Anti-ScienceReligion

Extreme Fundamentalists & Responsibility

As Jen mentioned in this morning’s Quickies, yesterday Dr. George Tiller was murdered on his way to church, most likely by an extreme fundamentalist who disagreed with Tiller’s decision to provide women with therapeutic abortions. Tiller was well-known for running one of the only abortion-providing clinics in Kansas, where he and his team gave women extensive counseling before and after procedures. He was by all accounts an amazing man and a hero, especially to the many women whose lives he saved.

Tiller had previously been shot in 1993, and was a victim of a long-running campaign of hate directed at him from Christian “pro-life” groups (Amanda Marcotte recently used the apt phrase “forced childbirth terrorist” to describe the killer).

The hate campaign against Tiller wasn’t just some fringe loonies protesting the clinic. It included Bill O’Reilly using his show as a platform to call Tiller a murderer, stalk the doctor and his associates, and senselessly accuse him of covering up child rape.

This event has spurred an important discussion about the responsibility we take when our words spur others to action. While O’Reilly and other pro-life/pro-forced birth/anti-abortion/etc. groups will decry this murder, are they in fact culpable?

Like many others in the feminist blogosphere, I think that yes, they are.

The best piece I’ve read on this issue comes courtesy of Jesse at Pandagon, who breaks down the difference between anti-abortionists and other ideological groups, pointing out the culture of hate and fear that the pro-lifers have fostered:

There is no other “mainstream” political movement in this country which keeps as a part of its bag of tricks the intent to frighten those in the midst of a legally protected activity.

Pro-gun control liberals don’t show up at gun shows and hector attendees. (And if your response is, “Damn right they don’t, because they’d get shot,” you’re proving my point.) Fundamentalists don’t have to worry about fleets of bike-riding hippies showing up at the entrance to their church every Sunday, telling them that their God is false. Religious “family planning” clinics don’t live in constant fear of a Molotov cocktail flying through their plate glass window, don’t have to train their employees on how to handle bomb threats, don’t need to worry about their clients’ safety on the way from their car to the front door. But if you provide abortion services – even if you’re not actually providing an abortion to the person coming in the door, even though it has been repeatedly declared legal – you live in fear.

The anti-abortionists have regularly associated abortion-providers with Nazis (with fetuses playing the parts of Jews, Gypsies, atheists and others), an association that is as insulting to those affected by the Holocaust as it is to doctors. This kind of language has two results: it cheapens the tragedy of the Holocaust and demonizes doctors, transforming them from human beings into monsters who deserve to be harassed, insulted, and gunned down.

While I agree with Jesse’s message, I disagree slightly with the first sentence quoted above. Unfortunately, anti-abortionists aren’t the only group using fear as a successful tactic.

For instance, animal rights extremists (a word I use to differentiate them from “activists”) thrive on fear, encouraging the bombings of animal testing facilities as well as more general harassment of anyone who they feel mistreats animals. Groups like the Animal Liberation Front and PETA skip real dialogue in order to focus on mindless violence and intimidation, leaving the rest of us non-extremist animal lovers wishing they’d stop making us all look so stupid. In response, many scientists (and politicians, and other innocent people) really do have to worry about their safety.

There’s another group that sprang to my mind when reading Jesse’s post: creationists.

There’s an enormous overlap between creationists and anti-abortionists, since they all tend to be fundamentalist Christians. So in a way, I’m talking about one group of people with two distinct focuses.

At the moment, fundamentalists aren’t nearly as violent about their creationist views as they are about their anti-abortionist views—but might that change? Too many of them already draw parallels between scientists and Nazis, most notably Ben Stein in his horrible movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. This isn’t just a cheap, throwaway Godwin-ish comparison—Stein literally believes that the theory of evolution and natural selection directly led to and caused the Holocaust, and therefore scientists who consider evolution a fact (i.e., pretty much all scientists) are Nazis.

If anti-abortionists are driven to murder because they believe doctors are murderers, will the same extremists react in the same way if they believe scientists are murderers? And if they do, how much responsibility would rest on the shoulders of Ben Stein and his ilk?

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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62 Comments

  1. I’m not sure it’s all that easy to say who is responsible when things go so far. I mean, certainly the talking heads, the leaders of movements, the celebrity spokespeople, etc. are culpable to the extent that they are popularizing the ideas that are the basis for crazy. But we also have to look at crazy itself as big contributing factor.

    On some level, the mental deficiencies of the perpetrators of violent attacks is more of a motivating factor than idiots like O’Reilley and Stein. O’Reilley and Stein and their ilk just provide new boxes for crazy Jack to pop out of.

    Plus, we must also consider the ignorance of the public at large, and take into consideration who is responsible for that. If someone thinks they are doing the right thing, if they don’t know any better, who is to blame? That person? The leaders of the movement? Society? The education system?

    I don’t know, but more and more it seems these things all come together and create a “perfect storm” of violence and stupidity. And unfortunately, in the current atmosphere, extremists may very well react in the same way if they believe scientists are murderers.

  2. Thank you for making the link between anti-choicers and animal rights activists. The university where I work is a constant target of animal activists and they are intimidating scientists doing legal and ethical work. They have firebombed a professor’s car and camped out in front of homes. They have sent threatening and intimidating letters to faculty and staff.

    Anti-choicers and animal activists are more than welcome to state their positions. Free speech ends when encouraging violence begins.

  3. I consider these people that commit these acts of violence domestic terrorists. They have already flipped out. I listen to the talking heads egg people on and I hear the stupidity they spew, but I feel no need to get violent (other than smashing my TV). The people that believe the spew already have the crazy in them.

    It would be easy to say the talking heads are culpable, but really, as Sam said, it’s a combination of many things that lead to this. Lack of education, feeling powerless, feeling like they are a minority group, maybe even being glamorized on TV, or the rapture or something we can’t fathom appeals to these people.

