This is Dumb

Did you know that Monday tends to be my business day, professionally? In addition to my “No Internet until quota” policy — hit my quota at 10:30, incidentally, thanks for asking — this is the day I write my column, and today I also did work for a consulting client, doing SFWA matters, and sending off the usual flurry of business e-mails to various and sundry folks. Why, it’s almost like having a real job! Except that I can still be in a bathrobe at 2:30pm. Not that I am, mind you. But I could be.

But my busy-ness means I’m off being busy rather than posting here. Sorry. In lieu of a post at the moment, allow me to send you to this Slate article, which makes a point about why a new proposed bill intended to restrict violent words and images when applied to government officials is in fact a pretty stupid idea, and not just because there’s that whole First Amendment thing we have here in the US.

I would certainly be pleased to see the political rhetoric toned down a bit; trying to legislate it is a sign you’re really missing the point.

Back later.

43 Comments on “This is Dumb”

  1. In the united states we have freedom of speech. Taking that away is simply using a particular instance (once again) to try and “draft a bill” that sooner or later will end up creating a kerfluffle about changing our constitution and so on and so forth.
    People like Rep. Bob Brady jumping on the band wagon of righteous feelings of injustice just gives them an excuse to make a bigger name for themselves instead of doing (“gasp”) Useful things that might help people recover and deal with situations when and where they happen.
    How about people just watching what they say. God forbid people in places of power could change a lot by simply being a bit more polite and a bit less slanderous and rude.
    Have a good Monday John.

  2. As many people on various blogs have already pointed out, there’s a difference between laws and norms, and what is needed here is a change in norms, not laws. It would be very nice if the political class as a whole could be a bit more circumspect about whipping up its respective bases into frothy messes, but that doesn’t mean we need to ban the use of a circle overlaid with two perprendicular lines in political speech!

  3. In another Slate article, Steve Kornacki, a person with leftist leanings, sums up the voice of reason – ironically, from Slate’s “War Room.”

  4. My feeling is that the way to slow down the violent rhetoric is to not vote for candidates who indulge in it, and to not watch or listen to shows where hosts indulge in it and/or don’t call down their guests who say those things and use those sorts of images in their publications and on their websites. Simple. If no one will put up with it, it will go away. Except on the fringes, and I suspect that nothing is going to make it go away there.

    No legislation needed. Just a little gentle positive peer pressure.

  5. Shit, they might try and ban Fallout 3, a post Apocalyptic DC, could easily be considered violent imagery towards the government.

  6. Paul: Can’t you always just talk about fallout? Then I can just admire your gravatar and forget that I wildly disagree with your politics :P. And I think New Vegas is much more revolutionary (in the sense of overthrowing government) than Fallout3. Sure it aint set it DC, but one does actually overthrow governments!

  7. Don’t forget the Congress critter who said that they are insecure while waiting in line at airports, so they should be able to skip TSA lines. If there’s one thing I hate it’s people who try to take advantage of a tragedy to push their own pet causes.

  8. If you’re a legislator I suppose an easy way to get your name in the news is to point to the latest tragedy and say, “We need to do something about this!” My response is usually something along the lines of, “No you don’t, not yet.” I’m in favor of an agile executive branch, but I like my legislature to take their time.

    I won’t fault lawmakers for wanting to help, but a new law isn’t always the best solution.

  9. Lol, I even screwed up the quote… What am I doing wrong with this block quote thing cause its quoting everything!

  10. Paul: the spaces between less-than and greater-than in the listing below should not be there for it to work properly

    less-than blockquote greater-than QUOTE less-than slash blockquote greater-than

    ,blockquote.QUOTE,/blockquote. using , and . for less-than and greater-than.

  11. Paul: the spaces between less-than and greater-than in the listing below should not be there for it to work properly less-than blockquote greater-than QUOTE less-than slash blockquote greater-than
    ,blockquote.QUOTE,/blockquote. using , and . for less-than and greater-than.

    Thanks, now I don’t feel like such a nub.

  12. Yeah legislating this is missing the point.

    and yeah, for the luv of god, put a robe on John.

  13. Paul @ 12 & 13:

    Same mistake as I did in the other thread. You need to close the blockquote tag.

    Of course, if John would fix the Preview button (didn’t there used to be one?) we’d know before it was too late.

  14. I can’t fix the preview button. I’m on VIP hosting now and putting in a preview button is now a non-trivial operation. Sorry.

