Friday, June 16, 2017

The Problem With Incitement

I drew a lot of flack from my column on the psychopathic baseball shooter for not addressing incitement.  One commenter in particular kept asking this:
Let's take your claim and apply it to ISIS... Let's say this person watched ISIS propaganda and then followed their suggestions for mass murder. Is the responsibility solely with him? Even if the creators of the propaganda publicly proclaim that it is meant to inspire murder?
As I've said before, the only privilege of owning a blog is that I get to write long, involved answers to this things like this, and this answer turned into a comment too long to post.  So here goes.

First off, let me get this out of the way: Of course it's possible I'm wrong.  It's always possible I'm wrong, even on stuff I spent my life studying.  I never claimed to be the fount of all knowledge in the universe, just to provide you with content that's worth what you pay for it. 

That said, to repeat the commenter here, "if you're going to represent my view point honestly," what I'm saying is that the person ultimately, legally responsible for the shooting is the shooter.  I didn't even address the topic of influence or incitement in the original post because I see it as a morass.  If you want maximum liberty, it's a difficult subject and the exact point where speech becomes incitement is hard to define.  Maybe it's just me.  I do, however, fully acknowledge that incitement is real and unstable persons can be incited more easily than others.  Defining this is where real trouble starts.

My problem is I'm a very practical person and when I see a problem, I want to fix it.  Everything here is based on the question: what do you do to fix the problem?  What do you do with the person or people who incited him?  How do you even find them?  The guy with the gun in his hand is responsible and easy to fix.  You kill him.  Let's say you think it was Kathy Griffin who incited him.  The first question you have to ask is how can you prove, beyond a doubt, it was her and not someone else?  How can you prove it wasn't a belief implanted by a teacher he had forty years ago?  Or by his parents not bringing him up to respect others as real people?  What level of punishment is right for the inciter?  Since incitement makes her part of a capital crime, an attack like this meets the definition of terrorism, do you execute Kathy Griffin?  Imprison her?  What can you do to fix the problem?

Just to be clear, there is a legal incitement test from the Supreme Court, and I don't think anything I've seen out of Griffin or anyone else meets it.  It requires the incitement to "imminent lawlessness", not generally raising the anger level in society.  That test implies something more like urging someone to "go get 'em" in a specific time/place. 

Are you old enough to remember the Son of Sam killer in the '70s?  Do you remember he said he was told to kill by his neighbor's dog?  So who got life in prison, the killer or the dog?  Nobody put the dog down.  The guy, BTW, was declared mentally competent to stand trial even though he said a demon talking through the dog made him kill.  I think that's an indicator of where law places the line for responsibility. 

This is the answer to your question about ISIS.  You say, Let's say this person watched ISIS propaganda and then followed their suggestions for mass murder. Is the responsibility solely with him? Even if the creators of the propaganda publicly proclaim that it is meant to inspire murder?  ISIS is not responsible.  Did they influence him?  It doesn't meet the incitement test, but let's say sure, they influenced him.  So what?  How many thousands of people looked at the ISIS propaganda and didn't get influenced?  Again, what are you going to do about them being responsible?  Go send the military to kill them all off?  Already being done.  Now what? 

Come out and specifically say that you think incitement to violence is protected speech. Or fail to do that or you admit that by your failure to do so, admit that you are wrong, and actually IT IS POSSIBLE in some cases for someone who speaks to also bear responsibility for actions that result.  No, I don't think incitement to violence is protected, I just don't know what it is.  It seems to me that the threshold moves with the person hearing it as well as the situation they hear it in.  The question of what constitutes hate speech and what to do about it is very hard - especially with the forces out there now saying "anything I disagree with is hate speech".  Not just the Antifa a-holes, but the actual Democratic establishment.  In case people forget, in 2014 the Democrat senate voted to "partially" repeal the first amendment.  The move to nullify the Bill of Rights doesn't just apply to the second amendment.

A few minutes after the Republicans voted to "reduce and rename" Obamacare, a dozen Democrats came out saying the Republicans were going to kill people.  Political rhetoric or hate speech designed to incite violence?  What if they intended it to be (A) but it turned out to be (B)?  What do you do about that?  What's the fix?  We're supposed to negotiate outcomes, but how do you negotiate something with a guy like the FN shooter, when top Democrats convinced him you want to kill him when you say Obamacare is terminally AFU?  I personally don't think that gives us the right to go shoot those Democrats.  FN shooter obviously disagreed. 