  4. I call bullshit, tiger kitty. When Paine, Jefferson, and Hamilton were paper-blogging about these things back the the 18, they didn’t distance themselves from responsibility. They didn’t claim they weren’t inciting violence. And they were absolutely responsible for the revolution.

    Sure, maybe some Tories might have claimed that the people who were at Bunker Hill already had the crazy in them before the writing heads started going, but I don’t think that there is any dispute that without “Common Sense”, you have no revolutionary war.

    So if these new paper Tigers of the right believe that they are the heirs of our founding fathers, they should be willing to step and and announce their intentions. They won’t, of course.

    These people have no intention of promoting a successful violent revolution. They are simply willing to see people killed because it’s good for their radio shows, because they are craven, hateful, disgusting men and women without a shred of human decency or a glimmer of an ideal. But the fact that their motive is blood and profit, rather than effecting political change, does not relieve them of their part in the bloodshed.

  5. 25 years ago I lived a few doors away from a women’s health clinic in Brookline MA on Beacon Street. One night I woke up to the sounds of breaking glass and saw flames out of my window. Someone had lit the back of the next door apartment building on fire. The flames had gone up and started breaking the glass on the third floor windows. That was what I heard and what woke me up from a sound sleep. This was the residential apartment next to the women’s health clinic and next to my apartment. The apartments were all contiguous there, if one went up in flames, they all would.

    This is the same clinic where a 25 year old receptionist was shot and killed in 1994.

    I think the operative word in the quote is “mainstream”. Now that the Bush Administration has been shown the dust bin of history the Fundamentalists are being shown they are out of touch with the “reality based community”.

  6. When we talk about religiously-based violent behavior, is there any real difference between Hezbollah and a Xtian nutcase killing those that disagree with them that are following the law of the land as established by the lawful government?

    (Note: Abortion is legal in the US.)

  7. I think the hate-mongers are morally culpable, though I doubt they could be found legally culpable. It is reasonably forseeable that some people will be emboldened to action by the promotion of a hateful environment.
    People like O’Reilly are cowards because they hide behind their status as journalists to avoid responsibility for their actions.
    If we were to start up a hate-the-hatemongers campaign, I wonder if someone would be emboldened enough to shoot him.

  8. @sethmanapio:
    I understand what you are saying. However, the connection to the speech the talking heads make and an act of violence by an individual person is very difficult to make. If you make this connection, and have it stand up in a criminal court, then you run into the area that any speech that is disagreeable is wrong. What if I read a book and decide I need to copy the actions in that book? Lock away all the authors.

    The way to deal with the talking heads is through the advertisers (stop buying their products and tell them why) and put pressure on the producers of the shows to stop. Censuring them is not the answer. It’s a slippery slope, IMO, and ultimately, the person who picked up the gun is the one who is responsible.

  9. @tiger kitty:
    Its not a slippery slope where legal culpability is concerned. ‘Depraved Indifference’ as a form of second degree murder is precisely defined in statute. If a specific hatejournalist knew that his journalism was likely to trigger a particular fanatic into killing someone, it might qualify.
    General crappists like O”Reilly are (in all probability) no where near enough to the action for them to be held legally responsible.
    Moral culpability doesn’t have such restrictions. I tend to agree with your way of addressing the problem, though.
    And, absolutely, he who pulled the trigger is responsible for pulling the trigger.

  10. @Skepotter:

    I was referring to (as you said) to the general crappists in tying them legally responsible. That is difficult to do, and would be the slippery slope I am referring to. I understand that there can be very specific circumstances where you can tie hate speech to a specific action.

  11. “While O’Reilly and other pro-life/pro-forced birth/anti-abortion/etc. groups will decry this murder, are they in fact culpable?

    Like many others in the feminist blogosphere, I think that yes, they are. ”

    That’s just ridiculous. Under that same logic, those who claim the Bush administration were violating human rights are then culpable for any terrorist action against the Bush administration. Science has never come out and said, “Life begins here.” It’s debatable, but if you are the side of “life begins at some point during pregnancy,” then abortion at what ever point is the demarcation is murder. Does that warrant vigilante justice? Of course not. That’s one of the reasons why we have laws – to prevent escalation by serving justice. Now, if O’Reilly actually says that he hopes someone kills him, that’s different. Otherwise, you can only hold him responsible for his opinion and not the actions of others.

  12. @tiger kitty: What criminal court? I didn’t say they should be jailed, I said they bear responsibility.

    Would you argue that Thomas Paine bore no responsibility for the revolutionary war? Then why should Bill O’Reilly not be tarred as a contributor to this murder?

  13. @jreedgt: If a specific person is called a murderer, repeatedly, by a particular journalist, then that journalist is not blameless when someone kills them.

    You’re drawing a technical line, which is fine in court. But we are not in court.

  14. @sethmanapio: It’s not a technical line. It’s about consistency. If you want to hold a journalist culpable for someone’s murder because of an opinion he gave (assuming he did not call for vigilante justice), then that’s fine, but you should hold that opinion regardless of the situation. Put another way, if someone were to murder someone from the Bush administration, should we hold Keith Olberman culpable?

  15. @jreedgt: I don’t think that your analogy is completely accurate. Publicly disagreeing with the Bush administration does not make you responsible for terrorist attacks against it as long as your disagreement was correctly worded given the target audience. In the dead abortist doctor’s case, you have some particular mass media encouraging with highly connotative terms a religiously very sensitive segment of population, which can only be compared to appealing in similar terms to some equally sensitive segment of population with regards to Bush’s policy, for instance going to Afghanistan and asking all Muslim priests, when preaching at their temples, to report on Bush’s policies using terms such as “yihad”, “devil”, “holy war”, “hell”, “martyr”, “blessed by god”, “chosen nation”, “western murderers”, etc. I would be surprised if, given these premises, which constitute the right analogy, after some time terrorist attacks against American interests in those countries did not increase. Actually, the opposite is generally true, according to all sources.

