Saturday, January 10, 2015

Je Suis Donald

There has been a global outpouring of support for free speech (more precisely, speech without consequence) in the wake of a recent tragedy…well let’s have Time Magazine tell the tale:

People protesting the Paris killings unauthorized recording met in Trafalgar Square LA Live as British Prime Minister David Cameron Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and German Chancellor Angela Merkel NBA Commissioner Adam Silver discussed the attack in Downing Street on Donald Sterling.

You see, Donald Sterling was recorded – unbeknownst to him – saying a few things that the NBA found politically incorrect.  Adam Silver, and many of the other NBA team owners, wanted to strip Sterling of his team – the Los Angeles Clippers.  Let’s see what happened next:

Out of the horror came something beautiful. Not all of the people who traveled to London’s Trafalgar Square Los Angeles, or attended similar vigils in other cities and countries states throughout Europe the country, could explain why they felt impelled to come.

The people came out in droves.  Social media played a major role in drawing together the supporters:

As the news of the attack spread, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie — “I Am Charlie Donald” — became a declaration of solidarity…

They were in solidarity for Donald Sterling’s right to free speech – no matter how hateful or derogatory toward any racial group, he had a right to say it without fear of reprisal or consequence.

It was a solemn occasion:

They stood in near silence in a crowd of several hundreds under Nelson’s Column near the Los Angeles River…

Yes, there really is one.  I don’t make this stuff up.

With this, Donald Sterling – due to significant public pressure – was allowed to keep his basketball franchise.  Never again would comments deemed to be racist, recorded in secret, be used to foment anger toward another.


My view at the time of the Donald Sterling incident was simple: face the consequences of what you say; if you happen to be a public figure, that can sometimes be painful.  It doesn’t matter what I think about what Sterling said – but losing an NBA franchise seemed a rather major punishment for something said in private.  Well, no one said life was fair.

What about Charlie Hebdo?  Like all writers on this topic, I will state the obligatory – nothing justifies the killing of another except for physical self-defense (or defense of another), in proportion to the perceived risk.  I think the murders were a horrendous act.

Having said that, how dumb do you have to be?  I don’t go walking around the seedier parts of town at 3 AM with hundred dollar bills falling out of my pockets. What might I expect if I did?  What about MY freedom?

I believe in free speech.  I also believe that there are stupid people with mouths…or pens.  People by the thousands are protesting for the right to protect such speech (have you seen any of the pictures from Charlie, which I won’t even link to because of my disgust?).  Of course, they protest only in selective cases (for those who haven’t figured out my post, there were no similar protests on behalf of Sterling).

They are protesting for protection from stupidity, from playing with fire, from walking around with hundreds of dollars falling out of their pockets.  Good luck with that.  All you are going to get is a more advanced police state, all because you are asking for it. 

And you are going to stick me with it.

Enough said.


  1. So basically you're saying you don't go offending Muslims by cartoons then act surprised when you're running for your life or dead? Well of course freedom of speech should be important but the reality is you can die when you sufficiently anger a no-nonsense group? Time to give Hedbo a Darwin Award?

    1. Gil, are you suggesting that people should be forcibly barred from angering "no-nonsense groups", because those groups engage in criminal behavior (e.g. murder) when angered?

  2. Your analogy of Sterling doesn't hold.

    Donald Sterling's freedom of speech wasn't violated.
    The government did not punish him for what he said.

    His business partners using the bylaws that Donald Sterling agreed to as a condition of ownership had him banned from professionally associating with the NBA because of sponsors leaving because they were offended by what he said.

    Now you can say it was wrong to leak and illegal, but that is another matter altogether, because the sponsors have the right to and ability to let their money talk for them. They have the right to associate and disassociate with whomever they want.

    All that said at the end of the day, Sterling was found mentally incompetent by numerous doctors and while he was mentally competent signed a document making his wife sole owner of the team if that was the case and she sold the team for 2 billion dollars.

    All actions voluntary and no aggression or force directed against Donald Sterling for anything he said.

