Patterico's Pontifications


Getting Freedom of Expression VERY WRONG at LSU

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 9:33 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

I meant to mention this the other day, but besides the time crunch there was the natural aversion borne from the fact that, wow, so many people are getting so much wrong in all of this it makes my head hurt.

So let’s dig in, shall we?  Remember that night when all of us were celebrating the death of bin Laden?  Well on that same night someone went to LSU’s war memorial, removed the American flag that flew there, and burned it:

The American flag that flew on the pole over the LSU War Memorial was cut down and burned early Monday morning, LSU Police Department and witnesses report.

The burning occurred only hours after President Barack Obama announced Sunday night al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden’s death in combat.

Cpt. William Conger, University military science associate professor, said he and three ROTC students discovered the charred remains of the flag at 5:45 a.m. during physical training. They later retired the flag.

The Louisiana and University flags were also cut down, Conger said. The state flag was left unscathed, but the University flag is currently missing, Conger said.

Now this flag burning is obviously an expressive act, but it was likewise illegal.  I mean the constitution protects your right to burn your own flag, not to steal someone else’s and vandalize it.  The good news is that we then caught the (alleged) bastard who (allegedly) did this:

A 23-year-old student accused of cutting down and burning a U.S. flag at the Louisiana State University War Memorial turned himself Thursday, LSU police said.

Isaac Eslava, who has dual U.S. and Colombian citizenship, showed up with his attorney and was booked with charges including felony criminal damage to property and arson, Sgt. Blake Tabor said.

He said Eslava was then taken to the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

Tabor said he did not know the attorney’s name.

LSU police said a university flag taken from the same pole, a piece of Eslava’s clothing, drug paraphernalia and red and black spray paint were found in a stolen car, and red and black graffiti was sprayed early Monday on apartments north of campus.

The incident occured hours after the first word that a U.S. Navy SEAL team had killed Osama bin Laden, but there’s no indication the two were related.

Don’t you love our media?  On the same night we kill bin Laden a man steals and burns an American flag and no one can guess the motive.  A Yemeni charges the cockpit of a plane, banging against the door in an attempt to break in, while shouting “Allahu Akbar!” and the media will say, Gosh, we don’t know what might have motivated that…  But on the other hand a communist truther shoots a Democratic Representative, and everyone is sure within hours that the killer was motivated by a map with bull’s eyes created by Sarah Palin.

Look, I don’t mind if the media waits until the facts are in before they speculate.  I just wish they did that consistently.

As if this wasn’t dumb and infuriating enough, then a second man named Benjamin Haas announced that he was going to burn a flag in protest of Eslava’s arrest.  Yes, really:

Benjamin Haas, a communications studies graduate student, says he’s burning the flag in support of Isaac Eslava.

Time to deploy the…

So he planned to burn one on Wednesday, but then he couldn’t get a permit for some reason (hopefully not based on the nature of his speech) so he showed up to deliver a written statement.  Here’s the prepared remarks he wrote, with me breaking in to fisk him some:

Funny Facebook said that there were only going to be 64 of you. I initially began this flag burning protest to define due process for students…

In what exact way is that student’s due process rights being violated?

and suspected terrorists alike…

Aw, sounds like someone is sad poor whiddle Osama was killed…

to call on LSU and universities across the country to defend basic human rights and avoid putting students into the criminal justice system when it can be taken care of internally.

Right, because when a crime is committed on campus, it should be treated differently than other crimes.

Solidarity means standing with those who are treated as guilty until proven innocent, instead of the other way around. That’s what freedom is, standing with those who express their constitutional rights in ways that may be unpopular,

He isn’t in jail because his views were unpopular.  He is in jail because he allegedly stole and destroyed someone else’s property.

especially the accused and the marginalized no matter the consequences.

In the name of peace, there will be no flag burning today.

No, you aren’t burning it because you don’t have a permit and this is just after-the-fact spin:

This country and the flag that flies over it stands for freedom, democracy, love, peace and the ability to question our government.