  16. To be clear, my argument can be shown in this example:

    “A _____ says that ______ are murderers, but calls for nothing in terms of vigilante justice and is just taking a moral stance. However, the source of criticism is later killed by a crazy loon. Therefore, the ____ is culpable.”

    A = (conservative, abortion doctors, conservative)
    B = (liberal, Bush administration member, liberal)

    If you agree with this position regardless if A or B is chosen, then your argument is logically consistant. Otherwise, your argument is really “well, ___ doesn’t agree with me, so he’s evil.”

    Personally, I disagree with both A and B. Rebecca may agree with both A and B, which is at least logically consistent. The only difference is our premise.

  17. @Skepthink: To be clear, my point is under the assumption that the conservative commentator did not call for some form vigilante justice. When you say, “some particular mass media encouraging with highly connotative terms”, you need to be clearer. Encouraging what? Disagreement, public shunning, or violence? Now, IF, someone specifically said that someone should do something (illegally), then absolutely they are accountable; e.g., conservative commentator says that someone should kill a physician who performs abortion.

  18. @jreedgt: The “life begins here” controversy is rather artificial. If the “life” of the child began during pregnancy, marrying the mother, for instance, would mean that you also marry the child, which would be in principle contrary to most such intentions and, generally, to religion as well. So, in religious terms, the child does not even exist until it is perceived as detached from its mother (as an autonomous life-form such that v.gr. killing the mother does not necessarily entail killing the child). Actually, from a religious standpoint, until science found out there was such thing as a fetus, religious people were not even aware that there was such an issue. Well, actually, somehow they were: whenever an ancient king wanted to keep the throne for himself, he killed the mother of any potential heir. How can you kill the mother and kill both the mother and somebody else, the child, at the same time? Well, because they’re the same person, that is, they share the same “life”, there are not “two different lives”.

  19. @jreedgt: Encouraging any sort of violence (physical or verbal) through hate speech, of course. Hate speech needs not be explicit, there are a number of ways to encourage assassination which don’t require insulting anybody. By repeatedly calling “murderer” somebody who has not murdered anybody and by doing so in a country where virtually anybody can buy a gun, you are: 1) using a term from criminal law (“murderer”) against all evidence, presupposing the culpability of an innocent and 2) creating a state of both fear and hate throughout an armed population due to the assumption, following from your account, that legally punishable people walk the streets unchallenged. Naturally, armed people driven by fear and hate will unsurprisingly tend to shoot at supposed criminals when faced by them.

  20. @Skepthink: That’s a bit of a straw-man. That’s under the assumption that when you marry, you marry whatever people are occupying the body. That’s pretty weak.

    To be clear, I don’t judge those who have had an abortion (including a family member). I’m not really sure if I am pro-life or pro-choice, honestly.

    Also, my argument had nothing to do with abortion. It was about whether someone can be “culpable” for a crime committed by another person because they expressed a moral objection by the victim, but did not call for any action against the victim. In other words, if I say that I hate someone or call them a murderer and then that someone is murdered by a crazy loon, should I be responsible? My opinion is no.

  21. @Skepthink: Ugh, the hate speech argument. Who defines this? If Jenny McCarthy is murdered, should the SGU members be held culpable? They’ve called her murderer, repeatedly. Admittedly, I think it’s more than justified to express this opinion on McCarthy. But as long as no one on SGU says she should be harmed, I don’t see how I could hold them accountable.

    Last comment from me.

  22. @jreedgt: If someone, knowing that a particular audience is susceptible to such talk, begins to routinely discuss the Bush administration using the most inflammatory language possible, and one of those people then murders a Bush administration official, then, yes, the speaker who began the wheels turning there would have some responsibility. As much as the trigger man? No. But neither would they be blameless.

    O’Reilly routinely used language known to fire people up, specificallt targeted a private citizen, knowing that his (O’Reilly’s) audience was made up of people who would be inclined to become enraged, and the citizen ended up dead. Yeah, O’Reilly has some responsibility – as does the rest of the community that fed the crescendo of crazy.

    I don’t watch Olberman, so I can not speak to him, but I know that most of the media figures that I know of who are critical of the Bush administration do not go out of their way to fan the flames of outright hatred the way that many right-wing talking heads do, and those few who do speak this way of Bush and company are regularly relegated to the fringe. Your analogy is a false one, as has been pointed out. If you are going to sick to your opinion, you’ll need a better argument to gain traction.

  23. One point: part of the issue here, I think, is that people are calling out O’Reilly in particular. O’Reily is just one part of a large sub-culture that includes other talking heads, many churches, publications, social groups, etc. etc. All of them feed into an echo chamber of anger and hate of anyone outside of their sub-culture, and in doing so cause the crazy – they don’t only set it off. So, to that extent, I think that jreedgt may have a point – O’Reilly is neither alone nor the most extreme (or most listened to) example of this sort of hate mongering. If he was, then this likely wouldn’t have happened.

  24. @jreedgt: Correct, as much of a straw-man as trying to argue that a living organism’s being pregnant involves its being two organisms (so, who’s pregnant? “It”, “itself”, “its own” or “elseself”?). If not everything inside the mother’s body can be married, then not everything inside the mother’s living body is a different “life” (v.gr. her liver is not a “living being”, either). The fetus is alive only insofar as the mother is, which means that it has no life of its own, until it naturally becomes an autonomous life-form after birth, in which case it’s self-evident that they are two distinct lives, as many mothers dead after giving birth prove. Raw facts, it’s the “birth experiment”.

