Socrates George Kazolias, Paris France: I know it is hard to accept but the $1 billion verdict against Alex Jones is a very serious attack on free speech. Yes, what he said in his Sandy Hook Massacre denial was untrue, hideous, and hurtful. But the First Amendment allows us to lie and hurt people’s feelings. What we are not allowed to do is slander and libel. (more on this below).
If saying something untrue were a crime, then every religion but my own should be condemned to pay huge reparations. And by God, if you are an atheist, sue us all. Even in France, which has very strict laws on what one can say publicly, does not have blasphemy legislation.
When Mia, a 17-year-old Lesbian influencer told some obnoxious, sexist and homophobic French Muslims to piss off and that their religion was “shit,” she received thousands of death threats and has been in hiding and under police protection ever since.
I have serious problems with Islam and if that hurts Muslim feelings, so what? I can express what I dislike and fear, or, at least, I should be able to. They may do the same to me and hurt my sensitivities:
- “You believe a guy walked on water,” they may say.
- “I know he did. I saw him do it,” I may answer.
Just so we are clear, I have no problem with Muslims on an individual, human, basis, but I allow myself to make certain civilizational conclusions. A society (Aztecs, Incas, for example) which lives through human sacrifice is not a civilization I can condone. Does that make me a racist? It is a question we should at least be legally allowed to have in public.
That Thing Called the 1st Amendment
This is protected free speech under the First Amendment just as much as denying the truth that a sick 20-year-old kid with an AR-15, murdered 26 people, 20 of them children six and seven years old, in 2012. Those who would like to limit our freedoms always latch on to the most “indefensible” as a pretext and get us to go along with it, only to find later that the boomerang came back to hit us.
So, lying and hurting people’s feelings is still protected speech in the US but the Sandy Hook decision puts all of that into jeopardy unless the Appeals Court overturns the decision on Constitutional grounds.
Racism, xenophobia, homophobia and so on, are opinions in the US protected as free speech while in many European countries (France, Germany, Austria) they are considered crimes punishable by prison and fines. Legislators have voted laws on ‘historical truths’ and acceptable speech. Is that really the way you want to go?
One example is French courts condemning people who called to boycott Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. The courts ruled it was hate speech and antisemitism, both of which are illegal. Fortunately, the European Court of Justice ruled it was free speech and ordered France to over-ride the decision.
My position on free speech is if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Your sensitivities do not over-ride my freedom to say what I think.
Libel & Slander are Another Animal
The US went very far in protecting free speech when SCOTUS ruled that public officials and public figures had to prove “Actual Malice” if reporters or commentators made a mistake and said or wrote a falsehood (The New York Times v. Sullivan 376 US 25).
It becomes a bit more tricky when you are exposing a private person, even if what you say is true (Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. 418 US 323 and especially Firestone v. Time, Inc. 424 US 448).
But usually “truth” is a good defense in a libel or slander case except if you live in Great Britain which is the libel capital of the world where public officials and public figures floc, in order to sue those who expose them to public scrutiny.
The bottom line is Alex Jones has the right to be the worst person in the world and spew the greatest nonsense and we must defend his right to do so or face our own liberties being caged in. It is why Jewish lawyers in the ACLU defended Ku Klux Klan members and American Nazis.
If people like him have a following, it probably has more to do with the rejection of the censorship and propaganda role of the mainstream corporate media, than it does with what he has to say. But the Constitution also protects our right to be assholes.
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