American Elephants


About the Constitution and The First Amendment by The Elephant's Child

We talk a lot about Free Speech in America because we believe deeply in the First Amendment. I’m not sure that all of us are aware that it is solely directed at the government, not at us. You can say whatever you want, but it may get you expelled or censored or punched in the nose.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Europeans are free to say only what the courts allow them to say.

When he was 50, the prophet of Islam took as his wife Aisha, who was then six or seven. The marriage was consummated when Aisha was nine.

This is not a smear. It is an accurate account of authoritative Islamic scripture. (See, e.g., Sahih-Bukhari, Vol. 5, Book 58, Nos. 234–236.) Yet it can no longer safely be discussed in Europe, thanks to the extortionate threat of violence and intimidation — specifically, of jihadist terrorism and the Islamist grievance industry that slipstreams behind it. Under a ruling by the so-called European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), free speech has been supplanted by sharia blasphemy standards.

Mrs. S appealed, relying on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That provision purports to safeguard “freedom of expression” although it works much like the warranty on your used refrigerator.  It sounds as if you would be covered, but the fine print doesn’t follow through.

Article 10 starts out: Europeans are free “to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”  Followed by the legal details: One’s exercise of the right to impart information, “carries with it duties and responsibilities.” What is called “freedom” is actually “subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties” that the authorities decide are “necessary in a democratic society,” including for “public safety” and for “the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others.”

Translation: Europeans are free to say only what they are permitted to say by the unelected judges of the European courts. Truth is irrelevant. As the jurists reasoned in the case of Mrs. S., a person’s freedom to assert facts must be assessed in “the wider context” that balances “free” expression against “the right of others to have their religious feelings protected,” as well as “the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace.”

In other words, you cannot say anything that might upset Muslims. Child marriage, violent jihad, the duty to kill apostates, the treatment of women as chattel, that sort of things. Doesn’t matter if these tenents are accurately stated or supported by scriptural grounding makes no difference. Reliance on what their scriptures say could be classified as “an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam, which could stir up prejucdce and put religious peace at risk.

There is no free speech in Islam. Sharia does not merely forbid speech that insults or denigrates Islam; they regard as blasphemy – and punish viciously – any form of expression that places Islam in an unfavorable light. Enacting laws against child marriage would be tantamount to saying that Mohammed was in the wrong, and that is unacceptable. So child marriage, among other things, remains a major problem in Islamic countries. In Saudi Arabia, efforts to establish the marriage at age 15 and some hope to raise it to 18 have been rejected by sharia authorities.

As we have said before, Europe seems bent on committing suicide.

Here, the Left’s increasing reliance on feelings as the most important guidepost is worrisome, and their contempt for the Constitution is even more a matter for very deep concern.



What the Heck is “Hate Speech” Anyway? by The Elephant's Child

I do worry rather a lot about language, perhaps because I was an English major. More correctly, because the Left attempts to control the dialogue by changing the meaning of words. Immigration or immigrant is one example, by conflating the term with illegal immigrant, illegal alien, (both perfectly acceptable and accurate terms) refugees (and how that word is defined). But I have posed this question before.

The more problematic case of language is much more difficult.  The words are “hate speech.” Exactly what is hate speech? From the current dialogue, it is apparently any speech that you don’t agree with. Clearly that is an impossible definition, yet that is the basic problem in college campuses all across the country.

Students have been taught that they do not have to listen to speech that offends their delicate sensibilities by not agreeing with their preconceived ideas. Enough professors have spoken out in the media to indicate their despair that the students they are expected to teach—simply don’t know anything. They are unfamiliar with the most basic history, geography, civics and science. Not the hard stuff. They don’t know who won the Civil War. They don’t know who we fought in the Revolution. I could go on at length, but just those two missing facts summarize the situation fairly well.

Headlines from the battle: “Student activists demand college ‘take action’ against conservative journalists.” American Thinker.  “Students claim Objective ‘Truth’ is a ‘White Supremacist Myth,”Breitbart. “Why Colleges Have a Right to Reject Hateful Speakers Like Ann Coulter” New Republic.  “It’s Time to Crush Campus Censorship” National Review, “Those ‘Snowflakes’ Have Chilling Effects Even Beyond the Campus” WSJ, “On Political Correctness” The American Scholar  “Report: Women’s and gender studies courses have increased 300% since 1990” The College Fix  “College makes it easier to graduate by requiring students to learn less: The College Fix.  Those are just a few of dozens.

