Archive for January, 2015

Fry, Vocal, Fry

Listening to the reporters on This American Life complain about being criticized for vocal fry makes me wonder why these people ever went into radio in the first place.

Yes, the story is nominally about how mean people can be on the Internet. and the complaint tweets and emails they’re reading are pretty cruel.  And they do seem to focus on younger, women reporters. And they quickly reviewed previous trendy complaints: upspeak and using “like” in place of a comma.

First, growling is going to be more noticeable in sopranos than baritones.  Stop trying to make a disparate impact claim out of what people like and don’t like to hear.

When Ira Glass interviews one young woman producer, who fries, upspeaks, and “like”s her way through the whole conversation, she moans that “people actually have a problem with the way I talk? Seriously?”

Yes, they do.  You’re in radio, for crying out loud. It’s a vocal medium, and your voice is your tool for communicating.  If it’s grating, annoying, or distracting, people aren’t going to be paying attention to what it is that’s so important that you have to say.  It’s why print reporters have editors, and it’s why magazines and newspapers spend all that time worrying about layout, graphics, and fonts.

If you want to be on the air, you need to find a way to speak that doesn’t send people screaming from the room. Or content yourself with being a writer.

 

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The White House and Free Speech

It goes without saying that reporting, opinion, and satire are not occasions for retaliatory violence.

Yet at the January 12th daily White House press briefing, Press Secretary Josh Earnest repeated it no fewer than eight times.

Who can this bland truism of a sermon be meant for?  Westerners take it for granted.  Islamists reject it out of hand.  It simultaneously fails to reassure, persuade, or defend.

It was meant, instead, to threaten.  Each repetition was paired with a reason why news organizations might do well to consider self-censoring their reporting and their commentary.   A number of times, Earnest invoked the idea that printing potentially offensive material might endanger the lives of American service personnel serving overseas – a notion for which there is approximately zero evidence.  (One wonders whether or not the servicemen and women themselves were ever consulted about being used in this fashion.)

Earnest ominously suggested that newspapers might need to take into account their own calculations of the risks to themselves involved in reprinting cartoons or controversial material, that they or their reporters might be subject to violent attacks as a result:

The first thing is I think that there are any number of reasons that media organizations have made a decision not to reprint the cartoons.  In some cases, maybe they were concerned about their physical safety.  In other cases, they were exercising some judgment in a different way.  So we certainly would leave it to media organizations to make a decision like this.

He also proposed that considerations of taste, journalistic judgment, and ethics might come into play:

And, again, those decisions aren’t just driven by safety; they’re also driven by certain ethics and journalistic standards.  And these are complicated issues but ultimately ones that journalists should make.

There was a faint mention, prompted by insistent questioning, that a free press was something that our military is out there defending, but that only served to heighten the need for self-censorship in order to protect them.

And I think you could make the case, as I mentioned earlier, that a lot of men and women in uniform — not just from American soldiers, but French soldiers and British soldiers and others are fighting for that principle in a very real way.

In fact, given the opportunity in a question to say that American newspapers really should consider themselves safe, Earnest passed it up, in favor of another statement that journalists were just going to have to make that assessment themselves:

Q: Are you saying that based on your knowledge, the White House — you guys know a thing or two about security — that American media organizations shouldn’t be afraid of writing something or showing a cartoon that would offend jihadis because, hey, you, as the White House say, America is the place where you don’t have to be afraid of that because we have sufficient security here? …

A: What I’m saying is that individual news organizations have to assess that risk for themselves.

Earnest then went on to mention the risks journalists routinely take to bring stories to their readers – without mentioning that reporting on ISIS from Iraq entails, or should entail, slightly different security concerns from printing satirical cartoons in Paris or New York.

Put together, the logic of the briefing reads like satire itself:  No speech can justify violence like what we saw in Paris, but news organizations need to think about what they’re printing, the kinds of risks they’re taking printing it, since we really can’t protect them, and how they might endanger our servicemen who are fighting to protect their right to print this sort of thing.

Here’s what a robust defense of the spirit of the First Amendment would look like: “Americans – indeed all people – have the right to unfettered free speech, be it reporting, opinion, or satire.  It is not the job of this government to pass judgment on the content of that speech.  It is the job of this government to make sure that Americans can exercise that right without fear for their safety.”

We didn’t get that.

Instead, then-Secretary of State Clinton supported the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) notorious UN Resolution 16/18.  That resolution would effectively criminalize criticism of Islam, encouraging countries to ban speech that serves as an “incitement to violence.”  While under Western law “incitement” means encouraging violence, Islamists interpret it to mean “offending to the point of provoking violence.” Such laws would surrender our free press to the Islamist mob.

The administration’s support for Resolution 16/18, and active cooperation in its development, lends a decidedly more sinister cast to its statements.  In this context, the repeated statements that nothing that gets printed can justify violence begins to seem a little less like an attempt to state a principle, and a little more like a Chicago politician’s traditional warning: nice little newspaper you got there, shame if anything happened to it.