    @jreedgt: Because Jenny can be factually held responsible for those deaths. It’s not that she has interrupted chemical processes as abortionists do, she can be regarded as accountable for the death of hundreds of whatever-year-olds. If TV keeps broadcasting “Kill the wookies” and people start killing wookies, then, all things being equal, TV can be held responsible for that, as shows the fact that you can then shut the TV down and solve the problem.

    “Last comment from me”.
    Of course, I wasn’t expecting less from you. Flee, flee! When the big blog troll appears, then the other blog trolls scape. A pity, I was just starting to have fun.

  25. “This event has spurred an important discussion about the responsibility we take when our words spur others to action. While O’Reilly and other pro-life/pro-forced birth/anti-abortion/etc. groups will decry this murder, are they in fact culpable?”

    Yes.

    “For instance, animal rights extremists (a word I use to differentiate them from “activists”) thrive on fear, encouraging the bombings of animal testing facilities as well as more general harassment of anyone who they feel mistreats animals. Groups like the Animal Liberation Front and PETA skip real dialogue in order to focus on mindless violence and intimidation, leaving the rest of us non-extremist animal lovers wishing they’d stop making us all look so stupid.”

    Oh goodness yes and absolutely. Unfortunately, you also just struck exactly how a lot of religious people feel about the Creationist, Anti-Abortionist, Anti-Vaxers, and so many others.

    When it comes down to it, ‘the stupid’ just makes everyone look bad.

  26. Bill O’Reilly, by targeting Dr Tiller and conducting a hate campaign against him, bears some moral responsibility for the murder. Similarly, if a member of a community predisposed to hatred of Bush had killed Bush, then people who preached hatred of Bush to that community would bear some moral responsibility. That’s easy. But not every liberal journalist was fomenting hate for Bush, and to pretend some sort of equivalence is disingenuous.

  27. So O’Reilly isn’t a fringe loony? News to me…

    This reminds me of how tobacco companies fund global warming deniers, in a deliberate attempt to foster a generally anti-science feeling amongst some sectors of the population. In the tobacco companies’ case, it’s deliberate. In the rabid sector of the anti-abortion lobby, it’s probably less deliberate.

    Having said that, the anti-abortion lobby really should use this as a wake-up call to shun the use of violent imagery and violent language, which I do agree feeds the loonies. If someone being murdered in a church doesn’t shock them into doing this, nothing will.

  28. Those who use hate speech to vilify individuals and encourage their murder are not themselves guilty of murder (because they didn’t pull the trigger). What they are guilty of is the lesser crime of incitement to murder.

    That is all the jihadist anti-American clerics are doing, free speech trying to incite hatred and murder. If it is illegal for Muslim clerics to do it, it is illegal for Christian clerics to do it too. Equal protection under the law and all that.

    Speech that incites violence is wrong and (should be) illegal even if no violence results. The problem is that law enforcement has been unwilling to enforce laws against speech that incites violence unless violence occurs (unless it is Muslims that are trying to incite violence).

  29. @jreedgt: Yes. If Jenny McCarthy is murdered, than everyone, including me, who has referred to her “Body Count” and called her a murderer or a killer is in some way responsible.

    And yes, this should give us all pause in how we talk about other people, even despicable shitheads like Jenny McCarthy or Bill O’Reilly.

    You may hate the “hate speech” argument, but the fact is that if a gunman is responsible for his actions, than Bill O’Reilly is responsible for his own actions. And Papa Bear’s actions include telling millions of people that Dr. Tiller is a serial killer who deserves to die.

    Someone took him at his word. To say he bears no responsibility because people are ultimately responsible for their own actions doesn’t even make logical sense.

  30. @ sethmanapio: Thanks for the civil debate and consistency, which is what I was after. We disagree on the premise and moral code, which means we probably won’t convince one another of our opinion. That difference being that you believe person A’s words against person B make them culpable for an action committed against person B by person C if the words are venomous in nature. This is even if no direct action is called for by person A and (maybe) even if person C never heard person A’s comments.

    I believe that person C is responsible for their actions. Person A is responsible for his words, but only his words. That is, if person A just says that person B is a murderer, then he’s responsible for that statement and how it will be judged. Now, if person A calls for violence, that’s a different issue; then he is morally responsible. To me, people need to be free to give opinions, even if they are hateful at times. However, calling for violence or illegal actions to be committed makes you morally responsible (but definitely not legally unless you promise some sort of reward or payment). O’Reilly is responsible for harassing this guy like a spoiled child. He is responsible for calling him a murderer. He is not responsible for his murder (unless he actually called for the action – I don’t watch news pundits).

    @Skepthink: I’m just a busy Ph.D. student who really can’t tell his fiancee that I’ll be a while longer because “someone’s wrong on the Internet.” And, I’ve only come back to give praise to sethmanapio. I’m not going to comment on anything you said because I’ll give you the last word (yes, feel free to respond to this message or any others!)

  31. @sethmanapio:

    And yes, this should give us all pause in how we talk about other people, even despicable shitheads like Jenny McCarthy or Bill O’Reilly.

    That statement, and much of the rest of the arguments positing responsibility and culpability for people who called Tiller (or McCarthy, or Bush, et al) murderers comes frightfully close to implicitly arguing for disallowing free speech.

    If an individual, any individual, going about their daily business must assume comprehensive responsibility for others actions, and presume personal culpability, when some nutter acts in a way that could be, however far removed, perceived as resulting from their opinions when they speak, then we must all be mute.

    I think the general argument demanding cuplability, as presented so far, is far too black and white. There are several things that need to be taken into account before responsibility and culpability can be claimed: degree of incitement; public access; level of popular sway; position of power; abuse of such power, and much more.

    If I walk down the street with a friend and say I think McCarthy is a murderer and should be shot and the next day someone 5000 miiles away shoots her, to state I hold any responsiliity is ludicrous.

