Setting a Limit: Free Speech vs Eliminationism
There have been a number of ad-hoc limits proposed to Free Speech Absolutism in the past. For example “You can’t yell ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater” or “Your free speech rights end where your waving arms and fists intersect my nose” and those get us into the right arena. But I want to propose a more concrete rule and one that is actually in place in parts of Europe today: “You don’t get to propose Eliminationism or deny historical examples of it”.
And I would suggest defining “Eliminationism” to include both extermination and absolute exclusion and would entertain expansion of it to total conversion, at least where that is accompanied by force.
She is beautiful, articulate, and controversial. But she is also fanatical, and even dangerous. Radical Jewish anti-Islamic activist and Fox News regular Pamela Geller said on her blog in 2010: “And I pray dearly that in the ungodly event that Tehran or its jihadi proxies (Hez’Ballah, Hamas, etc.) target Israel with a nuke, that she retaliate with everything she has at Tehran, Mecca, Medina……not to mention Europe. They exterminated all their Jews, but that wasn’t enough. These monsters then went on to import the next generation of Jew-killers.” By “Jew-killers,” she means Muslims: “This new hatred comes from Muslim immigrants. The Jewish people are afraid now.”
Geller shares a similar view with Israeli advocates of “The Samson Option”: if Israel is to be destroyed by nuclear attack, it should destroy the whole world by unloading its entire nuclear arsenal upon it. (See Does the Bible Predict Israel’s “Nuclear Shield?”)
Pam Geller is an eliminationist. And that kind of free speech should not be tolerated. Just as similar language when applied against Jews would be criminalized in Germany.
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.
Ann Coulter is an eliminationist. That should put her beyond the pale. I am not suggesting that this is just easy peasy to actually apply in practice. But only that fencing in speech with a prohibition against advocating mass murder against an entire class of people is a reasonable limit.
Tech note: Israel is capable of destroying a lot of the world. Eight second-strike subs each capable of carrying eight 1,000 mile range cruise missiles.
Interesting note: according to an early 1980s Scientific American cover story on anti-submarine warfare, we were able to track Russian nuclear submarines all over the Atlantic and Pacific. Seems they had to come through choke points above the Arctic Circle where our underwater sound system caught them and our ships and airplanes would immediately track them down (P-3s with super-conducting quantum interference detectors could narrow location to a kilometer). Seems nuclear subs are noisier than conventional subs because they can never shut down their cooling systems. The noisiest part of that on the Russian subs was their reduction gear.
That said, the latest Israeli subs recharge their batteries with fuel cells — totally noiseless. Israel has ICBMs too — good source, Twilight of the Bombs by Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb.
I respectfully disagree. I want to know who the nuts are, not drive them underground. We have laws against libel, slander, and things that directly endanger others, such as shouting “fire”. That’s as far as I would go (and Ms. Geller might be liable under some of those laws). My unrealistic hope is that someday the human race will rise above that sort of thing, but to get there we have to acknowledge our shortcomings and reason people out of them.
My friend Mario near the end of his engineering career when he felt flush finally bought a new Lincoln instead of a second-hand car. It had a satellite uplink of some kind which broke and would start beeping about ten minutes into every drive. It would have cost over $1000 to fix, so let it beep was his reaction. I used to pretend I thought it was a lie-detector. I would like my TV set to make a beep whenever somebody tells a lie. That would be part of my preferred solution to the Gellers. (Another part of my solution would be to start calling such people “Gellers”. I have to credit Mario with that one since after an outside metallurgist named Dr. Theilsch warped an expensive turbine part with an unsanctioned weld repair which we advised against, he thereafter always referred to poor repairs as ‘theilsched’.)
Well I would dispute “a lot of the world”. Cruise missiles don’t have even a fraction of the throw weight of a sub-launched ICBM and I doubt that Israel ever tried to develop an H-Bomb (fusion) as opposed to A-Bombs (fission). Similarly there is a huge range difference between a torpedo tube launched cruise missile and a vertical silo launched Trident style missile from a U.S. ‘Boomer’.
