fought for a country that "tolerates" homosexuals. Some of them curse at people attending the service.
That's exactly what happened to Albert Snyder and his family in Maryland. In response, Snyder sued the leader of the hate group, Fred Phelps, and a jury awarded him millions. But the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia overturned the verdict on appeal and even imposed court costs on the Snyder family. The judges rationalized their misguided ruling by writing: "Although reasonable people may disagree about the appropriateness of the Phelps' protest, this conduct simply does not satisfy the heavy burden required for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress under Maryland law."
"Reasonable people may disagree about the appropriateness of the Phelps protest"? Are you kidding me? Who exactly thinks God wanted Matthew Snyder dead because America does not persecute gay people? Osama bin Laden?
The federal court's ruling is a legal ruse, a bunch of pinheaded mumbo-jumbo that seeks to justify injurious behavior under the guise of free speech. Forty-eight attorneys general have filed an amicus brief in support of the Snyder family. These prosecutors well understand that words can be used as weapons designed solely to harm American citizens. There is no "reasonable" debate in what the vicious protestors did. They intentionally wanted to inflict emotional distress on the grieving family of a dead soldier. That is against civil law.
One footnote: When Albert Snyder told the court he could not pay the court costs, Phelps told the press he should use his son's death benefits to satisfy the judgment. I hope those judges are sleeping well.
If Phelps and his crew had put forth that God wanted a soldier to die because his family was part of a minority group, the federal court ruling might have been different. Hate crime legislation was attached to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the legal system takes hateful action against minorities very seriously, as it should.
The Supreme Court is now hearing the Snyder-Phelps case, and the outcome is important for all Americans.
With the rise of the Internet, cyber-bullying and threatening behavior have become a plague upon the land. Kids are committing suicide because they are humiliated on the Net, and anyone can be targeted by sick individuals. Inflicting emotional distress on another human being is just a mouse click away.
I well understand the slippery-slope free speech argument being put forth by those who believe the federal judges did the right thing constitutionally. I make my living under the First Amendment, and I don't want the government telling me what I can and can't say. But evil is evil, and attacks are attacks. The Snyder family has a constitutional right to privacy and the pursuit of happiness. The despicable Phelps mob infringed on those rights.
Serbs don't think homosexuality is anything to be proud of
SEVERAL thousand Serbs marched in the capital Belgrade overnight in protest against a planned gay pride parade.
Participants ranged from families with children to young football supporters, some of whom gave fascist salutes and shouted for the death of homosexuals.
Police kept a close eye on the march from the city centre towards the parliament, organised by the extreme nationalist Dveri organisation, but there were no incidents.
"The state does nothing to help families yet it authorises this unnatural rally," Dveri spokesman Miroslav Parovic said. "We want it stopped."
Serbian gay organisations plan a parade in Belgrade today, having called off last year's after the government said it could not guarantee the security of the participants.
The first ever gay pride parade in Serbia in 2001 was broken up in violent clashes provoked by right-wing extremists.
The Serbian Orthodox Church on Friday spoke out against the parade but also warned against violence targeting participants.
Serbian Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Svetozar Ciplic has said he will take part in today's parade together with "at least two other ministers" and several members of parliament.
The representative of the European Commission in Belgrade, French diplomat Vincent Degert, has also announced his intention to join the parade.
In recent days anti-parade posters have appeared in Belgrade with the threat: "We are waiting for you."
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) warned Serbia on Wednesday that the gay parade would be a test of "the maturity of Serbian democracy".
One welfare reform that would make Britons happier... and richer
By Peter Hitchens
There's only one lasting, simple welfare reform package this country needs. It goes like this. First, an announcement that nine months from today, all benefits of any kind for new unmarried mothers should cease.
Note the word 'new'. Existing victims of one of the stupidest policies in human history should continue to get their handouts and subsidised homes until their children are grown. It is not their fault, or their children's, that they were misled by weak and wicked politicians into this way of life.
They should not be condemned or harassed. But this state-sponsored assault on marriage should stop. Just to emphasise the point, we should once again distinguish between those who end up as lone parents through no choice of their own and those who choose this state.
We should once again distinguish between those who end up as lone parents through no choice of their own and those who choose this state
We should once again distinguish between those who end up as lone parents through no choice of their own and those who choose this state
The Widow's Pension – scandalously abolished – should be reinstated. Deserted wives should likewise be offered proper support.
Next, the disastrous divorce reforms of the Sixties, which have blasted the lives of millions of deserted children, should be replaced by new rules that make it rather harder to break up a marriage than to end a car-leasing agreement.