    I think Glen Greenwald had a excellent view of the Je Suis Charlie movement, I would suggest you read it. It actually takes an informed view of the situation instead of trying to jam this Sterling comparison, which just doesn't hold.

    1. You miss my point; it has nothing to do with government intervention in speech - as I clarify above by stating it is "more precisely, speech without consequence."

      The comparison is in the political and public reaction. Sterling doesn't get to speak in a private conversation about something that some deem controversial; Charlie gets to publish the most vile images with full public and political support.

      Both Sterling and employees and Charlie faced consequences for their actions - in Sterling's case, per the owners as he agreed, in Hebdo's case, tragic. They each wanted speech without consequence. They can "want" all they want - neither got it.

      But my point is in the political and public reaction. On my point (not yours) the comparison holds perfectly.

      I have read Greenwald's piece, and linked to it in a more recent post of mine on this topic.

    2. I'm sorry but your point and analogy is weak.

      Sterling entered into a contract and his punishment was a contractual matter that he previously agreed to if he said or took actions that caused shame or ill effect on his fellow business partners and their league. It was not a case of him thinking there were no consequences for his speech or actions. Again though, he still owned the team and was not forced to sell it by the league, he was only banned from publicly associating with the league in official capacity as a owner. His wife is the one who sold the team and she did that by choice, because Donald was ruled mentally incompetent by multiple doctors per rules of the Clippers ownership trust.

      Lets compare that to Charlie, the posted vile and disrespectful cartoons and were murdered by criminals who felt disrespected. Those situations are absolutely nothing alike, in the slightest.

      I would also add that the members of Charlie's staff weren't immune and no one is saying they should be immune from consequences. If they were boycotted or attacked in print for their hypocrisy (firing someone for anti-semitism yet being anti-christian and anti-islamic) or socially ostracised those would be consequences that people could support. Murdering them though isn't a consequence of what they did though, it is outright murder.

      I'm sorry but I don't see the logic in your argument. Never thought I would have to formulate why a person shouldn't be murdered for hurting someone's feelings or embarrassing someone.

    3. You keep arguing a point that I haven't made.

    4. I responded directly to your contention about speech having consequences.

      With regard to your contention I feel I pointed out how your analogy to Sterling and Charlie makes no logical sense and on its face is flawed.

      Tell me where I'm making a mistake or misrepresenting what you are saying?

    5. The NBA, particularly Adam Silverman and a plethora of racist black players and their craven Caucasian comrades , dodged a bullet, by means of a California court's determination that Sterling is not competent thereby permitting Sterling's wife to sell the team pursuant to the ownership trust.

      However, the NBA was prepared to urinate upon its own by-laws and procedures. It was prepared to abandon the rule of law in favor of the rule of the mob.

    6. As I see it, expectations of privacy were always about the government. For example, if I mentally record (i.e. remember) a conversation I had with A in private, and proceed to tell B about it, IMO I haven't violated A's rights at all. I had no preexisting non-disclosure agreement with A. So I don't see how Donald Sterling's rights were violated when his girlfriend recorded him saying certain things.

      Given that, I don't see any issue with the consequences that followed from the publication of those recordings - except for the sudden declaration of Sterling as being mentally incompetent. I'm skeptical about that whole aspect. But that aside, if sponsors wanted to withdraw their sponsorship as a result, then I think they have every right to do so.

      On the other hand, killing employees of a business because said business published certain cartoons is murder IMO. I don't care how offended the killers are by the cartoons. As I see it, the same principle is at work here as in the case of punching someone because of a verbal insult. I consider neither one to be justified in the slightest.

      With all that said, however, I think BM's point is about potential, if not actual, hypocrisy on the part of those who claim to support "free speech". If they indeed mean "speech free of consequences" by that, then logically they'd condemn the consequences to Donald Sterling as much as they'd condemn the consequences to Charlie Hebdo. However, they'd also condemn pretty much all speech, as there's consequences of some sort to pretty much everything that's ever said. So I don't think they're talking about speech that's free of any sort of consequences. Rather, they're talking about speech that's free of "negative" consequences. But who's to say whether consequences are "negative"? In their minds, presumably, they are.

