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Posts Tagged ‘Censorship’

Lying Eyes makes a good point on how conservatives do (and to some extent must) pull their punches:

[T]his is the quandry the right finds itself in – it cannot communicate its message to voters since the message itself is verboten. And so it must rely on proxy arguments that don’t necessarily make a lot of sense. For example, proclaiming loudly and forcefully to be against illegal-immigration, but all for legal immigration. But when the left counters with “Then why not just declare them legal – problem solved” – the conservative is left sputtering about rule-of-law. His real argument – that the Hispanic population is simply too large and we can’t afford as a nation to allow it to continue to grow rapidly – must be muted, as making this argument will lead to his banishment from public discourse. Why? Because any venue that hosts this argument will be immediately subject not just to a withering public flogging, but to boycott by sponsors and anyone associated with the host.

What is the solution?  Well, perhaps part of is pushing the conversation, bit by bit.  Another part of the solution is to recognize that the right is indeed right.  And, not only that, but its views are popular. Look at the wild success of Fox News in the formerly moribund world of the Three Big Networks and CNN.  Look at the ability of right-wing bloggers to maintain a growing audience.  Notice the huge popularity of Church, talk radio, and the like.  Finally, look at survey data.  Yes, some is dispiriting, but, contrary to the globalization crusaders at the Wall Street Journal, it’s probably more accurate to say the country is economically liberal (or moderate) and socially conservative, than the fashionable, semi-libertarian opposite viewpoint.  Indeed, real conservatives are seeing more and more that the big companies and banks are the biggest welfare queens around, while they struggle to make mortgage payments and send their kids to overpriced universities.

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Manifesting the philosophy of legal realism, Justice Stephen Breyer earlier this week suggested that Koran burning could be banned, in part, because it might create international tensions and protests.  His concern for international standards has begun to creep into Supreme Court jurisprudence, in particular on matters of war and the death penalty. The main problem with this approach is that it ignores the text of the Constitution and the uniqueness of the Anglo-American regime of legal rights.  Our extensive free speech rights, protections for the accused, and the right to bear arms are not shared with Continental Europe.  They are almost totally unheard of in the Third World.  An excessive concern for the standards of these other places would rather quickly degrade our historical patrimony.

Further, the whole idea of a “living” Constitution where obvious questions such as Koran burning cannot be effortlessly resolved as constitutionally protected is a natural outgrowth of the legal realist movement.  This has been the dominant philosophy of the legal academy and the legal left since the 1930s, growing from the writings of Justice Brandeis and Cardozo.  It is an insurgent movement that denies the meaning of texts and ultimately destroys real law, since all predictability is set aside in the name of advancing social justice.  So-called legal realists are at bottom nihilists; they do not believe there are legal answers to legal questions discernible based on language and the application of outcome-neutral rules of interpretation.  The legal realists’ talk about “penumbras” and “international standards” is at its heart a smokescreen to provide cover and concealment to their advance of their own unauthorized power and a related and unpopular notion of right and wrong. This is why convoluted opinions claim a right to gay marriage, abortion, al Qaeda detainees not to be executed upon capture, and the like, while purporting to struggle over whether a Washington DC gun ban violates the Constitution’s Second Amendment.  This is why judges assume more and more power, in spite of their limited role under the Constitution.

If legal realism is all about power, nonetheless, it may seem mysterious why a left-liberal Jew like Breyer would make common cause with fanatic, illiberal Muslims. But he’s not alone.  Consider Mayor Bloomberg.  The reason for such an instinctual alliance is Breyer’s and most liberal Jews’ self-concept as a vulnerable minority outsider swimming in the ocean of a potentially hostile majority, namely, white Christians.  Understanding themselves as such, certain Jews have made common cause with outsiders and minority groups repeatedly in American history, not least in the form of the civil rights movement; their paranoia thus makes them viscerally hostile to expressions of majority nationalism and unity, even when those expressions are mild in comparison to the stated aims of fanatic Muslim newcomers.  The other minorities are seen as basically harmless, but a rinky dink white Christian pastor in the middle of nowhere becomes in their eyes the harbinger of future pogroms.  In this instance, an otherwise unshakeable belief in freedom of expression must give way for the sensitivities of Muslims.  Not all opponents of Koran burning think this way; their stated concerns for nonviolence or respect for the beliefs of others have some salience.  And certainly not all Jews conceive of their group’s interests as Bloomberg and Breyer do.  But when Breyer expresses himself neutrally on these issues, he may be dismissed as a fraud.  Through his legal realism, he and others like him told us that that their stated reasons for anything they do are a smokescreen for the acquisition of group power. They have, in essence, admitted they have no legal conscience; thus, they do not deserve to be taken seriously other than as a troublesome, power-hungry group of phonies.

That the courts have any respect remaining at all is only due to their legal realist members’ concerted effort to conceal what they are doing and why when it comes to controversial social issues.  Legal realist judges are wont to hide how they come from a very narrow sliver of the population, a group often at odds with the values, religious beliefs, and life experience of the majority, and further do not want it known how this view has become dominant in the legal profession, in particular among the professoriate, and thereby polluted the legal thinking of two generations of judges.  The hostility and paranoid self-concept of certain minority judges would not be as big of a problem if these were mere technicians, who acknowledged the sacredness of constitutional texts, but they do not.  They admit in the abstract and also in their academic writings that they are seeking power for their group in what they see as a zero sum game for influence.  If the real meaning of legal realism were well known, then this power play would be rejected by the majority as undemocratic and directly hostile to their interests, and the judiciary would be held in permanent disrepute.

