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Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Don’t blame free speech for the murders in Afghanistan

by Michael De Dora
Last week, an angry mob of Afghani protesters enraged by the recent burning of a Koran in Florida — their angers stoked by local Muslim leaders — stormed a U.N. compound and murdered at least 7 people. The only thing more upsetting than this incident has been the public response blaming these deaths on Pastor Terry Jones and Wayne Sapp, a member of Jones’ congregation at the Dove World Outreach Center, who torched a Koran on March 20.
The most disturbing example of this response came from the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, who said, “I don't think we should be blaming any Afghan. We should be blaming the person who produced the news — the one who burned the Koran. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of offending culture, religion, traditions.” I was not going to comment on this monumentally inane line of thought, especially since Susan Jacoby, Michael Tomasky, and Mike Labossiere have already done such a marvelous job of it. But then I discovered, to my shock, that several of my liberal, progressive American friends actually agreed that Jones has some sort of legal and moral responsibility for what happened in Afghanistan. I believe he has neither. Here is why.
Unlike many countries in the Middle East and Europe that punish blasphemy by fine, jail or death, the U.S., via the First Amendment and a history of court decisions, strongly protects freedom of speech and expression as basic and fundamental human rights. These include critiquing and offending other citizens’ culture, religion, and traditions. Such rights are not supposed to be swayed by peoples' subjective feelings, which form an incoherent and arbitrary basis for lawmaking. In a free society, if and when a person is offended by an argument or act, he or she has every right to argue and act back. If a person commits murder, the answer is not to limit the right; the answer is to condemn and punish the murderer for overreacting.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Governments have an interest in condemning certain speech that provokes immediate hatred of or violence against people. The canonical example is yelling “fire!” in a packed room when there in fact is no fire, since this creates a clear and imminent danger for those inside the room. But Jones did not create such an environment, nor did he intend to. Jones (more precisely, Wayne Sapp) merely burned a book in a private ceremony in protest of its contents. Indeed, the connection between Jones and the murders requires many links in-between. The mob didn’t kill those accountable, or even Americans.
But even if there is no law prohibiting Jones’ action, isn’t he morally to blame for creating the environment that led to the murders? Didn’t he know Muslims would riot, and people might die?
It seems ridiculous to assume that Jones could know such a thing, even if parts of the Muslim world have a poor track record in this area. But imagine for a moment that Jones did know Muslims would riot, and people would die. This does not make the act of burning a book and the act of murder morally equivalent, nor does it make the book burner responsible for reactions to his act. In and of itself, burning a book is a morally neutral act. Why would this change because some misguided individuals think book burning is worth the death penalty? And why is it that so many have automatically assumed the reaction to be respectable? To use an example nearer to some of us, recall when PZ Myers desecrated a communion wafer. If some Christian was offended, and went on to murder the closest atheist, would we really blame Myers? Is Myers' offense any different than Jones’?
I think I know why many people want to turn around and blame Jones: the deep-seated belief among many that blasphemy is wrong. This means any reaction to blasphemy is less wrong, and perhaps even excused, compared to the blasphemous offense. Even President Obama said that, "The desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry.” To be sure, Obama went on to denounce the murders, and to state that burning a holy book is no excuse for murder. But Obama apparently couldn’t condemn the murders without also condemning Jones’ act of religious defiance.
As it turns out, this attitude is exactly what created the environment that led to murders in the first place. The members of the mob believed that religious belief should be free from public critical inquiry, and that a person who offends religious believers should face punishment. In the absence of official prosecution, they took matters into their own hands and sought anyone on the side of the offender. It didn’t help that Afghan leaders stoked the flames of hatred — but they only did so because they agreed with the mob’s sentiment to begin with. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the U.S. should punish those responsible, and three well-known Afghan mullahs urged their followers to take to the streets and protest to call for the arrest of Jones. “Burning the Koran is an insult to Islam, and those who committed it should be punished,” said Mullah Mohammed Shah Adeli. For the threat to be followed by actual murder they needed an audience who agreed. Sadly, they had one.
Let me be clear: I do not like Terry Jones or his views. I also would not burn a Koran. I’d rather have people read it. But these sentiments are not enough to bend the law or warp my sense of morality. As Voltaire said, I will defend the right to free speech for even those I disagree with most. Blame for the horrible acts in Afghanistan does not fall on the people who criticized Islam. It falls on the fundamentalists who think that people who speak out against religious belief deserve death.

160 comments:

  1. There are two ways of thinking. Yours, claiming that under no circumstance are people influenced by words/images/fims/et cetera. A more nuanced position would be that we know people do react emotionally to stimuli. Example, try shouting the N-word in the Bronx, or kill Allah in Afghanistan. While I admit it should not matter to posit that when these examples do elicit violence nobody could reasonably have anticipated that is inherently obtuse. Words have meanings, when you are (or should be) aware of their sensitivities then willfully throwing oil on the fire should not be seen as divorsed from the ensuing blaze.

    In other words, I do agree people need to grow thicker skins, but ignoring the provocative nature of statements by telling people to grow up sounds silly, unrealistic and a bit pedantic to me.

    More on this I wrote here: http://contusio-cordis.blogspot.com/2010/11/freedom-of-speech-clarification.html

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  2. People are responsible for their own actions. Not the reactions of others (except in those extreme cases it causes direct hurt). This is what I believe and what I hold to.

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  3. I’m not sure how you can maintain that Jones didn’t know the likely consequences of his actions. Last year US Army Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates *personally* warned Jones that burning the Quran could cost lives overseas. Only after those conversations did Jones cancel his Quran-burning BBQ.

    So it’s also unclear to me how can you claim that Jones has no moral culpability here. It seems to me that if the consequences for certain actions are unambiguously spelled out, and those actions are carried out anyway, then there’s a heap of moral responsibility resting with the actor.

    I’m less certain about legal blame in this case since the murders were overseas (is international law involved here, etc.?), but if the crimes had occurred entirely in the US, Jones could be held legally culpable since he had a reasonable expectation that deaths would occur. Indeed, he was explicitly warned by top US officials!

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  4. Freedom of speech has many enemies, religion chief among them and Islam at the forefront of those. Nobody gets a death sentence for being critical of Zoroastrianism these days.

    I wonder what the world would be like if no one could criticize anyone else's religion, culture or traditions anywhere at any time without the imminent threat of death. It would be pretty quiet I imagine except for the occasional staccato bursts of gunfire.

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  5. The legal issues are obviously distinct from the moral.

    Certainly those responsible for the murders are those who committed them. It's silly to maintain Jones and his happily small group of lunatic followers committed the murders, but I doubt anyone actually maintains they did.

    I tend to think it naive to believe that Jones et al had no basis on which to think harm would result from their conduct, given the appeals made to him and the reaction when he first asserted his absurd desire display his self-righteousness in this fashion. Intent is difficult to assess, but any person of a reasonable degree of intelligence would know that there were crazed zealots who would likely take offense and act accordingly. Jones and his flock did something stupid they need not have done and should have known harm of some kind would result, and condemning them on that basis seems appropriate.

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  7. This is one of those difficult areas, a place where the law should not go, but personal moral judgment may.

    I believe that Jones knew exactly what he was doing, knew that deaths would likely result (but that he personally was safe), and that he did it anyway. The worst part of this is that he did it in the service of two unworthy ends: self-promotion and the promotion of his own version of Christianity. Neither of those is worth the lives of innocents.

    Essentially, Jones stood behind somebody else while he waved a red flag at a bull.

    I support free speech, no matter how distasteful, in all areas. But that doesn't mean that every exercise of that right is necessarily admirable. Some are despicable, and those who desire increased peace in human relations are not being inconsistent when they say so. They are being realists.

    The best examination of this issue of moral responsibility for the speaker vs. the actor in such situations that I can think of is Shakespeare's Othello. How do those who defend the Reverend Jones feel about Iago?

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  8. Jeff --

    Gonna disagree with you here. If a criminal takes a hostage, and plausibly claims that if his demands aren't met, the hostage will be killed, one is not held legally culpable for failing to fulfill the criminal's demands. My *moral* culpability will depend on a variety of factors, but in general, I will not be morally culpable for the *murder* of the hostage, even if I could plausibly have met the criminal's demands.

    That said, while no one has a right not to be offended, that doesn't mean that Jone's acts weren't terribly offensive and morally blameworthy -- acts designed to *display* "intolerance and bigotry." Does that make him guilty in those deaths? No. Does that make him 'guilty' of being a bad (thoughtless, irresponsible, mean-spirited, etc) person? Yes. Is being a bad person a crime? No.

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  9. "But even if there is no law prohibiting Jones’ action, isn’t he morally to blame for creating the environment that led to the murders? Didn’t he know Muslims would riot, and people might die? "

    Yes and yes.

    First of all, burning of any book is a morally dubious activity. Has a knack for not ending well. Starting there, you can already say he's in a moral gray area already.

    And how could Jones not know what would very likely happen? After the widely publicized Danish cartoons episode, only someone who's either retarded or a hermit would not know the consequences of doing such harmless things (to us) to Islamic religious symbols. Of course he did not "create the environment" there, but he very well knew it, and what could very likely happen (as Jeff said above, and I had forgotten, he had had a lot of warning earlier from top officials and pretty much everyone else).

    It's very easy to play macho 1st amendment defender with other people's lives, specially ones thousands of miles away, from the comfort of our little Western lives -- but beware if you're in Europe, enough primitive Muslims to kill you there; just ask Theo Van Gogh. By the way, I saw some stupid comparisons of Jones's acts to what Martin Luther King, Salman Rushdie, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali do or did. Really? If Jones and his friends had traveled to Afghanistan to teach the Afghans freedom of speech and religion by burning the Koran there in public, I'd be more inclined to agree. A pool, anyone?

    Oh, and we have to give a little bit of moral blame the media also, us here on the Internet included. If idiotic publicity whores like Jones had been summarily ignored, no one would have heard of what he and friends did and no deaths would have occurred.

    Another little point: hasn't anyone heard of a court gag order here, really? Free speech, indeed.

    All that said, of course I agree Jones has got no legal responsibility, nor should the law be changed to make him or anyone else have it. This whole ordeal is a tough situation where we are letting people who behave like primitive monkeys dictate how we express ourselves. That is indeed a sad situation. But, on the scale of sad things, a bunch of innocents dying just because someone (another religious fanatic, incidentally, if irrelevant) wanted to make a point is a bit worse, methinks.

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  10. @Nescio,

    "Yours, claiming that under no circumstance are people influenced by words/images/fims/et cetera."

    I never said that. Of course people are influenced by words, images, and films. But there is a certain range within which a reaction to those things is reasonable. Murder is not within that range.

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  11. As much as I think Michael's blog posts at Rationally Speaking are generally excellent, I totally disagree with his take on this story and I do not understand why he insists that Jones had no "intention" of causing any harm. He was not unaware of the risks for people getting killed; he received ample warning even from the American military. I have no problem morally condemning his action, because it is an irresponsible, puerile act with no positive outcome and a great potential for danger, of which Jones was clearly aware. Naturally he is not the principal person who should be blamed; Hamid Karzai knowingly fanned the flames and the people who ultimately committed the murders are of course, violent murderers who have the ultimate responsibility for the horrific acts they committed. The law is on Jones's side and that's fine by me. It is tough to know which limits should be put to free speech. However, moral issues are separate from legal aspects. I have no problem condemning Jones's act morally, since my moral sense is based primarily in avoidance of unnecessary harm, and this is a clear case in which to abstain from burning the book was the morally correct thing to do.

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  12. @Jeff,

    As I said, even if Jones knew that Muslims would riot, and people might die, I still do not see reason to blame him and limit the kind of speech and expression in which he engaged. The problem is not with the right to speech, but the people who believe those who practice it deserve death.

    " ... if the crimes had occurred entirely in the US, Jones could be held legally culpable since he had a reasonable expectation that deaths would occur."

    Maybe in a civil court, but not in a criminal court.

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  13. By the way, this morning I ran across another good article on this subject:

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/apr/7/ban-koran-burning/

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  14. Jonathan,

    I’m not sure that’s a fair analogy. I agree that in your scenario there is no legal culpability, since there’s no mens rea – there’s no ill-intent. I’d also agree that there’s no moral culpability in that situation for roughly the same reason. But in Jones’ case, ill-intent is obvious; he’s a spiteful curmudgeon insisting on the primacy of his perverse worldview, consequences and concern for others be damned. Jones not only acted distastefully, but also without just reason and without regard for known consequences. As others have put it, Jones “has a right to free speech, he also has a responsibility to use it in a way that doesn't harm innocent people.” Insisting on the primacy of abstract rights over the threat of imminent bodily harm against real people strikes me as morally bankrupt – and that’s exactly what Jones did here.

    It ultimately boils down to this: 1) Jones was made aware of the consequences of certain actions (via explicit threats made by extremists and by top US officials); 2) it’s neither unreasonable nor difficult to ask one to refrain from burning a book – it serves little purpose other than to inflame the passions anyway; despite 1 and 2, Jones acted in malice, attempting to offend, which ultimately cost human lives (curiously not his own, though). That strikes me as moral culpability – par excellence.

    Whether he’s as morally culpable as the murderers themselves is another issue, but I have no idea how someone can claim that Jones has no responsibility here with a straight face.

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  15. @Janet,

    "I support free speech, no matter how distasteful, in all areas. But that doesn't mean that every exercise of that right is necessarily admirable."

    I agree, and I do not consider Jones' act admirable. But I do not think it is legally or morally reprehensible, either.

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  16. As has been pointed out elsewhere in the blogosphere, Jones didn't just cry fire, he promised fire and then lit one. And he promises to light it up again, knowing (as if he didn't know before) that what happened then will happen just as much or more again.
    Free speaking by the average relatively powerless Joe is one thing. A speech that's carefully arranged to kill is quite another.

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  17. Much of the arguments in favor of Jones rest on the fact that he did it in Florida, protected by the US Constitution First Amendment. But this is clearly an action with international repercussions, and in such cases an appeal to domestic legislation is no use. One has to take account of the relevant people outside one's own country.
    Example: for a national army to stage mass military exercises near the nation's border is expected to be read as an hostile act by the neighboring country, even if fully legal in one's country. Many wars have started on less than that level of provocation.
    The same is valid for people traveling to other countries: a Western woman in some Islamic countries would not be safe wearing a miniskirt in public, or walking hand in hand with her fiancé, let alone kissing in the public view.

    Jones' act, if committed in Ryad or Musqat, in Kandahar or Karachi, would likely result in his immediate killing by a mob of outraged locals.

    Now, in this interconnected world where everything is immediately known by all, doing the provocation in Kandahar or doing it in Floridad hardly makes a difference, except providing legal protection (and possibly police protection) to the perpetrator.

