Friday, April 07, 2006

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

You’re an idiot!A running argument started yesterday in the comments on Dymphna’s post. The esteemed commenter Cato stood on one side, and the noted blogger Freedom Fighter led the other side, with Jason Pappas, fastfoodnationalist, Papa Bear, and others participating.

Now, I could be writing about something important instead of this. After all, the Senate is fighting over which amnesty pig will get gussied up in a pink dress with a bow and be christened “Immigration Reform”. Iran is about to nuke somebody, anybody, just so they can usher in the millennium and throw a “Welcome Home, Twelfth Imam!” party. The major Western media are asserting the unabridgable freedom of the press by falling all over themselves never to publish, under any circumstances, anywhere, the hateful and blasphemous cartoons of Mohammed. President Bush’s approval ratings are lower than Jeffrey Dahmer’s. Oh, and George Mason University has fielded a winning basketball team.

But I think the subject of yesterday's contention is important, too. It is a frequently recurring argument here at Gates of Vienna.

And the people who are arguing so heatedly are not very far apart, politically speaking. Cato and Freedom Fighter probably agree on 97% of the issues — both want a strong national defense, a vigorous response to Islamist terror, and an end to the erosion of classically liberal American political culture. Both of them object to socialism and political correctness in all their ugly manifestations. None of us is likely to vote for a Democrat for national office anytime soon.

So why such a bitter argument?

At the risk of being flamed by both sides, I’ll wade into the fray. The contretemps started after Freedom Fighter wrote this:

Eventually, large sectors of Islamic belief if not all will have to be reclassified as a POLITICAL persuasion rather than a religion, and treated accordingly.

Rather than quote any further from the combatants, with all the sarcasm and vituperation, I’ll summarize their arguments.

Cato Freedom Fighter, et al.
From a civil-liberties standpoint, there is a great danger in targeting political thought. Islam is an “invasive morbidity” which needs to be treated differently from other religions. It is first and foremost a political ideology, and should be treated as such, just as Communism was.
Only actions, not beliefs, should be punished by law. Ideas and beliefs can be targeted when they become subversive, when they threaten the rule of law and the integrity of our existing political structures.
Stoning people and burning churches are already illegal; we don't need any special treatment for these crimes. This kind of thing is just as bad as the “hate crime” laws, criminalizing motives instead of acts. A quote from the original Cato: A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.
The admonition against the “enemy within” can very easily be misused in the service of tyranny. 

Stripped of rancor and name-calling, each of these arguments has merit. Together they represent a long-standing tension between two factions on the right, between liberty on the one hand, and the necessity of public order and the rule of law on the other.

When does political speech cease being protected by the First Amendment? We have the exceptions commonly designated as “fighting words” and “shouting fire in a crowded theater”. Are there any others?

Let’s consider the definition of the word “sedition”:

1. Conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state.
2. Insurrection; rebellion.

And from the Legal Encyclopedia:

A revolt or an incitement to revolt against established authority, usually in the form of treason or defamation against government.

Sedition is the crime of revolting or inciting revolt against government. However, because of the broad protection of free speech under the First Amendment, prosecutions for sedition are rare. Nevertheless, sedition remains a crime in the United States under 18 U.S.C.A. § 2384 (1948), a federal statute that punishes seditious conspiracy, and 18 U.S.C.A. § 2385 (1948), which outlaws advocating the overthrow of the federal government by force. Generally, a person may be punished for sedition only when he or she makes statements that create a clear and present danger to rights that the government may lawfully protect (Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47, 39 S. Ct. 247, 63 L. Ed. 470 [1919]).

The crime of seditious conspiracy is committed when two or more persons in any state or U.S. territory conspire to levy war against the U.S. government. A person commits the crime of advocating the violent overthrow of the federal government when she willfully advocates or teaches the overthrow of the government by force, publishes material that advocates the overthrow of the government by force, or organizes persons to overthrow the government by force. A person found guilty of seditious conspiracy or advocating the overthrow of the government may be fined and sentenced to up to twenty years in prison. States also maintain laws that punish similar advocacy and conspiracy against the state government.