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A Free Country?

One thing we sometimes forget is that the most important means of social control in communist regimes was the power over your job; if you offended the communist leadership, you could be fired.  It turns out the NJ Transit Authority employee who burned a Koran near the WTC site was fired.  The stated reason, “violating his trust as a state employee.”  This is an outrage.  The combination of anti-harassment laws, the habit of tip-toeing around Islamic sensitivities, and the increasing political correctness of both private and public sector employees means that winners and losers will be rewarded accordingly; dissent will be crushed by threat of economic penury.  And this will all happen in a country that used to take pride not in its sensitivity, but in its rugged individualism, including the individualism to have peculiar beliefs and say offensive things. 

We all know communsits, flag-burning hippies, and guys who say things like Rev. Wright never get fired on account of their extremism, but conservatives of any kind must be aware of this.  I would not say the solution is necessarily to “play the game.”  Such would be a type of victory too, as we’re often reminded by those who say the best antidote to terrorism is to be quietly defiant.  It’s certainly true that half or more of the country that is uneasy with Islam cannot be fired from their jobs.  But one thing you can be sure of, the Obama that cares about the Jena Six and racist Dept. of Agriculture employees and not jump to conclusions regarding a murderous Muslim Army Major, won’t be stepping in to remind everyone of the dangers of censorship anytime soon.

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Something did not sit right with me when General Petraeus weighed in on the controversy just down the road (in Gainesville) regarding the well publicized Koran burning.  For what it’s worth, I do not like such gestures; I find them atavistic, and I recognize that religion is indeed a sacred thing to those who believe.  For every Muslim who is out there seething and hurling bricks, many more are simply respectful of the religion of their forefathers, scared of western influence in their lands, and are getting from this event the wrong impression of Americans, who have no natural disrespect of other people’s religious practices.

There is no reason for either our government or ordinary Americans to sow conflict with Islam, and the best solution, as I’ve said before, is deliberate separation both at home and in foreign policy with a long run and realistic goal of containment.  This too would be offensive to some, but it’s better than the perpetual conflict we have now as we intermingle both at home and abroad in the name of liberal ideas of universalism.

All the same, it is a storied and treasured right of Americans to express themselves, ridiculously if they choose, and it is quite predictable, quaint even, that an old school fire and brimstone preacher would act in this way. It’s a very American eccentricity at work here.  And it has served an important purpose in showing that Islam, far from being a religion of peace, is filled with people that may, at a moment’s notice, become violent.  Further, it has shown the hypocricy and cowardice of the American politically correct establishment.

General Petraeus has suggested that this Koran burning hurts the war effort.  Isn’t that interesting?  What other things that Americans take for granted hurt the war effort?  Wouldn’t the recent push for same sex marriage or five minutes of MTV or women wearing bikinis at the beach also offend Muslim sensibilities?  Didn’t our protection of the Saudis from Saddam offend Muslim sensibilities, simply by allowing Americans to set foot in an Islamic land?  Doesn’t our presence now in Iraq and Afghanistan deeply offend Muslims, not to mention the numerous civilians killed accidentally (but inevitably) by airstrikes and drones and scared shitless 19 year old American soldiers.  Indeed, much of our country and its practices, some good and some not so good, are deeply offensive to any traditionally religious person.   Nonetheless, none of these things have typically been up for debate as part of a “hearts and minds” campaign halfway around the world.  Recall the Danish cartoons, which were eminently defensible, also caused similar mass Muslim rioting.  While uneasy with Koran burning, I see that there is something valuable in Terry Jones’ provocation simply for revealing so many people’s true colors, and this was, in fact, one of his stated reasons for this event.

As for the General, there is something altogether gratuitous about Petraeus’ words.  He undboutedly knew they’d be looked on kindly by Obama, in a way that a condemnation of equally problematic pacifist protests would not.  Where was General Petraeus when the Abu Ghraib photos were plastered all over Time Magazine and anti-war protests?  And what of the demoralizing “Bush Lied, People Died” canard?  Petraeus is hardly taking a courageous or conistent stand here; he is simply saying what he thinks the boss wants to hear.  And it is a problem when the military pursues its own (or the President’s) anti-democratic agenda in a free society; the military is supposed to be the instrument of the elected, political branches of government, and those branches (and the people to whom they are accountable) have varied opinions and views on what Islam means, how it should be addressed, and how that view should be expressed by private citizens. And, lest I remind the general, he took an oath to the Constitution, which includes the First Amendment.

A just war preserves a people and a way of life.  I have not forgotten that Petraeus, ever the politician, let the cat out of the bag sometime ago when asked by Senator John Warner (R-VA) if the war made the US safe, responding “I don’t know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted in my own mind.”  Indeed.  The current war now has a logic all its own, nearly completely separate from domestic security, which can be easily vouchsafed by capping Islamic immigration and pressuring those here to Americanize or go home.  The idea that to win a war American citizens must be cajoled by uniformed military men to show respect to an alien religion shows the ultimate impossibility of the current nation-building strategy, which aims impossibly and unprecedentedly to reconcile western institutions with an ancient, anti-western religion.   This war, animated by ideological principals of universalist liberalism and multiculturalism, threatens as it drags on to degrade the society it ostensibly is being waged to protect.

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