When can military leaders criticize constitutionally protected speech?cialis 20mg>
Last week General David Petraeus made news for speaking out against a Florida church’s plan to burn copies of the Koran. While many commended General Petraeus for his comments, a few others felt his tone was inappropriate. Over at the Democracy Arsenal, Michael Cohen worries that Petraeus may be discouraging other forms of free expression that are vital to the democratic process.
Now I would imagine that Petraeus is correct, but there is something deeply disquieting about having a four-star general characterize an expression of constitutionally protected free speech as a danger to American troops and US national security operations.
I sort of hate slippery slope arguments, but it seems to me that this is the very definition of a dangerous slippery slope.
For example, would people be comfortable if Petraeus characterized an anti-war march as a threat to the US mission in Afghanistan? Or what if Petraeus condemned a Congressional vote to cut funding for a weapons program as a threat to US soldiers in the field? Such behavior would almost certainly overstep not just the letter of civil-military relations, but certainly the spirit.
Why banning realistic depictions of war in games is wrong
The BBC reported on Monday that British Defense Secretary Liam Fox has continued to defend comments he made calling for a retail ban of the newest Medal of Honor game. The publishers of the game, Electronic Arts, have defended it and accused Fox of portraying its content unfaithfully.
Fox denounced the game on Sunday, saying it was “shocking that someone would think it acceptable to recreate the acts of the Taliban against British soldiers.” Fox also made an appeal to patriotism, arguing that this new installment of the franchise is a “thoroughly un-British game.”
His comments can be seen in the context of a larger crusade against objectionable content in videogames that has involved some of the best-selling games of all time, including the Grand Theft Auto series and the newest installment of the Call of Duty series.
Arguments against these games usually claim that their content is immoral, obscene, or in some other way objectionable. Additionally, this claim is often accompanied by the idea that the interactive aspect of a game has a special persuasive power. Read more
Laura Schlessinger recently found herself embroiled in controversy after using racial epithets several times on her talk radio show. This incident has led Dr. Schlessinger to abandon her program, proclaiming “”I want my First Amendment rights back, which I can't have on radio without the threat of attack on my advertisers and stations.”
Over at NPR, Linda Holmes quick cash advance
e-always-had” target=”_blank”>argues that being economically pressured for her speech is not a violation of her First Amendment rights. As Holmes draws the distinction, the Constitution guarantees that speech will be “free from government interference,” not “free from consequences.”
The article brings up not only questions of free speech, but also questions about the respect owed to other ideals cherished in a liberal democracy.
Photo by Flickr user Ian Hayhurst used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
Mainstream media lets us down. Again.
Last night's Daily Show had its usual fun with the political controversy engulfing plans to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero. We're going wall-to-wall on this topic here at TPP this week, both because it's an important debate and because it touches so many basic moral and philosophical questions.
Of many pokes at the mainstream media during this clip, one worth noting in particular is Stewart's scathing attack on news outlets that seem more concerned with the political fallout of what politicians say about the cultural center than whether building the thing is right or wrong. A New York Times headline from today underscores this media focus: “G.O.P. Seizes on Mosque Issue Ahead of Elections.”
Are there any issues where it is simply wrong to play politics? Read more
Net neutrality and competing claims of free speech
According to The Hill, a coalition of thirty-five tea party groups has sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, asking the agency not to impose net neutrality rules on the Internet. Roughly speaking, net neutrality prevents Internet service providers from favoring some content over others by speeding up or slowing down traffic to certain sites, or charging users a fee to access web content.
Tea Party opposition to net neutrality stems from a fear of growth in government power. According to the article, they think this power infringes upon free speech:
The free-speech argument holds that, by interfering with how phone and cable companies deliver Internet traffic, the government would be thwarting the free-speech rights of providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.
What is most striking about this debate is that the pro-net neutrality side also claims to be protecting free speech. Senator Al Franken, for example, says:
Well, our free speech rights are under assault — not from the government but from corporations seeking to control the flow of information in America. […]“Net neutrality” sounds arcane, but it's fundamental to free speech. The Internet today is an open marketplace. If you have a product, you can sell it. If you have an opinion, you can blog about it. If you have an idea, you can share it with the world.
I’m going to have to side with Senator Franken and company here. I think the type of speech the Tea Partiers claim to be protecting is less worthy of protection than the type Franken is trying to protect. Read more
Last Friday, President Obama weighed in publicly on the mosque at ground zero. In doing so, he has joined Mayor Bloomberg as one of few major political figures who have openly voiced support for the project on the basis of freedom of religion.
However, polls indicate that Americans as well as New Yorkers overwhelmingly oppose the mosque’s construction to the tune of 68 percent. The poll reaffirms a truism that the writers of the Bill of Rights were grimly aware of: freedom often runs afoul of democracy. As one opponent of the mosque argues: ‘…[Obama]'s lost sight of the germane issue, which is not about freedom of religion,” she said. “It's about a gross lack of sensitivity to the 9/11 families and to the people who were los
Except the germane issue is exactly the balance between sensitivity and principle, and whether, as Jonathan asked yesterday, something can be “legally harmless but unpleasant enough for us to rightly or morally require legal intervention at the cost of others’ legal rights?” Namely, do people have a right not to be offended? Do they also have a right for their faith, beliefs, or values not to be challenged?
Greg Gutfeld of Fox News clearly believes not. In one of the most creative responses to the Ground Zero Mosque controversy, Gutfeld argues for both supporting the mosque's construction and opening a gay bar next door. Now that might take equal opportunity offending to an extreme. But in a society in which we value both the principles of religious freedom and the “marketplace of ideas,” should we want it any other way?
Image from Flickr user Johnnie Utah used under a Creative Commons Attribution license
Morality vs. legality?
The debate over the Muslim mosque and community center near Ground Zero has resulted in a number of different, passionate reactions. Once the media took up the subject, politicians and leaders from all over the US weighed in rather quickly.
On Friday, even President Obama shared his view in favor of the mosque, stating “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.”
Not surprisingly, critics of the mosque pounced. And their response was strong enough to push the President and his staff to “recalibrate” his comments from Friday evening more than once. Although his remarks were initially received as a deliberate endorsement of the mosque construction, President Obama apparently meant only to speak in favor of the project’s legality—not in favor of “the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque [near Ground Zero].”
Regardless of how you interpret the President’s statements this weekend, his clarification here suggests a crucial distinction underlying this Ground Zero mosque debate: even in a society that emphasizes personal liberty and freedom of religion, there may be a difference between what is legally permissible and what is morally permissible. Read more
A church in Gainesville, Florida, plans to host an “International Burn the Quran Day” on the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Their reasons for the book burning are pretty straightforward:
We believe that Islam is of the devil, that it's causing billions of people to go to hell, it is a deceptive religion, it is a violent religion and that is proven many, many times,” Pastor Terry Jones told CNN's Rick Sanchez earlier this week […]“Eternal fire is the only destination the Quran can lead people to, so we want to put the Quran in it's [sic] place — the fire!
I suspect most Americans would immediately find such sentiments revolting because of the value of freedom of religion promised by the Constitution. Yet, this is not so much a question of freedom of religion as much as a question of respect for other religions – and this respect is of course not guaranteed by law.
Still, I can think of t
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