Law Professor: ISIS Is, Like, Totally Scary, So Let's Do Away With The First Amendment

from the and-probably-the-4th dept

Law professor Eric Posner is no fan of the First Amendment. Never has been. Back in 2012, he argued that Americans basically need to get over the First Amendment because free speech upsets people. Earlier this year, he argued for restricting the speech of college students because students are children who don’t deserve free speech. A few months ago, he also argued that the US should adopt a “right to be forgotten,” because sometimes it’s better to make speech disappear entirely.

So it comes as little surprise that he’s now arguing that we should just dump the First Amendment, because ISIS is, like, super scary, yo.

It has become increasingly clear that terrorist groups such as ISIS can extend their reach to American territory via the Internet. Using their own websites, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms, they lure young men and women to their mission?without having to risk the capture of foreign agents on U.S. soil. The Americans ensnared in ISIS?s net in turn radicalize others, send money to ISIS, and even carry out attacks.

Never before in our history have enemies outside the United States been able to propagate genuinely dangerous ideas on American territory in such an effective way?and by this I mean ideas that lead directly to terrorist attacks that kill people. The novelty of this threat calls for new thinking about limits on freedom of speech.

Posner’s proposal? Make it a crime to even visit a website that supports ISIS or to make any vaguely pro-ISIS statement:

But there is something we can do to protect people like Amin from being infected by the ISIS virus by propagandists, many of whom are anonymous and most of whom live in foreign countries. Consider a law that makes it a crime to access websites that glorify, express support for, or provide encouragement for ISIS or support recruitment by ISIS; to distribute links to those websites or videos, images, or text taken from those websites; or to encourage people to access such websites by supplying them with links or instructions. Such a law would be directed at people like Amin: na?ve people, rather than sophisticated terrorists, who are initially driven by curiosity to research ISIS on the Web.

He admits that this might interfere with actual research about ISIS, but says there can be an exemption for those with a “legitimate interest” which he defines as credentialed members of the press or those with academic associations. Of course, he then notes that, obviously, such law would violate the First Amendment. But, no problem, he says, let’s just dump that… noting that prior to the 1960s, we never really took that whole First Amendment thing all that seriously anyway, and then cites a bunch of horrifically awful examples from history of the US not respecting free expression — basically using some of the most embarrassing examples of our past to argue that we should go back to that sort of barbaric view of the world:

However, these rules go back only to the 1960s. Before then, in the United States, people could be punished for engaging in dangerous speech. The U.S. government prosecuted Nazi sympathizers during World War II, draft protesters during World War I, and Southern sympathizers in the Union during the Civil War. It?s common sense that when a country is embroiled in a war, it should counter propaganda that could populate a third column with recruits. The pattern in American history?and, in the other democracies as well, even today?is that during times of national emergency, certain limits on speech will be tolerated.

We do not currently face a national emergency comparable to a world war, but anti-propaganda laws may nonetheless be warranted because of the unique challenge posed by ISIS?s sophisticated exploitation of modern technology.

There are, of course, all sorts of problems with his argument — not that I think he shouldn’t be allowed to say it and reveal to the world his own issues. First off, it presumes, without any real evidence, that ISIS propaganda is actually effective. Multiple studies have shown this is simply not true. Nearly all recruitment into ISIS happens within established social circles, where people already know each other — not because of ISIS tweeting out beheading videos.

Second, it’s become something of a cliche to use the argument “that’s exactly what ISIS/terrorists want…” but it really does seem to fit here. Scaring the living daylights out of “public intellectuals” so that they compromise the very principles on which their society is built on, seems like the pretty clear goal of terrorism. So, step on up, Eric Posner, you’re posting pro-ISIS propaganda now. Under your own proposed law, you may have just committed a crime.

Third, it way overestimates the “threat” of ISIS. I am not saying that ISIS is not a legitimate threat to cause some damage, but of all the threats we’ve faced over the years, this is the one that we suddenly dump the First Amendment over? Really? Especially when there’s no real evidence that its propaganda is effective at much beyond scaring the pants off of pretend intellectuals?

Fourth, are we really so weak minded and weak willed that people can’t look at ISIS propaganda and realize “holy crap, those people are crazy” — and that such information needs to be blocked? We’ve spent decades highlighting how attempts to suppress and block speech tend to do the opposite. It makes those whose expressions are blocked more resolved to speak out and also makes them feel more powerful, believing they’ve somehow “scared” those they’re speaking against.

Fifth, why shouldn’t we see what they say and then respond to it and highlight why it’s barbaric and wrong? Or, at the very least, to have a better understanding of who we’re dealing with. Trying to hide and stifle their speech doesn’t do much in terms of better understanding the enemy.

