Higher Education and Teaching English

Ronald D. Rotunda Aug 8, 2015
Censored Speech When colleges are teaching English these days, they are not talking about the novels of Faulkner or the drama of Shakespeare. Instead, they are instructing the professors and students to avoid “microaggressions” and to give “trigger warnings.” Professors routinely defend tenure as a means of protecting academic freedom. Universities, after all, are supposed to be thriving centers of free speech. The problem is the many universities instead are striving to teach their students and faculty that the last thing they should do is express a contrary view.
The politically correct term is “microaggression”—a new word that the Oxford English Dictionary has not yet added but may do so (unless adding that word is itself a microaggression). The word has been around for decades, first coined in 1970, but only recently has it become a buzzword. It refers to verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, even unintentional, that someone might perceive as a slight. Plug it into Google and you will get about 214,000 hits. Plug in “micro aggression” and you are over 700,000 hits.
What are some microaggressions? The University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point has helpfully included a list to guide its students and professors about what not to say. For example, let us say a professor tells a student in a class on rhetoric, “You are so articulate.” That’s a microaggression. Yes it is. You may be able to get away with telling the white student in the rhetoric class that she has performed well and is articulate, but you are looking for trouble if you say that to a nonwhite student, the University of Wisconsin solemnly informs us. What if an Asian student says to the teacher, “You only call the white students articulate?” “Why don’t you ever praise an Asian?” Well, the Administration at the University of Wisconsin never gets around to answering that one.
How about this? You’re in a history class, or a civics class, and you hear a student or teacher says, “America is a melting pot.” That is another no-no. It really means that people in this country assimilate, and that is apparently very bad. What if you pull out a dollar bill and read part of the Great Seal of the United States, “E pluribus unum”? That means, “Out of many, one.” That sounds a lot like “America is a melting pot.” Yet, Wisconsin does not list that one as a microaggression. Perhaps those who make up the list don’t understand Latin.
Suppose someone says, “I think my friend will get the job because his father is a friend of the employer.” Another person responds, “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” That is yet another no-no, according to the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point.
An example of an environmental microaggression occurs if a college or university has buildings named “after White heterosexual upper class males.” That one is really a hoot. First, one should not be surprised that college buildings are names after donors. If we have heard of the donor, we may know that the donor is male and rich. We usually don’t know their sexual orientation; perhaps because they think what they do in the bedroom is not anyone else’s business. In any event, it is still a bit surprising for the University of Wisconsin to object to buildings named after donors—all it has to do is refuse the money or return it and change the name of the building.
Wisconsin also objects to an “[o]verabundance of liquor stores in communities of color.” It does not tell us what “overabundance” means, but we do know that it offers no objection to an overabundance of liquor stores in communities with a large college population.
The University of California—the home of the free speech movement—not to be outdone, has now published its own list of microaggressions. Some parrot the Wisconsin list. Others do not. For example, California thinks it is a microaggression “Being forced to choose Male or Female when completing basic forms.” The University’s graduates will have trouble filling out census forms. California, however, does seem to understand that it should not insult its donors. Although it recognizes that microaggressions include “environmental slights, snubs,” it lists none. Apparently, California will not be returning any donors’ money or changing the names of its buildings.
The University of California assures us that it will embark on “an intensive training program on the topic for its faculty and administrators.” One wonders whether colleges should instead use their limited resources to focus on other issues, such as making sure that their expensive college degrees are worth something on the job market.
“Trigger warning” is another buzz word. Type that into Google and you get nearly a half-million hits. We are told that you should warn people if you are going to discuss an eating disorder. Like microaggression, “trigger warning” is an invitation to squelch debate and free speech. When we go through life, we will often run into discussions that describe things we do not like. If this is a private conversation, we can tell the other person to stop and polite people will do so. However, if someone is giving a speech or talking to a group, we have to realize that the Supreme Court has often said that free speech should be robust and that we protect speech that is meant to upset the hearer.
The American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Academic Freedom recently approved a report that warns about “trigger warnings.” As it explains:
A current threat to academic freedom in the classroom comes from a demand that teachers provide warnings in advance if assigned material contains anything that might trigger difficult emotional responses for students.
Many examples abound where universities enact or propose to enact rules that seek to shield people from life. Oberlin College announced a policy (now tabled) that told its faculty to “[r]emove triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.”
Consider the novel “Things Fall Apart,” by Chinua Achebe. This 1958 book is widely described “as the archetypal modern African novel in English, one of the first to receive global critical acclaim. It is a staple book in schools throughout Africa and is widely read and studied in English-speaking countries around the world.” Oberlin, however, advised that this novel might “trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide and more.” That’s right—students in schools throughout Africa reach this novel, but Oberlin is concerned that it should come with a warning label because students in the United States may have experienced “colonialism.” Yet the students living in Africa, a continent that the West colonized for many decades, do not need this trigger warning.
Wellesley College students objected to “a sculpture of a man in his underwear because it might be a source of ‘triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault.’” The sculptor wanted to show a man sleepwalking. The students insisted that Wellesley move it indoors. Apparently these students do not understand that rapes occur indoors as well as outside.
The AAUP warned that even voluntary use of trigger warnings harms academic learning and the obligation of higher education should challenge students.
If, for example, The House of Mirth or Anna Karenina carried a warning about suicide, students might overlook the other questions about wealth, love, deception, and existential anxiety that are what those books are actually about. Trigger warnings thus run the risk of reducing complex literary, historical, sociological and political insights to a few negative characterizations. By calling attention to certain content in a given work, trigger warnings also signal an expected response to the content (e.g., dismay, distress, disapproval), and eliminate the element of surprise and spontaneity that can enrich the reading experience and provide critical insight.
In other words, the goal of education is to expose students to new ideas, so some distress is inevitable.
Eugene Volokh, a distinguished law professor at UCLA who teaches free speech law, offers a useful warning. “[M]any faculty members who aren’t yet tenured, many adjuncts and lecturers who aren’t on the tenure ladder, many staff members, and likely even many students—and perhaps even quite a few tenured faculty members as well—will get the message that certain viewpoints are best not expressed when you’re working for UC, whether in the classroom, in casual discussions, in scholarship, in op-eds, on blogs, or elsewhere.”
Of course, we should all strive to be polite and we should all try to get along. There is no need to antagonize people. If people tell racist or sexist jokes, we do not have to laugh with them or invite them to our homes for dinner. Yet, that is different from trying to impose behavior by rules. These universities do not say that they will deny tenure to a professor who violates these “rules” or “guidelines.” We will have to wait until someone who does not receive tenure files suit. The litigant may claim (rightly or wrongly) that the university was really punishing him or her because they did not follow the guidelines. The University says that untenured faculty are “expected to feel uncensored, and free to express their ideas, including ones UC has labeled racist, aggressive, and hostile.” Professor Volokh’s reaction, “Really?”
Ronald D. Rotunda is The Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law. He is coauthor of six-volume Treatise on Constitutional Law: Substance and Procedure (5th ed., Thomson-West, St. Paul, Minn. 2012-2013), and Legal Ethics: The Lawyer’s Deskbook on Professional Responsibility (ABA Thomson-West & ABA, 11th ed. 2013), a one-volume treatise on Legal Ethics.

Follow @rrotunda on Twitter

Abandoned Symbols: Confederate Flags and Criminal Justiceby Joseph Margulies

ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Old Confederate FlagIn the wake of the horrific massacre in Charleston, leading social conservatives across the country have loudly called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from public display. But some people have wondered whether their call, however welcome, will prove nothing more than an empty gesture, a cynical strategy to woo moderate whites to the conservative camp in the 2016 election.
As is my wont, I am more hopeful. In ways that have not been adequately appreciated, the elite repudiation of the flag in the wake of Dylan Roof’s murderous rampage could be an important step, not simply in the debate over slave-era symbolism but in the contemporary struggle for criminal justice.
***
Why do we care about symbols? They don’t put food on the table, money in your pocket, or a roof over your head. You can’t eat a symbol. But they are nonetheless as important to our lives as anything we can buy.
Symbols play two equally important roles in American life. In the most obvious sense, they represent a belief system. The Constitution, for instance, symbolizes our belief in and commitment to the rule of law. Yet symbols also signal our membership in a particular community. For many years, Christians have used the ixthus to signal their faith to fellow believers, and many conservative Christians now display the symbol in their home or business or affix it their cars.
This dual role makes symbols vital to both our personal and communal identity; they declare what we believe as individuals and confirm our place in a tribe of like-minded others. We could never survive without symbols, and if suddenly they were taken from us, we would surely create others to take their place.
Yet symbols are deliberately vague and ambiguous. That’s part of what makes them so valuable. It is important that the Constitution, as a symbol, not be given a single, inflexible meaning, since that would prevent it from accommodating the shifting demands of the day. Equality, for instance, means something very different today from what it meant during the heyday of Jim Crow. In fact, historians have shown that its meaning today bears only a distant “family resemblance” to its meaning at the time of the Founding.
What is true for equality is no less true for many of the other terms and expressions in the Constitution, as recent historic events in the Supreme Court have made abundantly clear. What we mean by liberty, wrote the historian Michael Kammen, has “changed and broadened over time, . . . ranging from constraints upon authority to improvements in the conditions of social justice, of privacy, and a growing concern for the protection of personal liberty.”
This process is not only natural but inevitable, despite what Justice Scalia might think. As Justice Felix Frankfurter once observed, “Great concepts like . . . ‘due process of law,’ ‘liberty,’ [and] ‘property’ were purposely left to gather meaning from experience. For they relate to the whole domain of social and economic fact, and the statesmen who founded this Nation knew too well that only a stagnant society remains unchanged.”
The meaning of symbols is thus perennially a work in progress, continually renegotiated in the many spaces occupied by both the individual and the community—the private space, where the individual reflects on her own beliefs; the communal space, where the community speaks with its own members; and the public space, where the community speaks with the wider world.
In this never-ending negotiation, we have long understood the prominent role played by the community’s elites. These are the politicians, religious leaders, and other public figures that are widely believed by the community itself to be the keepers of the flame, the men and women who best represent the ideas and ideals of the belief system.
And that brings us at last to the Confederate Flag. In the days since the massacre in Charleston, elite social conservatives have consciously redefined the flag in both its individual and communal sense. Consider this statement from South Carolina State Senator Paul Thurmond, the son of arch-segregationist Strom Thurmond:
I think the time is right and the ground is fertile for us to make progress as a state and to come together and remove the Confederate battle flag from prominent statue outside the Statehouse and put it in the museum. It is time to acknowledge our past, atone for our sins and work towards a better future. That future must be built on symbols of peace, love, and unity. That future cannot be built on symbols of war, hate, and divisiveness.
. . .
Now we have these hate groups and the symbols that they use to remind African Americans that things haven’t changed and that they are still viewed as less than equal human beings. Well, let me tell you: Things have changed. Overwhelmingly, people are not being raised to hate or to believe that they are superior to others based on the color of their skin. My generation was raised to respect all people, of every race, religion, and gender.
At the individual level, Thurmond declares that the Confederate flag cannot be a legitimate representation of the southern, socially conservative belief system. A true southern conservative, he admonishes, does not believe in these things.
But the communal redefinition is even more important. Pronouncing that “things have changed,” Thurmond emphasizes the need “to come together” as a state and build a future around “symbols of . . . unity” rather than “divisiveness.” The implication is unmistakable. Contrary to the long-held socially conservative mantra, Thurmond says the flag does not represent fidelity to an honorable heritage, but to a racist, violent, sinful past.
In announcing this change, Thurmond has declared that the voice of the black community, which long called for this change, is more important than the voice of a significant portion of the white community, which had for just as long called to maintain the status quo. Inclusivity, with its explicit appeal to common membership in a broader community that transcends race, has trumped the traditional exclusivity of southern, white, social conservatism.
This is an extraordinarily potent declaration. Calling divisive symbols into question, demanding anew that they prove themselves worthy of inclusion in the conservative canon, and repudiating them if they are found wanting implies a healthy receptivity to profound change. And if applied conscientiously, a determination to denounce symbols deriving from a racist, divisive past would sweep away much of the iconography of modern conservatism.
In particular, we have known for years that much of the architecture of the criminal justice system has been built around precisely such symbols: Willie Horton, the welfare queen, the crack whore. These and other symbols have generated an entire set of divisive law enforcement and prosecution strategies, like the war on drugs and “zero tolerance” policing, that have been broadly endorsed by whites but widely deployed against blacks. If the denunciation of the Confederate flag implies a willingness to revisit these toxic symbols and failed strategies, and to heed the voice of the black community, then criminal justice reform is truly upon us.
I may be hopeful, but I am not naïve. I have no illusions that the repudiation of the Confederate battle flag, by itself, will eliminate racism in this country or make the criminal justice system fair. But the combination of message and messenger—elite social conservatives siding with an historically marginalized black community over numerically, economically, and culturally dominant whites to remove a divisive symbol of oppression—is an enormously important step that should be encouraged.

Scalia Slams Roberts as Biased In Obamacare Cases

ORIGINAL ARTICLE 

by JOEL GEHRKE June 25, 2015 10:46 AM @JOELMENTUM

I​n a blistering dissent from the majority in King v. Burwell this morning, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement should be called “SCOTUScare” rather than Obamacare, in light of how many times Chief Justice John Roberts has intervened to protect the law from a crippling legal defeat. Scalia argued that Roberts rewrote the law twice in 2012, and has now done so a third time in his King decision, which allows the IRS to continue providing subsidies to people who purchase insurance in the federal government’s health-care exchange.

“The somersaults of statutory interpretation they have performed (‘penalty’ means tax, ‘further [Medicaid] payments to the State’ means only incremental Medicaid payments to the State, ‘established by the State’ means not established by the State) will be cited by litigants endlessly, to the confusion of honest jurisprudence,” Scalia wrote in his dissent. “And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.”

Roberts acknowledged that there was a “strong” case to be made that the subsidies were only allowed to be provided through state-run exchanges, but he said the fact that ruling that way would cripple the law demonstrated that Congress must not have intended the law to be read that way. “In petitioners’ view, Congress made the viability of the entire Affordable Care Act turn on the ultimate ancillary provision: a sub- sub-sub section of the Tax Code,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, which was joined by the four liberals and Justice Anthony Kennedy. “We doubt that is what Congress meant to do.”

Roberts quoted Scalia’s 2012 dissent in the Obamacare case against him. “‘Without the federal subsidies . . . the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and may not operate at all,’” Roberts recalled Scalia writing. “So it stands to reason that Congress meant for those provisions to apply in every State as well.”

Follow the Money . . . to Ferguson

March 9, 2015., by Joseph Margulie

Original Article



“Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs.” So began the report written by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, a 100-page indictment of the Ferguson Police Department. The entire document repays careful study, but at its core, the report describes a department—and municipality—beset by two overlapping problems.

First, the City uses its police to close gaps in the city budget rather than deter or investigate crime. As a result, the police in Ferguson are fee- and fine-producers instead of peace officers, which has predictably led to chronic over-policing. “Many officers,” the report found, seem to view Ferguson’s residents “less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.”

Second, the Ferguson Police Department has developed an adversarial culture that routinely trumps the restraints imposed by the Constitution. “Officers expect and demand compliance even when they lack legal authority.” As symbols of authority so often do, Ferguson police apparently confuse disagreement with disobedience, and mistake a legitimate exercise of constitutional rights with an unpardonable display of disrespect.

The report implies that the second condition follows from the first, but in this regard it is mistaken. The fact that the police are misused as revenue agents need not make them hostile to the community they ostensibly serve. One can imagine, in other words, an officer handing yet another ticket to a Ferguson resident for some trivial or non-existent offense with an apology instead of a snarl.

The problem of an adversarial police culture—in which the police view themselves as operating in hostile territory and treat the community as the dangerous enemy—has been recognized for decades. It was immortalized in the movie, Ft. Apache, the Bronx, and helps account for the too-quick decision to acquire and deploy the latest and most advanced weapons of war on neighborhood streets. I hope to address this problem in future columns, since it is almost impossible to imagine meaningful reform of the criminal justice system so long as it persists.

But today, I want to address the first problem identified by DOJ—viz., the distorting influence of money. More than anything, the DOJ report confirms the familiar insight that financial incentives can have a profound, if not always dispositive, influence on behavior. Implicit in this insight, and similarly confirmed by the lesson of common experience, is that if you alter the incentives, you can influence the behavior.

Ironically, this was a key insight in the earliest years of the punitive turn in American life. In 1975, conservative political scientist James Q. Wilson published, Thinking About Crime, where he argued that offenders were fundamentally rational actors who assessed the relevant incentives and chose crime because the anticipated balance of risk and reward favored lawlessness. Change the balance and you will alter the behavior, or so he thought. His work was exceptionally important in advancing the view that punishment should be far more swift, certain, and severe, a view which many legislators and criminal justice policymakers quickly endorsed.

Tinkering with incentives is also an essential component of the neoliberal approach to crime control, which relies on, among other things, the management and control of physical space to corral and redirect would-be offenders. Have you ever noticed that newer park benches use metal armrests to divide the bench into two or three distinct seats? That’s not for comfort. It prevents the bench from being used as a bed, and therefore deters the homeless from mixing with the good people of the city.

To date, proposals to redirect the flow of money have not played a prominent part in the discussion of criminal justice reform, which has focused instead on statutory changes, mostly at the state level. But there is some evidence this may be changing. Recently, the MacArthur Foundation announced a $75 million grant to develop programs aimed at reducing jail populations. Last week I spoke with Nancy Fishman, the Project Director of the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the VERA Institute, a major player in criminal justice reform and one of four groups charged with administering the MacArthur grant.

As Fishman explained, the idea of the grant is to create incentives for municipalities to think systemically about how to eliminate what has become a reflexive over-reliance on jail. Over the past two decades, violent crime has fallen by nearly 50 percent and property crime by 44 percent. Yet annual admissions to jails in the United States have almost doubled, from six million to nearly 12 million. The great majority of these people, perhaps as many as three-quarters, are held for nonviolent traffic, property, drug, or public order offenses. Many are mentally ill or have alcohol or drug dependencies but are warehoused in jail for want of alternatives. Finally, to compound the crisis, pretrial detainees are held far longer than in the past: over the past three decades, the average stay has increased from 14 to 23 days. (VERA’s report is available here).

MacArthur, VERA, and its partners hope to identify and fund creative proposals from municipalities that will reward alternative strategies. Backed by MacArthur’s resources and tied to VERA’s technical expertise, these alternatives will—one hopes—change the incentives in a way that encourages police, sheriffs, prosecutors, judges, and legislators to think of jail as the last resort rather than the first. This, after all, is the intended purpose of pretrial detention, which should be limited to those very few who cannot safely be returned to the community. All evidence shows that jails long ago took on a far different role.

One lesson of the DOJ report is that if you reward municipalities to think and behave differently, they will. If cash-strapped cities are paid to reserve jail for the appropriate population, they will, and the message will gradually spread from the mayor in city hall to the cop on the street, and all the actors in between. Prosecutors will learn not to seek pretrial detention for those who should be diverted elsewhere, judges will no longer impose bail that sounds reasonable to a middle class sensibility but is far beyond the reach of a poor man or woman, and legislators will think twice before creating yet another category of crime that calls for presumptive pretrial detention.

No one remotely thinks that the MacArthur grant will solve the problem of distorted incentives and misallocated money in the criminal justice system. After all, $75 million is almost literally nothing compared to the tens of billions of dollars awarded by the federal government to states and local municipalities across the country over the past 50 years to shape and expand their criminal justice system. But all of this money represents an extraordinarily powerful resource, if only it can be harnessed in the service of a new vision of criminal justice. Ferguson points the way, and MacArthur is taking the first step.


Je Suis Charlie Hebdo

February 16, 2015
Je Suis Charlie Hebdo
by Ronald D. Rotunda

IMG_2597

Censored SpeechFree speech is under renewed attack after the Charlie Hebdo murders that claimed 12 lives earlier this year. Around the world, some Muslims protested—not to defend the right of free speech but to attack those who, in their view, insulted Islam. For example, in late January, protestors killed five people and set fire to eight Christian Churches in Niger. French President Francois Hollande responded that France was committed to “freedom of expression,” and that commitment is “non-negotiable.”

A month before the Charlie Hebdo violence, a French appellate court overturned the conviction of Christine Tasin, a retired schoolteacher of Classics. In 2013, she had publicly criticized Islam’s Eid-ul-Adha (“Festival of the Sacrifice”), as unsanitary and cruel to animals. The trial court sentenced her to a €3,000 fine (half of which it suspended) and a three month prison sentence, also suspended. Earlier, a Muslim man threatened her with death. The court fined that man only €800. The judge apparently decided that objecting to cruelty to animals is five times more offensive than threatening a retired schoolteacher with death.

Tasin rejoiced in the overturning of her conviction. “Last Thursday was a great day for freedom of expression in France,” she said. She added:

The [appeal] court in Besançon has now acknowledged that one has the right to express opinions and I did not encourage hatred against Muslims, and I can think and say that Islam is a threat to France, that it is a freedom of expression. [Those who] fear that freedom of expression is disappearing, and that blasphemy has become a crime again are relieved. Yes, I am an Islamophobe, so what? It’s Normal! . . . I don’t find it normal to torture animals; I don’t find it normal to veil women. I’m talking about a serious problem.

Others take away a different lesson and encourage self-censorship—be careful what you say. On January 21, Stevie Wonder advised, “we should make laws against people criticizing religion,” a most in-apropos comment (it was part of his eulogy of André Crouch). In 2012, the President’s Press Secretary, Jay Carney, in the course of a press conference, said, “We are aware that a French magazine [referring to Charlie Hebdo] published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the prophet Muhammad, and obviously we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this.”

After the 2015 murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff, Carney reaffirmed his view that Charlie Hebdo should have pulled back with its satire. Carney, of course, made clear that he did not justify violence. Yet, as Washington Post columnist Charles Lane advised, “mixed messages unavoidably implied that the rioters had a valid point, which is never something you want to imply—at least not if you understand how dangerous it is to give violent extremists a veto over what your citizens can and cannot say.”

Carney’s successor as White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, speaking shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attack, embraced that mixed message. The violence is terrible, of course, yet, when a reporter asked Josh Earnest, “Does the White House stand by that questioning [in 2012] of the judgment of the publication of that cartoon in light of recent events?”—Earnest’s response was yes, after long, convoluted remarks. He reaffirmed that Charlie Hebdo exercised poor judgment; however, satire “could put Americans abroad at risk,” so the President “will not now be shy about expressing a view or taking the steps that are necessary to try to advocate for the safety and security of our men and women in uniform.”

This response appeared to be a non sequitur so the reporter said that protecting “American service personnel is different than criticizing or raising questions about the judgment underlying any satirical expression, be it to mock Islam or Christianity or Judaism, or anything else.” Consequently, the reporter asked, “Where do you draw the line?” Earnest’s answer, “I think it depends on the scenario.” What does that mean? Don’t mock Islam but Episcopalians are fair game?

It is difficult for you to support free speech if you simultaneously express reservations about what the speaker is saying and then warn that you will “not now be shy” about “taking steps” to discourage the speaker from speaking because that is exercising “poor judgment.”

Jonathan Chait, a commentator for New York Magazine and former senior editor at the New Republic, saw right through this decidedly ambiguous message. What the White House Press Secretary is saying, Chait says, is, “They do not believe religious extremists should be able to impose censorship by issuing threats, but given the existence of those threats, the rest of us should have the good sense not to risk triggering them.” That is not a defense of free speech but rather a call for self-censorship:

“The line separating these two positions is perilously thin. . . . The right to blaspheme religion is one of the most elemental exercises of political liberalism. One cannot defend the right without defending the practice.”

The Washington Post republished the Charlie Hebdo cartoon cover circulated after the attack, but the New York Times did not, noting, “most Muslims consider any depiction of their prophet to be blasphemous.” That certainly appears like self-censorship. (It also shows that the editor of that article does not travel much, at least not to Istanbul, where one could tour the famous Topkapi Palace Museum, which displays many images of Mohammed. That’s another problem with self-censorship; it leads to over-self-censorship, if you are scared enough.)

In December 2004, I gave a speech at the University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands about America and the Gulf War. A month earlier, a 26-year-old Dutch-born Muslim murdered Theo van Gogh, while cycling to work. My speech was public and a Muslim woman spoke up in the back of the room before I began. She was accompanied by several large men and videotaping equipment. She wanted to videotape my speech. I asked the audience if they objected and they did. The audience was obviously scared and I asked her if she had any reaction to that. She refused to speak.

I told her that the audience was scared of her because of the murder of Theo van Gogh and that ought to concern her. She just stared at me in utter silence. I said she could condemn the murder of Theo van Gogh; that might make the audience less frightened. Again, nothing. I finally told her that she could videotape me but the camera must focus only on me. She could not make any record of anyone in the audience. She agreed, and the audience felt better. Then I began my speech by saying that it is important that we not be afraid to speak. After I finished the presentation and answered questions, she and her entourage left. At that moment, I did not need the White House Press Secretary to tell me to exercise “better judgment,” i.e., self-censorship.

Each generation must learn and relearn the lessons of free speech. Those who say we can speak, but should not be rude or offensive do not understand that inoffensive speech has no need of protection. The White House Press Secretary should not be telling us to censor ourselves; he should be telling the world that the cure for speech we do not like is more speech, contrary speech, not violence or self-censorship. If you disagree, respond with words, not force.

Those who worry about inciting those Muslims who preach and act out hate think that appeasement will stop the terrorist attacks. Sadly, appeasement in the past has been about as effective as throwing some blood in the water to appease sharks.
Listen to an Egyptian cleric, Muhammad Hussein Yaqub, speaking in 2009, on Egyptian Television. He told his viewers:

If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them…They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing…You must believe that we will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the earth.

The Quran tells us that if God had wanted one community, He would have made one community. Instead, we are many communities so that we can compete with each other in good works (Quran verse 5:480). The murderers of Charlie Hebdo worry about sacrilege, but they are the ones who are sacrilegious, because they actually think that Almighty God needs those puny men to effectuate His will.