A Philosopher's Blog

What is the Worst Thing You Should (Be Allowed to) Say?

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on January 26, 2015
Members of Westboro Baptist Church have been s...

Members of Westboro Baptist Church have been specifically banned from entering Canada for hate speech. Church members enter Canada, aiming to picket bus victim’s funeral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The murders at Charlie Hedbo and their aftermath raised the issue of freedom of expression in a dramatic and terrible manner. In response to these deaths, there was an outpouring of support for this basic freedom and, somewhat ironically, a crackdown on some people expressing their views.

This situation raises two rather important issues. The first is the matter of determining the worst thing that a person should express. The second is the matter of determining the worst thing that a person should be allowed to express. While these might seem to be the same issue, they are not. The reason for this is that there is a distinction between what a person should do and what is morally permissible to prevent a person from doing. The main focus will be on using the coercive power of the state in this role.

As an illustration of the distinction, consider the example of a person lying to his girlfriend about running strikes all day in the video game Destiny when he was supposed to be doing yard work. It seems reasonable to think that he should not lie to her (although exceptions are easy to imagine). However, it also seems reasonable to think that the police should not be sent to coerce him into telling her the truth. So, he should not lie to her about playing the game but he should be allowed to do so by the state (that is, it should not use its police powers to stop him).

This view can be disputed and there are those who argue in favor of complete freedom from the state (anarchists) and those who argue that the state should control every aspect of life (totalitarians). However, the idea that that there are some matters that are not the business of the state seems to be an intuitively plausible position—at least in democratic states such as the United States. What follows will rest on this assumption and the challenge will be to sort out these two issues.

One rather plausible and appealing approach is to take a utilitarian stance on the matter and accept the principle of harm as the foundation for determining the worst thing that a person should express and also the worst thing that a person should be allowed to express. The basic idea behind this is that the right of free expression is bounded by the stock liberal right of others not to be harmed in their life, liberty and property without due justification.

In the case of the worst thing that a person should express, I am speaking in the context of morality. There are, of course, non-moral meanings of “should.” To use the most obvious example, there is the “pragmatic should”: what a person should or should not do in regards to advancing his practical self-interest. For example, a person should not tell her boss what she really thinks of him if doing so would cost her the job she desperately needs. To use another example, there is also the “should of etiquette”: what a person should do or not do in order to follow the social norms. For example, a person should not go without pants at a formal wedding, even to express his opposition to the tyranny of pants.

Returning to the matter of morality, it seems reasonable to go with the stock approach of weighing the harm the expression generates against the right of free expression (assuming there is such a right). Obviously enough, there is not an exact formula for calculating the worst thing a person should express and this will vary according to the circumstances. For example, the worst thing one should express to a young child would presumably be different from the worst thing one should express to adult. In terms of the harms, these would include the obvious things such as offending the person, scaring her, insulting her, and so on for the various harms that can be inflicted by mere expression.

While I do not believe that people have a right not to be offended, people do seem to have a right not to be unjustly harmed by other people expressing themselves. To use an obvious example, men should not catcall women who do not want to be subject to this verbal harassment. This sort of behavior certainly offends, upsets and even scares many women and the men’s right to free expression does not give them a moral pass that exempts them from what they should or should not do.

To use another example, people should not intentionally and willfully insult another person’s deeply held beliefs simply for the sake of insulting or provoking the person. While the person does have the right to mock the belief of another, his right of expression is not a moral free pass to be abusive.

As a final example, people should not engage in trolling. While a person does have the right to express his views so as to troll others, this is clearly wrong. Trolling is, by definition, done with malice and contributes nothing of value to the conversation. As such, it should not be done.

It is rather important to note that while I have claimed that people should not unjustly harm others by expressing themselves, I have not made any claims about whether or not people should or should not be allowed to express themselves in these ways. It is to this that I now turn.

If the principle of harm is a reasonable principle (which can be debated), then a plausible approach would be to use it to sketch out some boundaries. The first rough boundary was just discussed: this is the boundary between what people should express and what people should (morally) not. The second rough boundary begins at the point where other people should be allowed to prevent a person from expressing himself and ends just before the point at which the state has the moral right to use its coercive power to prevent expression.