And Parliament should overturn the disastrous judge-made laws which have, over the past 50 years, left divorced husbands with almost no rights at all. Within ten years we should be a happier, more orderly and peaceful society, and a much richer one too.
Depriving children of fathers, which seems to have been the policy of the so-called 'centre-left' and 'centre-right' for 40 years, has had a grim and painful effect on almost every aspect of our lives – and has affected almost every topic I touch on in this column.
The costs of trying to patch up the damage are immense, in grief and money. It is as if the whole country has been banging its head hard against a concrete wall for decades. It would be wonderful to stop, as well as being rational and kind. But of course it will not happen.
For all three parties have been taken over by Sixties liberals, who will never do this. Which is why no message of hope came out of the Tory Conference last week, and why the Prime Minister was reduced to attacks on a dead-and-buried Labour Government, and to flogging his gassy, thought-free 'Big Society', under which we're all supposed to come home from work and the long commute, and then rush out to hold up the sky.
What was really wrong with the Tory Party's amateur dramatics was not the incompetence, though there was plenty of that; nor the dismissive callousness towards mothers who take the responsible decision to bring up their own children; nor the impracticable promises to 'clamp down' on a welfare system that is specifically designed to create more clients every day and will grow inexorably if this does not stop.
It was that it has turned its back forever on the married family (while tossing footling token gestures in its direction). And it has sold its soul – and the conservative people in this country – in return for the approval of the BBC and for the empty, pompous joys of office without power.
No wonder there were so few conservatives there, and no wonder Tory Party membership is shrivelling so quickly that the figures are a secret.
A Gaza shopping mall
It is lunchtime in the world's biggest prison camp, and I am enjoying a rather good caffe latte in an elegant beachfront cafe. Later I will visit the sparkling new Gaza Mall, and then eat an excellent beef stroganoff in an elegant restaurant.
Perhaps it is callous of me to be so self-indulgent, but I think I at least deserve the coffee. I would be having a stiff drink instead, if only the ultra-Islamic regime hadn't banned alcohol with a harsh and heavy hand.
Just an hour ago I was examining a 90ft-deep smuggling tunnel, leading out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt. This excavation, within sight of Egyptian border troops who are supposed to stop such things, is – unbelievably – officially licensed by the local authority as a 'trading project' (registration fee £1,600).
Tale of two cities: Gaza's sparkling new shopping mall offers a stark contrast to the images of slums we are used to
It was until recently used for the import of cattle, chocolate and motorcycles (though not, its owner insists, for munitions or people) and at its peak earned more than £30,000 a day in fees.
But business has collapsed because the Israelis have relaxed many of their restrictions on imports, and most such tunnels are going out of business. While I was there I heard the whine of Israeli drones and the thunder of jet bombers far overhead...
Don't, please, accuse of me of complacency or denying the truth. I do not pretend to know everything about Gaza. I don't think it is a paradise, or remotely normal. But I do know for certain what I saw and heard.
There are dispiriting slums that should have been cleared decades ago, people living on the edge of subsistence. There is danger. And most of the people cannot get out.
But it is a lot more complicated, and a lot more interesting, than that. In fact, the true state of the Gaza Strip, and of the West Bank of the Jordan, is so full of paradoxes and surprises that most news coverage of the Middle East finds it easier to concentrate on the obvious, and leave out the awkward bits.
Which is why, in my view, politicians and public alike have been herded down a dead end that serves only propagandists and cynics, and leaves the people of this beautiful, important part of the world suffering needlessly.
For instance, our Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently fawned on his Islamist hosts in Turkey by stating Gaza was a 'prison camp'. This phrase is the official line of the well-funded Arab and Muslim lobby, who want to make sure Israel is seen by the world as a villainous oppressor....
But if you think Israel is the only problem, or that Israelis are the only oppressors hereabouts, think again. Realise, for a start, that Israel no longer rules Gaza. Its settlements are ruins.
No Israelis can be found inside its borders. And, before you say 'but Israel controls the Gaza border', look at a map. The strip's southern frontier – almost as hard to cross as the Israeli boundary – is with Egypt. And Cairo is as anxious as Israel to seal in the Muslim militants of Hamas.
Gaza was bombed on the day I arrived in retaliation for a series of rocket strikes on Israel, made by Arab militants. Those militants knew this would happen, but they launched their rockets anyway. Many Gazans hate them for this. One, whom I shall call Ibrahim, told me how he had begged these maniacs to leave his neighbourhood during Israel's devastating military attack nearly two years ago. His wife was close to giving birth.
He knew the Israelis would quickly seek out the launcher, and that these men would bring death down on his home. But the militants sneered at his pleading, so he shoved his wife into his car and fled.