Concerning Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing:

The defendants committed no overt acts of war, but all were found to have taken substantial steps toward carrying out a plot to levy war against the United States. The government did not have sufficient evidence that Rahman participated in the actual plotting against the government or any other activities to prepare for terrorism. He was instead prosecuted for providing religious encouragement to his coconspirators. Rahman argued that he only performed the function of a cleric and advised followers about the rules of Islam. He and the others were convicted, and on January 17, 1996, Rahman was sentenced to life imprisonment by Judge Michael Mukasey.

I’m not sure if Cato considers the sedition conviction of Sheik Rahman to be unjust. But it’s obvious that the law does occasionally apply to people who have done nothing more than conspire and incite.

I think all of the people involved in this argument could agree on the basic outlines of these principles — that our laws and Constitution make it possible on occasion to prosecute people for their seditious speech, but that such occurrences are (and should be) very rare, and severely limited.

After we agree on that, we’re just arguing about where the line should be drawn. It’s a legitimate question: do the incitements of the Islamists even now in our midst rise to the level of sedition? If not, where is that level?

Let’s try to make the discussion civil and temperate this time. There’s nothing our enemies would like better than to sneak up behind us with a garrote while we’re screaming at each other.


ShrinkWrapped said...

I think the current dynamic will at some not very distant time render the distinction between Cato & Frredom Fighter essentially moot. I am beginning to find inescapable the conclusion that Islam, as it is presented to the West from the extremists on one side and by our complicit MSM on the other, is incompatible with modern civilization. While I agree with Cato that we should never punish political speech, when push comes to shove, such fine distinctions tend to be lost. We are one 9/11 away from the whole discussion being mooted. (Sounds like a blog post is brewing.)

Wally Ballou said...

I know, I know, extraordinary circumstances force us to put aside our niggling consitutional niceties in favor of self-preservation. I hear that on every side. One more 9/11 will push us past "fine distinctions" = well, President Bush has managed to prevent another 9/11 (or even 9/11 lite) so far without abandoning our civil liberties (although Hollywood civil liberty "heroes" may disagree).

I'm not in a hurry to trash anything in the Constitution or the tradition of freedom of conscience and speech. The argument from necessity is every tyrant's farorite club.

And - actually specifically urging violence is in fact an act of commission. You didn't hear me calling for the repeal of any existing laws, did you? (even though I may disagree with some) I just maintain we don't need new ones - especially based on flawed premises.

When somebody says urgent action is required - our survival requires "reclassifications" and special legal categories based on religious beliefs - my back goes up like a Spinosaurus.

I think we can survive tolerating people hating us. I don't think we make ourselves any safer by overreaction based on fear or the desire to "do something". Obviously we need to be alert to the real dangers. Cultural war against all muslims in our midst is ineffective, impractical, unAmerican and wrong. But that's just my opinion. Feel free to disagree.

damn - and I just swore off commenting this morning.

Curse you, non-red Baron.

Pastorius said...

Answer me this; considering Sharia is the Islamic constitution, then, doesn't that mean that it is clearly sedition for a person to advocate the imposition of its system. It is the same as advocating for the overthrow of the U.S. Constitution.

It would be impossible to have both Sharia and our Constitution, so advocating for one is advocating for the elimination of the other.

What do you think?

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Baron, shrinkwrapped, Bioqubit, Pastorius and Cato.

I love discussions like this..and Cato, again, my apologies if you felt like I got a bit dogmatic with you.

I would say that I more or less agree with shrinkwrapped:the current dynamic will at some not very distant time render the distinction between Cato & my positions moot.
And sooner rather than later.

Sharia, on the face of it is simply not compatible with Western freedom as we know it..and some commentators have even postulated that it is impossible for someone to be a devout Muslim and a loyal American, Australian, or a citizen of any country not governed by sharia.

I wouldn't go quite that far, but I think that for a number of Muslims it is simply the truth. And unfortunately, that attitude is coupled with divinely sanctioned racism and cultural imperialism.

BTW, bioqubit..Islam has been defined before as a political system hiding inside a religion. That is not the most inaccurate description of it, if you look at its history.

If you go to Joshuapundit, you will see that I link to a number of sites like Irshad Manji's..Muslims who are desperately attempting, at least in America to find a middle ground.

Their reward has largely been fatwas and death threats.