Frankly, this really seems like Posner just looking for yet another excuse to wipe away the First Amendment. And we won’t even get into the fact that he’s no fan of the 4th Amendment either…

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Comments on “Law Professor: ISIS Is, Like, Totally Scary, So Let's Do Away With The First Amendment”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Well, you're /half/ right...

It’s common sense that when a country is embroiled in a war, it should counter propaganda that could populate a third column with recruits.

Absolutely true, however the means to do so is more speech, not less. You don’t, and can’t in this day and age counter bad ‘ideas’ by trying to hide them, instead you expose them, and show everyone why they’re wrong. You especially don’t try and imitate them by silencing any opposing views and opinions, that just gives those silenced a veneer of credibility that they otherwise wouldn’t have had, since clearly if you could explain why they’re wrong you wouldn’t be trying to shut them up instead, and that holds true no matter who’s trying their hand at censorship, bullies or cowards.

The losers in ISIS want to try and recruit people? Inform the public just what kind of group they really are, I imagine that right there would decimate any potential recruitment numbers.

Really, bad enough to have pathetic butchers to deal with, we don’t need opportunistic cowards doing their work for them by tripping over themselves to hamstring the very rights and freedoms that are supposed to set a ‘free’ country apart from a dictatorship maintained only through violence.

Anonmylous says:

Re: Well, you're /half/ right...

They already are up front about what they are. They have a well-produced magazine that features articles and images showing exactly what they are and do.

They are proud of what they are. They are proud of the violence they use, and happy to show it. They are proud of the tactics they use, and not afraid to show it. Its the best type of propaganda because they aren’t lying, though they do of course twist the truth to suit themselves.

Here’s a breakdown on their magazine. Its done by a comedy website, but it hits all the pertinent points of what is in their magazine.

Amerikan KGB Agent says:

yuk yuk

It has become increasingly clear that terrorist groups such as the United States can extend their culture’s reach to non-American territory via the Internet. Using their own websites, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms, they lure young men and women to their capitalism—without having to risk the regime change of foreign countries with agents on foreign soil. The people ensnared in American culture’s net in turn radicalize others, send money to big Hollywood studios, and even create their own similar content.

Nathan F (profile) says:

1 2 3 4 I declare Ideology War!

Wait.. Did I miss it when Congress issued a Declaration of War on ISIS? Oh no wait.. ISIS isn’t a state, cant do that. Maybe they should let ISIS take over a country and instill themselves as the Government in power THEN declare war on them. Until that time the exigent circumstances needed to curtail the First Amendment are not present.

Anonmylous says:

A simple proposition

I propose that every time someone speaks about restricting speech based on ISIS/ISIL/Daesh actions that week, the reader replace those words with the word Nazi and see if it doesn’t seem rather ridiculous. This also seems to work with Muslim if you replace it with Jew (lookin at you here Trump).

We did some horrible things in our history. We recognize that. If it looks like we’re going to advocate repeating them, how about lets don’t?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A simple proposition

I propose that every time someone speaks about restricting speech based on ISIS/ISIL/Daesh actions that week, the reader replace those words with the word Nazi and see if it doesn’t seem rather ridiculous. This also seems to work with Muslim if you replace it with Jew

Seems a bit of a non-sequitur – since last time I looked it seemed that the Jews had been picked out by IS as a preferred target. Maybe try replacing the word “Jew” with “Jew” would be more appropriate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here’s a thought:

Let’s suppose for a moment that ISIS recruitment propaganda is effective on Western citizens. It’s not like everyone exposed to it is running off to the Middle East to join up. So, the conclusion is that the propaganda is only effective on a subsection of the population. Well, why them?

Something that nobody seems to want to consider (and of course not, because ‘MURICA! Eff yeah!) is that maybe there’s some dissatisfaction, some already-existing unrest on the part of the people that ISIS propaganda might be keying into. Wealth/class differences, government overreach, disillusionment with the politicians in charge, etc?

If the concern is the recruitment of our people into ISIS, maybe we should be looking into what the problems are in this culture/society that might be causing people to want to join an organization that wants to destroy it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Something that nobody seems to want to consider (and of course not, because ‘MURICA! Eff yeah!) is that maybe there’s some dissatisfaction, some already-existing unrest on the part of the people that ISIS propaganda might be keying into. Wealth/class differences, government overreach, disillusionment with the politicians in charge, etc?

Actually lots of people are saying exactly that and it’s rubbish!

What they aren’t saying is that actually this stuff goes right back to the so called prophet mohammed.

Lots of other groups have the same problems you mention – but they don’t react in the same way.

Anonymous Coward says:

It has become increasingly clear that terrorist groups such as ISIS can extend their reach to American territory via the Internet. Using their own websites, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms, they lure young men and women to their mission—without having to risk the capture of foreign agents on U.S. soil. The Americans ensnared in ISIS’s net in turn radicalize others, send money to ISIS, and even carry out attacks.