This area is the domain of interactions between people that does not fall under the authority of the state, yet still permits people to be prevented from expressing their views. To use an obvious example, the workplace is such a domain in which people can be justly prevented from expressing their views without the state being involved. To use a specific example, the administrators of my university have the right to prevent me from expressing certain things—even if doing so would not fall under the domain of the state. To use another example, a group of friends would have the right, among themselves, to ban someone from their group for saying racist, mean and spiteful things to one of their number. As a final example, a blog administrator would have the right to ban a troll from her site, even though the troll should not be subject to the coercive power of the state.

The third boundary is the point at which the state can justly use its coercive power to prevent a person from engaging in expression. As with the other boundaries, this would be set (roughly) by the degree of harm that the expression would cause others. There are many easy and obvious example where the state would act rightly in imposing on a person: threats of murder, damaging slander, incitements to violence against the innocent, and similar such unquestionably harmful expressions.

Matters do, of course, get complicated rather quickly. Consider, for example, a person who does not call for the murder of cartoonists who mock Muhammad but tweets his approval when they are killed. While this would certainly seem to be something a person should not do (though this could be debated), it is not clear that it crosses the boundary that would allow the state to justly prevent the person from expressing this view. If the approval does not create sufficient harm, then it would seem to not warrant coercive action against the person by the state.

As another example, consider the expression of racist views via social media. While people should not say such things (and would be justly subject to the consequences), as long as they do not engage in actual threats, then it would seem that the state does not have the right to silence the person. This is because the expression of racist views (without threats) would not seem to generate enough harm to warrant state coercion. Naturally, it could justify action on the part of the person’s employer, friends and associates: he might be fired and shunned.

As a third example, consider a person who mocks the dominant or even official religion of the state. While the rulers of such states usually think they have the right to silence such an infidel, it is not clear that this would create enough unjust harm to warrant silencing the person. Being an American, I think that it would not—but I believe in both freedom of religion and the freedom to mock religion.  There is, of course, the matter of the concern that such mockery would provoke others to harm the mocker, thus warranting the state to stop the person—for her own protection. However, the fact that people will act wrongly in response to expressions would not seem to warrant coercing the person into silence.

In general, I favor erring on the side of freedom: unless the state can show that silencing expression is needed to prevent a real and unjust harm, the state does not have the moral right to silence expression.

I have merely sketched out a general outline of this matter and have presented three rough boundaries in regards to what people should say and what they should be allowed to say. Much more work would be needed to develop a full and proper account.

 

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on January 26, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    When it comes to politically correct speech, it’s best to create an environment in which people police themselves…

    “Crimestop” means to rid oneself of unwanted thoughts, i.e., thoughts that interfere with the ideology of the Party. This way, a person avoids committing thoughtcrime.

    In the novel, we hear about crimestop through the eyes of protagonist Winston Smith:

    “The mind should develop a blind spot whenever a dangerous thought presented itself. The process should be automatic, instinctive. Crimestop, they called it in Newspeak. He set to work to exercise himself in crimestop. He presented himself with propositions—’the Party says the earth is flat’, ‘the party says that ice is heavier than water’—and trained himself in not seeing or not understanding the arguments that contradicted them.”

    Orwell also describes crimestop from the perspective of Emmanuel Goldstein in the book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism:

    “Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.

    Source: Thoughtcrime: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoughtcrime

    Red Ice Radio – Patrick Henningsen – Hour 1 – The Politically Correct Matrix: http://youtu.be/uZ2Rn2Pb9Ek via @YouTube

    • ronster12012 said, on January 27, 2015 at 9:57 am

      AJ

      Excellent post. Orwell had most of today’s western world thoroughly nailed…perhaps TPTB are using 1984 as an instruction manual(along with Brave New World).

      There’s a really scary website called http://orwelltoday.com/. Read it and weep……..Very diligent effort by the owner, Jackie Jura, in compiling the contents, although it’s simply current media reports vs chapters from 1984.

      What amazes me is how infectious ideas are and how quickly adopted they are by large portions of the population, all without examination. Examples include global warming/climate change/ global climate disruption(Obama’s ugly addition, whatever), ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, ‘homophobia’ ‘terrorism'(War is Peace),’equality'(but some animals are more equal than others), ‘freedom'(while we are being monitored as never before) and so on. All these topics then require laws to shut down opposing views, which is where we are today.

      So, we are now discussing what we should and shouldn’t be allowed to say. I doubt that this would have been a topic worthy of discussion 20-30 years ago, but since it has popped up here and elsewhere then I can only surmise that it’s the next of our few remaining freedoms to go.