    I do not know much of legal aspects, and can easily imagine the act may be legal in the US, but morally speaking one is responsible for the expected results of one's actions, especially if one has been specifically warned about those likely results by the likes of Gates and Petraeus. Only utter disregard for the safety of others, and a deliberate will to provoke violence, can be behind the act to burn the Quran.

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  18. Legally: perhaps OK, but morally horrendous. And intellectually a sign of weak cognitive faculties and complete lack of judgment.

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  19. I'm in Michael's camp. I don't agree with Jones' point, but there's nothing legally or morally wrong with the means by which he made that point.

    A few misconceptions that might be luring people into thinking there is something morally wrong with the Koran burning.

    a) Misconception: burning books is necessarily bad.
    This is simply nonsense. There are plenty of perfectly good reasons for burning books - staying warm comes readily to mind. The question is: when IS burning books morally reprehensible? The answer is: when it is a literal and credible effort to render the contents of the book inaccessible. That wasn't the case here. Jones' didn't make a dent in the availability of the Koran, nor could he reasonably have made a dent. Don't get sucked in by the metaphor of burning books (note Julia's last post).

    b) Misconception: provocation is blameworthy.
    This simply is not necessarily the case - unless you hate art. Provocation is a normal part of human interaction. Provocation does sometimes justify reactions to that provocation, but even in those cases the provocateur is not blame-worthy. It is just that the reactionary is not blame-worthy either.

    c) Misconception: a condition is necessarily a cause.
    It's not very nuanced to see the act of the Koran burning as the cause of the events in Afghanistan. A confluence of factors came together in order to result in those murders. The burning of the book, the mullahs, the president of Afghanistan, the invasion of Afghanistan, thousands of years of cultural conditioning, a general atmosphere of violence, etc etc... Jones isn't "the cause", only one of many conditions, and frankly, not even a necessary condition. A cartoon would have been sufficient.

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  20. Hmm for some reason my comment did not go through quite some time. Anyhow if this becomes a duplicate sorry for that.


    I agree that anybody should be able to destroy any holy book, anywhere in the world, without him or any other person being punished.

    But come on. US protects freedom of speech as long as it convenient and does not offend people. But you can not swear or show a nipple on TV because it offends people. TV channels gets punished because of it. You are being punished by the culture or fined if you are not politically correct.

    When was the last time when you used the "N" word? Why not? Because you were afraid of being punished, labeled by the society you live in. Actually in my culture the same word has completely neutral meaning, and for a period of time it was definitively positive. Just imagine that I am telling it to a black guy in Bronx (???) and then I am trying to explain that I really, but really did not meant to offend.

    Who made artwork of naked children lately in US? Without being labeled as pedophile and threatened by the society? Now just imaging the Frogner Park http://goo.gl/SIjmb in the middle of New York.

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  21. Still, it’s not so clear that we ought to hold innocent a man who performs a perfectly lawful act not only in the expectation but with the intention that someone, somewhere, commit a murder in reprisal.

    Suppose Jones had provoked no violence the first time but had kept burning Korans until he had?

    What if he had been determined, and that determined, to provoke – obviously not cause but only provoke – murders?

    I have for days defended Jones’ perfect right to burn a holy book, even if with the intent of provoking outrage to make a point.

    But intentionally provoking someone into a verbal or otherwise harmless outburst of revealing, unjustified wrath is one thing.

    Intentionally provoking murder is surely another.

    You might want to argue that for some reason Jones’ case was exceptional, but it seems to me that if he intended, actually intended, to provoke murder to make his point then prima facie he is an outright murderer.

    I think we would all agree that, at least in any ordinary circumstance, you cannot kill someone just to make a point.

    Nor, again under ordinary circumstances, can you intentionally provoke someone else into killing for a like purpose.

    So if that was his actual intention then the burden is on his defenders to show why he is not guilty of a grave crime as awful as murder, himself.

    Note that my argument is different from those holding Jones was wrong to act given even so much as a reasonable expectation his act would provoke violence.

    I do not agree with that, particularly given the aim of the violence is to deny him and all of us the freedom to act likewise.

    Such a concession gives the most violent bigots a veto on our liberty, and I do not accept that.

    Did Jones cross the line?

    Did he actually intend to provoke violence – nay, murder – by his deed so that the murder would make his point against Islam and the Koran?

    It certainly looks it.

    And yet I do not intend this as an argument for laws criminalizing blasphemy or sacrilege.

    Far from it!

    I don't know if it's possible under the law to prosecute someone for intentionally provoking another to murder.

    I don't know if it would be a good idea to make it so, if it is not.

    But I am pretty sure intentionally provoking another to murder is not much different, morally, if at all, from murder, itself.

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  22. If act and consequences had occurred in the same country (say, both in the US or both in Afghanistan) Jones would be legally liable. But he did the deed in the Land of the Free, letting others die in a faraway land where other laws and values prevail, and where the likely consequences were known in advance. Let him go there, and burn the book in Mazar-e-Sharif main public square.

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  23. Also a question is why burning a book creates anger, but deleting it from my computer does not? Even if I do it publicly. Maybe e-books will bring world peace.

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  24. I agree with Michael 100 percent, well put. Maybe I'm just crazy, but I don't think burning a book makes you responsible for someone killing someone else that's completely unrelated to the event on the other side of the planet. I may be off-base here by saying that the person or persons who committed the murders are in-fact the ones responsible....

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  25. For the sake of argument, if morality is consequentialist in nature, then wouldn't it be reasonable to say that because the consequences of Jones' actions resulted in the deaths of innocent people, his actions were immoral.

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  26. @ Michael

    “As I said, even if Jones knew that Muslims would riot, and people might die, I still do not see reason to blame him and limit the kind of speech and expression in which he engaged. The problem is not with the right to speech, but the people who believe those who practice it deserve death.”

    I’m hearing: so what if I poked the bear at the zoo? The problem is with the bear!

    I don’t deny that the extremist reaction here is problematic, but I find it equally problematic to ignore credible threats leveled against human lives. I think you’re over-emphasizing how the world ought to be to the detriment of reality here: the problem was not just with the extremists, but also with the old fool who maliciously poked them (****who also understood the consequences of his actions, could have easily avoided his actions, yet performed them anyway****).

    @ James

    1) I didn’t see anyone claim that burning books is necessarily bad.
    2) I didn’t see anyone claim that provocation itself was innately blameworthy.
    3) These particular deaths would not have occurred without the actions of Jones. Jones’ book burning inflamed extremists, and they acted. There’s obviously a confluence of other causes and conditions, and certainly a cartoon could have inflamed them just as easily, but it’s pretty obvious that Jones played a causal role in this specific event.

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  27. i don't think you have to be a "macho 1st amendment defender" to absolve terry jones. some of you are viewing him as a kid who throws a rock at a hornets' nest. in that case you know someone's going to get stung. the hornets don't have a choice. it just happens. in this case, human beings with functioning brains decided to shoot innocent people sitting at their desks. the one and only moral issue in relation to terry jones is whether or not it is moral to insult someone else's deeply held belief. that can be debated. but he deserves not one iota of responsibility for the conscious pre-meditated actions of others.

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  28. I'm surprised that so many people here seem to find something objectionable about Michael's post, which seems obviously right to me. The fact that some people find a particular behavior objectionable (even so objectionable they respond with violence) does not mean we have a moral obligation to refrain from the behavior.

    Are doctors who perform abortions morally responsible for the attacks on abortion clinics by fundamentalist Christian nutjobs? They certainly know that there are people that will respond to abortion with violence, right?

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  29. @Laurence: that would make this situation a good basis for a reductio argument against consequentialism.

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  30. I don't by any means deny the full moral responsibility of those who committed crimes in reprisal for Jones's act.

    That was not at all my point.

    My point is that whether Jones was in the wrong depends in part not merely on what he foresaw but on what he actually aimed at.

    Anyway, so it seems to me.

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  31. Oyster Monkey, those actions are forseen but certainly not intended.

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  32. "For the sake of argument, if morality is consequentialist in nature, then wouldn't it be reasonable to say that because the consequences of Jones' actions resulted in the deaths of innocent people, his actions were immoral" - Laurence

    It would if those consequences were the result of that action. I can't reasonably say that the murders were a consequence of burning the Koran. Saying, for example, that the murders wouldn't have happened if the burning had not taken place is not good enough. If it were, I could blame Jones' parents for the murders.

    What might be a useful concept here is the difference between doing and allowing. If we are going to hold Jones blameworthy, it is not because he committed the murder (he didn't do that), but because he allowed it to happen. The argument would be that burning the Koran was the equivalent of not doing something that might have prevented the murders - so, in essence, Jones allowed the murders to take place by creating the conditions under which the murders could take place.

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  33. @Jeff,

    A bear is not an autonomous person.

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  34. @Adriana,

    Thanks for the compliment! It's OK to disagree every so often. I appreciate your response.

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  35. "1) I didn’t see anyone claim that burning books is necessarily bad." - Jeff

    "First of all, burning of any book is a morally dubious activity." - J

    J didn't say "necessarily", but the comment is reason enough to worry that people may be thinking that book burning is inherently bad.

    "2) I didn’t see anyone claim that provocation itself was innately blameworthy." - Jeff

    I didn't say provocation wasn't innately blameworthy; I said it was never blameworthy - a claim you made in your very next point.

    "3) These particular deaths would not have occurred without the actions of Jones. Jones’ book burning inflamed extremists, and they acted. There’s obviously a confluence of other causes and conditions, and certainly a cartoon could have inflamed them just as easily, but it’s pretty obvious that Jones played a causal role in this specific event." - Jeff

    "Inflaming" is not a cause because, in part, it does not adequately explain why the murders happened. No more than the fact that Jones' mother gave birth to him explains the murders, even though the murders could not have happened if Jones' mother had not given birth to him. We can test this with a simple question: did murders reasonably have to result from Jones' action? The answer is no. Murder is not a reasonable response to Jones' actions. Because it is not a reasonable response, we cannot hold Jones blameworthy. It's the same reason we don't hold folks who wear short skirts blameworthy for their own rape.

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  36. @Gaius: I don't see any evidence that Jones's goal in burning the Koran was to incite murder. Maybe you've got something more than conjecture to demonstrate that was his intention, but I haven;t seen anything. Most of the arguments that have been proffered to place moral responsibility on Jones have been "he knew it would happen."

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  37. Oyster Monkey.

    Nope.

    All I've got is a reasonably confident belief based on what I've read about him and his aims since the first go-around, a ways back.

    Nothing at all that could or should convict him in a court of law.

    But then I'm not a court of law.

    All I can do to him is blame him.

    And I do.

    Pending persuasion that I am mistaken, of course.

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  38. So Jones saith to his lackey Sapp, I command thee to most publicly burn this heathen tome, all copies of its contents considered sacred by the idolaters that dote upon its blasphemy of our own and greatest book of books, and fire it in such a way that will be mortally offensive, so that the infidels will return that offense tenfold by the retributive killing of the innocent who have themselves decried the burning, to in all justice show the world what murderous fools these heathens be.

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  39. @Gaius: But don't you think that (especially within the context of accusing someone of murderous intentions) that your beliefs should be based on evidence?

    I have no doubt this guy is a major league A-hole (so to speak) but that's a long way from saying his intentions here were to have a bunch of people killed.

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  40. Clearly the perpetrators of the murders were ready, able and willing to kill their fellow human beings. All Jones did was give them an excuse to do so. Absent his assistance I think they would just as likely have found a different excuse.

    To my mind they carry all the blame for their atrocities.

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  41. Thou shalt not kill except of course by good excuse.

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  42. God Dammit, Atheist Community, Fail Less.

    How stupid do you have to be to look at this incident and primarily conclude that religion is to blame for these riots? Seriously, do you just lack for analytical power? Did you not notice the rioting was only in one country? A Country that the USA is bombing to oblivion, where they murder civilians for no damn reason, and then kill many more, officially and as 'collateral damage' in their hunt for terrorists? How privileged you all are, to be able to forget those things. Did you forget that /KARZAI/ was also calling for the riots? Yes, the local Imams are probably the most responsible for the incitement to riot, and they probably used religious imagery in the final momentes, but do you seriously think the Afghanis weren't already kind of mad about a few things LIKE BEING BOMBED?

    "It seems ridiculous to assume that Jones could know such a thing, even if parts of the Muslim world have a poor track record in this area."
    He demonstrated knowledge of it when he backed down the first time. He was told by damn near everyone important (Off the top of my head, Interpol, Obama, and the Pentagon each individually told him what the fuck was going to happen). We don't think he should be a god damn soothsayer, just listen to people who happen to have a better grasp on the world than he does.

    "Why would this change because some misguided individuals think book burning is worth the death penalty?"

    ....Because some people are going to die. That seems a stupid question. I mean, there are valid rational responses to "PEOPLE WILL DIE IF YOU DO THIS" that would excuse it, I assume. But to outright handwave the fact that people will die if you do this away, and say it can NEVER affect the moral praiseworthiness of the action? That's just idiotic.

    "And why is it that so many have automatically assumed the reaction to be respectable?"
    ...Who's decided it's respectable? The rioters are still legally and morally responsible for their acts.

    blame isn't a pie; Giving some to jones doesn't reduce the amount available to the rioters.

    "Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Governments have an interest in condemning certain speech that provokes immediate hatred of or violence against people."
    Cogdis much? Like, at all?

    "If some Christian was offended, and went on to murder the closest atheist, would we really blame Myers?"
    Well, I suspect you probably would.

    "Is Myers' offense any different than Jones’?"
    Seeing as Myers wasn't told by an international law enforcement group, a governmental intelligence agency, and the President of the US that riots would happen, I'mma say yes, yes it would be different. In fact, I'll do you one better; If Myers was told those things, put a nail through the cracker, and nothing happened, he'd STILL be morally responsible for it. We don't say Driving Drunk is okay just because you happened not to kill anyone, after all.

    But hey, De Dora, at least this time, you're in good company with the Gnus. They fail about as hard as you do at analysis and looking past religion to look at the actual underlying factors, and they seem, on the whole, to be just as willing to disappear the soldiers blowing the shit out of the afghanis as you do. And they're just as willing to say "Fuck it, I don't care if he knew, he doesn't have moral responsibility because I sprinkled magic Free Speech dust on him". And I hold them to be just as stupid about this, despite being a Gnu.

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  43. Voltaire apparently never said that, but it's still a great apocryphal quote.

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  44. How stupid do you have to be to look at this incident and primarily conclude that religion is to blame for these riots?

    No, religion is not to blame for these riots. Human nature is to blame. If 'religion' were to blame then Jainism would be impossible.

    There is a percentage of humanity who if given permission to act in an unrestrained manner will do so. If they are given what amounts to permission to kill they will kill. This wasn't even revenge. The people killed had not even the flimsiest connection to those who committed the 'offense' they were killed simply because they were convenient targets.

    There are those who will refuse to kill, those who need to be pushed into it, those who need to be trained to it and those murderers born who will embrace it. There are also those who will cheer it. We are not very far from the Colosseum. The reasons may have changed, but the killing and cheering hasn't.

