LA Times op/ed writer argues “Innocence of Muslims” does not pass “free-speech test”

Posted by: ST on September 18, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I rarely find myself at a loss for words, but this column pretty much gets me there. Excerpts:

While many 1st Amendment scholars defend the right of the filmmakers to produce this film, arguing that the ensuing violence was not sufficiently imminent, I spoke to several experts who said the trailer may well fall outside constitutional guarantees of free speech. “Based on my understanding of the events,” 1st Amendment authority Anthony Lewis said in an interview Thursday, “I think this meets the imminence standard.”

Finally, much 1st Amendment jurisprudence concerns speech explicitly advocating violence, such as calls to resist arrest, or videos explaining bomb-making techniques. But words don’t have to urge people to commit violence in order to be subject to limits, says Lewis. “If the result is violence, and that violence was intended, then it meets the standard.”

Indeed, Justice Holmes’ original example, shouting “fire” in a theater, is not a call to arms. Steve Klein, an outspoken anti-Islamic activist who said he helped with the film, told Al Jazeera television that it was “supposed to be provocative.” The egregiousness of its smears, the apparent deception of cast and crew as to its contents and the deliberate effort to raise its profile in the Arab world a week before 9/11 all suggest intentionality.

The point here is not to excuse the terrible acts perpetrated by committed extremists and others around the world in reaction to the video, or to condone physical violence as a response to words — any kind of words. The point is to emphasize that U.S. law makes a distinction between speech that is simply offensive and speech that is deliberately tailored to put lives and property at immediate risk. Especially in the heightened volatility of today’s Middle East, such provocation is certainly irresponsible — and reveals an ironic alliance of convenience between Christian extremists and the Islamist extremists they claim to hate.

Sarah Chayes, former special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is a resident associate at the Carnegie Endowment and a contributing writer to Opinion.

Professor William Jacobson:

Empowering the people who start fires to determine what we can and cannot say is how freedom of speech dies in this country.

We already are pretty far down that path.

Should we burn the Constitution now, or …?

Update – 7:30 PM: AllahPundit pwns Chayes. Read it all.

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6 Responses to “LA Times op/ed writer argues “Innocence of Muslims” does not pass “free-speech test””


  1. Great White Rat says:

    speech that is simply offensive and speech that is deliberately tailored to put lives and property at immediate risk.

    In other words, whether the First Amendment applies depends on whether some third party is insane enough to go on a murderous rampage anytime it hears anything it doesn’t like.

    By that logic, if someone tomorrow were to bomb an abortion clinic and kill people, then Obama, Pelosi, Biden, Reid, and Sibelius would all be muzzled – and probably should be indicted and convicted as accessories before the fact – for saying things that set off the lunatic. After all, haven’t the libs claimed for years that anyone who disagrees with them is the “enemy” and a potential terrorist who should be monitored closely? In that case, they should have known that their words would provoke such a reaction.

    In fact, using Chayes’ logic, you can make a good case that Obama’s repeated boasting about killing OBL was just as responsible for the deaths as the video. As I said on this blog yesterday, Obama claims he knows the point of view and thinking of the Muslim street, so he had to know that his boasts would incite violence (hence the chants by the mobs of “millions of Osamas”).

    Somehow, in the leftist mindset that only people who agree with them deserve the right of free speech, I doubt you’d see Ms. Chayes reach the same logical conclusion.

  2. Great White Rat says:

    Should we burn the Constitution now, or …?

    Well, ST, keep in mind that Obama does think the Constitution is a deeply flawed document. And he’s been disregarding it anyway on a regular basis. So it would be perfectly logical, to a liberal, to simply throw it on the pile where they’re burning films or books they disapprove of.

  3. H Hazell says:

    I’m pretty sure the members of our military are not interested in a throttle on the 1st amendment as a way to protect them. In fact, I believe most would look the maker of the movie in the eye and call him an asshole and then turn around and take on anyone that wants to do him harm.

  4. Drew the Infidel says:

    Notice placing the blame on those whose rights are guaranteed under the First Amendment. No mention is made about the instability and aims of an entire culture which goes on murderous rampages over cartoons, religious intolerance, different ethnicity, etc. Besides being repulsive this type of dangerous self-flagellation and self loathing is a case of assisting the enemy by “inserting the thin end of the wedge first” in order to deprive US citizens of their constituional rights, all the while facilitated by a sharia-compliant media.

  5. Carlos says:

    Under the logic expressed by the “experts” in the article, I should be subject to arrest for a violation of the First Amendment for at least a couple of dozen comments I’ve made over the past year on this blog alone concerning muslims.

    And yes, they were intended specifically to incite rage. And they were specifically designed to get the outraged person to begin questioning the values of hate and death that religion holds so dear.

    So bring it on, Mr. “My People” – I’d love to fight that one through the courts…

  6. Today it’s a video, tomorrow it’s a newspaper columnist. If I was a Jihadi in the ME with access to money I would be licking my chops….