Also worth noting is that Israel is if anything much more limited as to choke points than the Soviets ever were. I don’t think it is even possible for Israeli Dolphin subs to transit the Suez Canal undetected and the only other access Israel has to the Red Sea and so ultimately the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf is via Elat. And even there we are talking a number of narrow and relatively shallow choke points at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Aden and of course at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Plus even if Israel could manage to get subs more or less undetected in the Indian Ocean and with missiles in range of Iran there would be the question of how long they could stay on station without refueling their deisels or their fuel cells.
And while diesel-electrics MIGHT be silenter than nukes when running submerged the pure fact is that they have much less range submerged and have to at least partially surface for normal cruising.
For that matter I have great doubts that Israel actually has eight submarines to start with and still less that they have the capability of eight cruise missiles apiece. After all public sources show a total of five Dolphins with a sixth on order.
The Israelis have a history of exaggerating their actual capabilities in this regard. There is no doubt that they could take on pretty much any combination of non-Nato adversaries in the Med (say Egypt, Syria and Libya) but much of their supposed ability to project force into the Indian Ocean is just bluff. At best it would take complete if tacit support by Saudi Arabia and perhaps Pakistan. It is just a hell of a long sail from Elat to anywhere in range of Iran.
June 03, 2012
“Three submarines have already been delivered to Israel, and three more will be delivered by 2017. In addition, Israel is considering ordering its seventh, eighth and ninth submarines from Germany.”
Actually, I’d be a little (just a little) bit worried about where Israeli subs might go when they got past the Straits of Gibraltar. Science fiction fear maybe but Israel has the smallest population to have such a giant nuke capability, potentially making for less reliable sense of responsibility — has shown itself to be pathologically parochial in the past …
… 26 days of carpet bombing an ethnic group who killed a few on duty soldiers during a kidnapping, killing as many as a 1,000 adults and 400 children (including family of Anthony Bourdain’s crew?), arming and training both sides in Sri Lanka, helping the worst Apartheid state develop nukes, their older, crazier Mossad very possibly setting up the assassination of the first George Bush if you believe the credible author of The Other Side of Deception. He was involved in neutralizing the crazier side of Mossad.
I’d always be a little bit worried about a (hysterically?) self-obsessed nation with the population of New Jersey and the ability to take down half the US or most of Europe painting itself into a corner and deciding to take whomever it felt betrayed by down with it. Just a little.
“Ann Coulter is an eliminationist. That should put her beyond the pale.”
“Pam Geller is an eliminationist. And that kind of free speech should not be tolerated.”
Well, what does that mean? Should she be jailed for that? I don’t think so.
And it’s even more problematic to include “deny historical examples of it.” Then we have to have someone (the state) determine historical truth. Can someone deny the Armenian holocaust? The Native American one? Is it OK to argue that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified?
Yeah, I have the utmost respect for Bruce but on this one I would rather get the whack jobs saying what they think and destroy their nonsense in the court of public opinion than make them into some sort martyrs to political correctness. That does not mean that they should not be prosecuted if they incite violence–which was the whole point of Geller’s little get together in Texas, but the same could be said of many of the pro life folks who incite the half wits into killing abortion providers and bombing clinics–or engage in sedition which any number of politicians seem to do on a regular basis. Of course, as much as I absolutely abhor people who commit hate crimes, I do not think their should be such a thing as a hate crime. If you murder someone I think the crime is murder whether you just felt like killing someone or decided to kill that individual because they were gay or black or a liberal.
Denis, six in 2017 and nine in whenever is not the same as eight now.
And I am not that worried about Israel venturing beyond the Straits of Gibralter. For one thing who exactly would they be threatening? Especially considering the actual cruising range of a Dolphin submarine?
Not to mention that you are overestimating the power of the kind of nukes that Israel likely possesses and vastly underestimating the anti-submarine capabilities of the U.S.
On the other hand I am totally with you regarding the fundamental pathology of the Likudniks in regards to disproportional response to attacks. Reprisal killings of civilians in response to guerilla attacks is what the Gestapo did to the French in World War II and on an even larger scale in Eastern and Southern Europe. Why the Israelis think they can get a permanent free pass for war crimes is indeed a mystery.