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  45. Oyster Monkey.

    Sure.

    I have no doubt your belief as to Jones' a-hole-hood is based on the way his behavior strikes you, given what you know about it.

    That's your evidence.

    And that's mine, too.

    Everybody agrees he had every reason to expect a rampage up to and including murder, even multiple murders, in response to his action.

    There is no way he could not know what would result.

    Given that he had to expect such violence up to and including murder, and given his hatred for Islam, I find it incredible he could have gone ahead and burned that Koran without intending the results, believing and intending they would horrifically discredit Islam.

    And he got what he wanted.

    But if I were on a jury and knew no more than I do now I might well vote to acquit, assuming the defense would have something to say to make the idea of intention less credible.

    He seems to me way more likely guilty than not, but not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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  46. Not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is a legal fiction to protect the presumption of innocence in our cockamamie adversarial system that nevertheless allows an arrest based on the otherwise predominate evidence of guilt. Free speech protection is akin to an afterthought in such a system, and all our fruit loop psychopathic Joneses count on that. They could care less about some abstract conception of rights in such an easily manipulable system.

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  47. Misconception: burning books is necessarily bad.
    This is simply nonsense. There are plenty of perfectly good reasons for burning books - staying warm comes readily to mind.


    Sigh... I could see some stupid, point-completely-missed statement like that coming, when I wrote my original post. No further comment required about that.

    A bear is not an autonomous person.

    Is a religious fanatic an autonomous person?
    Is Michael De Dora an autonomous person? Am I?
    Who here believes in free will? Now THAT is a hornet's nest... :-)

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  48. "Sigh... I could see some stupid, point-completely-missed statement like that coming, when I wrote my original post. No further comment required about that." - J

    No one here mistakes pompous half-witted remarks for substance. If you think you have a point of any merit whatsoever, you're required to actually make it. Welcome to philosophy.

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  49. Thanks for posting this Michael, I totally agree with you!
    Jones was simply exercising his constitutional right to be a jerk, but that is his right. Those who are offended have the right to protest and disagree, but they do not have the right to kill people, no matter how strongly they disagree.

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  50. I agree with most of what Michael De Dora wrote (and added in these comments), except this trite, annoying sap at the end where he writes: " I also would not burn a Koran." Why, given the rest of the argument, not? It is, as you made clear, just a book. And, as long as it is your book, you are free to do without as you please, including making a statement about religion. So, Michael, why would you NOT burn a koran? As you denied all of the "offense" arguments, what is left?

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  51. Ugh. I’ll try to ensure that this is the last post for me on this topic; I realize I’m a broken record at this point. But I’m really just utterly baffled by some responses, and, indeed, the OP itself.

    James, you have a terribly ridiculous and impoverished view of social causality. The point here is that this specific event would not have happened had Jones not burned a Quran, and that Jones could reasonable foresee the consequences of his actions (again, he was explicitly warned of the consequences by top officials). Foreseeabilty alone demonstrates that Jones has causal responsibility here – a chain of events could be, and was, accurately predicted. Jones’ mother bears no causal responsibility because it’s not possible to infer or deduce much from the mere act of birthing a human being.

    Those defending Jones seem bizarrely fixated on (implicitly) defending some defunct notion of rugged individualism where every person is solely responsible for his or her actions, period. End of story. People aren’t responsible for other people because individuals are rational and autonomous and thus are accountable only for their own, individual actions.

    Bullshit.

    People have a *capacity* to be rational and autonomous; it’s prescriptive (not descriptive), though, to highlight that capacity as the constant, universal state of humanity. It’s disingenuous and perilous to wave away the realization that many people will not react rationally in certain situations. And it certainly is reasonably forseeable that certain people – in this case Islamic extremists – would act irrationally and violently to the desecration of their sacred cow. We know that they’d respond aggressively not only because they explicitly said that’s how they’d respond, but also because, indeed, they’ve done so numerous times in the past.

    Further, what’s up with all these irrelevant analogies? This case is very different from an incident of arousal by skimpy clothing. For starters, wearing skimpy clothing is not itself an act of malicious intent. But the issue here, again, is that Jones was acutely aware of the dangers his actions posed to the lives of others (Islamic extremists made credible threats that were highly publicized and relayed to Jones by numerous people) – but Jones unreasonably ignored those threats, instead opting to act in spite and burn a Quran anyway. He knew that violence would erupt and harm might come to others; but, instead of refraining from an act that’s inordinately easy to refrain from, he instead acted callously and without concern for others and known consequences.

    As someone else noted, legal culpability is distinct from moral culpability in this case. But those defending Jones seem to conflate the lawfulness of an act – burning a Quran, an expression protected by free speech – with moral innocence. So what if he had a right to burn a Quran? That’s not relevant in determining moral culpability here since the point is that Jones acted in callous disregard for human lives – a potent ethics violation!

    How is it unclear that Jones bears both causal and moral responsibility here?

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  52. A distinction that may help clarify the questions around contributory causes that James and Jeff have been discussing is J.L. Mackie's INUS conditions (insufficient but non-redundant parts of a condition which is itself unnecessary but sufficient for the occurrence of the effect). Quoting from Wikipedia:

    "For example, a short circuit as a cause for a house burning down. Consider the collection of events: the short circuit, the proximity of flammable material, and the absence of firefighters. Together these are unnecessary but sufficient to the house's burning down (since many other collections of events certainly could have led to the house burning down, for example shooting the house with a flamethrower in the presence of oxygen etc. etc.). Within this collection, the short circuit is an insufficient (since the short circuit by itself would not have caused the fire, but the fire would not have happened without it, everything else being equal) but non-redundant part of a condition which is itself unnecessary (since something else could have also caused the house to burn down) but sufficient for the occurrence of the effect . So, the short circuit is an INUS condition for the occurrence of the house burning down."

    (For more, google mackie inus short circuit)

    I agree with Jeff: Jones bears (some) causal and moral responsibility.

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  53. “How is it unclear that Jones bears both causal and moral responsibility here?” - J

    First, thank you for actually making an argument rather than relying entirely on fumbling pejoratives. Some general mistakes in logic and interpretation before moving on...

    “Further, what’s up with all these irrelevant analogies? This case is very different from an incident of arousal by skimpy clothing.” - J

    I didn't imply that my analogy was characterized by maliciousness, so observing that maliciousness was involved does not refute the analogy. But hey, let's throw it in. A person who maliciously wears provocative clothing is not culpable for their subsequent rape. From there you seem to want to shift the point to Jones' ability to foresee, but if my analogy (and the premises that supported it) hold, then foreseeing doesn't matter. This will become clearer later.

    “Those defending Jones seem bizarrely fixated on (implicitly) defending some defunct notion of rugged individualism where every person is solely responsible for his or her actions, period. End of story. People aren’t responsible for other people because individuals are rational and autonomous and thus are accountable only for their own, individual actions.” - J

    I've explicitly stated that that I do not hold the murderers to be rational or autonomous. So, I don't know how that translates into a defence of rugged individualism. Regardless, if you think actors cannot be judged based on an assumption of rationality and autonomy, I'm not sure why you think that Jones should be held responsible. Aren't you assuming that he is rational and autonomous? How can you make a foreseeing argument without rationality and autonomy?

    “ As someone else noted, legal culpability is distinct from moral culpability in this case. But those defending Jones seem to conflate the lawfulness of an act . . .” - J

    I, at least, haven't conflated the two.

    O.k., so, let's move toward the meat of your argument: foreseeing.

    Foreseeing is not the slam-dunk you seem to think it is. I, for one, do believe that Jones foresaw the outcome of his actions, maybe not exactly, but it seems reasonable to assume he knew some bad would come of it. The problem is that there is another consequence for Jones to consider (unless you're still rejecting that Jones can be treated as a rational actor). The second consequence will result if Jones does not burn the Koran. Doesn't it stand to reason that by putting his matches away he would set a precedent that one's expression can be held captive by the threats of zealots? I think we can assume he also foresaw these consequences. So, which choice is the ethical one? Does Jones choose door number one, where a religious mob will commit unknown atrocities, or does he choose door number two and submit to arbitrary limitations on personal expression for an indefinite period of time? If you are a consequentialist, which you seem to be, you have to ask which of the two you think cause the least damage. I don't think the dilemma is so easy to decide. To make matters more complicated, foreseeing is not the only angle here.

    And, the causal problem that vexes you so.

    You still have not addressed my initial argument. I argued that Jones was not the active cause. That the murders could not have happened without Jones does not make him responsible, any more than it makes his mother responsible (Jones could not have burned the Koran if he had not been born). It is you who are clinging to some outdated notion of the rugged individual. My argument is that the murders were not the result of a lone individual at all, but were a social event. It wasn't the actions of a lone madman in a repository, but the fallout from a society gone terribly wrong.

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  54. Many everyday acts of ours result in someone else's death. How are we to know that the many packs of chewing gum we ignored at the store was what led a chewing gum manufacturer to commit suicide? Clearly we are not to blame for such untraceable links. But this guy Jones was indeed aware that his actions would spark murderous controversy elsewhere. He could have heeded the warnings of his countrymen. Of course the murderers carry more blame than he does but he is not blameless, not by any stretch of the imagination.

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  55. To those of you who think Jones is morally responsible for the deaths: would you say the same thing of the newspapers and magazines that published the Muhammad cartoons in 2005?

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyllands-Posten_Muhammad_cartoons_controversy

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  56. You mean the really, really, racist and xenophobic cartoons posted in a right wing danish rag?

    No, to the best of my recollection, no organized groups gave threats, and no intelligence or crime agencies stepped forward to tell the Jyllands-Posten that violence was certain if the cartoons were made.

    What part of this do you not get, de Dora? Is it the foreseeability itself, or the idea that foreseeability can play a part in the determination of moral blameworthiness?

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  57. In the interests of clarity, can we please break things down into essentials. Large portions of Muslims held together by place and custom can be murderous when offended. Many others not in their geographic location know this. Therefore if others intentionally offend them through acts broadcast on far-reaching media, they too intentionally cause deaths. Is it a question of who should go to jail or whether the word of murderous Muslims should be taken as moral guidance?

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  58. The cartoons were neither racist nor xenophobic.

    Rutee, I believe you are button-pusher.

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  59. @Rutee,

    Are you telling me that the newspaper and magazine editors who printed and re-printed the cartoons could not have expected the ensuing riots?

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  60. M De D, there is no reason to think the cartoonists intended Muslims to react with murder.

    It's doubtful they even foresaw anything like such a vast reaction.

    Even if they had, to foresee is not to intend.

    Anyone familiar with Double Effect and Just War Theory knows that can make a crucial difference.

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  61. And no, I don't think forseeability of death automatically makes X speech or expression immoral.

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  62. M De D.

    Yes, I could see that.

    But what about intentional provocation of murder?

    And I say again it looks to me like Jones did intend to provoke murder.

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  63. "Doesn't it stand to reason that by putting his matches away he would set a precedent that one's expression can be held captive by the threats of zealots?"
    Talk about the viewpoint from the ivory tower!

    I expect that if the zealots had threatened to kill Jones first and were right there in the barroom with guns and scimitars akimbo, Jones expressions would have put precedent as the least of his worries.

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  64. "The cartoons were neither racist nor xenophobic."
    Uh, yes, yes they were. They were created as an exercise in taunting Denmark's immigrant population, for fun. That makes them both racist, and xenophobic. It's not exactly secret information. I mean, to be fair, one of the cartoons is in fact pointing out that this is an exercise in immigrant mocking, but that doesn't excuse the other 11 cartoonists.

    "Are you telling me that the newspaper and magazine editors who printed and re-printed the cartoons could not have expected the ensuing riots? "
    Yes, that is in fact exactly what I'm saying, unless there is something that before this I wasn't aware of.

    I'm actually reasonably familiar with the Danish cartoons; there was no cause to believe there would be riots. Various jackasses in different islamic countries pointed at them after the fact; the Jyllands-Posten, by no means of the imagination, drew international attention before or since, and nobody outside Denmark and perhaps Sweden were aware the cartoons might be coming.

    And just to be crystal clear:
    "In fact, I'll do you one better; If Myers was told those things, put a nail through the cracker, and nothing happened, he'd STILL be morally responsible for it. We don't say Driving Drunk is okay just because you happened not to kill anyone, after all."


    "And no, I don't think forseeability of death automatically makes X speech or expression immoral."
    I can invent fairy tail situations that would be at home in a movie for it to be perfectly moral, sure. But they're certainly going to involve speech a little heavier than pointless hate speech. It might be legal, but risking lives for it simply isn't morally acceptable.

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  65. Michael: I think the two situations are very different – the cartoonist debacle is far more intricate. For instance: intentions differ; writers/cartoonists initially endeavored under the knowledge that personal harm may come to them, not others; the first riots occurred in February 2006, while the “printing and reprinting” seems to have occurred between 2005-January 2006 – well before the riots; there was a partially fabricated dossier that helped incense Muslim outrage; Condoleeza Rice, among others, suspected that the riots might have been fomented, at least in part, by governments; wiki attributes most of the deaths to police fire on Muslim protestors; the 2008 reprinting – the only aspect that bears any direct resemblance to Jones’ case – might not have instigated riots at all (wiki suggests other causes).

    Surely it’s obvious that there is significantly more to unpack and sift through in the Danish case, yeah? Jones’ case is remarkably straight-forward in comparison.

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  66. Rutee, you wrote "They were created as an exercise in taunting Denmark's immigrant population, for fun. That makes them both racist, and xenophobic."

    No, I don't think so.

    Neither the one nor the other.

    Neither immigrants nor immigration are too sacred to mock, thank you.

    And the cartoons to which the greatest exception was taken were those understood to depict and mock, not immigrants, but Mohammed, himself.

    And that was just not acceptable to many of the Muslims of the world.

    Against Muslim rules, you know.

    Which we all have to obey, according to far too many Muslims.

    Even Danes.

    In Denmark.

    And are you buying that?

    Pshaw.

    None for me, thanks.

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  67. Speaking as some have about PZ Myers, with some inference that he might somehow be in company with some other puerile apologists for Jones, I suggest they read this post: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/04/shades_of_gray.php

    I've not been a big fan of Myers in his role as an evolutionary philosopher, but I'll be damned if this isn't one of the best examples of a literary exposition of the truth I've ever read.

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  68. "No, I don't think so. Neither the one nor the other. Neither immigrants nor immigration are too sacred to mock, thank you."
    That's an incoherent thing to link together. If you're so confident that it has nothing to do with immigrants and xenophobia, why even attach that "Immigrants aren't sacred" clause?

    At any rate, you're incorrect. Denmark is a remarkably racist society in general; In the recent decade there has been, throughout Europe, a rise in racist, xenophobic sentiment, directed at foreigners. Denmark has seen some of the worst, but it's by no means unique. The Danish equivalent of the USAnian Know Nothings of the 19th Century is the third largest party in government, and their platform is more or less entirely "Let us punch immigrants for you". Politicians have made statements along the lines of "Muslims steal babies at night, and can not be trusted", and they get re-elected.