  3. Excellent article. I would however pay to watch you debate Professor Fekete with a neutral mediator. Philip Have also seen a lot of your stuff on DB which I enjoyed.

    1. There is much of what Fekete discusses that I do not understand. My main contention is that Real Bills are inflationary, he says not. But I see no reason to preclude the practice if market participants choose to use it.

      I also think he is grumpy; he doesn't seem to be someone with whom I would enjoy a beer, let alone a debate.

  4. By the way did not Sterling only face private punishment for what he did? If so then it wasn't a freedom of speech problem.

    1. Tell me, how would the NBA have enforced its decisions to abandon its own by-laws and procedures?

      If the NBA went to court, it would be asking you and me and BM to finance the adjudication of the dispute. Thus, check your premises.

  5. I hope everyone noted that the organizers of the Paris Free Speech Parade invited every leaders from political party in France except one: Marie LePen.

    'Nuff said about the much vaunted French free speech.

  6. Is this not a private contract violation by Sterling rather than a violation of his free speech?

    The NBA relied on its constitution and by-laws to force Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald Sterling to sell the team, also on moral and ethical contracts with the league Sterling has signed over the years.

    Language in those contracts prevent Sterling from expressing views or taking actions that are detrimental to the league.

    1. I agree. My point is nothing more than the public and political reaction to the two events. Neither is a free speech issue (although there are issues to consider in France's selective application of hate-speech laws - which, to be clear, I do not support such things)

    2. Sterling isn't dead. That's the difference. The consequences to these cartoonists and other innocent people is completely out of proportion.

    3. I made no statement about the proportion of the consequences (irrelevant to my point), other than to state that nothing justifies the murders. Isn't that enough?

    4. "But my point is in the political and public reaction."

      And this reaction is directly related to the proportionality of the consequences. You would never have had these protests if a bunch of innocent people hadn't been slaughtered over, admittedly, some pretty offensive cartoons.

    5. No, the NBA did not rely upon its by-laws or procedures in its effort to wrestle the Clippers from Donald Sterling.

      In fact, the NBA was prepared to take action in contravention to its rules in order to tame the racist fires burning within the hearts of most of its illiterate Afro-American players.

  7. All this talk about how libertarianism is the NAP and nothing but the NAP. Yet all I see, from both sides of the debate, is moral judgments piled on top of the NAP. If libertarianism is just about the NAP, then why can't anyone keep their moral code out of their writing?

    1. My editor, who I talk to every day in the mirror, never restricts what I write about; he only asks that when I write about something outside of the NAP that I do not pretend it has anything to do with the NAP.

      If you could point to where I have violated this rule, I would appreciate - as I would want to modify my words before I have to fire myself from this unpaid job.

      Thank you.

    2. I am having trouble finding a post of yours that is just about the NAP. Which sort of proves my point. If libertarianism is just about the NAP, and if this is primarily (though not exclusively) a libertarian blog, why are so many posts expressing a moral principle that is not, in theory, necessitated by the NAP?

    3. Is there somewhere on this blog where I have written that "this is primarily (though not exclusively) a libertarian blog"? Why do you insist on telling me what my blog is about?

      Your comment is quite humorous, actually. You keep insisting I have a libertarian blog while at the same time insisting that I have written nothing about the non-aggression principle.

      As to the non-aggression principle? Look to the right-hand column, where you will find 73 posts (to date) so labelled. While they might not all be solely dedicated to the NAP, I assure you many of them are. And for those that cover more than one topic (for which my editor offers no prohibition), I try to make distinct what I believe does and does not fall under the NAP.

      For ease, here you go:

      After you have read all of these, I will answer any remaining questions on this topic. Until then, thank you for your feedback.

  8. If I understand your point, you're saying that I should wait to be sure that a bus is actually going to stop at the red light before I step out in front of it to cross the street because, even though not stopping would put the bus driver in the wrong, having the right-of-way does not stop the bus from running over me.

  9. Finally someone impartial. I was always asking this.

  10. the sooner damned hashtags disappear as a means of political discourse the better.