    On the other hand, if I am the host of a highly popular, successful, and emotional-trigger pulling, irrational radio or television program with an explicit goal to incite irrational emotion, anti-social behaviour, and extreme prejudice, then the responsibility I hold is far greater. Nonetheless, to bequeath me with total power of control, and hence responsibility and culpability over someone else’s actions when I am in fact not in any sort of acknowledged position of legitimate power and control over that individual strikes me as a bit far fetched.

    We need to be clear and careful with how we dole out responsibility.

  32. @jreedgt: I mean, this is asinine.

    First off, if you don’t (as Olberman doesn’t and the SGU squad doesn’t) support the death penalty for any crime, than you are not calling for the death penalty if you call Jenny McCarthy a murderer. But if you think that calling her a murderer is justified, how can you possibly justify her continued freedom?

    Sure, the society has laws, etc. But the laws are clearly failing. And people are continuing to die. How many people have to die before you would consider some kind of vigilante justice against this woman’s killing spree? 100? 200? 1000? 10,000?

    Perhaps you don’t favor the death penalty in general, and say so. But at some point, when you’ve played the murder card enough, you are asking somebody to do something, and you have a responsibility to be clear about who and what.

  33. @SicPreFix: That statement, and much of the rest of the arguments positing responsibility and culpability for people who called Tiller (or McCarthy, or Bush, et al) murderers comes frightfully close to implicitly arguing for disallowing free speech.

    ——-

    Bullshit. Saying that you, personally, should be thoughtful about what comes out of your mouth is not even in the same solar system as limiting free speech.

  34. @jreedgt: That difference being that you believe person A’s words against person B make them culpable for an action committed against person B by person C if the words are venomous in nature.

    ———-

    No, I don’t. I believe that if person A is held in, and knows they are held in, high regard by person B, and they say repeatedly to person B that person C is a murderer, that society is powerless to act, that the next 8 years will be a holocaust of murder, and that murderers should be killed, than person A is in some way morally responsible if person B kills person A after several hundred hours of one way communication from A to B.

    Notice the specificity of the statements by A.

    1. C is a murderer.
    2. Murderers should die.
    3. Society is powerless to stop C.

    These are all elements of the statements by O’Reilly that go beyond “venemous.” To draw an analogue to Olberman, you’ll have to find Olberman demanding the death penalty for a crime he is accusing a Bush official of.

  35. @sethmanapio:

    Yes, you are right. Dear me, I erred. I should have linked/pointed to your first paragraph in that post, to wit:

    @sethmanapio said:

    If Jenny McCarthy is murdered, than everyone, including me, who has referred to her “Body Count” and called her a murderer or a killer is in some way responsible.

    And then continued on in the way I did. Sorry seth, but I stand by my comments; yeah, even in the face of your pontifical, inerrant armour.

    I may be in error yet again, oh horrors! but I think you overlooked the overall point in my post. Then again, perhaps you simply diasgree.

    @sethmanapio:

    In this post, for the first time in this thread, you bring up the concept of “moral reposnsibility”.

    I agree with you on that. Moral responsibility is more appropriate. It is also more specific, and less all encompassing than the previous, rather generic, non-specific, all-things-covered, and stand alone responsibility, that was the core of your responses.

    I know. Specificity is such a pain in the tukus. In my own haste to be perfect, right, and inerrant, I overlook it all the time.

  36. One point I believe is important here: I would argue that O’Reilly and his ilk are complicit in Tiller’s murder; they hold some responsibility even if they are not specifically responsible.

    Also, if we are comparing this anti-Bush rhetoric, we need to look a little at typical tactics of the anti-choice movement. Many in the mainstream of the movement stand outside women’s clinics carry bloody fetus signs, harassing anyone who goes in there, deliberately intimidating any women who needs healthcare provided there. No other movement uses such organized harassment tactics as part of usual protest.

    With regard to the animal rights movement, while I do see many parallels in tactics between the animal rights extremists and the antiabortion extremists, I think the animal rights people do far less on a regular basis, and haven’t killed anyone (not sure about this, but I haven’t heard/found anything) but you see anti-choicers harassing women at clinics every day in some places, and they have killed and shot quite a few people. Yet, the media and the public can more easily see the animal rights vandalism as domestic terrorism, and we have a harder time seeing that when it comes to anti-abortion nuts.

    I would see the animals and anti abortion people as equals if the animal rights people escalated the violence, but right now I don’t think they’re so closely comparable.

  37. @SicPreFix: And then continued on in the way I did. Sorry seth, but I stand by my comments; yeah, even in the face of your pontifical, inerrant armour.

    ——-

    Well, you can stand by them, but you can’t actually support them. It isn’t so much that I disagree as that you are simply wrong on a point of fact. You think there is a relationship between two things that are not in any way related.

    Suggesting that you are responsible for what you say and should be cautious in your speech is not in any way, shape, or form related to restraining free speech. There is no suggestion in that comment that any outside force place a restraint on what you say, merely that you should think before you speak. These are not the same things. You are just wrong.

    As to moral responsibility, this is a red herring. Even if O’Reilly were held legally responsible for some reason, he would not have necessarily suffered an abrogation of his right to free speech. Further, there would have been no limit on his speech before or after the murder, or a precedent that there should be one.

    The right to free speech does not mean total lack of responsibility for anything you say, regardless of consequences. If you lie in order to commit a fraud, for example, you can be held accountable for the things you said that led the victim to give you, of their own free will, their money. The fact that your speech was dishonest has consequences when the results are to defraud.

  38. @jreedgt: I know that super-cleverest jreedgt is busy with his fiancee and couldn’t care less about what I or anybody else thinks, but I agree with what sethmanapio has said so far. Somewhere between 91% and 96% agreement.

  39. @sethmanapio:

    Suggesting that you are responsible for what you say and should be cautious in your speech is not in any way, shape, or form related to restraining free speech.

