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Why Punishing Blasphemous Speech That Triggers Murderous Reactions Would Likely Lead to More Deaths
The Volokh Conspiracy ^ | September 15, 2012 1:02 pm | Eugene Volokh

Posted on 09/15/2012 7:13:20 PM PDT by the anti-liberal

In recent days, I’ve heard various people calling for punishing the maker of Innocence of Muslims, and more broadly for suppressing such speech. During the Terry Jones planned Koran-burning controversy, I heard similar calls. Such expression leads to the deaths of people, including Americans. It worsens our relations with important foreign countries. It’s intended to stir up trouble. And it’s hardly high art, or thoughtful political arguments. It’s not like it’s Satanic Verses, or even South Park or Life of Brian. Why not shut it down, and punish those who engage in it (of course, while keeping Satanic Verses and the like protected)?

I think there are many reasons to resist such calls, but in this post I want to focus on one: I think such suppression would likely lead to more riots and more deaths, not less. Here’s why.

Behavior that gets rewarded, gets repeated. (Relatedly, “once you have paid him the Dane-geld, you never get rid of the Dane.”) Say that the murders in Libya lead us to pass a law banning some kinds of speech that Muslims find offensive or blasphemous, or reinterpreting our First Amendment rules to make it possible to punish such speech under some existing law.

What then will extremist Muslims see? They killed several Americans (maybe itself a plus from their view). In exchange, they’ve gotten America to submit to their will. And on top of that, they’ve gotten back at blasphemers, and deter future blasphemy. A triple victory.

Would this (a) satisfy them that now America is trying to prevent blasphemy, so there’s no reason to kill over the next offensive incident, or (b) make them want more such victories? My money would be on (b).

And this is especially so since there’ll be plenty of other excuses for such killings in the future. It’s not like Muslim extremists have a clearly defined, unvarying, and limited range of speech they are willing to kill over (e.g., desecrating Korans and nothing but). Past history has already proved that; consider the bombings and murders triggered by the publication of the Satanic Verses.

What’s more, there are lots of people in the Muslim world who are happy to stoke hostility. (Neither the recent riots nor the Mohammed cartoon riots were simply spontaneous reactions to what was done in America or Europe; they came about after people in the Middle East took steps to encourage anger on the part of their fellow Middle Easterners.) Even if something doesn’t outrage lots of people at first, some will be happy to try to explain to them why they should indeed be outraged.

So imagine what would likely happen the next time someone writes a book like the Satanic Verses, or makes a movie — even a serious movie — depicting Mohammed, or perhaps reproduces the Mohammed cartoons in the course of making a movie about the cartoon controversy. Or imagine perhaps what might happen if extremist Muslims in the Middle East start trying to generate outrage over American Christians trying to convert some Muslims to Christianity, whether in America or using American Web sites to try to reach Middle Eastern countries.

I don’t have statistics on how many people would be willing to riot over such conversions, but 84% of Egyptian Muslims support enacting a law providing “the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion.” If even a tiny fraction of this 84% can be persuaded to riot over Americans’ trying to persuade Muslims to leave the Muslim religion, that could be plenty of people willing to murder. (See also this example of mob attacks on churches in Egypt “stoked in part by hard-line Islamic clerics warning that Christians were trying to convert Muslim women.”)

“Last time this happened, and our men killed four Americans, the Americans saw the light and decided to punish the blasphemers. They agreed that blasphemy must be suppressed — and yet they now shamelessly refuse to act on their promises!” (I doubt that the mob will have much of a sense of the nuances of American legal doctrine, so it’s a safe bet that they won’t know that the hypothetical new law doesn’t extend to “serious literature” or “genuine debate” or religious proselytizing; plus they might not view the Satanic Verses and the like as “serious literature” or “genuine debate.”) “Maybe the Americans forgotten what happened last time — but we haven’t. Let’s give them a taste of the same medicine that worked so well back then.”

Now the people I’m describing of course won’t include all Muslims, or most Muslims. But events over the past decades have shown that there are enough extremist Muslims (whatever their fraction of the Muslim population might be) who are willing to riot and murder in reaction to what they see as blasphemy. Obviously this is a large enough and dangerous enough subset of Muslims that some people are willing to try to forcibly suppress American speech in order to appease them. Will our accommodating these Muslim extremists diminish that impulse, or fuel it?

(I suppose some people might think that America’s good-faith efforts to try to suppress blasphemy would change some of the would-be rioters’ attitudes, as a gesture of goodwill towards their sensibilities. But the four murders were in Libya, a country that we had just helped save from a brutal tyrant, and were committed by Muslim extremists who were freer and more powerful as a result of our military help to the Libyan revolutionaries — if that didn’t build enough goodwill to save our people’s lives, then I don’t see how enacting a new speech restriction would.)