      As for my opinion, if I am still permitted to express it despite risking being labelled as a ‘domestic terrorist’ or suffering from ODD( oppositional defiant disorder, a new fictitious psychiatric disorder cooked up by Medicopsychopharmagovcorp) or simply an anti social thought criminal……..that the only thing that should be banned is shouting ‘Fire’ in a crowded place(when there is no actual fire of course).

      You americans are very lucky in one respect and that is your 1st amendment. We don’t have that in Australia. Supposedly at the time of the formulation of our constitution(which has elements of the US constitution and British traditions) in the late 1890’s, certain freedoms were considered implicit and so were not made explicit. That is the problem, as it is easier to slowly erase certain rights. We are now drenched in anti religious/sexual/racial blah blah vilification laws administered by unelected thought police and stasi snitches. Anyhow I still prefer to speak my mind even if it means being eventually send to a reeducation camp(all for my own good, of course lol) ……….

      The really interesting question for me is how we got to this point where we are expected to justify our own rights. Inevitable result of complex bureaucratic soceties, or subversion (by whom)?

      One other disturbing development is the idea that one has to be in some way ‘responsible’ for what one says. This seems to mean that yes, we have ‘free speech’ but you must take the consequences. Well, if people change their opinion about you based on your statements, that is one thing, but when it comes with real consequences(official or not) then there is in effect no free speech. It’s like saying that there is free speech, you can say anything you want, but you will be punished for it. More doublethink arghhh!!!

  2. T. J. Babson said, on January 27, 2015 at 10:12 am

    There is a deep human tendency to blame the victim. It is even on display in the Book of Job.

  3. ajmacdonaldjr said, on January 27, 2015 at 4:23 pm

  4. T. J. Babson said, on January 27, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Mike, pop quiz. Who’s face was pixelated out and why?

  5. TJB said, on January 28, 2015 at 12:13 am

    It is a person from the distaff side. The kind that don’t count in Islam.

    • ronster12012 said, on January 28, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Thanks for two reasons, one for the hint(only guessing but is the distaffoid a certain HRC by any chance?) and the other is that I had to look up the meaning of distaff……and now have my new word for the day. I’ll now use it often….lol

      • T. J. Babson said, on January 28, 2015 at 10:31 am

        Actually it is Michelle O. She did not cover herself so the Saudi’s blurred her out.

        One has to wonder why Obama thought it was so important to attend the funeral of a Saudi King.

        • T. J. Babson said, on January 28, 2015 at 10:34 am

          Mike, do you believe religious ideas deserve to be treated any differently than other ideas?

          For example, can one look into the historical Muhammad the same way Jesus has been studied? Even though the scholarly findings might make a lot of Muslims upset?

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 28, 2015 at 3:01 pm

            I believe that they should be treated the same. That is, subject to the same sort of rational assessment that other ideas should be subject to. So, yes Muhammad should be studied like Jesus.

            But, there is the pragmatic concern. Outside of the academy, I will consider how people feel about their beliefs and will avoid needlessly upsetting, provoking or antagonizing people. For example, if I go a funeral and someone starts talking to me about the soul of the departed, I do not engage in a critique of the soul.

        • ronster12012 said, on January 28, 2015 at 11:31 am

          Would any western leader even send a condolance card if the Saudis didn’t have any oil?

          I found Gulf War 1 amusing, or at least the proffered reasons were amusing, when in fact the west was fighting for absolute, (not constitutional) monarchies and telling the world that they were fighting for “freedom”…

          • T. J. Babson said, on January 28, 2015 at 12:23 pm

            I think it was pretty clear (even at the time) that Gulf I was fought to keep the oil flowing freely…

            • ronster12012 said, on January 28, 2015 at 1:05 pm

              I’m not so sure. The oil was flowing very freely and the price was low as a result. IMO it was more to do with local balance of power issues in the Gulf. As I understand it the Saudis and Kuwaitis were demanding repayment of 40 bil in soft loans they gave Saddam to fight Iran. Plus I think I read somewhere that the Kuwaitis were actually drilling under the border and stealing Iraq’s oil.
              It’s all games within games and wheels within wheels….we can only speculate as to the *real* reasons for any war.

            • WTP said, on January 28, 2015 at 1:28 pm

              Plus I think I read somewhere that the Kuwaitis were actually drilling under the border and stealing Iraq’s oil.