    I agree whole heartedly. Perhaps one or both of us is misunderstanding the other. I have been, perhaps incorrectly, under the impression you are saying:

    A

    O’Reilly et al have made some inflamatory comments and must be responsible for their words and the irrational actions of others who have taken those words and acted on them in their own fashion.

    I did not think you were saying:

    B

    O’Reilly et al have made some inflamatory comments and must be responsible for their words but not the irrational actions of others who have taken those words and acted on them in their own fashion.

    Nor:

    C

    O’Reilly et al have said some nasty things and must be responsible for their words [full stop].

    If you are saying B or C, then indeed, there is no implied nor tacit or assumed restriction of freedom of speech.

    On the other hand, if you are saying A, then I feel I am quite correct to say “comes frightfully close to implicitly arguing for disallowing free speech” in that to hold one party responsible for the actions of someone outside of their direct influence is ludicrous.

    Is is not the same thing as your valid argument of lying to commit fraud, because lying to commit fraud involves a direct action/reaction relationship between the parties involved. Some nutter taking O’Reilly’s words and running nuts with them does not involve a direct action/reaction relationship between the parties involved.

  40. @SicPreFix: On the other hand, if you are saying A, then I feel I am quite correct to say “comes frightfully close to implicitly arguing for disallowing free speech” in that to hold one party responsible for the actions of someone outside of their direct influence is ludicrous.

    ———

    First off, that doesn’t even make sense semantically. The “because” part of your sentence has no relationship to the first part. It’s like saying, “That is frightfully close to condemning oranges because horses are mammals” or something.

    Second, what I’m actually saying is pretty simple. If you spend hours of your life trying to convince someone that a particular person is an active serial murderer, and that murderers ought to die, and that the government is maliciously refusing to stop the ongoing slaughter, than you are in responsible to some degree if the person you are talking to kills the person you are talking about.

  41. Clearly I am not getting my point across. I’ll ponder this for a bit and see if I can find a way to clarify my argument. Logically and semantically. However, you are a very skilled if somewhat disingenuous sophist, so I may only be wasting my efforts.

  42. While I agree with Jesse’s message, I disagree slightly with the first sentence quoted above…There’s another group that sprang to my mind when reading Jesse’s post: creationists.

    I occasionally volunteer at the Science Museum of Minnesota in the Dino & Fossils Hall. And it seems I am a freakin’ magnet for most of the Creationist and ID folks. (Other volunteers enage with few, if any. Aren’t I lucky.)

    They come into the museum, and attempt “open discussion” (aka – pick a fight) once they realize that creationism is not on display in any way, shape or form.

    We, obviously, are not allowed to engage them. I defray pretty quickly (shrug, point out that no matter how old you think it is or where it came from, you can’t deny the coolness of the item and ask if they have seen the mummy to get them out of the D&F hall), but what I really want to say to this particular brand of Creationist is:

    “Listen closely, shit-head. Do I walk into your church, during services, sit down next to you, and tell you your personal beliefs are crap and demand that you argue the point with me? NO, I DO NOT.

    I don’t adhere to your belief system and I don’t understand your fear of sharing an ancestor with an animal as beautiful and eloquent as an ape. But I damn sure don’t actively get in the way of you practicing your religion. Not only because it would get the MSM’s and Establishment’s respective panties in a twist, but because it’s RUDE.

    So get the fuck out of my museum if you’re not here to learn anything. And have a nice day.”

    Of course, I’m not allowed to say that, but I’d really, really, really like to. Tolerance just isn’t part of the makeup of most Creationist/ID believers.

    If you want to limit yourself and not believe in evolution, I can’t understand it, and I personally can’t change it with any rhetoric and I know it. À chacun ses goûts, and all that jazz.

    But the minute you cross the line from personal belief to proselytizing and bringing down communal intelligence, you are officially pissing me off. Especially when you KNOW that picking an argument in a certain venue means the opponent *can’t* fight back. You’re just being a schmucky toerag.

    Sorry for the language and vehemence. I’m still angry about the George Tiller situation.

  43. Hmm, I must have deleted something.

    Near the end of my rant (again, apologies), the sentence was supposed to read:

    “Tolerance just isn’t part of the makeup of most Creationist/ID believers, and it seems to only way to get through their heads is to shock their tender sensibilities.”

  44. @SicPreFix: However, you are a very skilled if somewhat disingenuous sophist, so I may only be wasting my efforts.

    ————

    Dude, please. Your problem isn’t that I’m clever and dishonest. Your problem is that you’re wrong. The relationship between what I said and what you think it implies doesn’t appear to exit. You have no rational or logical support for your words. That’s just not my fault.

    You seem to think that there is some rule that second order consequences don’t count, or that because you didn’t intend a consequence of your actions you are blameless in those consequences. But unless your part is so small that it honestly can be said that without you, the consequence would have occurred regardless, that just doesn’t make sense.

  45. @sethmanapio:

    You are misinterpretting me quite widely seth. And, because you are not stupid, I muist assume that the reason behind that misinterpretation is not so much that I am wrong, it is that I am, in this instance, being rather inarticulate.

    My inarticulacy, and what appears to be your certitude of inerrancy, makes for a troubled debate.

  46. @SicPreFix: You are misinterpretting me quite widely seth.

    ———-

    I don’t think so, Sic. I think that you said that a comment of mine was “frightfully close to limiting free speech.”

    But what I said, intended, implied, and otherwise communicated did not have any relationship to any government action of any kind. It was not at all a comment that was related to limiting free speech, much less being frightfully close to it.

    I am not inerrant. I am not certain that I am inerrant. I have never implied that I am incapable of error. What I have said is that you are simply wrong in this case.

    That doesn’t imply that I am incapable of error, it just means that in this narrow situation, concerning your interpretation of something I said, you are mistaken.

