November 1, 2007, - 2:49 pm

Your Free Speech Vs. The Terrorists’ Free Speech

By Debbie Schlussel
Who has more free speech in America–you or the Islamic terrorists on our shores? If you think it’s you, you’re sorely mistaken.
In 2002, I represented the University of Michigan Student Zionists when they sued Michigan to stop the Divestment Conference from happening. The keynote speaker was Islamic Jihad founder and convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian. At the time, he was already banned from the campus where he was a professor, the University of South Florida, because he was deemed a safety threat to students and personnel. Previous Divestment Conferences on other campuses resulted in dozens of violent attacks on Jews in the subsequent months. (And after “Annihilate the Jews” was shouted in unison at the Michigan conference, there were many similar violent attacks against Jewish students in Ann Arbor, all by Muslims).

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Convicted Islamic Jihad Terrorist Sami Al-Arian: Why Did Michigan Give Him Unfettered Speech Rights, But Not U-M Students?

The thing is, limp-wristed, spineless University of Michigan officials, like University President Mary Sue Coleman, spokeswoman Julie Peterson, and Jewish U-M Regents Andrea Fischer-Newman and Larry Daitch, were constantly shouting, “free speech, free speech, free speech.” They claimed they could not stop the free speech of Sami Al-Arian on campus.
But, not so fast. Ever since then, I’ve compiled a giant file folder documenting how University of Michigan and other public campuses are restricting free speech. But, it’s not the Islamic terrorists’ free speech they’re squelching, it’s yours.
Today, USA Today’s sports section has a lengthy piece on the ways college administrators stifle the free speech of students on campus at sporting events. And guess what? Michigan is in the story. Most of the examples are of universities not allowing students to yell sexually suggestive and profane chants to athletes of opposing teams at sporting events. And Michigan is in the bunch.
The article quotes Michigan assistant athletic director Bruce Madej as complaining that a rule allowing fans to be ejected for offensive language isn’t working:

We’re still working on the language thing.

Not that I approve of profane chants at sporting events, but why is eliminating that more important than eliminating hate speech by terrorists on campus. Why is a sports fan’s free speech not important, but a terrorist’s is?
USA Today reports that the crackdown on “stadium speech” is taking place because college

Administrators want their universities to be viewed positively and students, as well as fans, to act with dignity. Schools also don’t want children hearing foul language, let alone people watching on television.

Ah, now I get it. “Annihilate the Jews,” dignified; F— Michigan State, undignified. An Islamic terrorist who raised money to bomb buses and kill people, positively viewed. Unruly sports fans, not so much. Thanks for the distinction,er . . . the distinction without a difference. If children hear, Death to the Jews, no prob.
The fact is there is one school where they don’t practice selective enforcement of free speech rights for terrorists. That’s Rutgers. When the Divestment Conference was scheduled to be held there, the organizers were told, “no dice.” (The conference had to be held in a private hotel and was poorly attended.)
You see, Rutgers has many Jewish alumni who are donors, and unlike the Jewish alumni donors to Michigan–who have no scruples and shower Michigan with bucks, anyway–Rutgers saw the handwriting on the wall. The school was told by Jewish alums that they would no longer give if the school hosted hate.
Yup, a few schools–at least one–truly are interested in what’s really important regarding their public image. It’s more important to worry about aiding those who want to murder us all than some drunken students a little too caught up in school spirit.
Just remember: You really have less enjoyment of the First Amendment than terrorists like Sami Al-Arian do.
Sad.

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Islamic Terrorists Enjoy This More Than You

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14 Responses

Debbie,
Not defending Michigan’s actions, but I’m not quite sure the two situations are comparable. Profane, obscene, and offensive speech are held to a much, much lower standard than other forms of speech.
Political speech, however, even extraordinarily repugnant political speech, is held to a much higher standard. Of course, there’s still the Brandenburg issue – and clearly this hate speech could arguably incite imminent lawless action – and I likely agree (I say likely because I’m not as well-informed on this issue as you are) that the conference should be prevented, but I think the two situations are different, and warrant a different analysis.