              Sounds like conspiracy theory. The record for horizontal drilling distance is about 10km. I wouldn’t put it past Saddam to have done the same if necessary, so worst case it’s a wash. As for who/what we were fighting for was to keep a loose cannon like Saddam in his place. And relatively speaking, Kuwait was a far freer country than Iraq, or even SA. RELATIVELY SPEAKING. And also. like the Saudi’s a regional ally.

            • ronster12012 said, on January 29, 2015 at 1:20 pm

              WTP

              …………………………………………………
              “Plus I think I read somewhere that the Kuwaitis were actually drilling under the border and stealing Iraq’s oil.

              Sounds like conspiracy theory. ”
              …………………………………………………

              You could be right there, though it is still uncertain what exactly is the case. Just labelling something a ‘conspiracy theory’ has no probative value…conspiracy theories remain so until verified then they simply become ‘history’. And history is full of them.

              ………………………………………………….
              “As for who/what we were fighting for was to keep a loose cannon like Saddam in his place. ”
              ………………………………………………….

              Loose cannon? Hardly, as he was supported by the gulf states, in particular Kuwait and SA who had the most to lose from the shiite revolution spreading, as well as the US/west who supplied him with weapons and satellite imagery(and chemical weapons too) etc. Iraq was no better or worse than any of the European powers, Britain or the US as regards the Kuwait adventure. Disagree? Simply count the numbers of countries invaded by the aforementioned…..nuff said.

              As far as grievances that contributed to the Kuwait invasion were the demands by Kuwait for repayment of soft loans and Kuwaiti overproduction of oil sending the price down at the same time Iraq was trying to rebuild the country after the Iran Iraq war as well as the possible slant drilling under the border. I have not seen it said that slant drilling into iraqi oilfields was impossible, rather that Kuwait was innocent of it.

              Anyhow, many wars have been started for less……..
              ……………………………………………………

              “And relatively speaking, Kuwait was a far freer country than Iraq, or even SA. RELATIVELY SPEAKING”
              …………………………………………………….

              Dunno….how do you measure it? Absolute monarchy (same as Saudi), who actually own the country as their personal possession versus what? A ruling Baath party who were pretty ruthless but then the Al Sabah weren’t nancy boys either. How to sort the propaganda from the bullshit???lol ‘Freedom’ is often a fuzzy propaganda word that pushes people’s emotional buttons and is used to sell a story or a war or to get people to go and fight a war.

              cheers

            • WTP said, on January 29, 2015 at 1:56 pm

              “conspiracy theories remain so until verified then they simply become ‘history’. And history is full of them”

              No, conspiracy theories are proven mostly to be crap. Did some further research into this “theory” that Kuwait was drilling into Iraq. The southern Iraqi oil fields are 32 miles from the Kuwaiti border. Farthest horizontal drill record, as I said, is 6 miles. Plus the only reference I could find to this theory was basically what Iraq claimed as an excuse to go to war. The basic issue was that Iraq owed a lot of money and since the oil WAS flowing, the price WAS too low. Thus the threat to Kuwaiti oil and, likely by threat or by action, Saudi oil. To argue that:

              ” The oil was flowing very freely and the price was low as a result. IMO it was more to do with local balance of power issues in the Gulf. As I understand it the Saudis and Kuwaitis were demanding repayment of 40 bil in soft loans they gave Saddam to fight Iran. Plus I think I read somewhere that the Kuwaitis were actually drilling under the border and stealing Iraq’s oil.”

              is to miss the point whilst sitting right on top of it.

              And yes, loose cannon. He INVADED Kuwait.

              This is the problem with conspiracy theorists. They swallow a camel and choke on a gnat. Every one of the conspiracy theories I have looked into, when looking for hard facts, have been very weak. They contain more “unanswered” and unanswerable questions than the history they purport to dispute. The JFK one was the template (and yes it wasn’t the first, just the most successful) for further theories leading the soft headed masses down a path to distract them from what is really going on. That which is out there in plain sight. Every society, every successful enterprise has its faults. It is the nature of losers to latch on to those faults and missteps, ignoring the faults and missteps of other actors, as an excuse for their own failures.

            • WTP said, on January 29, 2015 at 2:02 pm

              Meant to add…another reason conspiracy theories travel so well (as Twain said, a lie can make it half way around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on) is that they give the true believers a false sense of “smartness”, of not being as naive and foolish as the “sheeple”. They also fill the role of God, supplying an explanation for all things which, while the theories are not necessarily comfortable in themselves, provide a stable framework by which to process and put away any troubling thoughts or ideas that are raised by uncontrollable future events.