For your information, I don't live in a "silly libertarian fantasy land".  I'm rather perturbed with the "movement" such as it is and only use the name in the loosest possible way.  Even then quite possibly the wrong way (see the paragraph up top about being wrong). 

If you're going to consider what I said truthfully, you'll see that I never endorsed any prior restraint. I simply advanced the notion that one might actually sometimes bear responsibility for one's actions. For example, perhaps publicly calling for a military coup against the elected president might be something that could possibly merit legal consequences?  I don't see where I said you endorsed prior restraint, but it seems to me that if you start charging people with incitement and imprisoning them that itself will restrain public speech. The act of arresting people for influencing others will be prior restraint.

Again it's all about where you draw the line and what you actually do to fix things.  Let's take the one you mention about calling for a military coup, or like HuffPo yesterday, calling for Trump to be tried for treason and executed.  Are these normal griping or do they need an investigation by Secret Service?  Do you extend that down to Madonna dreaming about blowing up the White House, or that other idiot (Naomi Judd) at the pussy-hat rally?  With the entire left wing media (redundant, I know) doing this crap 24/7, you're going to really overload the investigators. 

Frankly, I don't know where you draw the line.  I do believe the vitriol in all political discourse is way too overheated, but like everything else, it has been on this trajectory for a very long time and the only way it reverses course is for everyone to decide they're going too far and tame their rhetoric and that just ain't gonna happen.  It is literally tearing the country apart. 

Several commentators, Daniel Greenfield (Sultan Knish) and Angelo Codevilla for example, have said that we're in a cold civil war.  I've said the same thing since 2010.  A common interpretation of the "baseball attack" (like here) is that the war has now gone hot.  I think it went hot some time ago, perhaps Berkeley but perhaps earlier with the attempts by the left to start violence at Trump rallies over a year ago.  It's possible it's heating up more, but we'll only know if the tempo of operations goes up. 

I've always criticized lawmakers for never asking, "and then what?" when they propose legislation.  I'm just trying to ask that of myself, as I always do.  

Edit 6/17 1015 EDT:  I accidentally insulted Naomi Watts by using her name in place of Naomi Judd, up above.  Of course, I know neither of them, I just liked Naomi Watts in the only movie I know I saw her in, the 2005 iteration of King Kong.  In the weird world in the intertoobs, there's a greater chance she'll see this than things I'd say to friends.  (Approximately a 1 in 27 trillion chance).

Edit to edit 1200 EDT:  Reader JD(not the one with the picture) points out that the aforementioned moron is actually Ashley Judd, not Naomi.  I'd also like to point out that my previous mention of the odds Naomi Watts would actually see this is an example of the axiom, "47.3% of statistics are made up on the spot". 


  1. you are driving on the interstate.
    you are keeping up with the "flow".
    The flow is 85mph.
    Trooper pulls you over, issues the citation.
    You plead your case to the judge - "everyone else was doing it"?

    Murder is illegal. Even terrorists know this.
    At the core, the only thing being argued is consequences. Nobody wants to be responsible for enforcing consequences. Mostly because nobody wants to face consequences.
    When a person weighs risk/reward and chooses the illegal act, its because the (real/perceived)reward outweighed the (real/perceived)risk.
    The law is increasingly no considerable risk.
    Evil will reign where good men do nothing; just as in England's case "run, hide, wait for the law to show up".

    1. "Mostly because nobody wants to face consequences" or they don't care about the consequences. Suicide bombers know they're going to die. They don't care because they believe they get their reward from Allah.

      Maybe the FN shooter figured he was going to die, but was going to "kill him some evil republicans" first. If it hadn't been for Scalise being there with a protective detail, he might have killed them all. He was apparently moving to round them into a dugout so he could.

  2. Well...

    1. That seems to meet the requirements of the Brandenburg Incitement Test to me. Of course, IANAL.

  3. This is where the free market can shine. If enough people decide that those who are "inciting" have some degree of culpability, they can vote with their wallet and their Universal Remote. They can convince others. Those who incite do it, mostly, to increase viewership and compensation. Kick those who incite in the wallet and most of them will tone it down. It is a lot less "fun" when it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income.

  4. In response to the line between free speech and planning a criminal act, I think it partially depends on intent of the speaker, which is for a jury to decide. Jonathan Swift was not actually advocating eating babies in his famous satirical essay about cannibalism as a solution to famine. Whereas 'Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?' was heard as command intent. Concrete statements speak to the intent of acting. 'Let's you and me rob the bank on First and Main on Monday at 10am' is criminal planning. 'One day the peasants will storm the banks and take back their stolen wealth from the rich' is not criminal planning.