    "And the cartoons to which the greatest exception was taken were those understood to depict and mock, not immigrants, but Mohammed, himself."
    How naive you are. It's not considered societally appropriate in most places to say, out loud, "DAMN THOSE AFGHANIS". However, the sentiment exists, and is widespread; how do you think racists express this? By attributing to the things they would like to attribute to people of middle eastern descent, to Islam. That is what was done in the Danish cartoons.

    By no means of the imagination is all criticism of Islam merely a way to disguise racist thoughts. However, you should be wary of those who would say it pretend it is uniquely bad. Left to its own devices, Christianity does just as awful a set of things. And before one says "Those are past", I would point you to Uganda and the Cote de Ivoire, or to Scott Roeder.

    "And that was just not acceptable to many of the Muslims of the world."
    Imagine that. When you call someone people highly respect a terrorist, they get pissed. I would NEVER HAVE GUESSED.

    Wanna bet I'll get rational, non-violent responses if I point out that the Founding Fathers were terrorists in Texas? Actually don't, because uh, no bet you offer me can be worth the risk.


    "And are you buying that?"
    I'll take Straw People for 200, Alex!

    No. But you shouldn't kick people who are marginalized by society for fun. Some Draw Muhammed events aren't done for that. Some Are. And one of the ones that was, was the one orchestrated by the *Already established as xenophobic and hateful* Jyllands-Posten.

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  69. James – what? I don’t know if you’re just hell-bent on willfully misreading me, thoroughly confused, or if you’re just contrarian – but you’ve successfully straw manned my position and fabricated some truly bizarre charges: “fumbling pejoratives”? I seem to be a consequentialist (after I’ve repeatedly mentioned the importance of considering intentions, among other factors)? I cling to some flavor of rugged individualism? I reject “that Jones should be treated as a rational actor”? I haven’t addressed your argument? None of these are reasonable accusations. You’ve also raised objections that don’t have anything to do with what I’ve written.

    You do ask one important question, though, to which I’m happy to offer a response: "Doesn't it stand to reason that by putting his matches away he would set a precedent that one's expression can be held captive by the threats of zealots?"

    Whereas I think some here are inclined to stand firmly in principle – free speech at all costs – I’m inclined to temper that principle with a more immediate concern for human safety. I think there needs to be a fair bit of collective deliberation before individuals start acting in ways that knowingly (or foreseeably) jeopardize the safety of innocents in distant places – even if that means faintly sacrificing an individual’s freedom to do whatever the hell he feels like doing. In this case, I think refraining from burning a book because it would save human lives is more than reasonable. Again, just because Jones has a right to do something doesn’t mean that he ought to do it – indeed, whether or not he ought to do it is the domain of ethics, not legal rights: a lawful act can still be morally wrong (ex: cheating on a spouse, breaking a promise).

    To more directly address your question: I think there are a few assumptions in there that overstate the case. That is, I think you’re suggesting that by refraining from burning Qurans an atmosphere of oppression exists which is potentially unacceptable to such a degree that the loss of a few human lives might be warranted to overcome it. I’m not convinced the situation is that dire.

    Before your panties bunch up – yes, I see that the term you used was “expression”, and that your concern is (probably) more accurately described as a fear for freedom of speech more generally, not just for the right to burn Qurans. But if that’s the case, then your concerns are even more unfounded since criticism of Islam is alive and well. Glenn Reynolds, among ***innumerable*** others, regularly and viciously trash-talk Muslims in a variety of media. Yet, the Islamic world is not in a constant state of riot, and anti-Islamists have not all been gun-downed mercilessly in the streets. The Islamic extremists, then, get worked up to the point of violence only under certain conditions (although I’m sure they hate non-Muslims 24/7). Those conditions happened to be met in Jones’ case, yet weren’t met when several college atheist groups caricatured the Islamic prophet for “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”.

    In short, it’s dubious to extract (or fear) a universal prohibition on free speech from this particular incident (or even the Danish case) since Islam is regularly and publicly criticized and trashed – even via cartoons and caricatures of Mohammed. Jones’ case is more unique in that extremists specifically threatened violence. It is not then, I say, unreasonable to sacrifice one’s right to free speech in one particular instance to avoid unnecessary deaths. Indeed, I think it’s immoral NOT to do so.

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  70. "Don’t blame free speech for the murders in Afghanistan"

    Quite right. I blame Jones and the murderers not a principle. Afterall, we don't cherish freedom of speech because "Nothing can possibly go wrong." but because the consequences of doing away with it are worse than what Jones Quran burning stunt could result in. We don't need to be so timid that we can only bring ourselves to defend freedom of speech by pretending that speech is inherently incapable of working any mischief.

    "It seems ridiculous to assume that Jones could know such a thing"

    I think you've got the wrong end of the stick there. It would be ridiculous to think anyone who hasn't been living under a rock since the whole Danish cartoon kaffufle hit the news would the day after Jones' stunt had hit YouTube be thinking to themselves 'Ah, today would be a grand day for a stroll about the markets of Khandahar looking like I'm not a Muslim.'

    Oh, and, yes, burning a book is, in and of itself a morally neutral act. But then, in and of itself firing a gun is morally neutral, so your point would be?

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  71. I guess we can go on forever.

    Or at least until M De D writes a new post.

    Rutee, a very large number of Europeans want the mass immigration of non-Europeans stopped.

    A somewhat smaller number would support mass deportations of such immigrants already there.

    Certainly there are racists and xenophobes among both groups, but rhetorically equating these positions with racism and xenophobia is the typical substitution of furious ad hominem slander for actual confrontation with issues characteristic of the most worthless and uninteresting political propaganda.

    As to my “neither the one nor the other” remark, if you read that comment a little more carefully you will see I am there saying only this same thing, that criticism of immigrants or immigration is neither racist nor xenophobic.

    As to “immigrants aren’t sacred,” I begin to understand that in your view they are, and that criticizing immigration or mocking immigrants is, in your eyes, as impermissible and outrageous as mocking Islam in the eyes of that all too familiar public figure, the fanatical Muslim killer.

    And in this connection I must say I can’t help being reminded of the murder of Pym Fortuyn by Volkert van der Graaf, not an immigrant at all but a Dutchman of good native European stock infuriated by PF’s anti-immigration politics.

    Nor can I help recalling the many prosecutions for “hate speech” of politicians and other public figures in “free” and “democratic,” “Enlightened” Europe in recent decades undertaken by good Europeans of good European stock and aimed at muzzling their own people, those who speak for them, and their leaders through intimidation and state repression.

    That is not to say that the whole issue isn’t befogged with an attitude akin to Christian Europe’s traditional anti-Semitism, right down to blood libel.

    You wrote, “Politicians have made statements along the lines of ‘Muslims steal babies at night, and can not be trusted,’ and they get re-elected,” and I will take you at your word for this report that certainly illustrates the point.

    Still, isn’t it a fact that the European elites as well as the European left have pretty much stone-walled the whole immigration issue and left it in the hands of the right, and even the extreme right, quite stubbornly and quite intentionally?

    They have intentionally left the popular opposition to immigration and immigrants nowhere else to go but into the company of racists, xenophobes, or people whose politics are otherwise identifiable as hard right: neoliberals, fiscal conservatives (in American terms), or almost libertarians.

    And isn’t the whole thing made a bigger mess by the fact that European hostility to this mass immigration is much more about religion than race?

    Mostly, in fact, about Islamic political and cultural backwardness and Muslim violence?

    It is no accident, for example, that a number of prominent, rightist homosexuals have become prominent, rightist critics of Islam and the mass Islamic immigration into Europe, quite openly and expressly because the position of Islam on matters related to sex is so horrifically evil, so blatantly stone-age that calling it “reactionary” is plain absurd.

    As for Texas, who does not know that the American immigrants to that territory who stole the place from Mexico did so to be able to keep their slaves, that Texas entered the Union as a slave state, and that Texas promptly joined the Confederacy when the case arose in a rebellion against their new country, again just to keep their slaves?

    That is Texas patriotism, for you.

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  72. Rutee, on second thought I should have written this more clearly.

    Rutee, you wrote "They were created as an exercise in taunting Denmark's immigrant population, for fun. That makes them both racist, and xenophobic."

    No, I don't think so.

    Neither the one nor the other.


    My fault.

    The "No, I don't think so" was aimed at your "That makes them both racist, and xenophobic."

    But I did not make that clear.

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  73. I have neither willfully misread you nor erected strawmen.

    '“fumbling pejoratives”?' - Jeff

    With this exception. I confused you with J. Notice that I attributed your quotes to J. My mistake, those should all be “Jeff”.

    “ I seem to be a consequentialist.” - Jeff

    A consequentialist weighs the ethical value of an action based on the consequences. When you say that Jones ought to have stayed his hand because of the consequences, you are arguing as a consequentialist. That's what consequentialist means. The fact that you've brought up intent is irrelevant. Intent is recognized by consequentialists.

    'I cling to some flavor of rugged individualism? I reject “that Jones should be treated as a rational actor”?' - Jeff

    What you've missed is that I was arguing to the absurd. I took your premise that attributing blame to the murderers relied on a conception of “rugged individualism” and showed that attributing blame to Jones also relied on a conception of “rugged individualism”, assuming of course, that by rugged individualism you mean some form of rational autonomy.

    “I haven’t addressed your argument?” - Jeff

    You haven't, and I've already explained how you have not.

    “None of these are reasonable accusations. You’ve also raised objections that don’t have anything to do with what I’ve written.” - Jeff

    I addressed your claim that foreseeing was important. I addressed your absurd charge of rational autonomy. To name but two. Now, you may not like my objections, but saying they “don’t have anything to do” with what you've written is simply wishful thinking.

    “You do ask one important question, though, to which I’m happy to offer a response” - Jeff

    O.k., I'll play. Sure, cherry pick from my objections. Actually, this isn't a totally terrible effort. Unfortunately, you keep imagining that I'm somehow conflating legal issues with ethical ones. Once and for all: I am, and have been, arguing exclusively from an ethical standpoint, so, your point that there is a difference between legal and ethical is meaningless in the context of this discussion.

    To start with, if my argument that Jones is not a cause of those murders in an ethically significant way is correct, any argument that Jones should have not burned a Koran because of the consequences is irrelevant (this is the argument you have not addressed btw). Let's just put that aside for moment, and look at your current argument as if that had not happened.

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  74. Again, this is a classic sort of consequentialist argument. Your claim is that the consequences of burning a Koran are greater than the consequences of not burning. The following, I think, is a generous rendering of your argument's premises.

    P1: there must be “collective deliberation before individuals start acting in ways” that will likely “jeopardize the safety of” lives.

    P2: The cost of restricting free speech must be weighed against the cost of engaging in it to determine the ethical status of an act.

    P3: Jones would have jeopardized very little in the way of free speech by not burning a Koran.

    P4: Jones jeopardized the safety of persons by burning the Koran

    P5: The safety of persons if the Koran is burned outweighs the risk to free speech should Jones have not burned the Koran

    C: Jones ought not to have burned the Koran.

    I don't think P1 is particularly significant in this argument, maybe you want to elaborate on that. In my mind, collective deliberation translates into a legal argument, but maybe you mean something else.

    P2 is the consequentialist framework you are working within. That's perfectly fine.

    P3 and P4 are a little wonky. In the first part, restricting the issue to Jones' specific act is, I think, a little naive. The climate for decades has determined that lives are at risk whenever anyone criticizes Islam in any way. That the reactions are neither guaranteed nor consistent only shows how little Jones can actually be held responsible for those murders. The truth is that speech acts are chosen opportunistically by those who wish to overreact to them (this speaks to my initial argument that Jones is in fact not the cause of the murders at all). If we want to weigh lives against freedom of speech, we are weighing an arbitrarily large number of lives against the arbitrarily vast consequences of a prohibition on criticism of Islam. And again, that some people criticize Islam without retribution is an argument against Jones' responsibility for the murders.

    So, P5. This really is a judgement call. Particularly since we re placing ourselves hypothetically before Jones actually burned the Koran. Jones might consider the death threats made against him personally (in fact, this is what was being said to Jones to warn him off). He would have to consider the possible riots, mayhem, and murder that sometimes follows criticism of Islam. He might consider a world where people slowly stopped criticizing Islam because of the possible backlash. How does one way consequences of an open-ended threat against criticism of Islam? How many lives are potentially at risk without the ability to be freely critical of Islam? Doesn't playing into these sorts of threats just encourage greater threats? Doesn't it legitimize the strategy?

    “Jones’ case is more unique in that extremists specifically threatened violence “ - Jeff

    Yeah, against Jones. The list of people who have received these threats, against themselves and against others, is long indeed. Few crumble beneath these threats, and fewer should. What you're advocating is the worst sort of appeasement. Jones is no more blameworthy than any political satirist. The worst I can charge him with is being unhelpful.

    I really don't think you have much of an argument here. Even weighing body bags against body bags, I'm not certain less damage is done by holding those who wont be intimidated ethically responsible for the consequences of those threats. You are literally recommending that we hold people who do not submit to threats ethically liable for the consequences, while trivializing the consequences of empower thugs. I think you should reconsider. Or else! (kidding)

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  75. Order of proximate causation: Purpose, expectation, action, anticipated consequence.

    And people who threaten should not submit to threats re consequences for threatening? Welcome to sophistry.

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  76. "Certainly there are racists ... uninteresting political propaganda."
    No, it is not ad hominem to say that they are racist positions. It is a statement of fact; they perpetuate structural inequality against people on the basis of their skin color. To merely stop at "They are racist, and should be opposed" would perhaps be ad hominem, to people who do not understand the reasons why racism has to be actively fought in every guise it takes.

    To say that it isn't racist jackassery is to do a disservice to the marginalized, by the way. You're accepting transparent excuses.

    "As to “immigrants aren’t sacred,” I begin to understand ... the fanatical Muslim killer."
    Then you're an idiot. I don't consider immigrants, in and of themselves, to be sacred at all. However, immigrant populations are the frequent targets of racism, and I fucking hate racism. Criticizing specifics of immigration is possible without being a racist, but it's also quite possible to be a racist while doing so. I have never seen a critique of immigrants themselves that wasn't racist, and I've seen a lot of critiques of immigrants.

    And no, murder is still worse than racism. Racism, however, is still fucking awful.

    "Nor can I help recalling the many prosecutions for “hate speech” ... muzzling their own people, those who speak for them, and their leaders through intimidation and state repression."
    If you want to get me through the cult of free speech, you'll have to try a different tack. I have no specific opinion on Hate Speech at all. I'm neither in favor of banning it, nor against it. I find it perfectly acceptable that hatemongers are thrown in jail for it, and perfectly acceptable that they are not.