Middlebury has become famous for rioting to refuse to listen to Dr. Charles Murray, a noted social scientist.  Claremont students refused to hear Heather MacDonald. It was very clear that the students had no idea whatsoever what the speakers represented, or what they might say. In the case of Dr. Murray, the Southern Poverty Law Center (a far-left fringe group made false claims about Dr. Murray). In the case of Heather MacDonald, it was “Black Lives Matter” giving a completely false impression of what she might say. Sad. The kids in both cases would have profited from and learned something valuable from the speeches.

The students are wrapped up in the idea that they should not have to listen to anyone with whom they might disagree, and completely ignorant of the facts. The fault lies with faculty and administration who should have packed up the offenders the following morning and sent them home to perhaps be admitted the following semester — if they had learned anything. That’s what happened to friends of mine for significantly lesser offenses, but that was a long time ago.

You see how the words “hate speech” have corrupted the situation. There is no such thing as hate speech. There are inflammatory words, there is incitement to riot,  there’s shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, but I submit there is no such thing as hate speech. We are watching daily, people thrown in prison, sentenced to hard labor for 15 or 20 years, as the fat junior Kim just did to two Americans, as happens throughout the Middle East — and some people can’t get it through their heads that the Freedom of Speech guaranteed to us by the Constitution matters. There aren’t all that many places in the world where you can’t be jailed for speaking your mind. In a moment in time when the language out there (do you read the comments?) has been vile, insulting, vulgar, and just plain offensive. Well, we do live in interesting times.

ADDENDUM: Over at the Federalist, John Daniel Davidson also wrote about Hate Speech, and wrote even more thoroughly about what it is and isn’t, and it’s very well done. The photo at the top of his post is not of college students, but of older folks with pre-printed signs from the “antiwar committee” urging viewers to “Stop the War on Muslims at Home and Abroad,” “Unite Against Islamophobia,” “End Racism,” and “Stop Racism, Islamophobia and War!” It should be observed that there is no war on Muslims, no such thing as Islamophobia, our problems with radical Islam have to do with their war on the West, their habit of chopping off heads, throwing people off of tall buildings, or burning them alive if we don’t submit to their radical religion. We have not yet declared war, since Obama abruptly pulled the troops out of a hard-won peaceful Iraq, but he has left a nuclear North Korea and a nuclear Iran for his successor to deal with. Again the Federalist photo is a good example of using language inaccurately to make their point, which thanks to our Constitution, they are completely free to do. But we are also completely free to make fun of them.



Why Is Freedom of Speech So Hard To Understand? by The Elephant's Child

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and
to petition
the Government for a redress of grievances.

So, naturally, Hillary Clinton, who has desperately wanted to be President ever since she failed to be co-president with Bill (because the people of the United States reminded her that she was not elected) announced as the item of first importance in her quest to be the first woman president 23 years later, that she wants to rewrite the First Amendment to get rid of that annoying bit about “freedom of speech.”

If you need extreme evidence of the failure of our schools to teach the history of our country — there you go. Were you taught why the founders came to believe that the Bill of Rights was an essential part of the Constitution that had, at first, been overlooked?  That’s a dramatic story in itself.

The clear lesson of history is that individual liberty,
the basic underpinning of American society, requires
constant defense against the encroachment of the state.¹

Far too many people simply do not understand what the First Amendment is about. They like the idea of free speech until they find out that it means that people can say unpleasant, offensive or even hateful things, and you can’t get the police or the government to force them to stop. (The faculty will probably help). But “hate speech?” Triggering? Free-Speech Zones? Have American universities become only places of indoctrination rather than citadels of free thought?

The Left today has little use for free speech. After all, they used to be plain “Democrats,” then they became “Liberals,” and when that name fell into disrepute they became “Progressives.” They are deeply concerned with the use of language to sway minds. That’s why they are so careful about “talking points.” They don’t want anyone to foul up the conversation by not using the approved words. They get very annoyed when conservatives respond with pure logic, or even facts.

You have probably noticed that Leftists don’t like to be disagreed with. It depends on the particular subject, but in general, the Left approaches problems emotionally. They are deeply troubled by inequality, overflowing with empathy, and want to take all the extra money the rich have tucked away and give it to the unfortunate.