Moments after he passed the first major crossroads, a huge Israeli bomb burst on the spot where his car had been. The diabolical power of modern munitions is still visible, in the ruins of what was once a government building.
It looks as if a giant has chewed and smashed it, and then come back and stamped on it. If you can imagine trying to protect a pregnant woman from such forces, then you can begin to understand how complex it is living here, where those who claim to defend you bring death to your door.
For the Islamist rocket-firers are also the government here, supported by Iran and others who care more for an abstract cause than they do for real people. They claim that their permanent war with Israel is for the benefit of the Palestinian Arabs. But is it?
Human beings will always strive for some sort of normal life. They do this even when bombs are falling and demagogues raging. Even when, as in Gaza, there is no way out and morality patrols sweep through restaurants in search of illicit beer and women smoking in public or otherwise affronting the 14th Century values of Hamas.
So I won't give the name of the rather pleasant establishment where young women, Islamic butterflies mocking the fanatics' strict dress code with bright make-up and colourful silken hijabs, chattered as they inhaled apple-scented smoke from their water-pipes.
Their menfolk, nearby, watched football on huge, flat-screen televisions. Nor will I say where I saw the Gazan young gathering for beach barbecues beneath palm-leaf umbrellas.
Of course this way of life isn't typical. But it exists, and it shows the 'prison camp' designation is a brain-dead over-simplification. If it is wrong for the rich to live next door to the desperate – and we often assume this when wecriticise Israel – then what about Gaza's wealthy, and its Hamas rulers?
They tolerate this gap, so they are presumably as blameworthy as the Israelis whose comfortable homes overlook chasms of poverty.
Then there is the use of the word 'siege'. Can anyone think of a siege in human history, from Syracuse to Leningrad, where the shops of the besieged city have been full of Snickers bars and Chinese motorbikes, and where European Union and other foreign aid projects pour streams of cash (often yours) into the pockets of thousands? Once again, the word conceals more than it reveals.
In Gaza's trapped, unequal society, a wealthy and influential few live in magnificent villas with sea views and their own generators to escape the endless power cuts.
Gaza also possesses a reasonably well-off middle class, who spend their cash in a shopping mall – sited in Treasure Street in Gaza City, round the corner from another street that is almost entirely given over to shops displaying washing machines and refrigerators.
Siege? Not exactly. What about Gaza's 'refugee camps'. The expression is misleading. Most of those who live in them are not refugees, but the children and grandchildren of those who fled Israel in the war of 1948.
All the other refugees from that era – in India and Pakistan, the Germans driven from Poland and the Czech lands, not to mention the Jews expelled from the Arab world – were long ago resettled. Unbelievably, these people are still stuck in insanitary townships, hostages in a vast struggle kept going by politicians who claim to care about them. These places are not much different from the poorer urban districts of Cairo, about which nobody, in the Arab world or the West, has much to say.
It is not idle to say that these 'camps' should have been pulled down years ago, and their inhabitants rehoused. It can be done. The United Arab Emirates, to their lasting credit, have paid for a smart new housing estate with a view of the Mediterranean.
It shows what could happen if the Arab world cared as much as it says it does about Gaza. Everyone in Gaza could live in such places, at a cost that would be no more than small change in the oil-rich Arab world's pocket.
But the propagandists, who insist that one day the refugees will return to their lost homes, regard such improvements as acceptance that Israel is permanent – and so they prefer the squalor, for other people.
Those who rightly condemn the misery of the camps should ask themselves whose fault it really is. As so often in the Arab world, the rubbish-infested squalor of the streets conceals clean, private quarters, not luxurious and sometimes basic, but out of these places emerge each day huge numbers of scrubbed, neatly-uniformed children, on their way to schools so crammed that they have two shifts.
I wish I was sure these young people were being taught the principles of human brotherhood and co-existence. But I doubt it. On a wall in a street in central Gaza, a mural – clearly displayed with official approval – shows an obscene caricature of an Israeli soldier with a dead child slung from his bayonet.
I might add that an Arab intellectual, sitting in a Gaza cafe, recalled for me the happy days when Gazan women used to wear short skirts (now they all wear shrouds and veils) and you could get a beer by the beach.
But perhaps best of all was the comment of the Arab Israeli who mourned for 'the good old days before we had peace'. It may well be that no solution to the problem of Israel is possible, and that it will all end, perhaps decades from now, in a nuclear fireball.
But if outside politicians, more interested in their reputations than in the lives of Arabs and Israelis, would only stop their search for a final settlement, might it be that people – left to their own devices – might find a way of living together, a way that was imperfect, but which no longer involved human beings being dissolved into hunks of flying flesh by high explosive?
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.