Patterico's Pontifications


WE HAVE NO CHOICE But to Overreact and Restrict Your Freedoms

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:57 pm

Two absurd pieces tell us WE HAVE NO CHOICE but to restrict freedoms, because DANGERS!

First, we have Chicago Law Professor (!) Eric Posner telling us: ISIS Gives Us No Choice but to Consider Limits on Speech.

NO CHOICE, I tells ya!

Never before in our history have enemies outside the United States been able to propagate genuinely dangerous ideas on American territory in such an effective way—and by this I mean ideas that lead directly to terrorist attacks that kill people. The novelty of this threat calls for new thinking about limits on freedom of speech.

. . . .

But there is something we can do to protect people like Amin from being infected by the ISIS virus by propagandists, many of whom are anonymous and most of whom live in foreign countries. Consider a law that makes it a crime to access websites that glorify, express support for, or provide encouragement for ISIS or support recruitment by ISIS; to distribute links to those websites or videos, images, or text taken from those websites; or to encourage people to access such websites by supplying them with links or instructions. Such a law would be directed at people like Amin: naïve people, rather than sophisticated terrorists, who are initially driven by curiosity to research ISIS on the Web.

The law would provide graduated penalties. After the first violation, a person would receive a warning letter from the government; subsequent violations would result in fines or prison sentences. The idea would be to get out the word that looking at ISIS-related websites, like looking at websites that display child pornography, is strictly forbidden. As word spread, people like Amin would be discouraged from searching for ISIS-related websites and perhaps be spared radicalization and draconian punishment for more serious terrorism-related crimes.

. . . .

One worry about such a law is that it would discourage legitimate ISIS-related research by journalists, academics, private security agencies, and the like. But the law could contain broad exemptions for people who can show that they have a legitimate interest in viewing ISIS websites. Press credentials, a track record of legitimate public commentary on blogs and elsewhere, academic affiliations, employment in a security agency, and the like would serve as adequate proof.

There’s nothing like a law where you get to try to convince the government to allow you to engage in, and hear, free speech.

The major justification for freedom of speech is the marketplace of ideas—the claim that if people can say whatever they want, the best ideas will flourish. But just what is it that we can learn from ISIS? The social value of beheading apostates? The finer points of crucifixion? Those who regard free speech as fundamental need to consider whether legal principles that arose centuries ago make sense in the age of Snapchat. It is possible, as Cass Sunstein has explained in Bloomberg View, to modify the current test for free speech violations so as to advance public safety without throwing out important protections for dissent. A simple balancing test would permit laws to target dangerous speech that does not advance public debate.

Who decides whether the speech has value, “Professor”? You? Cass Sunstein? The editors of the L.A. Times? Barack Obama?

Something about a camel’s nose and a tent comes to mind. Now let’s move to the L.A. Times editorial board, which writes: Threat to L.A. schools shows what it means to be terrorized:

The email appears to have been a hoax, a mean-spirited effort to force more than a million people to change their daily patterns out of fear.

No matter. Even though there appear to be no explosives-laden backpacks, no mysterious packages and no actual plan to harm children, the online threats that led to the closure Tuesday of every Los Angeles Unified school and preschool demonstrate for Angelenos what it means to be terrorized.

As Supt. Ramon Cortines noted, the district receives threats all the time. But with the San Bernardino shootings still a vivid memory, and with a somewhat more detailed threat in hand, district officials believed they had little choice but to close the schools. Had anything happened to a student or teacher, the horror would have been unspeakable, a wound from which it would be hard to recover. It’s easy to understand why the district erred on the side of safety.

The costs of doing this are heavy, though. The already cash-strapped district will probably lose millions of dollars in state aid as a consequence of closing. Thousands upon thousands of parents were forced to change their work plans for the day; chances are that many of those will not be paid, and that’s a sacrifice that L.A. Unified families can ill afford. Meanwhile, other cities worry that the district has just shown malefactors around the world how to inflict a major economic blow with a few emails.

This is what terrorism does. The brutal slayings of 14 office workers less than two weeks ago strike such fear into us that a worrisome email can force a shift in our way of life and cost extraordinary sums. Terrorism aims to inflict not just death and injury, but large-scale intimidation that ripples through society long after the attacks are over.

But what options do we as a society have — especially when the possible victims are children?


Gee, editors. You could do what New York City did, and decide it’s a hoax. People can debate whether the right choice was made. I don’t think it was. But it is ridiculous to act as if WE HAVE NO CHOICE because think of the children!

640,000 children did not go to school today. Many of those children are too young to leave home by themselves. It is obvious that many people could not go to work — meaning businesses were shuttered, money was lost, and perhaps someone was injured or even killed in the resultant chaos. But we’ll likely never know and never hear about it.

There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs. To act as if protecting the safety of the children AT ALL COSTS is OUR ONLY CHOICE means that any yo-yo with a cell phone or an email account can tie up a city and cost millions of dollars any time they feel like it. That is insanity. Clearly, if a threat like this were made every day, we would soon discover other choices.

Folks, we do have a choice. We can protect the First Amendment even though there is an ISIS. We can evaluate risks and make decisions even if children are involved. To suggest that WE HAVE NO CHOICE is lazy and irresponsible thinking.

GOP Debate Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 4:38 pm

[guest post by Dana]

I’ve been listening to the undercard debate for about 45 minutes now, and the discussion has primarily focused on terrorism, foreign policy, and national security. The big question is whether it’s time to put American boots on the ground to fight and defeat ISIS.

The top-tier debate coverage starts at 8:30 p.m. ET on CNN. I think you can also go here to watch it online.


UPDATE BY PATTERICO: Ben Carson seems to be fading fast. The folks to watch are Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Of course, there will be the usual other chumps, including but not limited to Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, the ever-annoying John Kasich, and (barely making the cut) Rand Paul.

*winks at Dana*

CNN will probably try to make people fight again. The fools will fall for it. The wise will not.

Los Angeles Unified School District Closed Today Due to Terror Threat

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:19 am

Reports are developing now, but it sounds like a bomb threat to a bus. (Does not affect my kids, who are not LAUSD.)

That’s a lot of kids not going to school. It seems like an extreme reaction, which is not to say it’s wrong. Either the threat is credible or people are covering their posteriors. Maybe some of both.

This seems likely to loom over tonight’s debate though.

Thanks to A.W. on Twitter for the heads up.

Chappaquiddick To Become A Movie

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:28 am

[guest post by Dana]

Just saw this linked at NRO:

Chappaquiddick is a political thriller that chronicles the true story of what is described as the seven most dramatic days of Kennedy’s life.

On the eve of the moon landing, Senator Kennedy becomes entangled in a tragic car accident that results in the death of former Robert Kennedy campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne. The senator struggles to follow his own moral compass and simultaneously protect his family’s legacy, all while simply trying to keep his own political ambitions alive.

From producer Mark Ciardi:

“I’ve done a lot of true life stories, many sports stories, but this one had a deep impact on this country,” said Ciardi. “Everyone has an idea of what happened on Chappaquiddick, and this strings together the events in a compelling and emotional way. You’ll see what [Senator Ted Kennedy] had to go through.”

The film is being directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, who also directed the movie, “Fifty Shades of Grey”, which was based on the extremely popular erotic novel bearing the same title.

It’s hard to believe that a film focusing on the real Chappaquiddick could further lionize the Lion of the Senate, but it’s even harder to believe that Hollywood would actually hold accountable such a popular, powerful, and influential politician, especially given that no one did at the time of the tragedy. Jim Geraghty summed it up, He drives, she dies. How do you glamorize that?


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