    It isn’t that you aren’t making your point. It isn’t that you are inarticulate. It’s that you are wrong. My comment is not frightfully close to endorsing the limitation of free speech because I wasn’t suggesting that there should be any limit placed on free speech, nor is there a logical line to be drawn from my comment to such a limit. The relationship you wish to draw simply does not exist.

  47. Seth, old chum, what I in fact said was:

    … comes frightfully close to implicitly arguing for disallowing free speech….

    And that is quite specifically not the same thing as:

    …frightfully close to limiting free speech.

    That’s is why I am claiming inarticulation on my behalf leading to misinterpretation on yours.

    You see, I am not saying (or at least not intending to say) that you (nor anyone else here) are directly endorsing or calling for a limitation on free speech.

    What I am trying, but failing miserably, to say, is that in my opinion, forcing (what I consider to be) an unwarranted and extreme degree of responsilbilty onto person A for person B’s independent interpretation of and leading to gross actions (based upon) person A’s statements, could lead to a social enviroment, rather like a militant variation on political correctness, that would explicitly encourage or promote, and implicitly endorse, a possible argument towards rationalising limitations on free speech.

    And I feel that that could lead to an ugly set of social controls on meaningful freedom of speech.

    See, I am having trouble articluating it because it’s a complex idea that involves some rather tumbleduddy concatenations of ideas, sequences, and consequences, and I’m having trouble making it sensible — not because it is not sensible (if perhaps paranoid), but because I cannot make it sensible.

    Does that clarify anything here?

    And, on that point, please don’t edit my quotes and then present them as verbatim. I would make a real effort to not do that to you.

  48. At bottom, the violence of , the broad support among and the disclaimers issued by the so-called “pro-lifers” are all going to continue. No change in behavior is going to happen; count on it. The movement is a dysfunctional twelve-step program that actually tries to address the members’ deep-seated fears. Unfortunately, it addresses those fears in unhelpful ways. The manifestation of their pathology is their aborticentrism (look it up). As a result of their problem, they do very, very bad things. One of their number got canonized in the Catholic Church for choosing anti-abortionism over everything else. Do you know who suffered for that choice?

  49. @SicPreFix: That’s is why I am claiming inarticulation on my behalf leading to misinterpretation on yours.

    ——

    Okay. But that isn’t the problem. As I said, since what I claimed was not in any way, shape, or form and endorsement or a request or even a justification for any government action of any kind, the relationship you want to draw, however tenous and meaningless it might be (and something that is sortof somewhat close to being possibly misinterpreted as an implicit endorsement is pretty damn tenuous), still does not exist.

  50. Well, okay. I guess we should leave it there. I think we are both being characteristically stubborn though uncharacteristically thick on this.

    Perhaps I really am missing some obvious point, or perception, or something. I cannot see it, but of course that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

  51. @SicPreFix:

    The reason I think that your argument does not exist, by the way, is that I could take any argument at all about anything that anyone has ever said in the entire history of the spoken word and attempt to make a case that it “could lead to a social enviroment, rather like a militant variation on political correctness, that would explicitly encourage or promote, and implicitly endorse, a possible argument towards rationalising limitations on free speech.”

    That’s because anything could lead to anything else. Mein Kempf did lead to a social environment where the state of Israel recieved support for over half a century from the most powerful country on earth.

    But beyond the world of hypothetical shoulds and coulds and imaginary implicit endorsements, we have the situation at hand.

    Bill O’Reilly called Tiller a murderer. He claimed that he had murdered many children and would murder many more. He described a social situation where this murderer operated with the endorsement and protection of the authorities. He demanded the death penalty for other murderers.

    Given those facts, it is not unreasonable to say that O’Reilly made a case for Tiller’s assassination, loudly, to millions of people who he believes hold him in high regard. To relieve him of all responsibility for the assassination makes no logical sense.

  52. @sethmanapio:

    While I agree with paragraphs 3-5 (and provisionally with 2), I admit to not understanding the argument of paragraph one.

    Just because you could “take any argument at all about anything that anyone has ever said in the entire history of the spoken word…” how does that render my argument non-existent?

    I mean, while it is true that you could reposition my argument in the way you stated, I cannot see specifically why it renders my argument non-existent. Is it non-existent because it is hypothetical?

    Seth, I am not being argumentative here. I just don’t undertand. I don’t get it. Try and spell it out for the dummy would you?

    Also, there is a flaw. ;)

    I do not, and have not (I don’t think) stated that Bill O’Reilly should be absolved of all responsibility for the assassination. I have been arguing for being cautious as to how much, or to what degree he be held responsible, and what form that responsibility takes.

    @sethmanapio said:

    Your problem isn’t that I’m clever and dishonest.

    For the record, I did not call you dishonest. I called you disingenuous. They are different, not in degree but in substance, and I used that word with intention and specificity.

    To be fair, ethos notwithstanding, I think the word disingenuous can apply to some small degree to almost anyone who tries to be a good rhetorician (re Aristotle’s principles of …) including, dare I say it, myself.

  53. Quick question (not rhetorical). Do you think there is a difference between “being held accountable for…” and being held responsible for …”?

    Or do you think that is wholly semantic?

    Serious question. In part because it points to the essential importance of accuracy in diction versus the need to avoid the exhaustive specificity of legalese.

  54. @SicPreFix: Just because you could “take any argument at all about anything that anyone has ever said in the entire history of the spoken word…” how does that render my argument non-existent?

    ———

    Because if your argument is so vague that it can be used to link absolutely any cause to absolutely any effect, it is not an argument in any meaningful sense of the word.

    My statement was not frightfully close to implicitly arguing for the limitation of free speech, any more than Darwin’s work was implicitly arguing for the creation of the Discovery Institute. But your statement was so vague that I could just as easily apply it to the latter as the former. Therefore, your argument is essentially non-existent. It lacks the substance and logical structure to be considered an argument.

