Does free speech include the right to mouth off like Terry Jones

Stve Hynd, a Polizeros Radio blogging partner, says Terry Jones’ inflammatory burning of Korans perhaps should not be protected by freedom of speech.

Some thoughts.

1) Jones’ church has about 50 members. For the mainstream media to give him such slavish and devoted coverage is twisted and deranged, and more evidence, if any be needed than the MSM cares only about ratings (which in turn generates advertising revenue.) In my opinion, they share equal blame with Pastor Jones for the retaliatory deaths.

2) Those who murdered innocents to protest something they had no involvement with are terrorists pure and simple as they killed non-combatant to make a political point. Jones’ laid a trap. They walked into it. Both sides here are despicable.

3) In Germany, you do not have freedom of speech about Nazism. Those praising it can be arrested and imprisoned. Germany has no sense of humor about Nazism, which is as it should be.

Freedom of speech also implies responsibility, something neither Terry Jones or our mainstream media has.

Terry Jones would be languishing in obscurity if our mainstream media hadn’t chosen to focus on him and make known worldwide. This was made worse by too many politicians here either saying nothing about Jones or cheering him on for their own political gain.

“I shouted out
who killed the Kennedy’s
when after all
it was you and me.”


  • To me there is no question here. The freedom of speech presupposes and implies the freedom to engage in even the most odious speech. Indeed, the right to free speech really only matters, and comes explicitly into play, in such extreme cases. If speech is not protected in such cases, then we simply do not have free speech.

    You bring up the example of Germany. The German constitution guarantees the freedom of speech, but it also explicitly states, in the very next sentence, that all rights guaranteed by the constitution are subject to limitation by the laws of the legislature, as well for the protection of children and the dignity of the individual. (German Basic Law, Article 5.) The US constitution, otoh, explicitly states that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech”

    I might even go so far as to argue that raising the very question of whether Jones’ speech is protected speech approaches something like raising the question of whether torture should be allowed. It is a troubling sign that it’s even up for discussion imo, and I would vehemently disagree with any proposal to limit free speech on the basis of Jones’ actions or those of his lunatic religious counterparts in Afghanistan.

    Now that the president, Senate leadership and military commanders have all denounced Jones, what’re they going to do after his next stunt? Is Obama going to label him an enemy combatant, put him on the presidential hit list, then have him kidnapped and summarily executed?

    I have a much more simple proposal to stop such violent outbreaks in Afghanistan, one that does not necessitate the further erosion of basic rights and liberties, and one that would save us a ton of money: END THE WAR.

    I find it extremely telling that so much of the discussion about Jones act in the MSM and in the blogosphere doesn’t even mention the fact that there is still an ongoing US-led war in and occupation of Afghanistan, and that this war might have something to do with the resentment of the local population. Are we on Fawlty Towers? DON’T MENTION THE WAR!

    • In Germany, you can not trade in or collect Nazi memorabilia or voice opinions in favor of Nazism. It is forbidden. This may seem overly harsh to most Americans but Germany knows too well where that kind of insanity leads.

      Then, there’s the question that’s always posed here, do you have the right to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater when there is no fire. I would tend towards saying no, as others may get hurt or killed in the stampede out the door.

      As for your final point, I completely agree. End the freaking wars!

      • The Nazi memorabilia/books/literature/salute etc. ban is perfectly in accord with the German constitution. Since Nazism is opposed to free, democratic government, it is not protected by the constitution. This is no doubt part of the legacy of German Nazism. Ironically, however, the Nazis were also great fans of banning speech which they saw as a threat to their form of government, as well as speech with which they did not agree.

        As for shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, it’s important, though obvious, to add that this is only generally prohibited if it is false and there is no fire in the theater, and it causes people in your immediate area to stampede or whatever, resulting in harm and injury. If you yelled “bomb” or “gun” in the airport when there were no such threat, you would also be held culpable. But you would not be prosecuted for your speech, per se, you would be prosecuted for the public disturbance that ensued from it.

        Under this standard, however, it is not Jones who should be held culpable for the arson and murder in Afghanistan but rather demagogues like Hamid Karzai and associated Afghan Islamic radicals who DIRECTLY AND EXPLICITLY fanned the flames of resentment on the issue, exaggerated the story of the koran burning, and actively called for protests, retaliation and even violence. Instead, however, everyone is pretending that this is all Jones’s fault, and has nothing to do with the political strategy of demagogues in the Afghan government, local warlords, the Taliban’s military tactics and propaganda, the ongoing war against the Taliban, and drone strikes that seem to kill civilians on a weekly basis.

        • Well, hate crimes and hate speech aren’t protected here. Neither is inciting to riot.

          The terrorist lunatics who Pastor Jones successfully baited almost proved his point, didn’t they?

          And our mainstream media should have just ignored him rather than pandering for readers by elevating a lunatic to the national level.

          • Hasn’t he basically already said that they proved his point? Maybe Jones’ act has been so influential because it proved to be so very convenient for all the people who have exploited it for their own ends on all sides.

            It’s true about the hate speech. I don’t agree with laws against hate speech or obscenity either, tho.

          • DJ

            Gandhi said there can be no freedom without responsibility. Every time the “shouting fire in a crowded theater” question arises, I tremble: whether or not I have the right, it should still be unthinkable.

            When what is legal equates to what is acceptable, we have traveled beyond the help of any moral or ethical compass and face the choice of either chaos or authoritarianism. If we have passed into a cultural twilight where the burning of Korans and the anti-gay picketing of military funerals is discussed on the basis of rights instead of responsibilities, then I fear our freedom is already dead.

  • Minor correction: it appears the German constitution doesn’t even protect the freedom of speech, rather it protects the freedom to express one’s opinion, and a later article (article 18) explicitly states that anyone who uses one of their basic rights to fight (i.e. Kampf) against free, democratic, constitutional government, forfeits those rights and is not protected by the constitution. This, I think, is the basis for banning things like Scientology and Holocaust denial in Germany.

  • I’m inclined to agree with both d.eris and DJ, who decides where the line of free speech should be drawn, the fundamentalists or the libertarians. Also all freedoms must come with resposibilities, perhaps actions should be measured by harm done, not the noise they make, where would that leave the state and its wars?

    • Exactly right. While Ben Franklin put it in lay-terms: “Your “rights” end at the tip of your nose”, US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall (1801-1835) was a bit more technical: *There are no “rights” without responsibility. It is the individual’s responsibility to ensure the exercise of the individuals’ “right” does not impinge upon the “rights” of another, as the individuals’ “rights” end when the exercise of the individuals’ “rights” impinge upon the “rights” of another* [paraphrased].

      451… I find the burning of books obscene, regardless the content. Sadly, as we are already there, this cretin’s act does not bring us one step closer to Fascism. Much as I despise the “bible” and all the harm it has wrought upon the world, I can’t bring myself to burn one. Terry Jones, on the other hand, should be burned at a stake.

      Don’t have to be a Peace Freak to be against War.

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