So it's been a losing battle so far, partly because of the atttudes of some Muslims and partly because the Bush Administration and its predecessor has allowed the Saudis to export hardline Wahabi Islam wholesale and virtually take over the mosques and madrassahs in America. (Go to my site and search under Saudis for further info)

And, since 9/11, the Bush administration, abetted by the MSM has refused to be honest with Americans about Islam, or call on loyal American Muslims to take sides in this war.

The president seems to have no time for any American Muslims but CAIR.

Oddly enough Cato, this saddens me, and the last thing I personally want is an atmosphere where the baby, figuratively, is thrown out with the bathwater.

But there it is. And in wartime, certain sensibilities fall by the wayside in the name of survival of the group.

Thanks, Baron, for promoting a fascinating thread.

Happy Weekend.

ShrinkWrapped said...

Just for the sake of clarity: I'm on your side. I am not suggesting it is wise or advisable to damage civil liberties under the pressure of protecting our country in the wake of another 9/11; I just think it would be inevitable (which is not the same as an "argument from necessity.")
Since I also think the next attack is inevitable, we need to think about how to mitigate the damage to our civil liberties.

Baron Bodissey said...

Pastorius --

Answer me this; considering Sharia is the Islamic constitution, then, doesn't that mean that it is clearly sedition for a person to advocate the imposition of its system. It is the same as advocating for the overthrow of the U.S. Constitution.

I don't think that simply advocating the overthrow of the US government counts as sedition. Many Communists did that for decades in this country without being prosecuted. They were under surveillance (natch!), but they were not charged with sedition.

Sedition would require some kind of incitement, I think. I'll make up examples.

Non-sedition: "I think the current system in the United States should be replaced with Islamic law under Sharia."

Sedition: "My fellow Muslims, take up arms, cut the throats of the infidels, and do not rest until you have overthrown the wicked US government and instituted the pure law of Sharia!"

But I'm no expert on federal sedition laws. Maybe Cato can set me straight if I'm wrong.

Pastorius said...

Thanks for bringing me back to reality. Ok, yes, just advocating for Sharia is not sedition. But, what if a person has tremendous political power within a community that comprises (as in, say, France) more than 10% of the population, and that person openly advocates for Sharia? At what point does the populace say, enough is enough?

I am in complete agreement with Shrinkwrapped, by the way. One more large event, and things are going to change drastically.

I find this very sad. I see my blogs as as attempt, made in a period of time spanning the last two years of my life, to raise awareness of the danger of radical Islam. I have been thinking the whole time that, if we do not start taking this war seriously, eventually something will happen which will cause us to veer into a kind of fascist society.

Lord, I don't want to see that happen, but I am afraid we have proven ourselves almost unrousable.

Nils said...

To which I must add my queskin:

The difference between Islamist & Muslim is . . . ?

True-to-the-Qur'an Islam demands the adoption of Shariah law as law-of-the-land. That puts Islam on the same brain pebble as "fundamentalist" Christianity demanding ID have equal rep as evolution. (As in: which part of the scientific method are you willing to toss so it concurs with ID &c?) And yet demanding that Shariah replace the Constitution is not sedition?

But then, such are the joys of the clash between superstition and the inability to believe.


al fin said...

Islamofascists are not the greatest threat to western civilisation. The greatest threat to west-civ is the perception by the isl-fascs that the west is weak--the west will not fight.

As long as the isl-fascs believe the west will give up without a meaningful fight, the west is doomed to a long dirty war. It would be easy for the west to dispel that foolish idea. But it probably will not until it is too late to avoid the monstrous bloodletting. Why? How stupid is that?

To avoid bloodshed out of "humanity", thus condemning humanity to a vastly greater bloodshed later. When "humanity" is viewed as "weakness" by a primitive enemy such as the isl-fascs, it is time to change the strategy.

You start by telling your citizens the truth about what is facing them. Tell your kids, tell your teenagers, tell all your citizens. Tell them what you might have to do eventually, if the primitives refuse to listen to reason.

And take surrender out of the vocabulary, in all of its weasel formulations.

Wally Ballou said...

al fin has got that right - Islamofascists are not the greatest danger. I would put it that the greatest danger to western civilzation is self-doubt, self-loathing, a lack of common belief and values, and the noxious practice of "xenophilia", where anything "non-western" is presumed to be superior (Islam is just the latest in a long line of examples). I don't have an answer to that - it goes very deep and didn't start yesterday. It probably started in force after WWI, and has never really abated except perhaps briefly during WWII.