Anyway, so this idiot wanted to read off this stupid statement, but instead this happened:

A mob of angry protesters chased a would-be flag burner at Louisiana State University (LSU) off campus Wednesday to chants of “USA, USA.”

Graduate communications student Benjamin Haas had earlier been given permission by the school to burn the flag.

He’s a grad student in communications.  Why am I not surprised?

But because he lacked a local burn permit, he agreed instead to read a statement in an area of the university known as free speech alley.

As Haas read the statement, a crowd around him erupted into cheers and jeers, many shouting “Go to hell, hippie, go to hell.”

“You had a lot of people on both sides of the debate getting into a lot of fights,” said James Haralson, manager of Tiger TV, the university television station. “The students started yelling obscenities at him. People started throwing bottles at him.”

Other versions I have seen also said they threw water balloons at him, suggesting perhaps they thought he was going to try to light a flag and were trying to douse it.

Now part of me admittedly smiles at the fact that these college students love this country enough to feel this strongly.  And they are rejecting hippies!  Frank J. Flemming would surely approve.  But as much of a completely idiotic douche as Haas is, that is the wrong response.  Standing around him and shouting at him?  Fine.  But throwing things, even relatively harmless water balloons, is wrong.  Let him feel your spittle as you shout at him, but nothing more.

And direct your patriotism in a more appropriate way, too.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

31 Responses to “Getting Freedom of Expression VERY WRONG at LSU”

  1. I wouldn’t have thrown a bottle at Benji cause of he might could have gotten hurt but I would have given him a very unsympathetic look I think.

    happyfeet (a55ba0)

  2. Also the stolen car seems to be a bit soft-pedaled here. My understanding is that car stealing is a very serious offense what warrants punishment and I don’t understand why Benji thinks that for reals crimes should be investigated by an institution as inept and capricious and inherently fascist as an American university.

    happyfeet (a55ba0)

  3. The Heckler’s Veto is wrong, now matter how or when it is used.

    rudytbone (291994)

  4. I’m shocked and appalled that this could occur in Louisiana!

    Bob Reed (5f2db5)

  5. Why, it is just expressive speech, Aaron. The fact is, people like this student are about feelings, and their feelings should moderate the outcomes of their actions.

    So, to steal a flag and burn it is seen as an attempt to abrogate free expression. Because of how he feels about it.

    In a similar vein, the other students can throw water balloons.

    But the sad part is that the student doesn’t “get” what the laws are about, both protecting his right of free expression and his person and property.

    Depending on how he feels.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  6. There’s really little more elitist than the idea that universities have the right to internally deal with crimes in a special, more forgiving way, and regular folks across the street from campus have to deal with criminal law instead.

    Surely he’ll be expelled, but that’s all the university should decide.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  7. What does a graduate student in communications study ?

    Mike K (8f3f19)

  8. Dustin: bet you he won’t be expelled.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  9. Mike K., how to assemble the folded cardboard for the carton of fries.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  10. My only question: was either Mr. Eslava or Mr. Haason on the Lacrosse team?

    Because how I feel about these incidents is dependent upon the answer.

    Pious Agnostic (291f9a)

  11. If Haas had ignited the flag, I might have pissed on Haas, because my aim can be bad. Fire can be dangerous.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  12. ==What does a graduate student in communications study?==

    Broad curriculum. Could be anything from crisis management and PR type stuff, to a degree in speech therapy/pathology (work with stutterers, stroke victims, etc).

    elissa (310d0a)

  13. As happyfeet once noted, I would not pee on him if he was on fire, at least not until the flames went out.

    JD (d48c3b)

  14. JD – I looked like peeing on him would improve his aroma.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  15. ==What does a graduate student in communications study?==

    Broad curriculum. Could be anything from crisis management and PR type stuff, to a degree in speech therapy/pathology (work with stutterers, stroke victims, etc).

