Reason indulges in a Godwin-level rhetorical excess today with a Sharia law comparison, but their underling point is sound: Republicans who are currently defending "Sam Bacile" aka Nakoula Basselley Nakoula and (correctly) proclaiming that offense is no basis for censorship ought to explain why their party platform still urges a flag-burning ban.
Reason's rhetorical twist is silly: American flag-burning bans were twice struck down through due process of law by the Supreme Court without anyone being murdered over it, and a Constitutional amendment allowing flag-burning bans would require a democratic political process and would result in laws adjudicated in courts by judges and juries with reasonable due process, at least some of the time. That bears very little resemblance to Sharia law.
Still, the ever-recurring proposal for a flag burning amendment shows that some Republicans (and some Democrats, for that matter) do believe that the government should be able to punish you for conduct causing offense to others — at least when it is the kind of offense that makes them mad.
In a way, this is banal. Both "sides" have inconsistent views. Though I credit the Democrats with largely abandoning rhetoric about due process of law so as to avoid uncomfortable conflict with their wholesale capitulation to drone strikes, the security state, "law and order," the War on Drugs, and indefinite detention. Shutting up is often the best strategy.
Republicans could probably stand to take the Democratic lead and shut up a bit more. They still talk about curtailing government regulation of industry, allowing the free market to handle problems rather than government regulation, and federalism. Yet some still talk about things like forcing computer manufacturers to install porn filters and upping federal obscenity prosecutions — which, practically speaking, means having government agents select material produced by and marketed to consenting adults and having it shipped from one state to another state and then prosecuting based on the standard of offensiveness in the receiving state, which does not strike me as particularly federalist.
I could write a whole lot more words but they'd boil down to this: these people all suck. Empower third parties.
(Via Radley Balko.)
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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