    "...the murder of Pym Fortuyn by Volkert van der Graaf..."
    You remind me of KKK apologists who insisted the lynching was fine because it was democratic, and really, why get so worked up about a black dude anyway?

    "And isn’t the whole thing made a bigger mess by the fact that European hostility to this mass immigration is much more about religion than race?"
    That fact is not in evidence. Religion is used as an acceptable cover to target race. Yo'ure naive or gullible if you think otherwise. You're also a historical illiterate; Look at American Anti-Catholicism. It's mostly dwindled... coincidentally so has most of the Irish and Italian hate.

    "It is no accident, for example, that a number of prominent, rightist homosexuals have become prominent, rightist critics ... calling it “reactionary” is plain absurd."
    And this is more racism. Islam has as many varied positions on homosexuality as Christianity; namely, some are meh, some are anti,a nd some are for. To say Islam is uniquely homophobic is to spit in the face of every gay person murdered in Uganda by the Christian state, to laugh at the corrective rape of lesbians everywhere. They ought to work towards outreach and awareness. Based on my experience in multiple minority cultures, I can't really say I'm surprised that gay people are lining up to marginalize immigrants. Just like I'm not surprised Atheists are doing it.

    "As for Texas..."
    Dude, are you stupid?

    You acted like Muslims were uniquely savage in defending their respected people (However much or little they earned that respect). I pointed out that I could demonstrate this lack of uniqueness by insulting the founding fathers in texas. Or Jesus. Actually I could go for both as a money shot.

    Shit, I've been nearly attacked just for saying I don't give two shits about Jesus, and you think "Muhammed is a terrorist" is unique in its ability to draw people into jackassery?

    "The "No, I don't think so" was aimed at your "That makes them both racist, and xenophobic.""
    Your blindness from privilege doesn't make that a true statement. It only means you're blind.

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  77. jeremybee,

    Heckle all you want. When you show you're capable of actually putting together a coherent argument (at this point, I'm not certain you can put together a coherent sentence), then maybe your opinion about what is or isn't sophistry will start to be worth something. Right now, you're just a crank. Case in point:

    "And people who threaten should not submit to threats re consequences for threatening?" - jeremybee

    Your comment fails to rise to the level of a sentence, and your previous comments haven't been any better. Now, are you going stand up and actually say something, or are you going to continue to mumble self-congratulating inanities from the sidelines?

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  78. James,

    I felt that highlighting consequences here was important since Michael claimed that Jones wasn’t morally culpable, to any degree, for the deaths abroad. In other words, he argued that Jones wasn’t morally responsible for the consequences of his actions. In turn, I argued that Jones was responsible both morally and causally, to some degree, for the ensuing events – but I did so with reference to Jones’ character, context, intent, and the foreseeability of consequences. At one point I even argued that the point was that “Jones acted in callous disregard for human lives” – without appeal to consequences at all. Reading the entirety of what I’ve written here as consequentialist is a misreading, then, since I’ve emphasized the importance of more than just consequences.

    You claim that you haven’t misread anything, yet, behold, another misreading: “Regardless, if you think actors cannot be judged based on an assumption of rationality and autonomy, I'm not sure why you think that Jones should be held responsible. Aren't you assuming that he is rational and autonomous? How can you make a foreseeing argument without rationality and autonomy?”

    Loaded questions. I said that rationality is a human capacity, and that sometimes there are good reasons to expect certain people to act irrationally in certain situations. This isn’t controversial. Since Jones’ received several calls from the Pentagon explicitly warning him of repercussions, it’s more than reasonable to conclude that Jones was well aware of the stakes and thus hold him accountable for his decision. Since it’s well known that Islamic extremists explicitly threatened violence (and have a history of following through) should Jones burn a Quran, it’s also safe to conclude that the terrorists would react irrationally and violently. Again, I can claim that Jones foresaw the consequences of his actions because he was EXPLICITLY INFORMED OF THE CONSEQUENCES – I’ve made that point in almost every post. What is so incomprehensible?

    You’ve caricatured, straw manned, and misread – literally - ALL of my points in a similar fashion. So yes, I “cherry-picked” one objection you raised and dealt with it in my last post because I thought it was the only reasonable objection that deserved a response. Further, I suspected others had a similar concern. But for that matter, you have an irritating habit of assuming everything I write is in response to you, even if I say things like, “some people here”, or “those defending”, etc. – these phrases all suggest that I’m not responding to just one person, but several. So stop claiming that I’m attributing things to you when it’s clear you’re not the only interlocutor I’m addressing.

    One final point: Nick Barrowman provided a fine link that detailed – very thoroughly – why Jones is causally responsible, in part, for the deaths abroad. But you continue to insist that Jones is no more causally responsible than his mother is – even though I dispatched that claim as well. I’m not going to continuously answer your objections when they’re either based on a caricature and distortion of my position, or if I’ve already answered them.

    Also, my bachelors is in philosophy, so let’s presume, in the future, that you don’t need to school me (or anyone else) in the basics of philosophy. If my arguments fail, then they fail. But your numerous off-handed and passive-aggressive remarks (and not just those directed toward me) come off as nothing more than pretentious showboating - hot air. Coupled with the fact that I find your arguments bizarre and lacking, your patronizing demeanor inspires embarrassment – not confidence. This is also my last response to you if you persist in distorting my position.

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  79. James, I'm quite satisfied to continue pointing out your own inanities with the anticipation that everyone, and just possibly including you, will get the point. And with the expectation you'll be sure to deny it when and if you get it.
    Although I more than suspect that the use or appreciation of inference is not in your skill set.

    By the way, Jeff has just had you nailed. Deal with it.

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  80. “Also, my bachelors is in philosophy, so let’s presume, in the future, that you don’t need to school me (or anyone else) in the basics of philosophy. If my arguments fail, then they fail. But your numerous off-handed and passive-aggressive remarks (and not just those directed toward me) come off as nothing more than pretentious showboating - hot air. Coupled with the fact that I find your arguments bizarre and lacking, your patronizing demeanor inspires embarrassment – not confidence. This is also my last response to you if you persist in distorting my position.“ - Jeff

    These are hollow accusations. Your hypocrisy is stunning. A typical example...

    'You claim that you haven’t misread anything, yet, behold, another misreading: “Regardless, if you think actors cannot be judged based on an assumption of rationality and autonomy, I'm not sure why you think that Jones should be held responsible. Aren't you assuming that he is rational and autonomous? How can you make a foreseeing argument without rationality and autonomy?”' - Jeff

    You claim to be presenting an example of me “misreading” you, and yet, the only claim I attribute to you in the above text is that you hold Jones responsible for the murders and that you made an argument to foreseeing. Both of which are true. Where is the misreading?

    Another example...

    You claim that I have mischaracterized your argument as being consequentialist.

    “It seems to me that if the consequences for certain actions are unambiguously spelled out, and those actions are carried out anyway, then there’s a heap of moral responsibility resting with the actor. “ - Jeff

    “But in Jones’ case, ill-intent is obvious; he’s a spiteful curmudgeon insisting on the primacy of his perverse worldview, consequences and concern for others be damned. Jones not only acted distastefully, but also without just reason and without regard for known consequences. ” - Jeff

    “It ultimately boils down to this: 1) Jones was made aware of the consequences of certain actions (via explicit threats made by extremists and by top US officials) . . .” - Jeff

    “(****who also understood the consequences of his actions, could have easily avoided his actions, yet performed them anyway****) “ - Jeff

    And this is before I even got involved. How could I possibly have read your argument as anything but a consequentialist one? How do you expect consequences to be so important that the mere fact of foreseeing them should determine Jones' course of action, and credibly claim that you are not making a consequentialist argument?

    More importantly though, let's look at the actual moment where I “misread” you as a consequentialist.

    “If you are a consequentialist, which you seem to be, you have to ask . . .“ - James

    You failed to recognize the above as a conditional. You failed to understand my arguments in general. Your conclusion? Clearly I'm “a contrarian“, “thoroughly confused“, or “wilfully misreading”. Then you launched into an arrogant and paranoid tirade brimming with “pretentious showboating - hot air”. Get off it. You're in no position to lecture me about tone.

    Philosophy, in part, is about how philosophy works – including the basics. I wont stop commenting on philosophical method because you've decided that a B.A. in Philosophy lifts you above it (nor will the more trollish around here be sparred). If you have a degree in philosophy, you should know better. You should also know that if you don't understand an argument you should ask for elaboration, not label it “bizarre” and announce that it's beneath your consideration. And yeah, feel free to consider yourself schooled.

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  81. "James, I'm quite satisfied to continue pointing out your own inanities with the anticipation that everyone, and just possibly including you, will get the point." - jeremybee

    How very smug and superior you are. I suppose simple fellows like myself will just have to make due in the shadow of genius. How is the view from such ivory heights? I can only dream of such places.

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  82. So did the forum jury reach a verdict on whether Jones is morally culpable or not? If so what then is the appropriate response? Agitate for a ban on Koran destruction? Forbid the criticism of Islam in general? Twitterpate him? Nasty e-mail? Shun him at the church socials? Walk up to him and tell him he is a bad, bad morally culpable man?

    Is anybody here under any illusions as to whether or not he gives a microfece what people outside his circle think? You remember, this is the guy who ignored the President.

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  83. No one here mistakes pompous half-witted remarks for substance. If you think you have a point of any merit whatsoever, you're required to actually make it. Welcome to philosophy.

    Ah, but some people here do seem to believe that burning books to get warm (or because they are defective, or because they were overstocked and nobody bought them, or whatever other mundane reason that has nothing to do with the issue at hand) is comparable to burning books as a symbol. Which wouldn't be much of an argument indeed, I'm afraid. Unless one wants to muddle the issue or play straw man. And if that is good philosophy, then I'm very sorry for the current state of philosophy.

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  84. "Ah, but some people here do seem to believe that burning books to get warm is comparable to burning books as a symbol. " - J

    Interesting. Let's take a look at what I was responding to, shall we?

    "First of all, burning of any book is a morally dubious activity. Has a knack for not ending well. Starting there, you can already say he's in a moral gray area already." - J

    Yeah. Not much talk of symbols here. You were saying something about strawmen? Maybe, perhaps for the rest of your life, you should take the time to read what you've written and respond to objections as an adult. Had you - instead of busying yourself with your own superiority - indicated that your comment was limited to symbolic burning, the error in your text would have been discovered so much earlier.

    But, since you seem to think it's so important: I symbolically burned an Ayn Rand novel a few years ago. What was morally dubious about that? You know... symbolically speaking of course.

    "And if that is good philosophy, then I'm very sorry for the current state of philosophy." - J

    Philosophy is a process, and the state of it is that one ought to either respond to an objection or have the dignity to let it pass in silence. What is not philosophy is prancing around proclaiming that objections are beneath your consideration because you have pre-answered them on some imaginary plane. There isn't a philosopher on the planet who believes what you did amounts to a rebuttal.

    You and Jeff, and jeremybee need to get your heads out of your asses. Engage, or leave. I don't care which. What you three are not entitled to do, is to launch unfounded personal attacks from some unearned heights. I haven't distorted anyone's text, or erected strawmen, or engaged in sophistry (I defy jeremybee to even define sophistry).

    So, are the trolls quite finished yet?

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  85. sophistry |ˈsäfəstrē|
    noun ( pl. -ries)
    the use of fallacious arguments, esp. with the intention of deceiving.
    • a fallacious argument.
    * a self-delusioned sense of erudition.

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  86. Michael,
    I rarely agree with you and found your last post trying to equate modern liberalism with classical liberalism very disingenuous.
    But in this post you really nailed it. Spoken like a true classical liberal! Free speech is a bedrock foundational principle our nation was based on. If anything Mike, the comments from liberals (modern) here should prove to you beyond any doubt how quickly modern liberals would sacrifice actual liberty (free speech) at the drop of a hat when they don't agree with the effect it had on a non liberty society. It should show you how illogical modern liberals are when they don't hold actual murderers accountable but instead hold the person that displayed free speech accountable.

    Mike, if you apply the same valid logic you display in this post (that individuals have absolute rights) to much of what you believe as a modern liberal, you will be in direct contradiction with yourself. I hope you will challenge to do that and join us classical liberals.

    I used to call myself a conservative and realized so much of what conservatives believe is anti-liberty. The left and right thing is a farce. It is liberty or anti liberty that you'll eventually figure out as you hear all the modern liberal crap like blaming a guy for inciting murder because he burned a book. Keep writing posts like this and this libertarian moves from critic to fan!

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  87. If the circumstances under which the book was burned fit with the legal definition of an overt act, then free speech (and who is or is not a proper liberal) is no longer the actionable issue.

    Example from: http://www.legal-explanations.com/definitions/overt-act.htm

    "Overt Act
    It refers to the act performed by someone which is a part of preparation of a crime which becomes successful after the implementation of those innocent actions. Overt is an open act carried out quite naturally as in buying the map of the area where the bombing has to be carried out. Buying a map is a natural process for any human being, but once this act had been carried out to support and prepare the terrorist in their deeds, it becomes bound by the law and is considered a crime."

    A case could be made against Jones on that or a similar basis, and may in fact be in the works as we speak. Which may be why he immediately denied that the killings of the UN people were in no way his responsibility, either by anticipation or desire.
    And why if he's smart (big if), he won't be burning any more books in the near future.

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  88. I’m still confused, of course, since ethicists aren’t at all divided on this issue. There’s a series of bizarre misreadings and muddled ideas floating around popular media that suggest that this has something to do with liberal multiculturalism (ahem, Jacoby), and just blaming Jones – as if acknowledging Jones’ accountability somehow diminishes from the equally obvious responsibility that the murderers themselves bear. To be sure, the murderers are not morally culpable in the same way that Jones is; but this doesn’t detract from the fact that Jones acted immorally (for reasons already repeated ad nauseam).

    It’s also bizarre that so much of this discussion (here and at large) has centered around the act of burning a book, which is almost irrelevant. It’s the conscious, callous disregard for human lives - and lack of compelling reasons to do so - that does the heavy lifting here. Yet, acting lawfully is still conflated with acting morally.

    Even if no one had died, Jones’ actions would still be immoral. Although, personally, I’m inclined to despise Jones even more because of the resulting deaths (and yes, I also find the murderers abhorrent – but the issue here is Jones).

    And this isn’t a party-line issue, either. Even conservative politicians and ethicists condemn Jones: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/04/3119

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  89. Jeff, to say the burning of the book is almost irrelevant is a lot like saying pulling the trigger of a loaded gun is almost irrelevant.

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  90. I think it's vaguely relevant (in a complicated sort of way that I don’t really want to go into), but book burning could have been substituted for any number of acts and, assuming that Jones still acted in conscious, callous disregard for human lives, would still have been morally blameworthy. To use your example: pulling the trigger *is* rather irrelevant; the lethal weapon could have been substituted for any other. In short, there could have been a knife instead of a gun and the immorality of the act wouldn't change.