    There is incitement, but you can't prove how much was caused by who. Despite being unable to prove it to your satisfaction, that doesn't mean the incitement doesn't exist. Sometimes the inciter lies to hide his crime, like the bully telling the teacher 'I was only joking', or the robber saying 'it was only a fake gun'.

    Some positions are hard to tell if they are parody, without knowing if they were published in a parody channel. Westboro Baptist church. MAD magazine doing Martha Stewart.

    As for if the 'cold war has gone hot', one side of that conflict shows up with gun and uses them. Does is only 'go hot' when both sides show up with guns and use them? If you identified the Republican legislators as belonging to a political team you thought was an enemy, like ISIS, you would consider the high command leadership valid military targets and print their pictures on playing cards. The shooter was FN because his actions weren't like to achieve a goal of making life better for himself or anyone he cared about. This is a totally separate question to whether the targets were enemies of the shooter, which they were.

    The previous paragraph was free speech, not incitement.

  5. I think we are in agreement on legal responsibility: it's the shooter's responsibility, 100%.

    We need to blame this on Hollywood, the Left and the Dems, because they are our enemies, and this has some potential to damage them.

  6. I think one of the points you're missing is that it is possible for more than one person to be responsible for something.
    Let's say you hire a hitman to murder someone... who goes to jail? You or the hitman?
    Actually the answer is BOTH.

    You keep talking about how the shooter is solely responsible, but you're acting as if any apportionment of blame to anyone else somehow diminishes the shooter's responsibility.
    That is just not so. Prosecuting the hitman doesn't excuse you for hiring him, and prosecuting you doesn't excuse the hitman.

    This is a the point I was trying to get you to see with the question about ISIS. There are people out there that are even willing to admit that they are tying to incite violence, yet you would give them a free pass. You would apparently let someone go around their entire life trying to find other people they can talk into murder, and you would keep excusing them from any responsibility whatsoever as the bodies pile up.

    As far as the incitement test, if you haven't seen anything meeting it then you haven't been paying attention. You've heard of antifa right? You've heard of BLM? We've not only seen the incitement, we've also seen violence immediately result from it. People have been getting shot, stabbed and beaten all over America. It's gotten to the point where speeches are being stopped at college campuses by terroristic threats backed up by terroristic violence.

    As far as where to draw the line, there is a quote from the Talmud that is apropos, "and if someone comes to kill you, get up early to kill him first".

    Looking at the actual, practical, real world. There are 3 key parties here: the "threatener", the "threatenee", and the "authority"

    If the threatenee doesn't take the threat seriously, then there is no demand for authority to step in. However if the threatenee does see a real threat, then authority needs to step in and act. If it does not, then "authority" risks losing it's legitimacy in the eyes or either the threatener, the threatenee or both. If authority looses it's legitimacy with too many people, then you wind up living in a Mad Max movie.

    Go back to the quote from the Talmud and think about what it might mean to someone who has asked for protection and has been denied it. The point is, there is at least one line that is obvious: If the level of the threat is perceived as severe enough that those being threatened are willing to risk pre-emptive action, than that seems like a pretty damned good argument that the line has probably been crossed. (Not 100% obviously, but it provides a pretty good starting point. Ask, "Would I expect a reasonable person to live under this kind of threat indefinately?")

    1. I think we're just talking past each other. When you say, I think one of the points you're missing is that it is possible for more than one person to be responsible for something. where did I ever say it wasn't possible? Specifically, in the case of Isis being responsible for inciting attacks, I said, "let's say sure, they influenced him. So what?" There are only three answers to "so what?": either (1) you go to authority (as you say) and they apply the incitement test, (2) you take matters into your own hands, or (3) perhaps you shift from Cooper's condition yellow to orange, which I assume is your normal life anyway. Taking matters into your own hands is full of all sorts of potential traps and legal pitfalls for you.

      When you said, As far as the incitement test, if you haven't seen anything meeting it then you haven't been paying attention. I said " I don't think anything I've seen out of Griffin or anyone else meets it." I was badly unclear. I meant media/Hollywood things like the Shakespeare in the Park play everyone is all upset about. My bad editing for which I apologize. I don't think anyone looks to the Squatty Potty lady (Griffin) for influence. I don't think the play is going to influence anyone to do anything, except maybe never go to another "Shakespeare in the Park" production. It influenced Delta Airlines and Bank of America to withdraw funding for them, so that's good.