Mike and Terry I take both your points. Though I think you are overreading what I admit was a clumsy formulation.
What I am suggesting is that there is a spectrum of speech that ranges from “To be celebrated” at one end to “To be tolerated” to “To be comdemned” even if there are no mechanisms or even a real desire of a mechanism to prevent the latter.
Pam wants to be celebrated for speech that at best should be barely tolerated and that on Free Speech grounds. She may be free to say hateful things but I am equally free to condemn that speech as indeed being hate speech and protest when she tries to claim some sort of Free Speech Hero award.
In my opinion Geller is an eliminationist every bit to be detested as Hitler. And I applaud the British government for denying her an entry visa to spread her vile attacks on a billion plus human beings. Just as I deplore the court judgement that allowed her to spread that same vileness on the outsides of MTA transit cars in NYC. That is not political correctness, that is ME exercising MY right to free speech in the face of someone who was awfully eager to suppress the speech of anti-war critics from her perch at Atlas Shrugs back in the day.
“You can’t yell ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater”
was the principle appealed to by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in denying the “free speech” defense to those arrested for distributing leaflets urging resistance to the draft during WWI. subsequently he modified that principle to require the speech present “a clear and present danger…”
I have no doubt that Bruce would object today to anyone proposing free speech limitations be applied against anyone distributing anti-draft leaflets.
but. you know. a foot in the door, the slippery slope and all that…
but let us suppose the Court upheld the right to free speech, the draft was resisted, America did not go to war, the British lost and Germany won…
terrible, wouldn’t you say?
on the other hand, Hitler would never have risen to power.
Bruce, Thanks for the clarification. I agree the “speech” should be condemned and I am as frustrated as you when it is not, but then the world including this country has never quite been what I hoped it would be. Certainly the idea that Geller tried out about criticism of her being an attack on free speech is utter nonsense as even some of the most virulently anti-muslim media sources pointed out. She has gained notoriety with her stunt but I think the vast majority of observers have a negative view. I do not for the life of me understand how Coulter still gets an audience, but the same could be said of any number of squawk radio hosts. Still better to condemn it than try to prohibit it.
Is Edward Snowden an Eliminationist?
LIttle John is the Pope a minor star in the Constellation Canopus?
Which makes as much sense as your question. What group has Snowden advocated be physically eliminated or converted to an entirely different identity? Do you know the meaning of “eliminationist”?
if i had to guess, i’d guess that Snowden’s free speech has been criminalized by those who see it as a clear and present danger.
The belief that ones political opponents are a cancer on the body politic that must be excised-either by separation from the public at large, through censorship, or by outright extermination-in order to protect the purity of the nation. – Phyllis E. Bernard.
Dale’s right. What happens when your political opponents have control and deem your speech Eliminationist?
OKay Little John, taking your definition as read and addressing your previous question:
Edward Snowden is not an eliminationist. He may well be the target of eliminationists, if that is the category being eliminated is “Believers in the 4th Amendment”.
LIttle John answering your second question.
If your politcal opponents have control and deem your speech almost anything in contradiction to what that term would mean in real world terms then you are kind of stuck with being a “Communist” or “Un-American” or a “Liberal Fascist” or at “Poo-Poo Head”.
Nonetheless “elminationist” does mean something and that something along the lines of your definition and if someone wants to dub someone, who say, adovactes unlimited immigration and universal religious tolerance as an “elminationist” then we just are where we are: in what I am now calling different “epistemic clouds”.
There are of course people who believer that there is an active widespread campaign to eliminate white male protestant capitalist christians from the face of the earth and who would dub their imagined opponents “eliminationists”. There is not much I can do for them.
thanks. i was beginning to think no one would get it.
Of course, no one does get it (except you). It’s always the other guy who is a “xxx-ist” or whatever it is that constitutes a clear and present danger.
Because I didn’t quite understand what the fourth amendment had to do with this, I looked up the chapter on “search and seizure” in Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy’s book “In Our Defense.”
Oddly, the “search and seizure” case began as a “sedition” case.. the arrest of some activists in Appalachia who were thought to be commun-ists by the locals.