  55. @sethmanapio: “Dude, please. Your problem isn’t that I’m clever and dishonest. Your problem is that you’re wrong. The relationship between what I said and what you think it implies doesn’t appear to exit. You have no rational or logical support for your words. That’s just not my fault.”

    You see… I think your attitude right there pretty much sums up the entire problem with your…’debate’.. with SicPreFix in this particular thread.

    On the one hand, you claim to be operating on a dry, purely logical, purely rational positioning of the facts. Then, you ruin any chance of anyone believing that by making a bunch of highly emotive, aggressive, confrontational post like that one, each of which hinge around taking offense at things that weren’t even said by the person you are responding to.

    Whatever you ‘think’ you are communicating, just doesn’t seem to be what you are actually communicating. Either that, or you aren’t really sethmanapio, you are some clever dickhead masquerading as him while intentionally being as obtuse as possible.

    If, (big if given how hard you have made it to tell), but if what you are saying is that people should be considerate in what they say and held responsible for the consequence of that they say and do, (Classic example of yelling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater etc.. when dealing with Free Speech vs. punishment/responsibility for consequences). Then I think everyone currently involved in the discussion agrees with you.

    If you would just, calmly, address that question without constantly attempting to play ‘gotcha’ on the post you are responding to then there could probably be some agreement here.

  56. @MoltenHotMagma: You see… I think your attitude right there pretty much sums up the entire problem with your…’debate’.. with SicPreFix in this particular thread.

    ————

    MHM–As glad as I am that you’ve singled me out as the bad actor here, for my edification and enlightenment, I can’t wholly agree with you. You see, Sic is wrong. And my attitude doesn’t alter the degree to which he is wrong at all.

    Further, his argument can be applied to any consequence of any act of speech. I’m not being obtuse, I’m just pointing out that his argument can be applied to any consequence and any act of speech, and is therefore not good.

    Again, my attitude doesn’t magically transform a ridiculous argument into a good one. It isn’t that I don’t understand him, it is that he is saying nothing of consequence.

    As for me playing “gotcha”, I can only assume you’ve been skimming my threads and searching for only the bits that offend you, while ignoring the content. I’ve put in all the salient quotes below. If you could just point out where you think I’m making it hard to tell what I’m saying, I’ll be glad to help you out.

    As a side note, starting with a negative and innacurate characterization of me is not a good tactic if what you actually want is a calm answer to simple question. If you want a calm answer to a simple question, calmly ask a question without prefixing a condescending lecture.

    Me:
    Yes. If Jenny McCarthy is murdered, than everyone, including me, who has referred to her “Body Count” and called her a murderer or a killer is in some way responsible.

    And yes, this should give us all pause in how we talk about other people, even despicable shitheads like Jenny McCarthy or Bill O’Reilly.

    Me:Bullshit. Saying that you, personally, should be thoughtful about what comes out of your mouth is not even in the same solar system as limiting free speech.

    Me: “No, I don’t. I believe that if person A is held in, and knows they are held in, high regard by person B, and they say repeatedly to person B that person C is a murderer, that society is powerless to act, that the next 8 years will be a holocaust of murder, and that murderers should be killed, than person A is in some way morally responsible if person B kills person [C] after several hundred hours of one way communication from A to B.”

    Me:“The right to free speech does not mean total lack of responsibility for anything you say, regardless of consequences. If you lie in order to commit a fraud, for example, you can be held accountable for the things you said that led the victim to give you, of their own free will, their money. The fact that your speech was dishonest has consequences when the results are to defraud.”

    Me:”You seem to think that there is some rule that second order consequences don’t count, or that because you didn’t intend a consequence of your actions you are blameless in those consequences. But unless your part is so small that it honestly can be said that without you, the consequence would have occurred regardless, that just doesn’t make sense.”

    Me:“Bill O’Reilly called Tiller a murderer. He claimed that he had murdered many children and would murder many more. He described a social situation where this murderer operated with the endorsement and protection of the authorities. He demanded the death penalty for other murderers.

    Given those facts, it is not unreasonable to say that O’Reilly made a case for Tiller’s assassination, loudly, to millions of people who he believes hold him in high regard. To relieve him of all responsibility for the assassination makes no logical sense.”

  57. @MoltenHotMagma: “””if what you are saying is that people should be considerate in what they say and held responsible for the consequence of that they say and do (…) Then I think everyone currently involved in the discussion agrees with you.”””

    Mmmm, not for the specific case of the thread, I would say (I am pretty sure there was some disagreement about something in the first place). The thread was about the responsibility of media, not individuals. Requiring media to meet a very basic standard of rigor in the use of criminal law language (i.e. not calling “murderer” a person who has not been proven to be so) CANNOT be seen as limiting the media’s freedom of speech, and that was the whole point of sethmanapio, as far as I understand.

    SicPreFix for some unexplainable reason linked that to limiting individual freedom of speech, but obviously lying, intoxicating, promoting hate, providing misinformation and spreading inflammatory ultra-religious extremism cannot be covered under “freedom of speech”.

    Likewise, media are allowed to broadcast under certain legal conditions (in opposition to anyone saying anything anywhere anytime) because they’re expected to enforce that kind of standards and to be responsible, as a means of communication, for what they broadcast. If this is not the case, then there’s no more reason for BBC to be allowed to broadcast than there is for me or anybody else to be so.

    However, that’s not the case: my opinions are only accessible to me and a few people I know, which is why they can also be more radical (they will still go nowhere). But if you are a media corporation and your opinions are accessible to lots of people, that doesn’t mean that you can spread all the B.S. you want, but only that you have previously agreed not to, and that has been why others have allowed you to broadcast, instead of anybody else. The responsibility is presupposed, freedom of speech doesn’t apply because it’s an individual right, not a “corporation right”. So, I really think that SicPreFix missed the point, to the extent that I understand his insistence may have been offensive to sethmanapio, who said nothing like that he was being attributed.

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