So what will we do after that next round of killings? Broaden the speech restriction, so that the Satanic Verses and proselytizing of Muslims and anything else that might provoke extremist Muslim murderers would be banned, too? Or hold the line, risking infuriating the extremists even more? People tend to be more angered by what they see is a broken promise of appeasement (even if they view the promise as much broader than its actual terms) than by a stubborn refusal to deal in the first place. And of course once the American government proves willing and able to suppress some blasphemy, it will be even easier to view the American government as responsible for refusing to suppress other blasphemy.

Moreover, this lesson — if you want to shut up the blasphemers, just kill enough Americans in response — will likely be learned not just by extremist Muslims but by others. Extremists of other religions might do the same with regard to American speech (or American behavior) that angers them. (Hindu religious riots and threats of violence seem to be limited right now to what the rioters and threateners see as provocations in India, but all it takes is for a few extremists to take the next step.) So would extremist nationalists of various nations who are angered by what American individuals or the American government is doing, or extremists of various transnational ideologies who are likewise anti-American.

To be sure, there is already some incentive for people in these groups to riot and kill to try to get their way (as well as some disincentive). But, again, will the example of our suppressing American speech to appease extremist Muslims be ignored by those other extremists? Or will it increase their incentives to adopt the tactics that worked so well for extremist Muslims? Remember the trifecta: kill Americans, visibly force America to change its ways, and on top of that suppress the blasphemy or other behavior that you dislike, win win win. That’s a hard temptation to resist.

That’s why it seems to me to actually be safer — not just better for First Amendment principles, but actually safer for Americans — to hold the line now, and make clear that American speech is protected even if foreigners choose to respond to it with murder. That would send the message, “murder won’t get you what you want.” Not a perfectly effective message to be sure, but a better one than “murder will get you what you want.”


TOPICS: Government; Politics; Religion
KEYWORDS: appeasement; freedomofspeech; innocenceofmuslims; muslimriots
I rarely post, but I think Eugene Volokh's comments on this issue can contribute meaningfully to this discussion.

If there are any excerpting requirements related to 'The Volokh Conspiracy' I apologize for not properly adhering to them.

1 posted on 09/15/2012 7:13:28 PM PDT by the anti-liberal
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To: the anti-liberal

And fwiw, I really don’t think the movie in question is the cause of all of this, that it’s been used as a pretext, and I’m ashamed that our administration and press haven’t come to this conclusion themselves.


2 posted on 09/15/2012 7:15:38 PM PDT by the anti-liberal
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To: the anti-liberal

Pretext right. But ask why?

If its the film, public blames filmmaker.

If its a planned attack we were warned about, it’s on Obama.

Film is political cover. Libs are looking for reasons to blame America first anyway.


3 posted on 09/15/2012 7:19:51 PM PDT by TigerClaws
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To: TigerClaws

The original intent, payback for the death of AQ’s number 2 (pun intended) doesn’t get the suppression of our freedom of speech that blaming the “American made movie” does. As Eugene suggests, it’s a three-fer.


4 posted on 09/15/2012 7:23:26 PM PDT by the anti-liberal
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To: the anti-liberal

WANTED: MOHAMMAD the INFIDEL

For murder, child rape, plunder, mayham, religious hate crimes

Considered dangerous: Shoot on sight

5 posted on 09/15/2012 7:25:41 PM PDT by Tennessee Nana
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To: the anti-liberal

It would lead to more deaths because Americans would get tired of seeing their friends and neighbors hauled away and they start shooting the folks who were doing the hauling. Just sayin’.


6 posted on 09/15/2012 7:25:58 PM PDT by Lurker (Violence is rarely the answer. But when it is it is the only answer.)
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To: TigerClaws

>> Film is political cover.

The violation of the 1st Amendment in this case is far worse than the strikes against the embassies.


7 posted on 09/15/2012 7:27:38 PM PDT by Gene Eric (Demoralization is a weapon of the enemy. Don't get it, don't spread it!)
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To: the anti-liberal

We should take their blasphemy-definitions and stuff them down their throat. With lard.


8 posted on 09/15/2012 7:28:48 PM PDT by Hardraade (http://junipersec.wordpress.com (I will fear no muslim))
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To: Lurker

This brings to mind the question: why has our government been purchasing such large quantities of ammunition? (Not to mention the large amounts of explosive material (the specific type escapes me, but it was posted here a month or so ago) also purchased by our government, supposedly for dog training, except the quality and quantity clearly belie that reason.)


9 posted on 09/15/2012 7:30:19 PM PDT by the anti-liberal
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To: Hardraade

We should, unfortunately; we’re not in charge. Very frustrating.