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  91. The point you're missing, Jeff, is it's the act, (i.e., the action), that's most relevant to the consequences. Jones opinions would have had little or no moral/immoral force without the taking of that representative action.

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  92. jeremybee,

    My hat is off to you. That is a fairly adequate definition of sophistry. Now, your challenge is to justify the application of that term to myself, without snaring yourself. Warning, you're going to find some difficulty getting around the "self-delusioned sense of erudition" portion.

    Good luck.

    "... but this doesn’t detract from the fact that Jones acted immorally (for reasons already repeated ad nauseam)." - Jeff

    ... reasons that have been discredited ad nauseam? Yeah. We all remember those. But, hey, let's go over them again.

    "It’s the conscious, callous disregard for human lives - and lack of compelling reasons to do so - that does the heavy lifting here. Yet, acting lawfully is still conflated with acting morally. " - Jeff

    So, if Jones had expressed, from the beginning, a generous amount of compassion for those who would be killed by religious zealots who in turn would blame Jones, you would not have a problem with Jones' actions? It's just the callousness that you find immoral?

    But wait! "Compelling reasons". So, if Jones' had summoned reasons you found compelling, you would hold him not blameworthy?

    So, your problem isn't what Jones did, or even the consequences, but the fact that Jones didn't frame his actions in a way you found appealing.

    Or is there something deeper? I wouldn't want to misrepresent your thoughts on the matter. This is your big chance to clarify. Take advantage of it.

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  93. Point taken, Baron. I agree.

    Others have questioned, though, whether burning a Quran is immoral. It's that kind of question that I think is irrelevant since Jones simply didn't burn a Quran, he did so under specific circumstances, etc. Plus, I don't think there's anything intrinsically immoral about burning a book since I deny that human beings have ethical obligations to books themselves.

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  94. I think I see a problem with people assigning blame to Jones:

    "Abortion doctors are aware that anti-abortion activists might bomb their clinics or shoot them, therefore they bear some responsibility if someone uses a bomb or gun against them."

    "P.Z. Myers knew that if he defaced a communion wafer or the Koran, it might cost him his job or cause some sort of violent outburst. He did so anyway, which means he's partially responsible if he got fired or violence occurred."

    Jones is a jerk... but we have to preserve his right to be a jerk, otherwise we open the door for tyranny by criminalizing actions that others find distasteful. How could you then protest against injustice, if you could be shut down for being offensive?

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  95. Joe,

    To claim that abstaining from a trivial act in one specific instance creates some grand precedent whereby innumerable other fanatics could further erode free speech is, I think, creating a mountain out of a molehill. Events like this are relatively rare and result from very specific conditions – highly publicized events, whipped up frenzies, etc. – so it’s dubious to fear or claim that by abstaining from a very peculiar form of free speech in one instance the world will be held hostage to the whims of extremists. Obviously this doesn’t mean that we shouldn't work towards enforcing the right to free speech; but if by momentarily abstaining from one act means that human lives are spared… – what’s more important?

    Here, there were relatively clear and distinct threats. No, someone didn’t call in to the Pentagon and say, “Look, person X, Y, and Z are planning to murder P, Q, and S if Jones burns a Quran”. Rather, when Jones first threatened to burn the book, waves of protests broke out in the Muslim world – Afghanistan, etc. – and credible, though vague, threats of violence were leveled abroad. (The distinction between credible and non-credible threats is important.) This was all relayed to Jones by Robert Gates and Gen. Petraeus personally; Jones knew exactly what was at stake, and knew the strong likelihood that his actions could cost lives overseas.

    This is all very different from the abortion clinic scenario in that abortion clinics DO temporarily shut down when credible threats are made. And, in PZ’s case, threats were leveled solely at him, not others.

    (See also my April 10, 6:12 AM response.)

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  96. Oops, didn't read the abortion scenario carefully enough. I misinterpreted it as suggesting that the abortion clinic workers bore responsibility for their patrons if they were injured, died, etc.

    On second reading, though, the abortion scenario is even more irrelevant than I first thought. Abortion clinic staff are aware of the risk that harm my come to them - accepting responsibility for yourself is unproblematic. What's immoral in Jones' case is that he knowingly acted in a way that endangered the lives of *others*, without their consent.

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  97. Baron and Jeff,

    Here is what you are missing by equating burning a book with pulling a trigger. Pulling a trigger is a conscious decision to commit murder. Burning a book (even if knowing it incites others) requires a completely separate sovereign human being to make a conscious decision to commit murder. On a purely logically level only the sovereign second person can be accountable for the murder. The only way the burning could be accountable is if the second sovereign body lacked complete sentience (then not considered a sovereign body because it has direct control by other bodies due to lack of sentience)

    Was this the case of course not. Your logic aligns with the exact same logic as if a woman dresses slutty and gets raped she is to blame because she directly incited the violence through her action (she pulled the trigger by your logic).

    The first step to massive loss of liberty is public acceptance to limitations of free speech (this is something repeatedly noted by early soviets and pre Nazi Germans)

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  98. Jeff,

    Your stating the risk to free speech is not real in this situation because of specific circumstances. You do not see how that logic could be so easily applied to cover all kinds of free speech?
    You shouldn't say "cat" because the cat lady on the simpsons could go looney and start throwing cats and kill someone.
    I realize how absurd the above is (intentionally) so you tell me how to draw a hard line in where it becomes absurd. The more likely scenario than absurdity is tyranny, I could easily make up scenarios where the state could say your speech is inciting danger to others and thus must not be allowed.

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  99. Jim, what is it about an overt act that you don't understand?

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  100. Baron,

    Overt just means "open", but let's go down the whole line of thinking that your "overt act" implies. The buying of the map as in your example is now criminal because it was used in a bombing. The person who does the map buying for the known bomber is now criminal. The difference here is the two parties were colluding. In Jones example the violence was aimed at him, but could not be carried out that way so the brilliant murderers just picked whoever. That is not colluding and does not fit your overt act definition.

    My mini skirt wearing beauty getting raped is far closer to your logic than your overt act is describing book burning (it's in fact the same). It amazing where people will stretch logic to find fault with what they view as the opposing side.
    I can't believe you don't see the danger in trying to limit a book burning because it may or may not incite violence. What that could mean to your ability to say what you need to. If a person puts a crucifix in urine, that's art? Well what if I went looney and killed someone over it? Yes I am sure you would say the artist owns fault.
    You know you wouldn't, so tell me why?
    A man commits murder

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  101. The worst part of your logic that Jones owns fault is that you help them (you know the people actually murdering and beheading people) validate their action. It assumes that Islam has an inherent mechanism of correctness that murder can be performed if their beliefs are criticized. So now we must first analyze the nature of our subject prior to public criticism before we can call it free speech. If we dont do this we are now committing overt acts. Brilliant logic!

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  102. Overt act is both a philosophical and legal concept that deals with proximate cause and therefor with that measure of responsibility. Collusion between those responsible is not needed to determine proximate causation. Note that the theory of conspiracy, for example, doesn't require that any party needs to have known of the actual existence or intent of any other.

    And the logic that you project from your inapt/inept analogies is yours alone and yes, it's far from brilliant.

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  103. Yeah, because rape victims are malicious people acting in conscious, callous disregard for their assailant’s life. My position totally commits me to blaming rape victims.

    The conversation is just on loop at this point; this has all been addressed in previous responses.

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  104. Baron,
    You say collusion is not needed ( I will accept that), but there is still a major distinction between the two scenarios. The map is purchase with the specific purpose of the bombing as the actual result. You cannot just assume that Jones purpose was murder. His purpose (however stupid, and we perhaps may agree on what that purpose was) was not murder. It was to make a statement of an opposing view to his own. If you can prove or somehow could generate evidence that his purpose was to murder people, than perhaps overt act could apply. But I agree with Mikes post that that cannot be assumed.

    Jeff,
    Who is to say that a rape victim is not acting in disregard for their own life?with your sarcasm, you still haven't identified the defining difference between the two scenarios? Is your point that if Jones was more ignorant to the possibilty of his book burning inciting violence then we would be ok to define it as free speech?

    Someone commits murder because they were insulted. The insult cannot be defined as the murder weapon. If you say that insults can be murder weapons because the insulter knows that there may be potential for violence, then you are just not for free speech. The founders didn't put the amendment in because they wanted people to be free to only insult those they know can handle it and say things that are never contraversal. It's truly a safe guard for these exact situations where they knew people would have outrage for the free speech.
    These people are the enemy of freedom itself. And your viewing it exactly the way they want. You are obeying sharia law, where one cannot speak out against Islam or they will face these consequences of murder. Your view gives accomplishment to their murder. (and it is their murder, no matter how much you try to externalize their action to those who incite it). If they say "if you say Jesus Christ is lord, I will murder 1,000 people" and we know they mean business, should I then not be able to say it?
    You have the burden of explaining what the difference would be!

    Thata the whole point of free speech! To prevent control and allow freedom. You have given them the ability to control us.

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  105. I have contradicted myself in a way by arguing that jones intent separates his action from the map scenario so is thus not overt action. Then I say that I should be able to say "Christ is my lord" even if I know it will cause them to murder.
    (one of the reasons I like debate, forces me to think out my own position and why)
    So let me correct. Jones action is different than the map scenario strictly because it is speech and self expression. The purchasing of the map does no such thing. We need to hold speech and free expression over the ones who aim to stifle it by creating consequences for it.
    jeff, if you get your way and accountability can be assigned to the person expressing himself, you will promote Sharia law. If the battle of ideas goes in this direction, it will lead to not only preventing free speech, it will lead to the tyranny of Islamic law

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  106. If Jones had a reasonable expectation that a killing would occur somewhere soon within his reach as a direct result of his actions, and one that in particular would not have occurred absent those actions, then at the very least there was actionable negligence on his part.
    I've personally been involved in making cases on less evidence than we have here, and I suspect that we haven't heard the last of Jones as far as legal remedies to the problems that he represents will be concerned.

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  107. The map scenario is one example of the range and type of actions that could be legally considered as overt acts in service of some intended and expected consequence. The fact that public speech was used to make the act effective rather than private speech or no speech does not protect the actor on the grounds that all public speech must remain free and therefor the perpetrators of any crimes where their public speech was necessary to the process would be absolved of any criminal responsibility accordingly.

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  108. to Baron P. if you have "personally been involved in making cases on less evidence than we have here", please elaborate. to establish negligence, you have to show not only a reasonable expectation of the result but also proximate cause. in this case proximate cause is negated by an intervening cause, i.e. "a voluntary human act" (a classic example of intervening cause). the murderers are the intervening cause so therefore there is no legal remedy against jones.

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  109. Rape is an unwanted sexual assault – by definition. But when you question, “Who is to say that a rape victim is not acting in disregard for their own life”, I take it that you’re implying that the rape victim secretly wanted to be raped. That’s not even possible – s/he wanted an unwanted sexual assault? Desiring sexual assault is not rape, it’s a calculated risk.

    “Is your point that if Jones was more ignorant to the possibilty of his book burning inciting violence then we would be ok to define it as free speech?”

    I really wish people would pay more attention to what’s already been said here. I’ve never claimed that burning a Quran isn’t a form of free speech. I have argued, though, that free speech is largely irrelevant in this situation since lawful acts can still be immoral; I even provided uncontroversial examples. And yes – if Jones actions were completely spontaneous it’d be less clear whether he acted immorally (it just would have been distasteful). There’s not much ambiguity here, though, since radicals specifically threatened violence and Jones was acutely aware of the potential consequences of his actions. Even knowing that lives were at stake, he acted anyway – he acted in conscious, callous disregard for human lives. That’s immoral, and usually uncontroversially so. People keep getting distracted by free speech.

    “If you say that insults can be murder weapons because the insulter knows that there may be potential for violence, then you are just not for free speech.”

    Why is it so difficult to maintain distinctions that I’ve already made? First, I have never claimed that insults are murder weapons (how would an insult kill?) and, 2) an act of free speech can still be immoral. How many times have I (and several others) repeated that whether an act is lawful or not is distinct from whether or not an act is moral or immoral? The law is not morality, and morality is not the law. Claiming that this is just a matter of free speech is ridiculously simplistic. Back to the bizarre “insults are murder weapons” issue: claiming that Jones reasonably foresaw the consequences of his actions – and is thus guilty of acting in conscious, callous disregard for human lives – is by no means the same thing as arguing that insults kill. A bullet can kill; a knife can kill; insults influence behavior, they don’t crush your skull.

    “You have the burden of explaining what the difference would be!”

    And I have done so in several comments, even in one that is just a few clicks above! See my comments on April 13, 10:33AM and at April 10, 6:12AM.

    My comment on April 9, 4:59AM and Nick Barrowman’s comment right beneath it might also clear a few things up.

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  110. max, bullshit. You don't have to personally choose the victim and commit the murder to have incited the crime. Proximate cause is negated by the intervening act? What caused the so-called intervening act to intervene? All acts in a conspiracy for example would be intervening and form a web of intervention by your logic.
    Jesus be praised, it was all Allah's fault.

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  111. Jeff,

    I apologize for not reading all previous comments (there was almost 100 when I chimed in), I just wanted to praise Mike who I usually completely disagree. There is still one thing I don't think you or Baron have properly addressed (maybe have in earlier comments). They fact that a separate sovereign body made the conscious decision to murder. Thus if we consider Jones speech immoral and can assign blame to him for his free speech, then we are inviting people to controls our behavior. (again with my Jesus example) which is why free speech is so important in the first place. Your view that Jones holds accountability for the immoral (were it held by all of us) just invites tyranny over us.
    Jeff you better do everything I tell you or I am going to murder my next door neighbor. Are you now immoral if your not my slave? I hope you can see the absurdity of this line of thinking. Blame rests 100 percent on the actual murder because he is a separate sovereign conscious person. This simple fact elevates Jones of any morality issue and also separates it from the map scenario. Baron says collusion is not needed of overt action (that may be true for the actual definition), but overt or not it relieves Jones of immoral act. Were the murder not to take place Jones would have still been content with his speech or expression

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  112. Jim keeps bringing up my proffered map scenario as presumably the only way that an overt act supports the deed the actor hopes to accomplish.
    Same goes for the practical understanding of proximate causation here.

    Proximate cause in a legal sense is concerned, not just with the chain of causative events, but with the chain of causative responsibly. One is a factor of time and proximity, the other is a factor of the links in the causal sequencing without which the chain would have lost its strength.
    Without Jones overt acts that meet the standards of at least negligent intent, there would have been no causative chain of legal consequence that led directly to those UN workers.

    I would hope that if you lived in the real world of those who actually protect your rights (and in a way protect you from yourselves) you'd understand this. Would if you could that is.

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  113. Baron,
    So if I allow Jones to assume blame I would be aligning with those that are "really" protecting my rights?