How long will it be before we see Earnest making the case for Resolution 16/18 simultaneously on the patriotic grounds of protecting our troops, and as a preferable alternative to the violence that “irresponsible” speech invites?  We would then have the spectacle of a United States President using the threat of Islamist terror attacks to justify Islamist restrictions on a free press.

Even though, it goes without saying, such violence can’t be justified.

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Provocation Is Not Incitement

Overseas and in Canada, Islamists have succeeded in using the notion of “defaming” a religion in order to misuse libel laws and shut down criticism of Islam or Islamic leaders.  Fortunately, the US has proven more resistant to such abuses.

As an end-around, Islamists seeking to suppress free speech in the name of “respect” for Islam are using a treacherous linguistic bait-and-switch to get restrictions written into national laws.

Historically, incitement to violence – or any criminal act – has been considered at least a justification for prior restraint, and sometimes even a criminal act in itself.  This Findlaw page on the legendary Judge Learned Hand discusses changing standards for what constitutes incitement – and therefore what written material might be subject to prior restraint. It is clear that the term means encouraging or instructing someone to commit a crime:

At that time, the legality of written or spoken words was usually judged by the probable result of the words—that is, if the words had the tendency to produce unlawful conduct, then they could be banned. Hand took a different approach: his solution focused on the words themselves, rather than on a guess at the public’s reaction to them. He invented what became known as the incitement test: if the words told someone to break the law, if they instructed the person that it was a duty or interest to do so, then they could be banned. The Masses magazine praised conscientious objectors and antiwar demonstrators, but it never actually told readers they should behave similarly. For this reason, Hand ruled that the postmaster could not ban the magazine.

Here’s a case of modern-day incitement, although for some obscure reason, charges were never brought:

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This definition places the burden where it belongs: on the mob and on the guy who yelled, “Burn it down!” or “Kill the Jew!”  That is, the mob who actually did the destruction, the individual who actually committed the act, and the person who inspired them to commit that act.

Islamists seek to reverse this logic, and therefore, gain power over our speech and our writing.  They do this by subtly redefining incitement, so that if someone published cartoons insulting to Islam, and a mob uses that as a pretext for wreaking havoc, the publisher of the cartoons will have “incited” the mob’s behavior, even though this wasn’t the intent of the speech or the writing.

Take this 2012 oped by Randall Hamud, a San Diego attorney who gained brief notoriety in the aftermath of 9/11 for representing some men accused of being involved with the plot.  Here, Hamud is trying to make the case that Mark Nakoulay, of Beghazi Video fame, may have committed a criminal act by making and distributing the video.

In 1919, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote that free speech did not include the right to falsely yell “fire” in a crowded theater resulting in a panic. If there were a clear and present danger of substantive evil, such speech would not be protected. In 1969, the Supreme Court held that government cannot punish advocacy in the abstract. However, advocacy can be criminalized where it urges “imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

You see what he did there? The video doesn’t even come close to urging imminent lawless action, and the action presumed taken – riots by an Islamist mob – are certainly not what Nakoulay had in mind.  On a nontrivial technical note, the Court said “and” rather than “or,” meaning that the lawless action taken has to be the one contemplated by the speaker.

Consider the following scenario.  Jyllands-Posten publishes a series of juvenile cartoons making fun of Muhammad. The local imam takes those cartoons, waves them around at Friday prayers, and demands satisfaction.  Young Arab men then stream out of the mosques, burning and smashing the business district of their town.

Under the traditional definition of “incitement,” the imam would be guilty of incitement, and the mob would be guilty of property destruction.

Under the revised, Hamudian definition, the publisher would be guilty of incitement, and the imam would off scot free.

Whenever Muslim mobs rampage allegedly over some perceived slight, or Islamists walk into a newspaper and murder the staff, apologists would argue that they were “incited” to do so by the cartoons/editorial/image/oped/sandwich, effectively giving the most-touchy, most thin-skinned guy with access to a knife veto power over what we can say.

I’d like to be able to report that the US government, leader of the free world and primary defender of liberty across the globe, is having none of it.  Sadly, in 2011, then-Secretary of State Clinton enthusiastically endorsed UN Human Right Council (sic) Resolution 16/18. Whether this is the result of useful idiocy or active sympathy is beside the point – the US government has opened to door to subverting the 1st Amendment at the behest of our enemies.

Randall Hamud, by the way, was presented in 2002 with something called the “Alex Odeh Freedom of Speech Award.”

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Democrat Unseriousness on Islamism – Again

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cloud Cuckooland) has appointed Andre Carson (D-IN) to serve on the Permanent House Select Committee on Intelligence.

Rep. Carson is a Muslim, which in and of itself would not be problematic.  If, say, Dr. Zudhi Jasser or Dr. Qanta Ahmed were to be elected to Congress, I can’t think of a place where they should be more welcomed.

But Rep. Carson is no Dr. Ahmed or Dr. Jasser.  Rep. Carson is both a fan of and beloved by the Muslim Brotherhood’s political operations here in the United States.  Carson has a long history of associating with the Islamic Circle of North America and the Muslim American Society, both groups recognized by Egypt and the UAE as being part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s American political and influence operations.