              They’re a lot like religions, really.

            • ronster12012 said, on January 30, 2015 at 12:14 pm

              WTP

              ……………………………………………………………….
              “conspiracy theories remain so until verified then they simply become ‘history’. And history is full of them”

              No, conspiracy theories are proven mostly to be crap. Did some further research into this “theory” that Kuwait was drilling into Iraq. The southern Iraqi oil fields are 32 miles from the Kuwaiti border. Farthest horizontal drill record, as I said, is 6 miles. Plus the only reference I could find to this theory was basically what Iraq claimed as an excuse to go to war. The basic issue was that Iraq owed a lot of money and since the oil WAS flowing, the price WAS too low. Thus the threat to Kuwaiti oil and, likely by threat or by action, Saudi oil.

              ………………………………………………………………..

              Of course many ‘conspiracy theories’ are crap( at least in parts), and logically must be so because they often contradict other CTs, but that doesn’t logically mean that all alternative explanations are crap. Official explanations can be just as crap too. We need to compare official stories and other alternative explanations and see which fits the known facts best.

              One point…and that is calling any alternative explanations ‘conspiracy theories’. Conspiracy theory has a certain pejorative or at least dismissive intent. I simply say that there are alternative explanations…..and who can object to that?

              As for the topic at hand, Kuwait ‘stealing’ Iraqi oil, you say that the closest the Iraqi oil fields get to the border is 32 miles.

              This wikipedia article says the Ramaila oilfield extends 2 miles into Kuwait.

              “The increasingly tense relations between Iraq and Kuwait were further aggravated when Iraq alleged that Kuwait was slant-drilling across the international border into Iraq’s Rumaila field. The dispute over Rumaila field started in 1960 when an Arab League declaration marked the Iraq-Kuwait border 2 miles north of the southernmost tip of the Rumaila field.[25] ”

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_Kuwait

              Even if a claim was made with the intent of providing a pretext for war, then at least it shouldn’t be so easily dismissed. It must be credible at least superficially.

              Checking around, I came across this article,,http://www.cbsnews.com/news/interrogator-shares-saddams-confessions/ about a FBI interrogator who spent months interrogating Saddam Hussein.

              Interesting comment as to the real motivations for the actual invasion (if true)

              “What really triggered it for him, according to Saddam, was he had sent his foreign minister to Kuwait to meet with the Emir Al Sabah, the former leader of Kuwait, to try to resolve some of these issues. And the Emir told the foreign minister of Iraq that he would not stop doing what he was doing until he turned every Iraqi woman into a $10 prostitute. And that really sealed it for him, to invade Kuwait. He wanted to punish, he told me, Emir Al Sabah, for saying that,” Piro explains.

              So, if true, Kuwaiti oil production over and above the quota+ stealing oil+ a declaration of economic warfare aimed at destroying a society……..yeah, I can understand that and if I were in the same position as Saddam Hussein I would probably do the same thing…..threaten to kill me and i will kill you dead. Why not? And who wouldn’t do the same? If someone declared economic war on the US and was in a position to carry it out they’d be nuked in no time.

              ………………………………………
              “And yes, loose cannon. He INVADED Kuwait.”
              ………………………………………

              Just answer me this….is every country that invades another a loose cannon? And if not then why not?

              …………………………………………………..
              “This is the problem with conspiracy theorists. They swallow a camel and choke on a gnat. Every one of the conspiracy theories I have looked into, when looking for hard facts, have been very weak. They contain more “unanswered” and unanswerable questions than the history they purport to dispute. The JFK one was the template (and yes it wasn’t the first, just the most successful) for further theories leading the soft headed masses down a path to distract them from what is really going on. That which is out there in plain sight. Every society, every successful enterprise has its faults. It is the nature of losers to latch on to those faults and missteps, ignoring the faults and missteps of other actors, as an excuse for their own failures.”
              ………………………………………………………

              I think that you are generalising too much by saying “This is the problem with conspiracy theorists.” How does that sound saying instead “those who propose alternative explanations”? There are alternative explanations to almost anything political.

              Soft headed masses? And you go on to castigate CTers for ” is that they give the true believers a false sense of “smartness”, of not being as naive and foolish as the “sheeple”. ” Sense of smartness anyone? lol

              As for JFK, as you say not the first but the biggest…..and still there is no definite answer as to whodunnit.
              There is no shortage of those with means, motive and opportunity, the CIA, the Mob, Mossad, Cubans, etc etc
              I do think that the only true words about the matter were said by Oswald “I am the patsy”… beyond that ???

