There's a standard jury instruction that suggests that a jury may (but need not) infer that a person intends the natural and probable consequences of his or her actions.
Defense lawyers have fought this instructions, with mixed success, on the theory that it can be read as relieving the government of its burden of proving intent, and falsely suggests that intent may be presumed.
But if the notion is problematical in law, it's a terrific mess in politics.
For example: does Al Sharpton want to make Rush Limbaugh richer? Sharpton is a long-standing butt of Limbaugh jokes and jabs, and clearly resents the hell out of it. So it seems unlikely. Yet Sharpton has now called for the FCC to take action against Limbaugh and any other radio hosts who engage in "racial and gender bias." Limbaugh and his fans, naturally, are over the moon about this. A hated icon of the nutty Left advocating censorship of a popular conservative? It's a propaganda victory of epic proportions. It will inevitably — predictably — make Limbaugh more popular with his base, more listened to, and richer.
Did Sharpton intend that? Or did Sharpton simply not care? Was the probable result of Sharpton's fatuous censorious fantasy simply not a matter of concern to him, paling next to the daily joys of the adventure of flapping his gums and being Al Sharpton?
Or take, for that matter, the Southern Poverty Law Center. Last week the SPLC — famous for listing and monitoring hate groups like the Klan — announced that it was listing various conservative groups with anti-gay stances, including familiar ones like Concerned Women for America, the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and the National Organization for Marriage, as "hate groups" — thus dropping them into the same category as skinheads and other neo-Nazis, based not on violence but on general anti-gay jackassery and various comments by their leaders. Now, I happen to think that groups like the American Family Association are frequently ridiculous and/or loathsome. But let's be clear: nobody who previously opposed gay marriage, or equal rights for gays, is going to switch their position and support gay rights because the SPLC has now classified these groups as "hate groups," a meretricious category that includes everyone from anti-immigration entities to skinheads to the Nation of Islam to Jack freaking Chick. Nobody who was every persuaded by these organizations' silly neo-theocratic rants about how teh gay is destroying America is going to stop listening to such drivel just because the SPLC has slapped this reductionist label on them.
No, the designation will do jack shit to help gays. It will, however, hand the anti-gay forces a tremendous propaganda victory with their base, much like the one Sharpton handed Limbaugh. The designation plays directly into the right-wing narrative that treating gays decently is part of a sinister "gay agenda" that will end with hapless decent Christians everywhere being censored by the government, possibly by Obama and Nacy Pelosi attacking them with black helicopters. The SPLC designation appears intended as an effort to move political rhetoric opposing gay marriage and gay rights into the unprincipled category of "hate speech", and from there, perhaps, subjected to some sort of limitations. But the right way to respond to anti-gay speech, political or otherwise, is with more speech — with relentless refutation and ridicule of the anti-gay forces. The natural and probable consequence of the SPLC's designation is to allow the various anti-gay groups to play the oppressed victim, and to drive large sums of money into their pockets in the forms of donations.
Again, one must ask: is the SPLC so stupid that they didn't realize that? Are they so canon-blinded that they didn't see it? Or, as some predictably suggest, do they not care because they're in it for the attention and the money themselves?
I suspect some people will be tempted to rush in and claim that I'm suggesting that people shouldn't talk about things they care about, shouldn't oppose what they view as evil, for fear of helping the other side. Not so. I'm saying, as I suggested in the context of a commercial boycott, that reasonable people ought to reflect upon the goals of their speech and how the speech helps, or impedes, those goals. Unless, of course, we're in it for ourselves.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017
- I write letters - June 1st, 2017