A perceived existential threat like that may conceivably supply a little moral focus again (What a hope!), but the current conflict seems to many to be a "phony war".

I certainly agree with shrinkwrapped's clarified point that another attack may enevitably erode our civil iberties - a really bad attack (like a dirty bomb) would probably make life very tough for everyone. The Constitution might go right in the trash, as it did when Lincoln usurped all civil liberties during the War Between the States. I think we have shown admirable restraint so far (although we shouldn't expect credit).

I don't go for all this "Bush should tell the truth about Islam" stuff. I think Bush is doing exactly the right thing by giving Islam as a whole the benefit of the doubt and bashing the Islamofascists (give him some credit for using the term, will you?). For thse of you who believe that Islam is fundamentally evil, irredeemable and violent and its practice should be severely restricted our outlawed; well, all I can say is I hope we never have a president who thinks like that.

Freedom fighter - I started the low blows - not to worry. Don't mean a thing, I just get overheated.

As long as we are swapping quotes, here's one of my favorites in its seldom-seen correct form:

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"

- attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Baron Bodissey said...

Cato -- I would agree that our President needs to be judicious and generous, even strategically dishonest, in what he says about Islam. It's part of the job description.

And he has to make nicey-nice with some questionable people, for the same reason.

But the rhetorical excesses that this administration engages in on the topic are hard to swallow sometimes. To wit, Condi referring to Islam as the "Religion of Peace and Love." If she really believes that, well, fine. But does she have to lard it on so heavy? Karen Hughes has been obsequious to the point of self-mockery with the Saudis.

And then there's Bush holding hands with Abdullah for the camera. It is it in his job description that he has to do that? Will the "alliance" crumble if he doesn't?

Maybe there are reasons of statecraft that such things have to be done. But laying on the saccharine so thick and so heavy for such an odious regime really sticks in my craw.

Always On Watch said...

Excellent thread here!

I don't have much to add, except to agree with Pastorius (and others) that shari'a is incompatible with Western ideals. Yet we allow for openness in promoting it verbally.

Did we do the same with Communism? To a certain extent, yes. But to the extent of tax-exempt status? Not out in the open, though there was money-laundering with Communist organizations as well.

Who's keeping an eye on what's going on inside U.S. mosques, particularly the Saudi-Wahhabist ones? Those types of mosques proliferated here in the 1990's. And I'm sure that most now recognize that mosques harbor jihadists and that some Islamic violence occurs immediately following Friday prayer-services.

Now, if we define shari'a as "treason," then promoting it would be against the law.

Disagreement with our government is not treason, but advocating its overthrow/replacement might well be. I think that it's time to pull the religious disguise from Islam and expose its seemingly inextricable ties to geopolity. A few Muslims are trying to do just that. The fatwas have been given to those who attempt to moderate and/or secularize.

Always On Watch said...

But the rhetorical excesses that this administration engages in on the topic are hard to swallow sometimes.

I have nearly gagged when I've heard some of Condi's remarks. "The Holy Koran" is not holy to me!

Furthermore, this ROP nonsense leads to such as this, perhaps courtesy of Grover Norquist, at best an Islamist sympathizer.

Wally Ballou said...

Americans (especially the "blood for oil" crowd) have made a lot out of Bush holding hands with the Saudis. It may have been impolitic of him for domestic consumption; but he comes from a tradition of good manners, which includes "when in Rome...". The Saudi custom of holding hands does not mean anything more than polite engagement over there. It's one of the things a protocol-minded president, high official, ambassador or even businessman endures, like being slobbered on by Russians and Frenchmen. Not to do so would have been pointlessly rude.

Wally Ballou said...

Whoah - Woodrow Wilson is a model? Wilson is seen as "not too tyrannical" beacause most people have simply forgotten or never learned what a civil liberties nightmare his administration was. If throwing a political opponent (however minor) in prison for his political beliefs isn't a sign of civic pathology, what is?

Scott is an exceptional case, in that he both knows and approves - even though he himself admits that Wilson's overreaching was probably unnecessary.

Jason Pappas said...

“For those of you who believe that Islam is fundamentally evil, irredeemable and violent and its practice should be severely restricted our outlawed; well, all I can say is: I hope we never have a president who thinks like that.” -Cato

I believe that’s true as it was true of communism. Isn’t the practice of a violent seditious ideology (by practice I mean trying to overthrow the government) against the law?