Free speech is under threat today as never before, especially on our college campuses, where students are often too fragile to hear a speaker who might deliver words uncomfortable to tender ears. Banned speakers have been George Will, Condoleeza Rice, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali — brilliant people who have important things to say.

Pamela Geller is a courageous woman who is trying to expose the reality of radical Islam. She helped to plan a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest that was attacked by two gunmen in Garland, Texas over the weekend. Organizers knew they’d be targeted, but refused to back down.The contest was designed to show the importance of freedom of speech and the savagery of the Islamic State. A policeman was shot, and the two shooters were killed by the police.

Pamela Geller has been threatened with an anonymous message boasting of “71 trained soldiers in 15 different states, ready at our word to attack.”  That’s serious. Judicial Watch has identified an ISIS training camp just 8 miles south of the border in Mexico. Homeland Security denied any such camp, though Mexican authorities authenticated it to Judicial Watch.

What is particularly disgusting is the American media, who attacked Pamela Geller for staging a contest that would offend Muslims, rather than attacking the shooters who claimed to represent ISIS.

That the American media should be so lacking in understanding of the importance of free speech is astonishing, for they are extremely conscious of the freedom of the press, another part of the First Amendment, and depend on it for their livelihoods. But conformity with Leftist talking points trumps liberty every time.

And certainly they are aware of the Charlie Hebdo murders, and the beginning of the cartoon controversy in 2005 as the Danish newspaper published a series of cartoons on September 30, some depicting the Prophet Mohammad as a terrorist with a bomb. If you missed that whole thing, or didn’t understand what the fuss was all about, The Telegraph has published a complete timeline from the beginning at Jyllands-Posten down to today and the shooting at Garland, Texas.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. “The belief that Islam prohibits drawing Prophet Mohammed pervades public debate over what causes “cartoon” violence.

At the root of Muslim protestations is the false belief that Islam prohibits the depiction of Prophet Mohammed. There is no prohibition on creating images of Prophet Mohammed in the Qur’an. Up until the 14th century; such depictions were common in the non-Arab Muslim world. On my website, www.tarekfatah.com, I have posted many depictions of Prophet Mohammed, drawn mostly by Muslim artists. Even if it were true that such depictions were prohibited, the prohibition would not be applicable to non-Muslims.

That article was published in The Toronto Sun, not in the “mainstream” American press. Do read the whole piece from the Middle East Forum. The key sentence: “On the contrary, many Muslims rejected Geller’s right to freedom of expression, admitting that even as Americans they believe there should be limits to free speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.”

“Here is the hard truth; that the world contains many cultures inured to tyranny from time out of mind. There are peoples who may long for freedom, but have no practical idea how it can be got and maintained; or if they know, no energy for the task.” ²

¹ Walter Wriston: Risk and Other Four Letter Words
² David Warren
three-man-imprisoned-nearly-40-years-thanks-teenagers-lie


Democrat Attempt to End Freedom of Speech Failed. by The Elephant's Child

The Democrats attempt to rewrite the Constitution and amend the First Amendment to curtail the rights of Americans to free political speech has died in the Senate. It needed 60 votes to advance. Free political speech is the very essence of liberty, and the envy of the world.

Fifty-four Senate Democrats actually voted to give Congress the power to “regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.” Think through what that would mean.

Some, such as Senator Bernie Sanders (S-VT) said the amendment would allow Democrats to enact more of their preferred legislation. Exactly. Democrats want to be completely in charge, without any interference from those pesky Republicans. They just want Republicans gone — so they can rule.

This bunch rejects 223 years of liberty and political freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights since it was ratified in 1791 — because they want their own way. No arguments. No questioning our policies. No criticism. No unpleasant speech. Can they win elections without cheating?

Somebody remarked that there used to be a “Sandinista wing” of the Democrat Party. Not anymore, it’s entirely Sandinista now.



Meet The Low-Information Voters, Backbone of the Democrat Party! by The Elephant's Child


Unbelievable!! What, if anything can be going through their heads? Did they hear only “support Obama” and not understand any of the rest? Have they never heard of the Bill of Rights, never read them, never understood what they mean nor why they were written? Obviously they have no clue what they are signing. Sickening.

Totalitarianism doesn’t require a coup, nor a revolution, just a sufficiently dumbed down population, and our schools are doing that job quite effectively.