The appointment comes a week after a set of bloody Islamist attacks in France, and less than a month after Egyptian President Sisi, whose country exists in a state of low-grade warfare against the Brotherhood, issued what amounted to a call for an Islamic reformation.

The appointment puts someone with close ties to America’s enemies on its most sensitive committee, and the one most directly involved with fighting that threat here and overseas.  Why on earth would you give someone like that access to a routine diet of sensitive operational and finished intelligence?

Given the fact that the mainstream media has mostly reported on the novelty of having a Muslim on the Intelligence Committee, the question answers itself.  Pelosi is looking to court a voting bloc, another of the Democrats’ increasingly incompatible identity interest groups in its increasingly unstable and incoherent coalition.  That is also helps to prove that America is no place for the oft-heralded, never-materialized backlash against Muslims.  Pelosi and most Democrats have long since acquiesced in CAIR’s and the MAS’s assertions that the worst thing about terrorist murders is that Muslims might be blamed for them.  What better way to prove that’s not the case than to put an Islamist sympathizer on the committee most responsible for overseering America’s conduct of its war on That Which Has Nothing To Do With Islam?

This is deranged.

It’s the equivalent of putting an actual Communist, say, Ron Dellums of California, on the Committee, or on the Pike Committee, the House’s equivalent of the Church Committee.  Oh, wait, they did that, too, back in the early 70s.
The Democrats have been fundamentally unserious about national defense for generations at this point.  It doesn’t bode well for the country when one of its two major parties derides missile defense as destabilizing, while putting a friend of the most civilizationally destabilizing force on the planet on the Intelligence Committee.

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Thoughts on Rick Santorum

In what looks like the wide-open Republican nominating process for 2016, word is that Rick Santorum is once again considering a run.  Santorum is a genuinely decent guy, and though I think he’d be a disaster as a nominee, having him up on the stage would add a lot to the debates.  Better than anyone else, Santorum made the connection between social issues and economic ones.  The state, by adopting policies that deliberately undermine the traditional family, ends up creating welfare and entitlement dependencies that hobble the economy and create additional dependencies.  And as the welfare check replaces the father, the corrosion turns back on itself in a cycle of decay.  Historically, this has been seen as a problem in minority communities, but in 2012, the number was 40% nationwide.  The idea that this problem would stay contained in the easily-ignored black community was always a mirage.  Santorum, almost alone among national politicians, has been effective in drawing these connections.

He’s also the only Republican candidate that I had a chance to meet personally.  I went to the 2011 debate in Sioux City, Iowa, representing Who Said You Said, and Santorum was the only candidate who personally came out to the media area to answer questions.  All the rest sent flacks to spin, but Santorum stood there and patiently answered my questions about free trade for five minutes.  He had no reason to do that, other than that to a retail politician, everyone – everyone – matters.

Santorum, a former US Senator from Pennsylvania, came in second in the delegate count in 2012, and if he runs, he’ll be thinking that he can repeat Romney’s route to the nomination, when Romney parleyed his second-place 2008 finish into “next-in-line” status.  I doubt that will work, for a variety of reasons.  The libertarian wing of the party is strong and better-organized than it was in 2012; Romney won in 2012 because he entered the race as the front-runner, and Santorum will not; Romney effectively positioned himself as most people’s default second choice, in large part by not going out of his way to offend segments of the party; it remains to be seen whether or not Santorum can pull off the same trick, and his recent comments about Rand Paul and Ted Cruz don’t bode well on that score.

If Rick Santorum were to run in 2016, I won’t be supporting him in the primaries.  His priorities aren’t mine, and I doubt he has much appeal outside of the breadbasket and the South.  The one electoral benefit he might bring to the party would be to weaken the equally socially-conservative Mike Huckabee.  But his presence on the stage will do a lot to remind the country of the mutually-reinforcing damage caused by the intrusive welfare state and a state not even neutral on, but actively hostile to, essential moral values.

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Charlie Hebdo, and The Hill

The Hill was kind enough to pick up my op-ed on the Charlie Hebdo massacre yesterday in Paris.  You can read the whole thing, of course, but here’s my favorite bit:

There was a time when we understood what was at stake.  The fearful editor and wrecked printing press were staples of Hollywood westerns for decades, but this sort of thing happens in real life here, on occasion.

In the run-up to the Civil War, abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy made plenty of enemies on St. Louis with his anti-slavery newspaper, so much so that they destroyed his printing press three times and ran him off, across the river to the free state of Illinois.

The fourth time, they crossed the river, threw the press in the river, killed Lovejoy, and burned his warehouse.

I doubt those at the Washington PostNew York Times, or Yale University Press teach or retell that story today by implying that Lovejoy would have been better-advised to tone it down because deeply held and easily bruised feelings were at stake.

Since, at the end, I call for media to reprint things that irk Islamists, here’s a cover from the newspaper, and the Danish Cartoons that started it all, almost 10 years ago.

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