Robertson's fatwa urging the government to assassinate Chavez
bobsheridan at earthlink.net
Tue Aug 23 22:47:00 PDT 2005
In one of his posts, Eugene wrote:
"...Had Robertson's speech been likely to be understood by his listeners
as calling for them to try to assassinate a fairly heavily guarded world
leader, I think it would have easily been punishable under Debs (though
I agree not under Brandenburg). But given the substantial unlikelihood
that his speech would have been so understood -- and the far greater
likelihood that Debs' speech would have been so understood -- it seems
to me that it wouldn't have been punishable even under Debs.
*Outlawing speech that urges the government to exercise its military
power in certain ways strikes me as a very substantial restriction, even
beyond what Debs and Schenck (wrongly) tolerated..." [emphasis added].*
There is no doubt that outlawing speech that urges the government to
commit an illegal assassination of a foreigh leader for fear that he
might encourage the introduction into the United States of the view that
it is okay to assassinate those who advocate the murder of those with
whom one disagrees is a substantial restriction on freedom of speech.
But don't you think that national security requires such a restriction?
Suppose Chavez controls a nuclear weapon and decides to use it, or WMD?
Or worse, he cuts off our oil? In the name of national security we have
to shut Robertson up before he screws up the delicate balance of our
foreign policy. Why doesn't he talk about Saudi Arabia if he wants to
stamp out terrorists who fly into our buildings, something I suddenly
However, advocacy to which group presents a greater danger that an
illegal act is apt to be carried out in actuality, and soon, to private
individuals who are crazy or government officials who are equally
carried away with their own views? The latter have a far greater
likelihood and present ability to carry out an assassination-fatwa on
the order of "Who will rid me of this damned priest" than a contributor
to Imam Pat's 700 Club.
I'm just not as certain as Eugene appears to be that urging government
crazies is less harmful than urging private ones, or more justified.
Why egg them on? This may be just the excuse they're looking for, now
that they know they have all this support.
I seem to remember an exchange, perhaps between Khruschev and Kennedy
during the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which K-1 supposedly tells K-2 that
K-1 is having a devil of a time controlling his crazies in the military,
to which K-2 can only sympathize, to the effect, "You think YOUR crazies
are bad, you ought to see MINE."
Nope, I think it is very bad to tell the White House, which answers to
the right wing of the party that put them there, that they ought to go
around assassinating foreign leaders. I think the law against this sort
of conduct stems from unfortunate attempts to murder Fidel Castro --
something about exploding cigars, the Mafia, and whatnot. Then there
was the Bay of Pigs. With the White House paying attention to its right
wing, isn't it a lot more dangerous to tell the only people in town who
could order an assassination which was against the law that they had a
duty to do so, in the name of national security, of course. What if
they're parishioners of Imam Pat?
Isn't it against the law to meddle in foreign affairs this way?
What if Chavez attacks?
Then we'll be in a fine kettle of fish.
From Debs to Dennis, the common feature of the cases is that the
decisionmakers were scared white guys, from Holmes to Frankfurter. The
breakthrough case was Brandenburg a KKK case in which there were no
scared white guys deciding. No one burned crosses on their lawns. They
could afford to step back and take the longer, more philosophical view,
just as you and I do.
In the cases Debs to Dennis, the striking thing about them is that
although there was plenty of fear that the speech in question might, or
had a tendency to, produce an unlawful result that government had a
right to prevent, nowhere in the case opinions, i.e. the record, is
there evidence that the feared result actually occurred between the time
of the speech and the argument on appeal. So where was the cry of
"Fire" in the theater, or City Hall being stormed? It's the dog that
didn't bark. Holmes was engaged in "worst case" thinking, paranoia that
is. Hand tried to get real with imminence to protect hard-bought freedom.
So far as I know Hugo Chaves lives, so Robertson is protected under
Brandenburg, unless my theory holds, that it is more imminently
dangerous to egg government on to commit crimes than ordinary
parishioners who just like to hear the preacher give Satan hell. Of
course if Hugo winds up tomorrow full of bullet holes, all bets are of
as to Imam Pat, right Eugene?
Our mullahs are better'n theirs any day.
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