    That's insanity! You have allowed a terrorist to prevent a man from burning a book in protest. So now accommodating any whim and want of a tyrannical group of people because your trying to teach them that they can assign blame on our free speech or else they will commit murder. And this is somehow "really" protecting my rights!

    Of course you have completed avoided how that is different than me telling you if you speak out against Christianity then I will kill people. If you knew I meant business, should you not be allowed?

    How about if I'm a corn farmer and I tell you if you speak our against ethanol I'll murder. Well then, better love burning food for fuel or shut your mouth.

    This unholy alliance between liberals and Islam is what's dangerous. Were it a Christian committing the murder Jones would be your hero of free speech.

    Which is why I commend Mike for his post. At least he is consistent.

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  114. As I’ve already argued, though, criticism of Islam occurs regularly and without life-threatening incident. I said:

    “To claim that abstaining from a trivial act in one specific instance creates some grand precedent whereby innumerable other fanatics could further erode free speech is, I think, creating a mountain out of a molehill. Events like this are relatively rare and result from very specific conditions – highly publicized events, whipped up frenzies, etc. – so it’s dubious to fear or claim that by abstaining from a very peculiar form of free speech in one instance the world will be held hostage to the whims of extremists. Obviously this doesn’t mean that we shouldn't work towards enforcing the right to free speech; but if by momentarily abstaining from one act means that human lives are spared… – what’s more important?”

    Acting in one particular instance does not create a universal precedent that dictates all future human behavior – I’ve argued this in several posts (I realize it’s a lot to read through).

    “Jeff you better do everything I tell you or I am going to murder my next door neighbor. Are you now immoral if your not my slave?”

    I don’t think this is an instructive hypothetical; I’d call the police. Analogical thinking has its uses, but on this thread it has been used as nothing but a red herring – I dare say by *everyone*. Argument by analogy has been nothing but an excuse to avoid analyzing the details of the case; there’s far more nuance in this situation than a two-line hypothetical allows. Real life situations aren’t an exercise in trolley car ethics.

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  115. Jim, are you just simply dumb or what? Has libertarian ideology somehow atrophied your brain?
    Or have you always needed ideology as a substitute for reason? Did you not notice that I've been talking about the ACTIONS of the speaker that served the purposes of that speaker, and pointing out that while free speech has rightly been protected in the US, the actions that we may advocate in speech are not similarly protected. Actions that we take to trigger actions in response are similarly responsible for consequences.

    And if you tell me that if I speak out against Christianity you will kill people, that's you speaking to me freely, not vice versa. And if the person or persons you are threatening to either kill or have killed include me or someone I can protect from you, and you make some MOVE to carry out the threat, I might just whack you on the spot, ideology and your rights to express it be damned.
    All your analogies so far have mixed apples with oranges. Of course I'd be within my rights to ignore your threats and speak out, and everybody here agrees there are risks involved, and that protected speech can still be stupid speech as to the consequences. But if stupid is what stupid does in turn, then stupid will have unprotected consequences, whether you think it should have by your arguably stupid ideology or not.

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  116. Baron - you are confusing your terms. incitement is the act of exhorting a crowd to commit imminent violence. the mullahs inciting the crowds at friday prayers just prior to the murders is the obvious example. knowing or not knowing the victim is irrelevant. the "so-called intervening act" is the killers' voluntary choice to kill. they are not rabid dogs or hornets disturbed in their nests. they made a deliberate choice. also, since jones and the killers did not know one another and did not conspire to commit a crime, your allusion to conspiracy does not fit this situation.

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  117. In related news, I just learned a candidate for Welsh assembly was arrested (and has since been released) for burning a Quran in his backyard:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/09/bnp-candidate-arrested-quran-burning

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  118. Max, more bullshit.

    'Incite' defined in legal dictionary:
    "To arouse; urge; provoke; encourage; spur on; goad; stir up; instigate; set in motion; as in to incite a riot. Also, generally, in Criminal Law to instigate, persuade, or move another to commit a crime; in this sense nearly synonymous with abet."

    And by any definition of incite, you don't have to know someone in the crowd to incite the crowd, and you don't have to know the other conspirators to conspire.

    And if they can arrest someone, as they just did, in England, for acting pretty much as Jones acted, they will be able to do it in the US under the precedence system of the common law that both countries share.

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  119. Baron, I don't think that's true. Sion Owens, the man who burned the Quran, was arrested under Section 29 of the Public Order Act, or what is also known as the Racial and Religious Hatred Act.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Order_Act_1986

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_and_Religious_Hatred_Act_2006

    My understanding is that the U.S. has no such law -- for which I am thankful.

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  120. By the way: Jim, thanks for your initial comment (and your ensuing comments, too). I'll have to re-read my recent post on liberalism and conservatism.

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  121. Michael,
    Precedent has to do with the relevant set of facts upon which the law was based as much as with particular law that finds them relevant. We don't need to have a statute exactly the same as one in England to use the import of those facts in combination with a similarity of circumstance to take preventive measures against Jones for criminal incitement. And criminal incitement is a category that covers a lot of ground in US State and Federal law.
    And the question at hand as I recall was whether there are laws here that could act to deter the likes of Jones from such acts (not just speech mind you, which you don't seem to get, but actions), and I say they are here for anyone who has the need to find them and the power to apply them.
    Do we have laws that can prevent Jones from acting, if it's his perverse wish to do so? Conceivably there are restraining statutes that could apply, but again they can't deter the undeterrable.
    Which should make you happy I suppose, since you can't seem to see the difference between free speech, and freedom to incite violence.
    But to be thankful we don't have laws against incitement of racial and religious hatred? Wow.

    Where do you want the laws, if any, for such matters to kick in - just before the impending act of lynching, or should we wait for the pulling of the noose?

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  122. Baron,

    Is there a reason you're acting so hostile? We're having a discussion on a blog, and my comments to you have been nothing but fair-minded. Chill out, man.

    I suggest you read up on the U.S. Supreme Court case Brandenburg v. Ohio, and the court's reference to, and definition of, "imminent lawless action." It might help clear up this debate:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg_v._Ohio

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imminent_lawless_action

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  123. Hostile? More like exasperation. Don't you read your own citations?
    Brandenburg decision for example: It held that government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless it is directed to inciting and likely to incite imminent lawless action.

    How does that NOT apply to Jones?

    And that's just about directed speech, absent of the overt action element. Jones took an action which was not just hand-waving speechifying.

    And to be thankful about not having laws like the British racial hatred statute cited? It's like you're disappointed that we went so far as to ban discriminatory practices in government. Or try to. I deal with the effects of discrimination in real life. And take action accordingly and legally. And not just with lip service.

    Like I said, exasperating.

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  124. I’m not thoroughly versed in the law, Baron, but I think the point is that “The U.S. Supreme Court reversed Brandenburg's conviction, holding that government cannot constitutionally punish abstract advocacy of force or law violation.” Meaning, I think, that Jones cannot be charged since his speech/actions were “abstract”, rather than direct; the law seems to require that he say something to the effect of, “Kill UN workers!”

    I don’t particularly agree with the Brandburg decision, but I’m also ambivalent about embracing the law as a panacea.

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  125. Jeff, that's not correct. From the Wikipedia cite: "The doctrine states that speech that will cause, or has as its purpose, "imminent lawless action" (such as a riot) does not have constitutional protection. As of 2009, "imminent lawless action" continues to be the test applied in free speech cases."
    Did Jones intend to cause, or did he foresee, imminent lawless action? The circumstances would say yes, and imminent doesn't mean nearby, it means impending or about to occur. And it seems the particular book was burned as an action to make that reaction happen, since Jones was not only warned but admonished that lawlessness by at least some of those he targeted would be the imminent result.
    But again, this has become a political issue, and free speech the red herring that politicians and civil libertarians feast on.
    Some professionally duplicitous attorney that I imagine Jones by now has at the ready, could even argue that this Brandenburg doctrine doesn't apply to Jones because the reaction of the target audience had to do with the act of burning rather than the act of speaking, since speech was only incidental to the burning.
    Which would be of course the argument from the ivory tower view. The view from where the UN workers stand will be much different, and I say that based on the experience of having done some work for those good people in the past. This stuff is very real to me, and yes, I do get impatient with the public speech and public speakers that advocate on Jones' behalf for purposes of their politics, rather than stand down where these UN people stand and advocate for justice.

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  126. Baron - it appears you are not one for details. you quoted the definition of a legal term. you did not quote a statute, or otherwise enumerate the elements of any particular crime. if you googled a little harder before responding you'd find that federal law prohibits the urging or others to riot but specifically notes that inciting to riot "shall not be deemed to mean the mere oral or written (1) advocacy of ideas or (2) expression of belief, not involving advocacy of any act or acts of violence or assertion of the rightness of, or the right to commit, any such act or acts". since jones did not advocate the violence he is not guilty of incitement to riot

    the UK arrests that you refer to were based on a specific UK "hate speech" law against inciting hatred. urging others to hate is not the same as urging others to kill. and despite your theories on common law, no such hate speech statue has been upheld in the US.

    finally, i never claimed that the incitor must "know someone in the crowd" to be liable. that's a red herring. and your discussion of conspiracy makes no sense. please cite an example of an illegal conspiracy where the subjects do not know one another.





    And by any definition of incite, you don't have to know someone in the crowd to incite the crowd, and you don't have to know the other conspirators to conspire.

    And if they can arrest someone, as they just did, in England, for acting pretty much as Jones acted, they will be able to do it in the US under the precedence system of the common law that both countries share.

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  127. Jeff, I posted a reply for you, but it seems you won't be free to read it.

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  128. Oops, I jumped the gun there - my earlier comment just came through.

    So did max's. And max, I speak from my administrative experience, not from Google's.
    But hey, maybe I've been wrong and just got lucky all these years.
    Check out the RICO act for an answer as to how conspiracies can operate. Check out how espionage is organized by cells so that lack of knowledge of the other cells is what protects the operation from being penetrated.

    In any case you're still full of it. Your inexperience with the law is obvious, so as they say in that world, don't try to kid a kidder.

    If you don't think I've explained things to your satisfaction, or you don't want to take my word for how things in my experience work, or are at least supposed to work, I don't care.

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  129. baron - you're not a kidder, you're just a poor debater. your premise is that jones is to blame for the murders of the UN staff in afghanistan. so far i've refuted your arguments in regard to proximate cause (negligence), incitement to riot, and hate speech. now you've moved onto RICO statutes, espionage cells, and the blanket assertion that you just know better. all without specifics. i'm on this board because i enjoy reasoned logical debate. your "take my word for it" approach doesn't apply. so i don't care either.

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  130. Jones acted immorally and bears some causal responsibility - this is all distinct from whether he's legally culpable, though.

    You may have refuted Baron on legal grounds, Max, but you haven't addressed the moral or causal aspects directly.

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  131. "please cite an example of an illegal conspiracy where the subjects do not know one another."

    He's right. I cited two examples and he only asked for one.

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  132. Jeff - in my opinion jones acted morally. from what i can gather, he is sincere in his beliefs (however misguided they may be). and although he knew there was a substantial risk of violence stemming from his actions, that was not his intent. finally, from a wider perspective i believe that there's a benefit to society in not succumbing to the threats of extremists that is worth the risk. what is your opinion?

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  133. @Jeff
    "Jones acted immorally and bears some causal responsibility - this is all distinct from whether he's legally culpable, though."
    It's not the type of distinction that makes a difference, since causal responsibility is the basis of legal responsibility in common law.

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  134. Wikipedia has an excellent treatise on the nature and history of common law here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_law#Basic_principles_of_common_law

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  135. And if you tell me that if I speak out against Christianity you will kill people, that's you speaking to me freely, not vice versa. And if the person or persons you are threatening to either kill or have killed include me or someone I can protect from you, and you make some MOVE to carry out the threat, I might just whack you on the spot, ideology and your rights to express it be damned.

    Baron,

    Whats your point here? That my communicating that I will kill if you speak out against Christianity somehow differentuates the two scenarios? Or that you may whack me? I never said you can would be able to protect the person(s) being murdered. Lets say you wont know them. So do whatever it takes to make the two scenarios the same. Pretend I am just part of some hostile Christian group living in the U.S. that is capable of commiting violence if people protest against us.
    Dont try and change the story with nonsense that you can somehow prevent the crime because we both live in the U.S. Make it apples to apples and then ask yourself how you would differentuate the two scenarios. Because I think the reason you assume they would be different is because you are not holding them accountable as human beings. I think Max is right and there is some assumption that these people do not have the same responsibility to humanity as the rest of us. Why are Islamics not held to the same Christians or any other group of people for that matter. You give them a pass as though they carry some inherent right to violence and people cannot pour gas on the already burning fire. Their group for some reason holds the right against insult over other groups because?

    I will try and refrain from answering your personal attacks on me. Your excuse for them is lame at best

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  136. Jeff,

    You'd call the police? Again, if you dont like the analogy, make it apples to apples, but with a Christian group or some other group and tell me the difference? I disagree that Analogical thinking is a red herring here. And I dont agree that this has some obscure relevance that we just dont need to worry about. I think the fact that this is a particular group of people is why you guys place fault on Jones on nothing else. I dont give the same particular group of people the right to some inherent violence as you guys do. I hold them accountable as an individual soveriegn human body(ies).

    so it’s dubious to fear or claim that by abstaining from a very peculiar form of free speech in one instance the world will be held hostage to the whims of extremists

    I think that is exactly what is happening. I dont see Jones free speech in this instance as any less important than some other free speech (of course the whole idea of it, is that we advocate it whether we see it as important or not).

    it seems your argument is that this perticlar instance merits withholding of free speech either because it has too great a risk or too little value in combination with it just doesnt pose risk to future free speech. I disagree with all counts, so we will have to agree to disagree here. I think that is exactly the risk here.

    I feel like your saying there is no chance of a slippery slope here so let prohibit Jones free speech and there will be no risk of it going any further than that. You will still be able to use free speech against the government, other religions, whatever...Again, I just disagree.

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  137. Jim, I wrote a somewhat detailed reply to your recent questions for me, but it was swallowed up somehow. In short, it was to remind you that this was (or should have been) about holding Jones legally responsible for the consequences of his actions, not his speech.
    All arguments from analogy have factual premises assumed. Yours have omitted his actions, intent, and reasonable expectations as factual elements.

    Which I predicted can lead to punishment where the actions occurred, and have argued that we have the means and the law on our side accordingly. We can deal with crimes on the basis of the common laws of precedence, which is not the precedence of statutes but the precedence of circumstance.