    Therefore: be more careful before you post.

  15. Yeah, this is Johns fault. I see what my problem is now, thanks. I thought it was the space, but its me not closing the action with “/”.

  16. Wow… You’ve been upgraded to the Rolls-Royce, but you get to ride in the trunk.

  17. Elaine @5, and the unfortunate thing is that it does work, people do vote for and pay for pundits and politicians who say “shoot the bastards”.

  18. I certainly hope that this bill goes nowhere and dies in committee, and that Rep. Brady is just doing a bit of political grandstanding.

    If Rep. Brady really wants to be helpful, though, a law requiring Scalzi (and other bloggers) to put on a bathrobe would be most welcome. Call it the Brady Blogger Bathrobe Bill. ;-)

  19. VIP more than makes up for it by the fact it’s pretty much impossible to bring my site down short of a 4chan DOS-fest

    Challenge accepted! (kidding)

  20. Ghod. Now I have to proofread even more carefully before posting. It’s almost like the days before word processors… .

  21. Those of you wanting to learn to type raw html may be interested in trying out a practice tool like (I have no further knowledge of that site.) If you type your post here, highlight, copy, paste in that upper box, it should display as you like in the lower box. Repeat corrections, highlight, copy, paste, look, until it’s correct; then hit submit.

  22. Dude, I was wondering when you posted before noon on the last thread. Glad to hear you’re sticking to your quota.

    And I completely agree with you on this political topic, which is quite nice.

    I often feel like a bad guest since I have never commented on anything other than the political threads.

    I’m feeling kind of warm and fuzzy.

  23. If I were cynical, I’d say that the the Democrats just changed the conversation from, as pointed out, a need for “a change in norms, not laws” to “The Tyrannical Democrat [sic] Party is wants to take away your Freedom!”

  24. I got as far as the phrase “that looked violent or threatening to public officials:” before seeing that this is a bad bill. That seems to me like a new variation on ‘thought crimes’. What I say may or may not be a crime depending on how it is viewed by someone else.

    I don’t think we need a law at all, and this one sure wouldn’t help. What we need is for more people to speak out against violent speech, especially violent political speech. And candidates who are

  25. 1) Mondays working for The Man – John S. FTW!!

    2) Rep. Brady: “I’ll take ‘Clues’ for $200, Alex.” Proof that neither side ‘gets it’.

    3) Rep. Brady’s idea is just as useful a solution as taking off shoes and patting down passengers in airports.

    4) Perhaps members of Congress should have a security detail when out among their loving constituents. I don’t think the Secret Service needs to get in on the action but heck, sports coaches get state police security detail during games. With the current climate of no responsibility/no consequence for personal actions in the US, anyone the subject of a large public gathering should seriously consider some kind of professional security protection.

  26. They’re politicians. Missing the point is a job requirement.

    Also, this is why starting moral panics is a very, very bad idea. They tend to bite us in the ass.

  27. Moral panic. Sure. Uh huh.

    Do you guys actually believe your own copy? Or do you realize its just smoke and mirrors?

    Sometimes it’s not entirely clear.

  28. Having lived much of my life in the UK, this is the sort of worgn-brained cretinism that makes me all head-desky and stuff.

    Hey, why not ban violent, vicious speech! That’s what the legislature is there, for, right? To *Protect* people?

    Er, no. No, that’s the UK’s excuse for keeping it’s citizenry under arms and observation. Let’s not have it happen in the US, OK?

    I hate violence of the person. Mainly because I’m shit at it – if I was really good at hitting people, I’m sure I’d like it more. The thought of levelling a firearm at some stranger in my house and blowing a hole through him that I could toss my cat through turns my stomach – not least because I’ve got a better grasp of anatomy than most civillians due to a vibrant and entertaining 3D animation career. I see you. I see where you are crunchy. I see where you are squishy. I see you asquit with vile humours.

    But you know what sickens me even more? The thought of my 60-year-old 90-lb significant other in the house, and some 200-lb predatory gobshite in the house, and her unarmed. He probably will be. She should be, too. To suggest gagging people, to suggest they not be allowed to defend themselves with every bit of creativity, artistry and science that our species supports…. it’s an insult, and an affront.

    I am dissapoint.

  29. Surprisingly, while I agree that most laws of this form are terribly badly thought out, counterproductive, pointless, and only used as a stick for the government to beat on anyone in the populace they happen not to like, I don’t think the idea of legislation is _necessarily_ wrongheaded.