Conscience of a Conservative on November 1, 2007 at 4:37 pm

I am not sure what you mean by “I represented” the students, but it raises an interesting issue.
Our Special Forces succeed, in part, because they recognize the need to be as brutal and ruthless as the terrorists. For far too long, conservative lawyers have disdained “stooping” to the level of the ACLU and use lawsuits as a weapon. The commentator above me (Conscience of a Conservative) may have a valid legal point. But as any litigator knows…good points don’t always win and winning has many different meanings (ex. A Civil Action). The ACLU, in my view, achieves victory not by having valid legal arguments, but by abusing the legal system to harass its enemy (that can’t afford the litigation) into submission. As far as I know, there is no concerted effort to attack Islamic extremist groups’ assets using this populist weapon. Remember, unlike a criminal lawsuit, civil defendants always have to pay their own lawyers. Every dollar they pay to a law firm is one less dollar headed to terrorists. And a major distraction.
Alternatively, what about a Muslim charity run by non-Muslims? The charity would operate with complete transparency and distribute aid to legitimately suffering Muslims overseas. Again, such an entity would divert some money from terrorism, and also be a major PR tool against the illigitimate “charities” brazenly operating here. Again a major distraction.
I think you were on to something.
[ML: WHEN I SAID “I REPRESENTED,” IT MEANS THAT I WAS THEIR ATTORNEY IN THE LAWSUIT. DS]

melchloboo on November 1, 2007 at 5:15 pm

U of Michigan’s Press (owned by the University) distributes many anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist, and anti-America books published by Pluto Press. It uses the same free speech argument to support its national distribution of that radical foreign publisher’s hate speech. Too bad all the free speech that Michigan supports comes at the expense of Jews.

Bomb Bomb Iran on November 1, 2007 at 5:18 pm

I don’t know how contraversial my reply might sound but personaly I don’t see where the surprise should be. No disrespect to the relation with Jews but retaining the concept that they have more rights then you is not new. So in my head its basicly an ideaolagy of the enforcement of the law across the board. Illeagal Mexicans have more rights and benefits then the citizen. Repeat offenders walk the streets. The Black Caucus spues “Hate.” The average black can harrass and intimidate in public and in the work place. If you return in equal back to the black you the hate crime. Flagerant liberal bias on Universities picking and choosing. And as you state anti-jew, or anti-christian and some other anti’s are o.k.
If you ask me the muslim leaders are playing the black man’s playbook to the tee. With CAIR as their Jesse Jackson. And they will make money doing it too.
And the courts back up this idealogy of their interpretation of the law. And like the Conscience of the firs reply post wants to attatch rules of standards and situations of her interpretation to public forum so that makes it more difficult.
I for one think you are just in making your analysis because their are numerus shut-outs against right-wing or political or christian or catholic on campus. Let alone anti-semitism so keep up the good work! (Sorry if I’ve been kind of general.)

ArloRay on November 1, 2007 at 5:39 pm

The 1st Amendment is null and void. Civil lawsuits can shut you up and take all your property. Look at the “god-hates-fags” people, they just got hit with $11.9 MILLION for standing on the corner with signs and taunting funeral-goers. It’s stupid. You don’t have a 1st Amendment at all.

steve ventry on November 1, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Damn, Steve! Talk about being vague. Those goofballs were not just yelling “G_d hates fags” they were yelling “Your son deserved his death” because they believe G_d has forsaken the USA. They went out of their collective way to protest at a funeral that they obviously meant to callously interrupt. You may as well complain about yelling “fire” in a theater.