    Comment by elissa

    Ideally, yes, but this student seemed to have a lot of free time on his hands, and probably wasn’t studying much of anything.

    Certainly, he seems to have fallen short of understand what he just did to his reputation, which I would think a smart communications expert would have heard something about.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  16. Amen burning ones own flag or koran or torah or bible should be protected but stealing a flag and burning it not so much.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  17. But according to a majority of the Supreme Court, giving him the money to buy the flag or koran and/or the matches is not protected!

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  18. @14–

    Not defending the guy Dustin, just answering the question Mike K asked about graduate Communications studies. (But I agree with you that our guy here might have missed quite a few classes along the way.)

    elissa (310d0a)

  19. Sounds like a community organizer in training, most probably on the taxpayer’s dime.

    SpeakEasy (e0cabc)

  20. Not defending the guy Dustin

    Of course not. LOL. It was an interesting answer, too, but I wanted to make a cheap shot.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  21. Cam the left tell us how Osama Bin Laden was right wing when he bought into the gorebull warming bull?

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  22. Dohbiden,

    It’s sounding like OBL wasn’t even fundamentalist about social issues, having some porn stash.

    No, he was interested in social justice, global warming, porn, and his personal ambition to replace the Sauds. And in every way, he was a failure, except some successes murdering unarmed people who didn’t expect a sucker punch.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  23. P, I am a six-year veteran, a conservative Libertarian in the Reagan mold (mostly) and an extreme free speech advocate. I grok what you’re saying, but at the same time not all speech is free. Some comes with a price tag. You are free to kick a hornets’ nest, but don’t whine if you get stung. I’m not saying people were right to throw things at B-Ass. It’s just that to some what he did was fighting words, especially the children and relatives of veterans. He’s in deep red Louisiana. You are free to walk the streets of Harlem and yell the N-word too, but don’t be surprised if you get your ass kicked. Ideally, B-Ass would have said his peace in peace. But we do not live in an ideal world. Some people take things very personally, be it Harlem or Louisiana. You reap what you sow. IMHO.

    Johnny Simpson (40fc6b)

  24. “LSU police said a university flag taken from the same pole, a piece of Eslava’s clothing, drug paraphernalia and red and black spray paint were found in a stolen car, and red and black graffiti was sprayed early Monday on apartments north of campus.”

    The 1st Amendment is being used as subterfuge for 3 criminal acts. Haas is using the allegation that Eslava burned the flag to add to his resume.

    This isn’t about freedom of speech – this is about Haas having employment after graduation.

    DaveO (391b76)

  25. Did osama have goat porn or porn involving his father and razorblades?

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  26. The left and their quislings are posers who pose for their own side.

    They couldn’t care less what we neanderthal neo-cons think. It’s not like they see us converting to Obammyland fantasy camp counselors.

    Non-story. No gain. No moral. No principle. Useless chaff of the Left grist mill of “moral victories rooted in solidarity and resistance.”

    You know, that crap that Code Stink is selling. By the way, anyone seen or heard from the Code Stink Pimp-in-Chief Medea “My Name is Made Up” Benjamin these days? Or is she on R and R in Bali or something after the war movement crapped out with the Libyan invasion.


    Bear1909 (893d7a)

  27. When leftist students stop using pies as missiles to express their discontent for an invited speaker’s political leanings and/or remarks, I’ll wag my finger at the water balloon chuckers. Not before.

    JR (dc08fc)

  28. They will never decry the pie throwers.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  29. I think that Free.Speech does mean that you can say.what want. The majority should decide what is acceptable.
    Besides the Constitution was written by people that did not want the minority to derail the plans of tje majority.

    bayouboyxlt (2a041d)

  30. bayou

    if free speech is up to a simple vote, why put in the constitution at all?

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  31. you are my inspiration , I have few blogs and often run out from to brand : (.

    Ardella Plewinski (c28b26)

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