However, as others have said, preaching the ideas of Islam (or communism) isn’t and shouldn’t be against the law. I’d argue we need to protect such speech and respond to these odious ideas by refuting and condemning these vile notions. These ideas should see the light of day so we can learn, discuss, and judge.

In Europe there are laws against “hate” speech and vilification of a religion as I discuss here and here. As a consequence Islam can’t be adequately refuted. We have cultural taboos but we do not yet have laws against speech (and hopefully never will.) The idea that there is a danger of Islam being outlawed (or legally restricted as hate speech) is completely at odds with what is happening in the world today. It is criticism of Islam that is being outlawed. Limitations of free speech are being instituted in Islam’s favor (see the links above.) So I don’t understand Cato’s concern since the opposite danger is a far more likely scenario.

Islam is inherently a political ideology, in my opinion, and I believe we should treat it as such which means it is protected as political speech instead of religious freedom. Communism is often said to be a secular religion. As far as I’m concerned being a religion, whether in view of being dogmatic or being a faith or believing in the supernatural, is merely another philosophy that can be subject to critical analysis. Islam wants to be exempt from critical analysis and many insist that we comply. We must resist that and insist that the truth requires critical thought and outspoken condemnation of what is inherently a threat to our values and tradition.

In sum, I argue that is important that we protect free speech and extremely important that we use it. Silence is moral cowardliness.

Always On Watch said...

Islam wants to be exempt from critical analysis.

That's a very large part, if not the largest part, of the problem we are facing. Suppressing open discussion, including satire, of any faith or ideology allows that faith or ideology to gain power. The old saw: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Mitch said...

At the very least, considering the conflation of politics and religion in Islam today, we should immediately stop granting R1 visas to imams. If we are ever going to have a moderate Islam in the US, we will probably have to help build it. The Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood have already taken over al-Azhar in Cairo, which had once been their most distinguished university. We have to keep Wahhabi/Salafist/Deobandi clerics and Saudi money out, or we are just nurturing our enemies.

Epaminondas said...

Neither is rightm both are right. It is in the tension of the 2 views that the right answer emerges.

I want to reccomend This Book on this exact subject

If we look at american history we have been gifted by those willing to do what it takes in wartime, and those willing to tone in back in the ensuing peacetime.

We needed Lincoln, to arrest Vallandighm, ignore SCOTUS, and seize an unprecedented amount of property in order to set it(them) free. And we needed Ex parte Millikan as well.

We neeed the Sedition acts of 1917-18 (some which stands today) and we needed Frankfurter and Learned hand, and Holmes who ruled one way in wartime and another in the ensuing peace.

Just as we need more agressive measures today, and thannk god we have the men and women to carry them out. Which is why FISA would be found unconstitutional, if SCOTUS reviews it this year.

Epaminondas said...

And you could save yourself by not declaring (a la Thomas More) FOR sharia as an american muslim, and avoid the issue.

Those who advocate sharia, advocate the overthrow of the constitution.
PERIOD. They are mutually exclusive.

What about 9:20 as incitement?
The Stone and the Tree?

I have advocated for years that some things I believe taught ONLY in salafi Islam are in fact, illegal under our laws, and if the KKK tought the same, we wouldn't think twice.

unaha-closp said...

Cato is correct the current laws are sufficient. Bringing in laws that prosecute for religious belief will be problematic, likely catching those who advocate purely christain or jewish belief. Anyhow the problem does not lie in the followers of a religion, but rather in its leaders.

The problem with Islam is that it is undergoing a reformation under instruction from/led by the Saudi wahabists. The problem is that Saudi millions are subverting Sunni Islam to wahabism. The problem is Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is actively recruiting muslims to wahabist thinking that requires sharia law. Saudi Arabia is a state that is inherently hostile to the democracy, freedom and liberty. Saudi millions go a long way to funding Al Qaeda.

Current law and precedent for the use of military force suggest that regimes that preach hatred against the USA and fund terrorism and suppress human rights are hostile to the USA. Current law allows for the addition of the Saudis to the "axis of evil". They are not added, because they are allowed to act above the law. This problem exists only because there is no political will to enforce current law.