              I really don’t understand the problem that people have with entertaining alternative explanations about certain (especially key)events.
              Deception, greed, lust for power, ruthlessness and gameplaying have been part of society forever so what is so hard to accept that it is going on right now?

              Some say that it is impossible to keep secrets and that the truth must inevitably come out, therefore there can be no conspiracies. Complete fantasy IMO. I have secrets that I will never tell and I can probably assume everyone else has secrets too. Mafia, masons, psychopaths and intel agents can all keep secrets too along with plenty of others.

              One recent example is the downing of MH17 over Ukraine. It was immediately pinned on Russia or the Russian rebels of the Ukraine as that is the current gameplan. That was obviously bullshit as 1/ The Netherlands, Britain, Australia and Ukraine(Malaysia, the actual owner of the plane was excluded) all signed a secrecy agreement that none would make any statements without the consent of the others………so we have secrecy. What are they hiding?Where’s the transparency and even a preliminary report? 2/ If there was any evidence that Russia was behind it we’d be hearing about it non stop, never ending with calls from all the usual suspects for more sanctions and other actions.
              So, we don’t need an aeronautical or engineering/ or law degree or anything much at all just a look at the players and see what they are doing and not doing, it’s as clear as day.

              cheers

            • WTP said, on January 30, 2015 at 12:48 pm

              Or we can use the wiki article on the oil field thusly (mea culpa on saying miles when it was km, but either way):
              “The Rumaila oil field is a super-giant oil field[2] located in southern Iraq, approximately 20 mi (32 km) from the Kuwaiti border.”
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumaila_oil_field
              And even if the field extended into Kuwait, it more defeats Saddam’s point. Either way, whatever it boils down to in the modern age, only a loose cannon would invade a neighboring country over such a minor detail. It was an excuse for him to invade. But the hate-America-first crowd doesn’t want to look at things from any other perspective than “evil America, invading everybody”, you know because “evil Britain invaded everybody” (more true, but like the Romans at least they built decent roads).

              ” I simply say that there are alternative explanations…..and who can object to that?”
              When the alternate explanations don’t hold water, anyone with sense. Yes, there are multiple opinions on damn near everything. There’s a saying that opinions are like a*holes, everybody has one. The problem with conspiracy theorists, they tend to have many more than one and shift around

              As for your FBI agent, rather lame to accept whatever Saddam says as true. Like Saddam’s word was good as gold. As for “… if I were in the same position as Saddam Hussein I would probably do the same thing”, I’ve seen this sort of argument many times and it’s bullshit. Granted, I don’t know you but I highly suspect that if you borrowed way too much money from the bank and they came and took your stuff to repay what you borrowed that you would get an armed gang together to raid the bank president’s house, steal his stuff, rape his wife and daughters, and burn the place down just to prove your point to the bank’s VP.

              As for your conspiracy theory on MH17, it’s obvious to me that you just don’t get it. Again, swallow a camel and choke on a gnat. This is the other problem with conspiracy theorists, the obsession with details of things they simple don’t or don’t want to understand. It drags out the discussion into absurdity.

              Look, obviously there’s a small handful of conspiracies that played out to be true. But those are generally accepted at various points in history. We can argue this nonsense back and forth ad infinitum, you with your “facts” me with my “facts”. It’s like Voltaire said, history is just a pack of tricks we play upon the dead.

              I’ll leave you with this also from Voltaire:

              Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever is able to make you absurd is able to make you unjust. If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.

              I suggest you ask yourself this question…rank the following countries from top to bottom in their history of committing atrocities from worst/most on top to least on bottom:

              US
              Russia/USSR
              China
              UK
              Australia
              Israel
              ISIS/Saddam’s Iraq
              North Korea
              Iran
              Syria
              Germany
              Italy
              France

              Once you compose your list, if you find yourself living in one of the top countries, move to one on the bottom and fiercely defend your new land against the evils of the ones above.

            • ronster12012 said, on January 31, 2015 at 12:39 pm

              WTP

              It is getting too long and tedious so I’ll address just a few points.