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  138. In ongoing related news, a British man has been sentenced to 70 days in prison for setting fire to a copy of Muslim holy book the Koran in the centre of Carlisle.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-13119241

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  139. Baron,
    You keep saying Jones actions and not his free speech. His action was a form of free speech. Perhaps that is where we disagree. In America the "action" of free speech is a protected right. So long as that action is defined as a form of free speech then our constitution protects us from any consequences. The fact that there was a completely independent sovereign human that had to make a separate conscious decision to murder without any colluding with Jones makes it impossible for Jones to predict the outcome even if he knew the murders were a possibility. The murder could have just as likely been his own (a very real possibility). If the Fact that free speech may incite people does not change it from free speech to some unprotected action.
    Precedence law is something that was not laid out in our constitution and is something we adopted. It allows Judges and lawyers to become activists. This was never the founders intent with the Judicial branch. I am sure you have much to say on that point, but it is a debate for a different day. Just explaining why your argument means nothing to me. Precedence law has (in the name of protecting rights) removed rights. As proof of that is your argument here that it can superceed our constitutional right of free speech. Jones has no moral responsibility to the murders, nor one by law.
    You have still avoided the question. If a Christian murdered Someone when he saw the crusifix in urine, would the artist hold responsibility for their "action". I say no. What say you?

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  140. To repeat, "All arguments from analogy have factual premises assumed. Yours have omitted his actions, intent, and reasonable expectations as factual elements."

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  141. /snark on

    I just think you're dense - and that's not an ad hominem, it's an assessment. I've carried on so long here because I'm convinced this is an important issue, and because I find expressions of admiration for Jones themselves morally dubious.

    But if you really think that I'm placing "all blame with Jones" after I've explicitly argued the contrary in multiple posts - you're dense. If you really think that I presupposed or claimed that Muslims are inherently violent, beyond self-control, or that they have a “right” to be violent - you're dense. If you really think that the immorality/morality of Jones' actions are reducible to a discussion of free speech - you're dense.

    I'm so pleased, though, that you composed a response to me consisting of "I disagree"; I'll be sure to revise my position, post-haste.

    /snark off

    P.S. Your crucifix-in-urine analogy still fails since it suggests that the murder is spontaneous, whereas Jones was repeatedly warned about the strong likelihood that deaths would occur. Jones actions say: fuck people, burning the Quran is more important. Also, why in the world would I need or want to invent an analogy to demonstrate my point when I can already do so with just analysis and reference to situation that actually occurred? (That's rhetorical.)

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  142. It's almost comical how you both refuse to answer a simple question. Claiming analogy just won't be accurate enough or won't represent perfectly why Jones should have guilt. The fact us you both would answer the question the same way. You would not place blame on the so called artist. Once you answer the question, you wouldn't be able to logically defend why you see the two scenarios differently. (as proof with the -I'd call the police or I'd whack you responses to avoid the question).

    Baron,
    You constantly refer to precedence law, but then say analogies mean nothing because of specific circumstances. Do you not see a direct contradiction? Precedence law is comparing completely separate events and finding root commonality. Which is exactly what an analogy is!

    Jeff,

    So your saying the murderers are to blame? Why?
    Do you not see that in answering the question of Why, that in that very answer Jones gets alleviated of blame. You can't have it both ways. Either the terrorists should not have murdered people based on a book burning the took as a direct insult to their beliefs or Jones is guilty for setting off an unavoidable chain of events. They both can not be true. If the terrorists should bear the responsibility of being able to handle an insult without killing random innocent people, then Jones should be able to express himself.
    I'm dense, but you want to arbitrarily apply blame in a situation that has no analogy and you can arbitrarily remove that blame when Christianity or something else is involved.

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  143. "Precedence law is comparing completely separate events and finding root commonality. Which is exactly what an analogy is!"

    Except you don't seem to know how to draw the root commonality of inference to the best explanation.

    You seem to want to force the facts to fit your ideology instead of the logical alternative.

    The only things your analogies have in common is that the actors are ideologically motivated. And both might be inviting harm to themselves, but Jones primarily invited harm to others.

    And that, as Jeff might have suggested, the density of ideology is pervasive.

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  144. Baron,

    Again your criticizing the analogy!

    I have invited you to change the analogy however you see fit, the only detail I want is a change from Islam to Christianity and the other details are yours to change to make it the same.

    The reason you refuse to do this is becuase you know the reason for assigning blame to Jones stems from the fact this involves Islam. I invite you to change the analogy to another religion and you know it changes your answer.

    You keep criticizing the analogy. I dont care about the details of the analogy other than changing Islam to another religion. To show that it is Islam that is making you argue the way you are. Were it not Islam and instead Christianity or Jews (or any other religious group), you and Jeff would not be assigning blame to Jones (or whoever you could possibly choose for an analogy).
    You guys have avoided the analogy because you know this is true.

    Despite this is defend precedence law, which always has many differences in details yet utilizes same rulings. You can use precedence law but cant use a simple analogy?

    And to top it off, you and Jeff do this while hurling personal insults at the opposing person while you cant even confront and analogy that would prove you are not consistant with your logic!

    People always aim at anothers person when their argument is weak.

    How about just answering the question and stop avoiding it.

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  145. Jim, calling me insane is not an insult? A bit more perhaps than responding in return that you are dense.
    As to substituting one religion for another analogously, that would require that the religions and the religionists themselves were culturally and strategically and geographically analogous, and they are not. Change the religions here and you change the causative dynamics that are central to making the analogy.

    And of course this is about Islam and Islamics. They're the ones here in the picture that are at war against each other. Put that in your dynamic pipe and smoke it.

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  146. As to substituting one religion for another analogously, that would require that the religions and the religionists themselves were culturally and strategically and geographically analogous, and they are not. Change the religions here and you change the causative dynamics that are central to making the analogy.

    So in order to have a case ruled on precendece, do you have to insure each and every aspect of both cases are absolutly culturally, stratigically and geogrphically analogous? Of course not or there would be no such thing as precendence law. Yet your all for it being our moral compass as to who is guilty and who isnt. Of course unless the precendence happens to be something where people should not be allowed to incite Chrisitians or Jews (then precendnce all the sudden breaks down doesnt it?). Then the fine details of geography, stratedgy and culture all the sudden get in the way huh.


    And of course this is about Islam and Islamics.

    Yep, it sure is. Lefties like you standing up for them when they murder. Telling the world they had the right, because someone burned their book. You defy your own "precedence" to make sure you stand with them. Yeah there is no slippery slope here. The most extreme people on the face of the planet wont try and use the fact people are blaming Jones against us and to divide us. there is no chance of them commiting murder when someone writes a comment in a news paper against Islam. There is no risk of them commiting murder if someone simply speaks out against them on the news.
    We should all shut our mouth and never speak out against Islam pubically. Becuase if you do.....Well then.....its your intent that must be measured not the actual murderers intent.

    Put that in your dynamic pipe and smoke it.


    Dynamic pipe? whatever

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  147. Jones as an accessory to murder would require an argument that the Muslims involved are murderers, and that Jones shares in their culpability. How does that involve releasing the murderers themselves from culpability? Or that somehow I recommend it? You don't believe in the aiding and abetting theories of responsibility, or that there can be a multiplicity of cause? Then you're a fool.

    There is no simplistic either/or dichotomy involved here and there never was as far as my predictions were concerned or based on. I'm neither a lefty or a righty as far as the issue of justice is concerned. The "ism" of my preference is pragmatism.
    You're the one that wanted to change the religions and thus show us that by doing so the analogy remains unchanged. I prove to you that by doing so you change the circumstances, and then you say it's I that changed the possibility of their use as precedence.
    That's more than dense, it's idiotic.

    Hey, we're already killing Muslims by the bushel and hopefully more that have asked for it than not. Jones wants to kill the ones that didn't ask for it as well. I tend to be against that.
    Especially when the ones he got killed likely weren't even Muslims.
    I put my life on the line in war for this country, so that idiots like you and Jones could shoot your mouths off freely.
    Incitement to violence however is criminal because violence cannot discriminate the good from the bad. And apparently neither can idiotologicists like you.

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  148. You say that you have proved to me that by changing the circumstances (in my analogy) that you can change your logic as to Jones guilt.

    You have done no such thing! You have never explained why changing geographic location and culture changes anything. Your argument stems from Jones intent. It never explains why were it Christians that murdered instead of musleums somehow the guilt gets removed. In fact you consistently avoided answering the question because every bit of your argument applies in both scenarios but for some reason the guilt on the free speaker would be removed. Every single aspect of your reasoning for Jones holding guilt would apply in either scenario. Duh, it's why you avoided answering it. No matter how many times you repeat I am dense, you still haven't dealt with this fact

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  149. I understand neither of us are saying the muslims are not the murderers, but you can't say the Muslims are responsible and Jones is reponsible. In order to place blame on Jones, there must be some inherent factor about Muslims that prevents free will to make a decision. You or Jeff have never made a case as to why being Muslim has an inherent value to removes their free will to make a decision to murder or not to murder. By placing any blame on Jones, this must be established.

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  150. If Jones incited Christians to murder, he would still be an accomplice to the murder. But is there a jihad between Christians in the that part of the world at the moment? No. Is there one between the Taliban and their Islamic as well as non-Islamic enemies. Yes. Did I point that out as a relevant factor of the circumstances? Yes.

    Jones took advantage of that enmity between and among Muslims at the place where the violence would most likely follow.

    If there was no jihad in Afghanistan and its environs, this whole scenario would not similarly exist. Because again it's ultimately about the actions, not the speech. Especially because Christians or Jews haven't lately killed anyone for burning books, and you'd rather I not keep bringing that kind of thing up.

    Deal with that fact.

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  151. “Do you not see that in answering the question of Why, that in that very answer Jones gets alleviated of blame.”

    That’s absurd. Jones’ immorality stems not from physically murdering people, but from acting in conscious, callous disregard for human lives. Had no one died, Jones actions would still be immoral for the same reason. By contrast, the murderers themselves acted immorally because they, you know, committed murder.

    “Either the terrorists should not have murdered people based on a book burning the took as a direct insult to their beliefs or Jones is guilty for setting off an unavoidable chain of events.”

    Jones’ act is immoral because he acted despite a likely and foreseeable chain of events, which is not necessarily the same as an “unavoidable” chain of events. The situation was foreseeable because credible threats were made, and Jones was made aware of them. This doesn’t at all absolve or diminish the immorality of physically committing murder.

    “I'm dense, but you want to arbitrarily apply blame in a situation that has no analogy and you can arbitrarily remove that blame when Christianity or something else is involved.”

    Arbitrarily? Right, because I haven’t provided reasons. I never once claimed that this situation has no analogy, rather, I claimed that 1) an analogy is completely unnecessary here and 2) no one here has provided an adequate analogy. You continue to insist, though, that an analogy is necessary.

    I’ve already distilled the immorality here to an issue of “acting in conscious, callous disregard for human lives” – which no one has addressed or challenged. If you wish to take issue with my distillation, then you can do so just fine without an analogy.

    At best, people have offered a utilitarian defense of Jones: If he had not burned the Quran in spite of known threats to human life, something much greater – even more human lives – could have been lost. Jones act, then, according to this reasoning, was the lesser of two evils, preserving the greatest amount of Good. That’s hogwash and I’ve detailed why I think so. Your response, Jim: “I disagree.” (Also note that I don’t buy into utilitarianism.)

    “You or Jeff have never made a case as to why being Muslim has an inherent value to removes their free will to make a decision to murder or not to murder.”

    No one claimed that, nor is it implied by anyone’s position. And, actually, I have addressed that that already. I wrote:

    “Those defending Jones seem bizarrely fixated on (implicitly) defending some defunct notion of rugged individualism where every person is solely responsible for his or her actions, period. End of story. People aren’t responsible for other people because individuals are rational and autonomous and thus are accountable only for their own, individual actions.

    Bullshit.

    People have a *capacity* to be rational and autonomous; it’s prescriptive (not descriptive), though, to highlight that capacity as the constant, universal state of humanity. It’s disingenuous and perilous to wave away the realization that many people will not react rationally in certain situations. And it certainly is reasonably forseeable that certain people – in this case Islamic extremists – would act irrationally and violently to the desecration of their sacred cow. We know that they’d respond aggressively not only because they explicitly said that’s how they’d respond, but also because, indeed, they’ve done so numerous times in the past.”

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  152. I see you're now resorting to some cockamamie argument about free will. That's a non-issue as free will to resist temptation seems to have been equally distributed among the various peoples of the book. If you are aided and abetted to do murder its because you chose in the end to be aided and abetted. Worse than that your argument in this respect would make Jones as the provoker of the murder more guilty than those who then had no power to resist that provocation.

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  153. Jeff,

    Yes in your middle paragraph (that you claim is bullshit) you are describing my position. Whether it's descriptive or prescriptive is irrelevant. It is individuals that are responsible for their actions solely. And there is a higher purpose for making it prescriptive if need be. If we don't, there is a slippery slope. The implications of making people responsible for actions that other people can and should maintain sole responsibilty for, is endless. This line of thinking has already been applied


    so often it has changed the very fabric of society. Mcdonalds is responsible for obesity, the bar tender responsible for the drunk driver, and so on.
    I do see society as a collection of individuals and not a collective.






    You don't seem to think there is a danger in showing Muslims they can murder in response to speech and it won't teach them it's an effective tool to control. I say that's exactly what you have shown them. Let's say we throw Jones in jail as the English seem to think is correct. That doesn't incentivize them to action? You think this is just some isolated incident? What if they did the same just because Massimo writes a post on how Islam is a group of morons that worship a God that there is no proof for? Is that just beyond the realm of reality or could it really happen? It doesn't matter that you may place blame on them, once you place blame on the one who is speaking out, you have given them an effective tool.
    They are individual sovereign body's that have complete capacity to control their own acton. It doesn't matter if Jones knew this would be a likely outcome. They must still assume sole responsibility or the possibilities are endless as to who can be reap

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  154. I am not sure where my last comment left off, I am typing on an I phone with a smashed glass, but we are just going round and round. So I will end it here and leave you last word. I will say that not viewing them as sovereign individuals that must contain full responsibility for their action is inviting violence as a tool. I don't understand why we can't expect people to behave rationally and must concede to the fact we know they probably won't. I refuse to accept that I must limit my speech and evaluate the rationality of who it is I might offend before I do, less it could be my crime if I don't. I see that as to a society without liberty. People will concede liberty at a drop of a hat. It is liberty at stake. The application of your logic has endless applications to limit liberty.

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  155. Baron ,

    The assumption the free will or however you want to word it does not make Jones more guilty because he knows they have the same free will he does. Again, for that statement to be true. The murderers have to have an inherent quity of violence that removes their free will. So you argument doesn't even make sense.

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  156. Jim wrote earlier: "In order to place blame on Jones, there must be some inherent factor about Muslims that prevents free will to make a decision."

    I said that's a cockamamie argument. What decision did their lack of will prevent? A decision to react to provocation? The fanatical among them can be counted on to react to provocation. And they are just as free as Jones to react the way such fanatics can be predicted to react. A fact which they can all predict about each other. The 'free will or lack of such' conjecture is a non-starter. Lack of will to resist Jones would make his responsibility more direct, not less.
    That was my argument. Jim says it doesn't make sense. Maybe it would if he understood it.
    Or not.

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