    It seems there’s a continuum from “his political views are bad” to “he’s a bad person” to “I wish he was removed from the arena” to “I wish someone would remove him” to “I wish someone would remove him wink, wink” to “OK, meet at xxxx outside the xxxx, xxxx will distract the security, xxxx will walk past and put three rounds into his body. I’ll put up money for bail.”

    The last is obviously illegal. The first few are clearly freedom of speech. The question is, are there things that should be legally restricted short of actual conspiracy to murder? I think signs that say “next time I’ll bring a gun” are the moral and legal (?) equivalent of getting into a shouting match with someone in the street and saying “I’ll mess you up bad, you and your family” — it’s probably not something you’re going to DO, but you’re not allowed to threaten people even if you DON’T mean it.

    The trouble is, existing laws _ought_ to cover this, but it seems hard to get anyone to seriously enforce them. And if the legislature slaps a more draconian punishment on them to try to make people take them seriously, then all of a sudden people scramble to avoid it, and “important” people are overlooked because “everyone knows they don’t mean it” and some poor schlub is caught in the middle when they say something supposedly harmless one-of, but someone singles them out for persecution and prosecution.

    I don’t want people who wave these signs or put up inflammatory graphics to be punished — but I think there are maybe some which do go beyond freedom of speech and should be prevented. Maybe. Not that this law will do that.

  30. Arguably, there are already existing laws. “Chaplinsky vs. New Hampshire” was a case tried in ’42 which led to the notion of “Fighting Words”, words or phrases which in or of themselves cause injury to the point of demanding a violent reprisal. It’s not a direct curtailment of the First Amendment, it’s acknowledging that saying some things is gonna cause a fight.

    I think there are some states where saying “I’m gonna break your legs!” is considered assault of some form or another. Makes sense to me – after all, that’s a pretty straightforward statement of intent. Should you have to wait for someone to actually injure you before you defend yourself? That would just be silly – and also vastly reduce your ability to defend yourself.

    Ban free speech? Fuck no! (I may have to put that on a t-shirt). As with all *things*, banning the *thing* is a skimmed-milk lurch in the wrong direction. The only thing that makes sense is to punish *deeds*. Breaking it down to oh-so-simple, owning a kitchen knife should not be a crime. There are already laws a-plenty to deal with mis-using that. It’s that whole “responsible adult” thing all over again.

    Is there a line of responsibility in this case? Doubtful. The shitwit who decided to shoot an unarmed woman in the back of the head wouldn’t grok “responsibility” in the first place, and even if he did sit there and say “Glenn Beck told me to” I very much doubt his lawyer would ever let him utter those words on the record. Does this mean we should utterly dissociate calls for uprising and armed response to lost elections from whackjobs?

    Tricky. Knowing there are so many whackjobs out there, and that it’s only a matter of time before one of ’em runs off at the brainstem, I think that even the tacit approval of violence in place of democracy should be shunned in the most definite of terms. By us, the people, and by our elected representatives. Legislation can never take the place of common sense and polite behavior – nor should it be called upon to do so, because those values should be part of our culture, not administered from above.

  31. Try as we might, we cannot legislate emotion. People are going to continue to do and say things that are threatening and/or stupid. That’s life. We already have laws on the books to protect public figures (actually everyone) from those who threaten bodily harm. “I have seen the enemy, and the enemy is us.” Until we decide as a society to be less tolerant of violent words and behavior, all of the laws in the world will not stop it. The American fascination with violence and abusive behavior is disturbing, to say the least.

  32. Spirit03@32: “Perhaps members of Congress should have a security detail when out among their loving constituents. I don’t think the Secret Service needs to get in on the action…”

    Our local talk radio host spoke to our Congresswoman on the air yesterday and asked if the rest of the House was being kept informed of developments. She said they are all being kept up to date by the Capitol Police, who are responsible for the security of Congress. At the time they were recommending that if anyone is planning a public appearance to let the Capitol Police and local law enforcement know ahead of time.

  33. John: There hasn’t been a time of day on your blog posts since you changed the layout, just a date. Can you bring back the time stamp?

  34. Salome @41: If you look on the page for an entry (the one with comments; not the main page), you find (in small gray type) between the end of the entry and the top of the comments a line that includes the time/date stamp. For example, the line for this entry says:

    This entry was posted on January 10, 2011, 2:30 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

    In other words, the time/date stamp is still there, it’s just harder to find. :-)

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