              ……………………………………………………………………………
              “And even if the field extended into Kuwait, it more defeats Saddam’s point. Either way, whatever it boils down to in the modern age, only a loose cannon would invade a neighboring country over such a minor detail. It was an excuse for him to invade. But the hate-America-first crowd doesn’t want to look at things from any other perspective than “evil America, invading everybody”, you know because “evil Britain invaded everybody” (more true, but like the Romans at least they built decent roads).”
              ……………………………………………………………………………..

              I am hardly an American hater or even British hater, though I do have some doubts about the quite ruthless and scheming elites running both countries(and not the actual peoples themselves). My arguments here are just about keeping things somewhat real vis a vis special pleading. I am actually interested in the truth for its own sake and so am looking at the big picture. So I am not saying that invading countries is inherently evil because to do so then requires me to find excuses for all the countries that I like. I am getting to the point of giving up looking at these things from a moral POV, rather, it’s just something countries do and it’s really just a biological/ primal thing. No point moralizing about it as that’s just a hall of mirrors……rather the truth is that powerful countries do what they want, weaker countries do what they must. They just dress it up in moral terms to sell the story to the world and their own people for compliance purposes.

              …………………………………………………………………………..

              “” I simply say that there are alternative explanations…..and who can object to that?”
              When the alternate explanations don’t hold water, anyone with sense. Yes, there are multiple opinions on damn near everything. There’s a saying that opinions are like a*holes, everybody has one. The problem with conspiracy theorists, they tend to have many more than one and shift around ”
              …………………………………………………………………………….

              Aside from the generalizing about CTers, yes, opinions are indeed like arseholes in that everyone has one(from Voltaire?) and that is just the point…….nearly everything(outside mathematics) is opinion. It fills in time between birth and death though lol.

              …………………………………………………………………………….

              “As for your FBI agent, rather lame to accept whatever Saddam says as true. Like Saddam’s word was good as gold. As for “… if I were in the same position as Saddam Hussein I would probably do the same thing”, I’ve seen this sort of argument many times and it’s bullshit. Granted, I don’t know you but I highly suspect that if you borrowed way too much money from the bank and they came and took your stuff to repay what you borrowed that you would get an armed gang together to raid the bank president’s house, steal his stuff, rape his wife and daughters, and burn the place down just to prove your point to the bank’s VP.”
              ……………………………………………………………………………….

              It seems that you don’t think much of your FBI interrogators especially when they have a few months to work on someone. Was there a reason for SH to lie? What corroborating evidence was there to this claim, what counter evidence etc and what does it all mean? The FBI guy obviously thought that it was true(ish) or else he wouldn’t have repeated it the way he did which was a straight telling with no qualifications.

              As for the rest of your para, a bit of a false analogy I’d say. Instead of me borrowing money from the bank that I couldn’t repay how about me being a businessman with a couple of silent partners(Kuwait and Saudi). We are engaged in a risky enterprise that benefits all of us(countering and bleeding the shiite revolution). Because my silent partners are scared of reprisals they want to stay really silent and so my name goes on the paperwork. Hurrah, the project is a success……..but then I find out that my ‘partners’ are stiffing me and not only that they want my complete financial destruction and to see me and my family begging on the street. Nah, better to shoot them both in the head and take the consequences. There is such a thing as honour and it’s only incidental to the ‘law’.

              ………………………………………………………..
              “As for your conspiracy theory on MH17, it’s obvious to me that you just don’t get it. Again, swallow a camel and choke on a gnat. This is the other problem with conspiracy theorists, the obsession with details of things they simple don’t or don’t want to understand. It drags out the discussion into absurdity.”
              …………………………………………………………

              You mentioned a couple of posts ago that CTers miss the obvious by getting distracted with CTs etc. Perhaps you are missing the obvious. As soon as the plane went down there was a rush to blame the Russian speaking rebels and by extension Russia and therefore Putin(the alleged ‘new Hitler’ as one rag put it). Then it all went quiet, very quiet, then came the secrecy agreement to make it even quieter still. There is no other conclusion other than the Ukrainians took it down. They cannot be blamed as they are currently wearing white hats so the only course of action is to just drop it and in a few years everyone will have forgotten about it. Problem solved.
              Feel free to wait for an ‘expert’ to tell you what to think and when to think it but you may be in for a long wait lol

              ……………………………………………………………

              “Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever is able to make you absurd is able to make you unjust. If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world. ”
              …………………………………………………………….