      In trying to be clear about one thing I messed up others. A sure sign of writing too long.

      Take the case mentioned here yesterday: The girl was convicted of manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself. I thought that met the legal definition of incitement and the judge apparently thought so, too. The test seems largely time-based. She prompted to get back in his car and kill himself RIGHT THEN.

      The legal system has this test and if you live in America, you have to live by that. If you go to "authority" and say so-and-so influenced a killer, they're going to apply this test. If that specific instance doesn't pass the test, they'll say, "sorry - can't do a thing because free speech". So does it matter?

      What's your answer, then? What do you do about Antifa or black olives matter or whatever? Have you considered the conviction of the journalist at a BLM rally who, being chased by a group that was threatening him with flag poles (what used to be called pikes), "brandished" his Glock and was arrested, charged and convicted for self defense?

    2. I am the 'previous paragraph was free speech' anonymous.

      What's your answer, then? What do you do about Antifa or black olives matter or whatever? Have you considered the conviction of the journalist at a BLM rally who, being chased by a group that was threatening him with flag poles (what used to be called pikes), "brandished" his Glock and was arrested, charged and convicted for self defense?

      The journalist had a military response to the pikemen, which worked. The journalist had already figured out what to do about Antifa or black olives matter. In the analysis, pause time at the moment at the moment after which the pikemens' charge was broken. The pikemen are no longer a threat, let's stop talking about the pikemen, they would become a red herring. Who is now the threat to the journalist? Answer: the government legislators and judges and law enforcement agents the White middle class voters, including the journalist, keep hiring.

    3. I personally don't know the first thing about whether or not the journalist is even from Portland and wouldn't presume to think I know how he'd vote.

      Tell us how you know that, if you would.

    4. wouldn't presume to think I know how [the journalist would] vote.

      Stereotypically true for journalists, if not in this particular case. There is a mental blind spot operating here. At the center of the blind spot is the idea that ruling innocent people, government itself, is nearly the root cause of the problem. The blind spot is caused by monkey troop political instincts which make people act as herd members. It may be that only freethinkers, people who are born willing to work out moral rules for themselves, are able to be libertarians. Everyone else is a hazard. The child is never going to concede it is time for bed, the statist is never going to concede it's not legitimate for him to set up and tear down other people like they were his personal box of plastic green army men.

    5. In other words, you're just assuming. There's no reason to think a guy running a YouTube channel called "LaughingAtLiberals" would be like you assume.

      Project much?

  7. I believe the shooter was not only incited, but paid by these clowns (below); this is a comment I posted at WRSA:

    The quote that comes to my mind is the one uncovered by James O’Keefe last year from Scott Foval, who worked with the DNC to hire agitators:

    “I’m saying we have mentally ill people, that we pay to do shit, make no mistake,” says Foval in the video. “Over the last twenty years, I’ve paid off a few homeless guys to do some crazy stuff, and I’ve also taken them for dinner, and I’ve also made sure they had a hotel, and a shower. And I put them in a program. Like I’ve done that.

    Is the baseball field attack another example of “paid agitation” by the DNC’s useful idiots?

    1. I remember those interviews you're talking about and I think I even did a piece on them.

      Of course it's a possibility. I'll wait for a real investigative journalist's answer, if one exists.

    2. I am kind of surprised no investigative reporter has tried to further pursue that lead. Maybe b/c they're all CNN watching Dems, who knows.

  8. Perhaps if the Russians had hacked into this and because of that this nut tried to kill congressmen then law enforcement might be interested. Probably not. BUT if Trump had also asked the FBI director in private what time it was and that FBI director who hated Trump wrote a memo about something or other but somehow implicating Trump in obstruction THEN maybe law enforcement would be interested. Not in any actual crime of course but in the thought of impeaching Trump...

  9. Mike Pence won't go to lunch or have a private meeting with a woman. This infuriates lesbians/feminists. Of course we all know why any public or influential person "must" do this and that in turn makes you wonder if the reason that feminist are unhappy is simply because it takes away their best weapon to "assassinate" leaders they dislike. Now it seems you shouldn't have lunch or private meetings with the FBI or law enforcement (or reporters) too.

  10. What Ms Griffith et al did wasn't incitement.

    Their actions and the response from the media about it created an atmosphere that violence against non-liberals would be ignored, if not condoned.

    What they've done is create a receptive state for incitement by others.

    We don't have a legal test for that. But we might have such a benchmark soon if it doesn't ratchet back down soon.