Let’s really talk about freedom of speech, before it’s gone. by The Elephant's Child

One of the most troubling aspects of this presidential campaign, and of recent years is the concerted  attack on freedom of speech. There is no more precious right than the right of free expression — the right to stand up and speak your mind.  As the teaching of history has declined in our schools, so has our understanding of what is meant by “freedom of speech”.

The first amendment does not grant you a platform or venue for your opinions to be heard.  What it does grant is the right to be free of attempts to regulate, silence or punish your speech.  There is no right to be free of criticism.  Anyone is free to have at you — you may speak your mind, but nobody has to agree with you, and they are free to say so. This is not a right that the government has granted to you, but a right that you have told government that they must respect.

Colleges and universities have become enamored of “speech codes” in recent years, and it has devolved down to the public schools as well.  You are not supposed to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Of course they have come up with all kinds of things that are supposed to govern what you may say. Laws governing “hate speech” have been passed in direct contravention of the constitution.

Seldom have we had a political candidate quite as thin-skinned as Barack Obama.  He doesn’t like criticism.  He has appeared as a “blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” Democrats have been singularly uninterested in filling in that “blank screen”; but others want to know just who this man is who speaks so persuasively of “hope” and “change” yet reveals almost nothing of himself.

Obama’s supporters feel free to indulge in the most heinous slanders on Sarah Palin and John McCain, feel free to depict any member of the administration as a Nazi, yet those who look into Obama’s background are attacked.  Obama is only to be admired not questioned.

A candidate for the world’s most powerful office is not to be examined about his radical record, his far-left politics, his unsavory associations, his disturbing economic ideas and his aggressive push for defeat in Iraq. Those who discuss any of this may be subject to legal harassment or more.

Andrew McCarthy at National Review enumerates some of the incidents:

Item: When the American Issues Project ran political ads calling attention to Obama’s extensive ties to Ayers, the Weatherman terrorist who brags about having bombed the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, the Obama campaign pressured the Justice Department to launch an absurd criminal prosecution.

Item: When commentator Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center was invited on a Chicago radio program to discuss his investigation of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an “education reform” project in which Obama and Ayers (just “a guy who lives in my neighborhood”) collaborated to dole out over $100 million, the Obama campaign issued an Internet action alert.  Supporters, armed with the campaign’s non-responsive talking points, dutifully flooded the program with calls and emails, protesting Kurtz’s appearance and attempting to shout him down. The same kind of attack was conducted when David Fredoso subsequently appeared on the same program.

Item: Both Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, have indicated that an Obama administration would use its control of the Justice Department to prosecute its political opponents, including Bush administration officials responsible for the national security policies put in effect after nearly 3000 Americans were killed in the 9/11 attacks.

Item: There is a troubling report that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Section, top officials of which are Obama contributors, has suggested criminal prosecutions against those they anticipate will engage in voter “intimidation ” or “oppression” in an election involving a black candidate…In a system that presumes innocence even after crimes have undeniably been committed, responsible prosecutors don’t assume non-suspects will commit future law violations — especially when doing so necessarily undermines the First Amendment freedoms those prosecutors solemnly swear to uphold.

Michael Barone notes that Obama supporters have threatened critics with criminal prosecution.  In September, St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch and St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce warned citizens that they would bring criminal libel prosecutions against anyone who made statements against Obama that were “false”.

Then there is the Democrat’s “card check” legislation that would abolish secret ballot elections in determining whether employees are to be represented by a union. The union strategy is obvious, a few union thugs can go to a employee’s house and get them to sign cards that will guarantee a union victory without giving the employee a chance to be heard.

Ralph Peters, recently wrote in the New York Post that after a lecture to the Marine Memorial Association, a reporter thrust a microphone at him and asked if Peters thought he should be tried for war crimes for his columns supporting our military.

James Hansen, NASA scientist, called for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature because they were actively spreading doubt about the reality of global warming.

There are many more examples, but the point is that the Democrat candidate for the highest office in the land, who has both studied and taught constitutional law, seems to be either unfamiliar with the first amendment, or just doesn’t think it matters. This is not a small matter.

As Andrew McCarthy said: “Senator Obama and his supporters despise free expression, the bedrock of American self-determinism and hence American democracy.  What’s more, like garden-variety despots, they see law not as a means of ensuring liberty but as a tool to intimidate and quell dissent.”

You really need to think about that.




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