              Great quote, thanks for that. Doesn’t just apply to religion though. If Voltaire were around today he would see that religion is only a minor influence, propaganda is everywhere and very sophisticated and shapes us constantly. That is why I say take a stick, and poke it anywhere and out will ooze bullshit, therefore, better to think for yourself and be wrong than follow and be right.

              …………………………………………………………………

              “I suggest you ask yourself this question…rank the following countries from top to bottom in their history of committing atrocities from worst/most on top to least on bottom:

              US
              Russia/USSR
              China
              UK
              Australia
              Israel
              ISIS/Saddam’s Iraq
              North Korea
              Iran
              Syria
              Germany
              Italy
              France

              Once you compose your list, if you find yourself living in one of the top countries, move to one on the bottom and fiercely defend your new land against the evils of the ones above.”
              ……………………………………………………………………

              I think that you are incorrect in putting ISIS in with Saddam’s Iraq. I know that Saddam gassed the Kurds but then Churchill thought it would be a good thing too, back when he was in charge of kicking Mesopotamian arse.

              Plus, what time scales are we talking about? The Israelites were absolute total genociders if the Old Testament is anything to go by( and they still think that was a good thing) and fair ethnic cleansers more recently. North Korea is quite badass but theirs seems to be a slow grinding down of a population. Britain wasn’t shy about showing the colonials who’s boss and even had a nice range of concentration camps in the Boer War for the wives and children of the Boers. Plus just general naughtiness(from one POV) worldwide.

              You also forgot Turkey and the Armenian genocide and Cambodia’s population reduction campaign.

              The US has done their bit too, Red indians to Philippines, to Vietnam to Iraq etc

              Perhaps the answer is that there is actually no morality and just don’t stand where the bomb hits as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ you are still dead.

              I just realized that despite saying I’ll only answer a few points I’ve turned this into another monster post….sorry.

              cheers

            • wtp said, on February 1, 2015 at 12:40 pm

              OK, I don’t want to give you the TL;DR treatment but as I said before I only have so much time. I have a life, a wife, and a job. Let’s stick to some simple facts on just one issue. Saddam Hussien was an evil, evil man. And there is significant evidence that at least one of his sons was even worse. To dismiss such as simple propaganda is to dismiss the existence of evil. Perhaps we need to back the conversation up to the basics because unless we agree on 1 + 1 = 2, we can’t discuss matrix algebra and vector space. Does evil exist?

              Also, to your MH 17 point…don’t want to get in a long dragged out argument over perception and reality and what we really know (because, see above), but to question the “silence” (which is in itself questionable) regarding the MH 17 shoot down investigation, which is ongoing except for the Germans who have come to the conclusion that it was shot down by pro-Russian separatists, an investigation which Russia has made every attempt to interfere with, has done everything possible to delay access to the evidence, has let human remains rot in the field, to ignore all those questions without questioning the real silence that occurred after initial rebel bragging on social media of shooting down an An-26 Ukrainian transport and the reporting that no such transport had been lost at the amazingly coincidental time of the MH 17 shoot down in to strain critical thinking beyond the strain I’ve put on the English language with this tortuously long sentence. And all this by a nation whose soldiers are fighting in Ukraine in unmarked uniforms, whose equipment has been seen crossing the border to support Ukraine rebels, from whose territory missiles had been launched days earlier shooting down a Ukrainian An-26 military transport. Now I suppose you can fall back to the position that all such evidence was faked, but then where does that leave us?

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 28, 2015 at 3:02 pm

            Probably not.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 28, 2015 at 2:55 pm

          That is easy to answer: oil.

    • ajmacdonaldjr said, on January 28, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      Israeli newspaper edits out Angela Merkel from front page on Paris march http://gu.com/p/44q3f/stw

  6. T. J. Babson said, on January 29, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Mike: OK or not OK?

    An artwork depicting high-heeled shoes on Islamic prayer mats has been removed from an exhibition after a Muslim group warned of possible violence in the wake of the Paris attacks.

    The French-Algerian artist, Zoulikha Bouabdellah, withdrew the work from an exhibition in a northern Paris suburb with a large Muslim population after an Islamic group told local authorities it could provoke “uncontrollable, irresponsible incidents”.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11374899/Blasphemous-artwork-removed-from-Paris-exhibition.html

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 30, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      On the one hand, the artist has a clear moral right to exhibit the work. On the other hand, getting whacked over a work of art might not be the most prudent thing.

      Principles, though, are tough and having them can get one killed. It might even be worth it.


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