Texas attack shows how US protects free speech – no matter how offensive

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/06/texas-shootings-free-speech-constitution

Critics say Pamela Geller’s event was provocative and arguably crossed the line into hate speech – but protections afforded by the first amendment are unique

in New York
Wednesday 6 May 2015

The fatal shootings in Garland, Texas, of two extremist gunmen as they attacked an anti-Islamist meeting was a vivid reminder of the virtually unique protections afforded by the US constitution to free speech, no matter how hate-filled or provocative, according to prominent first amendment experts.

In many countries across Europe and around the world, Pamela Geller and the American Freedom Defense Initiative, who organized the event in Garland, might have fallen foul of hate speech laws such as the UK’s 1986 public order act or article 266(b) of Denmark’s criminal code.

Coming just two months after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, commenters the world over have said Geller’s decision to stage the Texas cartoon competition – participants were invited to draw the prophet Muhammad, with a top prize of $10,000 – was clearly provocative and arguably crossed the line into hate speech.

Geller herself has a long history of inflammatory acts toward the Muslim community.

But there was never any question of the Muhammad event being barred, leading US constitutional scholars say, for the simple reason that the first amendment offers an almost watertight protection of public speech.

Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe said the Garland attack illustrated a major difference in free speech law between the US and almost every other country in the world.

“Most other nations recognize a category of hateful speech that is likely to trigger outrage and even retaliation, but the first amendment has for many decades been interpreted to allow speakers like Pamela Geller to spread their disturbing messages to the world at large,” Tribe said.

While some aspects of US constitutional law are ambiguous or blurry, the first amendment is crystal clear on this issue. The government is prohibited from punishing hate speech or language that might incite lawlessness unless the words are specifically and deliberately directed at a particular target and likely imminently to trigger violence.

Given all the legal hurdles that a prosecution would have to clear in order to be successful, actions to block public events or censor hate-filled publications are virtually extinct in modern America. Legal scholars such as Tribe date the ascendancy of the first amendment in this area to the 1969 case of Brandenburg v Ohio in which a Ku Klux Klan leader was convicted under Ohio law for holding a rally with participants in full Klan regalia parading around burning crosses and vowing “revengeance” against the N-word and Jews.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/06/texas-shootings-free-speech-constitution

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Texas attack shows how US protects free speech – no matter how offensive

Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/117461327725

Robert Reich
Sunday, April 26, 2015

A security guard recently told me he didn’t know how much he’d be earning from week to week because his firm kept changing his schedule and his pay. “They just don’t care,” he said.

A traveler I met in the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport last week said she’d been there eight hours but the airline responsible for her trip wouldn’t help her find another flight leaving that evening. “They don’t give a hoot,” she said.

Someone I met in North Carolina a few weeks ago told me he had stopped voting because elected officials don’t respond to what average people like him think or want. “They don’t listen,” he said.

What connects these dots? As I travel around America, I’m struck by how utterly powerless most people feel.

The companies we work for, the businesses we buy from, and the political system we participate in all seem to have grown less accountable. I hear it over and over: They don’t care; our voices don’t count.

A large part of the reason is we have fewer choices than we used to have. In almost every area of our lives, it’s now take it or leave it.

Companies are treating workers as disposable cogs because most working people have no choice. They need work and must take what they can get.

Although jobs are coming back from the depths of the Great Recession, the portion of the labor force actually working remains lower than it’s been in over thirty years – before vast numbers of middle-class wives and mothers entered paid work.

Which is why corporations can get away with firing workers without warning, replacing full-time jobs with part-time and contract work, and cutting wages. Most working people have no alternative.

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/117461327725

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless