The Foreign Threat To The First Amendment

Guest Columnist

At first you might think Gainesville’s Koran-burning Terry Jones and Washington-based Middle East peace lobby J-Street would have little in common.

Yet, both are victims of foreigners trying shut down their First Amendment rights.

Islamists are trying to silence Jones.  The right wing of Israeli’s Kinesset wants  to shut down J Street, which they call subversive for questioning policies on the West Bank.

It’s hard to tell what motivates Jones, a fundamentalist minister.  Is it sincere religious beliefs or a P.R. scheme to revitalize his church’s declining membership?

Here’s what the First Amendment says: It’s none of the government’s goddamn business.

The government’s only responsibility is to protect Jones’ rights from domestic and foreign threats.

That threat now involves a multimillion dollar bounty on Jones’s head.  It involves threatening to kill more innocent people in foreign countries.

Islamist extremists have regularly taken to using violence to silence critics.

Salman Rushdie, the author of the “blasphemous The Satanic Verses, lived decades with an Iranian bounty on his head.  More recently it is the writers of the TV show South Park who goofed on the controversy surrounding the cartoon images of Mohammad.

Buying into this crap, the Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel published editorials denouncing Jones for putting the lives of innocent people in danger.

The Mohammad image controversy has proved what a bunch of wimps the American media are.  Our local papers are now denouncing Jones for not also being a wimp.

What if a bunch of Islamists kidnap fifty Christians with the threat to kill them unless the Sun-Sentinel and Herald ceased publication?  Maybe the next demand from Islamists is that The Gideon Society put Korans in all hotel rooms.  How about dropping Easter? What if Hitler had threatened to kill all American POW’s if we invaded France?

These Islamists are extortionists.  The only thing certain about them is that, like all extortionists: If they succeed, they up, up the ante.

The answer to all extortionists is the same:  “FUCK YOU.

More subtle, but no less threatening, is the Israeli Knesset’s investigation of J-Street, a pro-Israeli American group which opposes the racist, land grabbing, apartheid polices of the current Israeli right wing government.

It’s pretty clear the investigation is the first step to labeling J-Street unIsraeli and a threat to the Jewish state.   Is the second step declaring J-Street some sort of subversive organization notwithstanding that its views are in tune with half of Israel and 99 percent of the world?

The Obama Administration’s response has been less than stellar.  When Obama should have publicly stood by the rights of J-Street and the odious Jones, he was silent. I wonder what he will do if a J-Streeter visiting Israel is arrested for treason?

You want a risk-free, peaceful, universally beloved First Amendment?

No such thing.  One man’s free speech is often seen by others as so offensive as to be beyond protection.

The Supreme Court ruled on this last month.  Chief Justice John Roberts, no liberal, was one of the 8-1 majority voting to uphold the rights of anti-gay wackos to protest at military funerals.

Writing for the majority, Roberts said that speech “cannot be restricted simply because it is upsetting or arouses contempt.”

The First Amendment is not about the government picking and choosing the speech it will defend.

We seem to spend endless blood and treasure to keep gas flowing to 8 MPG Humvees.

How about a fraction of that for the First Amendment?

13 Responses to “The Foreign Threat To The First Amendment”

  1. The Long Black Robe (ret.) says:

    Sam is right theoretically. The real world requires some flexibility.
    No one has said Jones didn’t have the right to burn a Koran. What people are denouncing is his disregard of the consequences.
    I have the right to stand on a street outside a church and scream that Jesus is the Devil and a phony. The consequences is that I may get beat up.
    Sam seems to be saying that this country should protect both free speech and the person who said it, no matter how reckless the speech was.
    Salman Rushdie wrote a work of literature that Muslims didn’t like. Mr. Jones did a deliberately provocative act designed to inflame passions. Both are protect by the First Amendment. They are not equivalents.
    We allow Mr. Jones the right to say and do what he wants. He has to put up with the consequences and he will have to hear our criticism of him for the rest of his life.

  2. There's More says:

    The First Amendment protects freedom of the press. The intent was to ensure that the people be informed about news without government interference.

    However, when that language was written there was much less cause to worry that the privileges of that right would be abused by journaists. Today’s journalism has nearly erased any distinction between news and editorial, fact or fiction. Every story is intentionally spun to bring out an emotional response from readers. Stories are not judged on their content but on the emotional impact they have on the reader.

    Stories are written that way on purpose, editors demand that kind of copy, and reporters directed to write their stories that way. Reporters are to seek out stories that allow that kind of writing to be published even to the exclusion of other what is traditionally considered newsworthy information useful to informing the public.

    We see blogs allowing lies to be written and all manner of comments in response no matter how factually wrong or malicious. We see newspapers dying because people don’t want them anymore. We see TV news totally prostituted to the point where it’s nothing but spin.

    Journalism today is nothing short of propaganda promulgated by the news media. They are no longer content reporting the news. They want to create it also and the First Amendment lets them get away with it. But it can’t last long. Journalism is the greatest threat to the First Amendment, not government or any of the other considerations. News media themselves are bringing forward the demise of their estate.


    The First Amendment also guarantees “freedom of speech.” Those words are specifically mentioned in it. This is a freedom of speech issue.

    Your comments on the state of journalism are interesting. You say, “Today’s journalism has nearly erased any distinction between news and editorial, fact or fiction.”

    For most of this nation’s history, journalism consisted largely of newspapers and magazines that were clearly slanted.The idea of balanced, serious stories reflecting all points of view is a relatively recent invention.

    Some of the Founding Fathers had journalists on the payroll, publishing their own highly opinionated journals. When newspapers called Andrew Jackson’s mother a prostitute and his wife an adulteress, that was clearly an appeal to the basest emotional instincts. The term “yellow journalism” comes from the 1890s circulation battle between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer and refers to a comic strip nicknamed The Yellow Kid. The papers used comics to build readership while ignoring serious stories.

    Hearst’s papers were notoriously slanted. I knew people who wouldn’t allow the New York Journal American or Daily Mirror in their homes because of their biased coverage of Democrats.

    And the truth! Have you ever seen the movie The Front Page? Historically, newspapers were less about the truth and more about entertainment and selling papers.

    I worked in an era (late 1960s to now) when the truth along with balanced stories were the rule. It was a relatively recent development when I started. I was sometimes told in my early career what point of view to favor in stories, usually to benefit an advertiser or a friend of the higher ups. This did not happen to me at any time during my time at Sun-Sentinel, but I have no idea what happens there now.

    I agree with you totally that “factually wrong or malicious” statements that permeate the Internet. I don’t consider most of this journalism. Some of it is opinion. If you are talking about the anonymous comments on blogs, they are little more that electronic graffiti.

    Unfortunately, the graffiti has a wider audience than the stuff written on a bathroom wall. For those believe they are slandered, there is always the courts.

  3. To the LBR (Ret) and Sam says:

    90% of what Sam writes is stupid. This one was not.

    To the LBR (Ret.) — “the real world requires some flexibility”??

    Sorry, the real world doesn’t require “flexibility” on this issue. Basically what we are saying by cowtowing to ideological terrorism is — “Ok, you don’t want us to say something or express something, and if we do, you are going to MURDER people. Ok, we’ll keep our mouths shut”.

    I see the media reports of protests in the middle east where the Israeli or American flag are burned, we have bibles burned in protest, etc. etc. etc. Is it a normal reaction to these events, for bands of US citizens get in a truck, go to a mosque, lock the people inside and burn it to the ground? Is that an acceptable response? Of course not, and if it happened, it would be condemned and those involved punished.

    Rather than condemn the stupid idiotic dangerous “minister” that burned the Koran, the President should condemn the murder of UN workers who had nothing to do with this “minsiter” because some people are so psychotic that they value the pages of a book more than a human life.

    As far as I am concerned, the “people” that committed this atrocity are worse than animals. Anyone (christian, jew, moslem, whatever) who follows a god that commands them to kill people for blasphemy aren’t worth the air they are privileged to breathe and are a clear and present danger to the rest of the world that values books as books, and values the life of human beings more.

    We should leave those countries to fend for themselves, put people on the borders to prevent the psychos from getting out, and let the ones who feel that murdering people over a book is ok to stay and slaughter each other to their hearts’ content. And when the land is empty, evolution will have served its purpose and the world will be a better place.

  4. Floridan says:

    BS – no one has said that Jones doesn’t have a right to burn a Koran. That doesn’t translate to everyone having to applaud him for it. And it certainly doesn’t mean that anyone who questions the wisdom of burning a Koran is supporting Islamist terrorism and violence.

  5. Death Frog 3 says:

    I agree Jones has the right to freely express his opinions, no matter how full of disdain they are.

    I think the regarding the press a lot of reporters simply “edit” press releases and put the story out. That is why the same story almost verbatim is on different media outlets.


    I agree with your second paragraph.

  6. watcher says:

    sam is usually right on the mark and always provacative….he likes going after hypocrites….there’s a whole bunch out there…

  7. Freedom says:

    People who burn books are, at a minimum, monumental a**holes, but burning a book is not murder. People who kill people because someone burned a book are murderers. So, the responsibility for murder lies with the murderer. Freedom of speech, as our Constitution provides, is an expensive thing, and it’s worth it. To defend it is worth my life – even to defend a monumental a**hole’s right to such a freedom. After all, his freedom is really my freedom. So, I’m with Sam Fields – “Fuck You!” Islamist extortionists. OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

  8. Floridan says:

    The reason these things get out of hand is that the people who are being whipped into a muderous frenzy are not sitting around watching Charlie Rose and NBC News, reading the New York Times or even following events on the internet. They are probably illiterate peasants who are being used by our enemies — and stupid stunts like that by Jones plays right into their hands.

    When here in the United States you can convince about 50% of the Republican Party that President Obama was not born in the United States, or have legislators fearing the imposition of Sharia law, how difficult do you think it is to convince people living in mud huts that their religion is under attack by foreign invaders?

  9. Its a Miracle says:

    DAMN! That is the second time I agreed with the idiot, Fields.

    BTW, Floridan, you don’t fear the the imposition of Sharia Law? Wow, and you talk about ignorant people in OTHER countries.

  10. Floridan says:

    @Its a Miracle: “BTW, Floridan, you don’t fear the the imposition of Sharia Law? Wow, and you talk about ignorant people in OTHER countries.”

    Of course I don’t fear it. Give me an example of where it has come close to being implemented in the United States. Better yet, provide an example of any American elected official or judge suggesting or favoring the imposition of Sharia law.

    So . . . my fear of Sharia law in the U.S. is about on the level of my fear of zombies and vampires.

  11. To Floridan says:

    Seriously, the Sharia law whackjobs are just shy of the looniest black helicopter militia psychotics.

    The only way “Sharia law” plays into any case in the US is in a private contractual dispute in which two parties have AGREED to abide by Sharia law in their private dealings.

    This is no different than when two contracting parties agree that their contractual disputes will be governed by the Law of XXXXX [insert state, country, etc.]. That’s pretty common for contractual disputes.

    “Sharia law” can never become the law of the land in the US and can never be considered by any court UNLESS THE PARTIES TO THE PROCEEDING REQUEST IT.

    Stupid constitutional amendments banning the consideration of Sharia law are ridiculous, discriminatory, and just downright fear mongering.

    If you don’t want to have Sharia law considered in a matter, don’t agree in your contract to use it.

    But then again, the Sharia law conspiracy nuts probably can’t read.

    And Floridan, you do have nothing to fear. Yes, you truly have nothing to fear….

    The Vampire Lestat

  12. Oodles says:

    Let’s face it: Zionists have played the anti-Semitism card for decades to cow and silence any Gentile who dares express the slightest reservation about Israeli actions or policy. The only new development is that Jews are being more aggressive about going after other Jews for expressing the same views. Where was the outrage before?

  13. Yes Buddy However says:

    Buddy, I acknowledge the merit in your comment however…every right demands responsibility.

    The First Amendment is not absolute. Journalists, however defined, can’t be calling people crooks and prostitutes unless those things are true. I don’t care for the blanket ability to indicte public officials that way either. That is an abuse of authority to the extent it is completely unsubstantiated. The thing about news is it is presented by the writer as fact. The public “buys” it with that in mind and to mislead is always an irresponsible act.

    Telling the truth while being able to express opinion is the freedom that press is given. The ability to stray somewhat from that I can live with also. The ability to present lies as truth to the public will inevitably lead to an erosion of those rights. That is what abuse always does.

    It may not be the law quite yet but conceptually there’s not so much a difference between falsely calling an official a crook and yelling fire in a perfectly safe theater. Both are misuses of free speech.

    As for blogs and bloggers, I think it’s only a matter of time before rules are imposed on owners of blogs to review commentary from whatever source before it gets authorized for public consumption. In time the law will require that. Blogs can’t be allowed for long to be used as public restoom walls unless a janitor is assigned to clean up the filth.


    You first must define “journalists.” Is a writer for a blog who continuously calls people crooks a journalist? Or is this person just giving their opinion? In both cases they are protected by the First Amendment, but there are different standards.

    They have strict ethical standards at most commercial news outlets, such as TV stations and daily newspapers. Other publications have few or no standards, except the fear of those imposed by a judge. Many bloggers — the dirty little secret is that some are for sale — have never heard of journalistic ethics.

    No writer can call somebody a crook or a prostitute without being able to back it up. I was never even allowed to use those words at any newspaper I worked for, unless the person was specifically charged with those crimes.

    Again, sue the bastards. There are courts.