10 posted on 09/15/2012 7:31:54 PM PDT by the anti-liberal
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To: the anti-liberal

Of all the strange crimes that humanity has legislated out of nothing, blasphemy is the most amazing - with obscenity and indecent exposure fighting it out for second and third place. [Robert Heinlein, Notebooks of Lazarus Long]


11 posted on 09/15/2012 7:35:10 PM PDT by Joseph Harrolds
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To: Joseph Harrolds

And you’d think that with the Left’s professed dislike of the early Catholic church’s behavior (the Inquisition and all of that), that they would equally dislike Islam’s present behavior. Unfortunately, the irony appears to be lost on them.


12 posted on 09/15/2012 7:44:34 PM PDT by the anti-liberal
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To: the anti-liberal
...I really don’t think the movie in question is the cause of all of this, that it’s been used as a pretext, and I’m ashamed that our administration and press haven’t come to this conclusion themselves.

I'm sure some of President You Didn't Build That's handlers are smart enough to have figured that out; they're just afraid we, the people might be able to figure it out, too.

Nuke Medina. Give the terrorist states 24 hours to sign unconditional surrenders under clearly specified threat to nuke terrorist state capitals and Mecca. Shove representative government, full civil rights for all, and open economic markets down their throats as we did to Germany's and Japan's at the end of World War II.

13 posted on 09/15/2012 8:02:45 PM PDT by Standing Wolf
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To: the anti-liberal
The biggest single problem with Farleftwingtards is they have difficulty seeing more than a couple of steps into the future given a particular prior or ongoing activity.

That's because they are stupid.

All I Can add to the above analysis is that many Americans have a short fuse and times would get really tough for moslems in this country ~ really tough. I don't think the Islamofascists have any idea how tough that could be but tough.

Next, the glass parking lot option ~ although I don't recommend it, something close to that might happen should these guys keep this stuff up. It's long overdue for them to bowdown to the West and become Western in all respects ~ that includes religion.

14 posted on 09/15/2012 8:09:40 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: Standing Wolf

We’ll also need roving squads of robocops that will mow down the Islamic Rage rioters until there are none willing to riot.


15 posted on 09/15/2012 8:10:20 PM PDT by Alas Babylon!
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To: Standing Wolf

IOW, we need a big stick and the will and means to use it. Sarah Palin said it well.


16 posted on 09/15/2012 8:12:56 PM PDT by the anti-liberal
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To: muawiyah
There are some Islamic countries with nuclear weapons and there are many chemical weapons floating around. I wish there was a way to educate or change the way muslims think about their "religion" and about the radicals in their midst without unnecessarily raising the overall level of violence.

That being said, I have fantasized flattening Mecca more than once, in various, creative, and violent ways. They need to be put in their place, and they need to fear us.

17 posted on 09/15/2012 8:21:10 PM PDT by the anti-liberal
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To: the anti-liberal
And you’d think that with the Left’s professed dislike of the early Catholic church’s behavior (the Inquisition and all of that), that they would equally dislike Islam’s present behavior. Unfortunately, the irony appears to be lost on them.

No, they don't dislike the Inquisition because of its behavior, but because it was Christian. Similar behavior by Soviet atheists was lauded in the same quarters that denounce the Latin church for the Inquisition.

The sole perfectly consistent feature of the left is that they are Antichristian. (And, yes, capitalizing it and omitting the usual hyphen was quite deliberate.) Consider: they want to overthrow traditional Christian morality (advocating abortion, normalizing sodomy, showing contempt for property rights, . . .); they, incoherently, simultaneously support "gay rights" and the Islamization of Europe (and America) demanding respect for Sharia law, which imposed in all its inglory would execute homosexuals; their policies arrogate to the state the charitable functions of the church and the denigrate private charity, esp. Christian charity, as inferior to government progras, despite massive historical evidence to the contrary; in the specific case of the Obama administration, they will carve out an conscience exception for Muslim objections to insurance, but none for Christian objections to abortion or contraception.

Incidentally, I don't think the Inquisition was a feature of the early Latin church -- it was a good 470 years after the Latins broke off from us Orthodox (which I'll date to 1014 when the filioque was included in the coronation rite of the German Emperor Henry II and the Popes of Rome were dropped form the Diptychs of Constantinople) that they started the Inquisition, almost mid-way from then until now. The most bitter irony, though is that the Latins got the idea the heresy should be a capital crime from the Muslims of "tolerant" Andalusia (no, not really, but from the Almohads who destroyed the brief local period of Islamic tolerance that forms the basis for the mythology of "tolerant" Islam by going back to taking Islam seriously).

18 posted on 09/15/2012 8:41:16 PM PDT by The_Reader_David (And when they behead your own people in the wars which are to come, then you will know...)
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To: The_Reader_David
Thanks for the clarification, I appreciate it.

I have heard some on Left cite the Inquisition as their justification for their dislike of the religious right and of Christianity (but this was decades ago, before islam entered the West's radar).