This leads all the lawyers present on a merry chase, while the “xxx-ists” rot in jail because no one takes the Bill of Rights seriously.
Except of course when it’s their guy rotting in jail.
For the record, I don’t know anyhting about Ms Geller, but accepting Bruce’s description, I would agree she is not my cup of tea. But “a clear and present danger”? I don’t think so. And I really don’t like the idea of anyone running around putting people in jail because they don’t like what they say, or believe.
It makes me think of John Walker Lindh. and that makes me sad.
Actually, it makes me retch.
Let me ask a question would the KKK be an eliminationist organization?
If so then clearly the US trend is to allow eliminationists to protest with police separating them from their opponents.
Now a better name for the folks involved might be provocateurs because their goal is to provoke folks. Of course provoking folks is good business because it increases ratings.
This gets to the US recent historical mode that protesting the protestors is ok such as happens to the Westboro Baptist Church.
“Nonetheless “elminationist” does mean something …”
perhaps not. at least Wittgenstein (finally) said something like “words mean only what the users agree that they mean”
or even less: psychologists who study this sort of thing say that most of the time we don’t know what the other guy is talking about, and most of the time it doesn’t matter.
but the way people will use words is to incite mobs or convince juries
and that’s a good reason to try to avoid using words in ways that can be used against you. when you least expect it.
So when I say “Dale” I might after all mean “Dan”?’
I first started reading Wittgenstein in 1976 and whatever he was trying to say it was not “Meaning? Whatevah!!” In particular he both introduced and debunked the whole idea of a ‘Private Language’ that would support the absolute relativsm your comment suggests.
I think you have mistaken Ludwig Wittgenstein for Herr Humpty Dumpty:
There’s glory for you!’
‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’
it might indeed.
i understand that Wittgenstein changed his mind.
As for Humpty Dumpty, I seem to remember someone insisting that a particular word meant what “he” meant and not what everyone else meant and then calling “everyone else” Humpty.
words are funny that way. But this is where I came in.
I think it is ironic that you cite Humpty Dumpty when it is you who are insisting that a word can only mean what you choose it to mean.
While I am the one warning that words change meaning according to context and who is using them, and are often completely misunderstood by people who think they understand each other. I might point at the way the word “communism” has been used politically, while suggesting that “eliminationism” might suffer the same fate contrary to our belief that we know what it means.
By my own theory I cannot claim that I know what Wittgenstein meant, or even what the sources you can find by searching google mean. I can point out that you and I at least don’t seem to share a common understanding of what he meant. Which would tend to support my theory, if, of course, we were talking about the same thing. Which, it appears, we cannot.
I would think that even without Wittgenstein we could come to understand the idea that picking a word and declaring that any behavior that falls under “the” definition” of that word is unlawful we open up a door to all sorts of mischief. For example, we could find that distributing leaflets against the draft is a crime not protected by the free speech clause of the constitution.
What is worse, is that a Supreme Court justice could employ the “fire in a crowded theater” argument without anyone apparently thinking to ask “in what way is distributing anti draft leaflets the same as shouting fire in a crowded theater”?
meanwhile, here is an excert of one of the sites you might find on google:
When Wittgenstein wrote: The meaning of a word is its use in the language (PG p. 60; cf. PI § 43: “for a large class of cases — though not for all”), he was not stating what linguistic meaning “really is”. He was defining the word ‘meaning’; — ‘defining’ in the sense of limiting its meaning. There are many meanings of the word ‘meaning’; Wittgenstein chose one. The nature of this principle is made clearer when it is stated in the form: Ask for the use rather than the meaning. (Note that neither this principle nor the game-comparison principle is only a simile; they belong to the essence of Wittgenstein’s method, or, rules for reasoning in logic.)
Why “ask for the use rather than for the meaning”? Because ‘meaning of a word’ suggests an object (cf. BB p. 1) (whether visible or invisible; cf. the word ‘thing’ in “A noun is the name of a person, place, or thing”), whereas ‘use of a word’ suggests a tool that we use to do some work (in our life, work that may not have a counterpart in the life of another community or of a foreign tribe). Bare signs (e.g. ink marks on paper, sounds, gestures) do not have meaning in themselves (cf. ibid. p. 27-28), and so the question is: what gives them meaning?