warpmine on November 1, 2007 at 9:22 pm

The father was not damaged. Period. He was distressed by the death of his son, so that is the fault of protestors? To the tune of nearly 12 million dollars? Juries are IDIOTS, you should be terrified.
“Jonathan Katz, the attorney for the church and one of its founders, said that members followed state law during their protest in Westminster, standing on public property about 1,000 feet from the funeral.”
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-md.westboro31oct31,0,4771615.story

steve ventry on November 1, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Although I cant stand Fred Phelps or what the people of the Westboro church stand, Steve Ventry does have a valid point. They followed the law and stood 1000 feet from the funeral and the father was not physically damaged period. I really have no sympathy for people who sue or take action for “emotional damages”. People need to toughen the f*** up and drive on. Pretty soon you wont be able to do anything in this country without being sued. I should sue that Code Pinko slut for waving her “bloody” hands in front of Condi’s face like that. I..got..so..emotional..over..that..>sniffsniff< (sarcasm off) Although they should just make it a law that if you put yourself in an asanine situation like that Code Pinko slut, than Condi Rice should have every right to deck that slut with no repercussions.

RadicalRightWinger on November 2, 2007 at 10:39 am

What SV and RRW forget is that what’s really going on here is two competing claims.
The Phelps Klan claims Amendment I protection of religion, speech and peaceable assembly to be able to stand outside the funerals of strangers and scream obscenities at mourners and ministers alike.
The Snyder family claims Amendment I protection of religion, speech and peaceable assembly to be able to bury their son sans Phelps Klanners (or anyone else) screaming obscenities.
Why certain “right-wingers” feel the first trumps the second is frankly beyond me.
Two more points: first, a KC Star story reports that the Phelps Klan has conducted 33 THOUSAND of these free-speech exercises. The award comes down to less than $350 per. You can’t buy a local radio spot for that.
Second, “Fred W. Phelps Sr., Westboro’s founder, vowed to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va.
“It’s going to be reversed in five minutes,” he said. This case, he added, “will elevate me to something important,” as it draws more publicity to his cause.”
IN other words, the award was cheap at twice the proce.”

DocLiberty on November 2, 2007 at 8:55 pm

You still have to muzzle your “free speech” as if the $11 million dollar judgement will stand, because you don’t know that it won’t. And you have to spend who knows how much to defend yourself.
They stood on the corner and waved signs. There’s nothing complicated about the fact that they have the right to do that. I don’t believe a person can reasonably argue that he suffered harm as a result of that, that’s his problem. Juries are completely out of control and so are civil lawsuits, and for this reason, you no longer have a First Amendment.

steve ventry on November 3, 2007 at 6:07 pm

Steve, if I read you rightly, you think the rights of the Phelps cult under Amendment I trump the rights of the Snyder family (and all the other people the Phelps cult have harassed) under the First Amendment.
I’m honestly curious — by what reasoning do you arrive at that conclusion?

DocLiberty on November 3, 2007 at 10:20 pm

The Snyders don’t have the “right” to be free of the Phelps’ standing on the corner with signs. And “harrassment” is a legal term, the Phelps didn’t harrass anybody by standing on a corner with signs.
You know, everybody hates these people, but they make perfect sense. 99% of Christians, and most religious people, just talk the talk, they don’t walk the walk. I think if you watch their videos, once it sinks in what they are saying, you get over it. I don’t see the big deal letting them have their protests.

steve ventry on November 4, 2007 at 1:08 am

And they weren’t “screaming obscenities”, they were yelling about “fags”. The word “fag” has some Biblical connotation to them, I don’t remember what they say about it, it’s in one of their videos.

steve ventry on November 4, 2007 at 1:30 am

In other words, Steve, you feel that the rights of the Phelps cult under Amendment I trump all other people’s freedom of speech, religion and assembly because you agree with the Phelps cult.
Incidentally a quick computer search of nine Bible translations, including the King James Version, turns up exactly ero uses of the term “fag.”
Conservatives ARE our own worst enemy at times…

DocLiberty on November 4, 2007 at 6:23 pm

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