I think that media, educational institutions, social pressures, and the like have shaped people's thinking in a way that wouldn't have otherwise happened.

I wish there was a genuinely effective way to counter this ongoing process; a way to make people aware of objective reality and to think objectively for themselves.

19 posted on 09/15/2012 8:53:48 PM PDT by the anti-liberal
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To: TigerClaws
Film is political cover. Libs are looking for reasons to blame America first anyway.

Film is necessary part of the Libs' real agenda - blame "abuse" of Free Speech for violence and say it often enough that there is little resistance by the Sheeple when they decide to step on Free Speech for the "common good".

20 posted on 09/16/2012 4:23:04 AM PDT by trebb ("If a man will not work, he should not eat" From 2 Thes 3)
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To: The_Reader_David
Internally the period of tolerance lasted a bit longer than you've suggested but that was due mostly to the hammer and tong strategy set up by King San Cho Noe I working so well ~ Castile (Castle) and Leon (Lion) working in tandem to advance into a Moslem principality, conquer it, convert everybody, then recover economically, which period would coincide with Castile beginning its advance into a different area.

The third kingdom, Carvajal (symbolized by a bull), was dropped from the scheme within the first 50 years or so.

The extended toleration arose out of the Christian practice of NOT forcing conversions ~ which gave the noble ranks the opportunity to move somewhere else. The peasantry were simply shuttled back and forth ~ their concerns were not of importance to either side.

That war went on for centuries ~ finally, the last Islamic kingdom was overcome and the Spanish Christians dropped the 'No forced conversions' nonsense!

This policy has an echo in the Treaty of London 1604

As you recall the Turks took over the last piece of a functioning Eastern Empire about 1420 and during the remainder of the century worked on the residual portions we call "The Balkans" ~ there they encountered a totally different sort of problem ~ the Orthodox prince with Western friends, and by the 1500s that included Protestant Western friends.

For a variety of reasons the king of Spain, Filippe I formed the Catholic League of Christian Mediterranean powers, built a vast armada, sailed East (This time instead of West to England where he'd once been king) and utterly destroyed the Ottoman navy and commercial fleets!

That fixed that problem ~ he proceeded then to resolve the Balkans questions before he passed on. Even Captain John Smith who was Virginia's first governor had been a POW in the fight against the Turks.

Throughout that whole period the Christians pushed the toleration question ~ the Moslems conformed only as they saw a benefit. If they saw no benefit the Spanish, and then the Catholic League, and the Western powers would simply have to resort to killing them all.

We are back to that dilemma again.

21 posted on 09/16/2012 7:18:42 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: muawiyah

Not really — at least not in the Muslim held parts of the Iberian peninsula — the Almohads returned to a strict, harsh treatment of dhimmis and attempts at forced conversions, such that many Jews and Christians emigrated to either non-Almohad Muslim lands, or the Roman Empire (by your leave, 476 was a non-event, the Empire finally fell in 1453 after dwindling to a city-state).

You are right, of course, that there were other, later periods and places where the Muslims got pragmatic and adopted tolerant, even cosmopolitan, attitudes, but these invariably alternated with periods where some revival of Muslim religious fervor would trigger active persecution. I was only addressing the basis in fact for the myth of Andalusia as a “golden age”.


22 posted on 09/16/2012 7:40:20 AM PDT by The_Reader_David (And when they behead your own people in the wars which are to come, then you will know...)
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To: The_Reader_David
My point is simply that any 'golden age', and there were several, had a primarily Christian impetus, and that Moslems only went along with it when overpowered, outnumbered, and, of course, free of even larger Islamofascist invading armies.

There was, of course, the intermarriage problem ~ Spain was remarkably successful and from the first (of the post Roman Empire) governments to the last, they had the big bucks.

Some folks like to credit that fact to the Jewish mercantile and industrial class ~ others believe a constant infusion of new capital from the more primitive parts of Europe (Britain, Frankish kingdoms, Scandinavia, Mediterranean, and the Middle East) definitely helped.

For quite a long while ~ centuries ~ Spain was, at least, a place of refuge for the rich, the educated and the talented.

With the discovery of America everything changed of course. BTW, that hurt the Breton and Cornish nobles the most ~ Spain was no longer a place they could advance in ~ they began rotating up to Scandinavia by the mid-1500s, and to the Americas.

23 posted on 09/16/2012 7:51:48 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: the anti-liberal

Count on technology to deal with the more primitive nukes ~ remote detonations should soon become possible


24 posted on 09/16/2012 7:56:28 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: muawiyah

This little ditty has been around FR for some time; I can’t remember who to attribute it to. I suppose someone could find that with some judicious searches.

Anyway:

We’re going to find
Sooner or later
Whether Abdul will pray
To a smoking crater


25 posted on 09/16/2012 8:10:40 AM PDT by FreedomPoster (Islam delenda est)
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