The word ‘use’ puts a word into action. If a word is a tool, it does work. But it does no work while it is resting in the toolbox, not even its accustomed work. But the word ‘meaning’ on the other hand may suggest an “essence”, a something always passively present like an aura, that a word maintains regardless of the context in which it appears.
Wittgenstein’s principles are comparisons (“Language is like a game where what defines a game is its rules …”) and methodological directives (“Ask for the use of a word as if you were asking for the use of a tool …”). Some principles, e.g. the Archimedean principle that water is not compressible, aim to state truths. Wittgenstein’s principles do not.
What I invent are new similes [comparisons]. (Culture and Value p. 19 [MS 154 15v: 1931 § 2])
New metaphors, definitions, and methods of understanding. Not new doctrines, hypotheses or theories about reality. After he returned to Cambridge in 1929, the aim of Wittgenstein’s philosophy became clarity for its own sake. (This new and important redefinition of ‘Philosophy’ was stated in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, but it was not practiced there.)
Note.–It is mistaken to speak of Wittgenstein’s logic of language in the context of the Tractatus; the Tractatus claims to be the logic of language, not a logic of language (as I have argued that Wittgenstein’s later work is). But if the TLP were indeed the logic of language, then logic would indeed be “the study of everything subject to law” [6.3] in the sense of laws of nature rather than of conventions. The word ‘convention’ is synonymous with the word ‘rule’, and thus in Wittgenstein’s later work, by ‘logic’ is meant ‘the study of rules’.
Dale “meaning is use” does not imply relativism. It certainly doesn’t support personal relativism. It instead invokes “forms of life” and “language games” which are inherently social and rely on some agreement as to at least the outlines of those forms and the rules of the game.
Instead of this Humpty Dumpty is insisting that he is exempt from any social guidelines at all in his usage, that even when he is talking to Alice that he gets to make up the rules of the game and adjudicate them in action.
Your error here I think is to read “meaning of the word is its use in language” in a way that denies the essential social and joint nature of language, that instead invokes some version of “private language”. Something that on my reading the Later Wittgenstein rejects.
But almost everyone agrees on one single thing about our man Ludwig. He is awfully hard to read and pin down. In part because he came to believe that there was no way to actually totally pin down anything and that as such philosophy could not be a positive discipline establishing Truth with a capital T but instead a mostly negative one of stripping away the illusions that ultimately cloud communication and which cannot in fact be totally cleared up.
But all that aside the word “eliminationism” does have a specific meaning in the vocabulary of political history
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliminationism just as the word “copper” has specific meanings in the vocabulary of metallurgy and chemistry respectively. When Little John posed his question about Snowden I assumed that he was using, or at least asking me to use, the language of political theory and history and not engaging in some whimsical invocation of either Humpty Dumpty or Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Though I am happy to discuss either. In an appropriate context. (Whatever that “means”.)
On the contrary, Bruce,
I never denied the essential social and joint nature of language. What I said should have been understood to mean that the social use of language, as guided perhaps by the propagandists, would change the meaning in such a way that what you thought was preventing “eliminationism” would be used against you in some way neither of us can foresee. As for the joint nature of language, we have so far failed to establish any joint use between us.
If Ludwig had never existed (I never knew him) I would still have come to my belief (observation) that people who rely on the “true” meaning of a word are usually overlooking something, or hoping their hearers will overlook something.
I think you entirely failed to understand what Little John was trying to say because you expected him to be talking nonsense. Instead, he seems merely to have been saying that setting up rules to deny free speech can be turned against you and your friends.
So far as I know the only one here who has invoked Humpty Dumpty is you.
As I read what you say here about Wittgenstein, you understand him exactly the way I understand him. Except about “copper”, and which of us is taking the Humpty position.
Dodgson was a mathematician and I suspect the line he gives Humpty about “‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’ is meant to represent the attitude of those who insist upon their meaning of words, which is exactly what Little John, and I, were trying to warn you against. There will be those who take your word and turn it against you.