Never before in our history have enemies outside the United States been able to propagate genuinely dangerous ideas on American territory in such an effective way—and by this I mean ideas that lead directly to terrorist attacks that kill people. The novelty of this threat calls for new thinking about limits on freedom of speech.

Replace every mention of terrorist with christians. Replace references to ISIS with religion. Replace American references with any country in the world. Review history and tell me there is major difference here. Seems to me the enemy is more religion than it is a certain group’s threats. Done in the name of isn’t much difference than what we see today going on and what was going on yesteryear.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Seems to me the enemy is more religion

Not sure if you are implying that religion is the cause of problem or not. Just Google the greatest mass murders of all times and you will find that the worst ones have lived in the last 100 or so years and accounted for more deaths than all others combined. At least 2 of them were Darwinists, unless of course, you count Darwinism as a religion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The source of that statistic (that btw, you didn’t bother to post, very nice from you) is quite unreliable: _of_Islam

First, just because the population goes down doesn’t mean that they’ve been killed. Just because Hindu population goes down by 80M doesn’t mean that all have been killed (the article says the same), they can be converted (so it’s Hindu -1, Islam or whatever +1), emigrated and such.

Also, another thing that fails there is that they don’t give %, but absolute numbers.

Hitler didn’t kill more jews because he hadn’t many left when he finished with them.

Population reduced to roughly 1/3 of the initial one. Part of it emigrated (so yeah, Hitler didn’t kill them), but most of them were killed, it seems.

I bet that if he had 30M of jews at hand instead of 10M, the numbers would show that difference too.

Stalin and Hitler’s statistics involve only deaths. The population reduction by the Islam includes conversions (most religions engage in that).

Oh, and another note: Hitler and Staling managed to do so in a few decades. If your source is good (it isn’t), we are talking about 1400 years here, in societies where shaving by the sword was the usual way of solving conflicts, plus the fact that a “doctor” was a Russina Roulette.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Gee, that’s all probably true. Too bad Hitler was religious and religiously motivated and Stalin was happy to use the credulity created by the Russian Orthodox Church to his advantage.

Here’s a hint: when a leader or a regime promotes itself through reports of miracles and the worship of an individual, that’s religion, whether there’s a sky god in it or not.

Calling Stalin and Hitler Darwinists or Secularists would be hysterical. Claiming religion didn’t taint their rule is just sadly misinformed….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Hysterical? How so? Both read Darwin’s Origin of Species. This is where Hitler got the idea to create the master race. Stalin viewed his atrocities as just a part of evolution. Karl Marx was a fan of Darwin as well.

To say they were religious is utterly false and wishful thinking by yet another Darwinist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ah, more blather and no specifics. Google is your friend, or in this case, not your friend. Thankfully the facts are easily found on page one of the results.

But lets say evolution is true as you would suggest. What does it matter what reason people use to commit atrocities? Is it not Darwin’s theory in action? Why pretend there are rights and right and wrong? Just dog eat dog. By what measure do you use to say these are even atrocities? Aren’t we just some big cosmic accident anyway?

ottermaton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

What does it matter what reason people use to commit atrocities? Is it not Darwin’s theory in action? Why pretend there are rights and right and wrong? Just dog eat do

“If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward then, brother, that person is a piece of shit. And I’d like to get as many of them out in the open as possible. You gotta get together and tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day? What’s that say about your reality?” –Rust Cohle, True Detective

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Not an argument for belief in evolutionary theory (particularly of any Darwinian variation) and having a moral sense. The logical endpoint for any evolutionary belief system is that whatever promotes your specific benefit is good. The stronger you are and the more you dominate the better. There is no moral sense in any evolutionary argument. And anyone who basic belief system is founded on an evolutionary argument has no logical basis for defining a moral sense (that is determining that there are some things that are good and that there are some things that are evil).

I find it amusing when people who are evolutionists declare that there is evil. By what measure is evil measured? What standards so define evil? On what basis is there any concept of evil in evolutionary thought?

Under evolutionary thought, I should be able to do anything I desire that will benefit myself and my offspring, regardless of the effects it has on anyone else. If others miss out on food and water or anything else then so be it as long as I get the best and have the best and live the best. You are there to serve me as I am better than you. If it means putting a bullet to your head and removing your corpse afterwards then so be it. If it means destroying you and your progeny so that there is more for me and mine then so be it. If it means making you all slaves for my benefit then so be it.

ottermaton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Wow! That’s an impressive amount of dancing around and avoiding the central question:

What is keeping you “decent” other than the expectation of divine reward?

If your answer is “nothing” then I have news for you: you are a piece of shit. I’m glad we got you out in the open. Brother.

For me and rational people, the answer is simple: treating others well helps ensure that I am treated well. I don’t have to look to some imaginary “Sky God” to tell me that’s OK; I KNOW it’s OK because the evidence is in: species who cooperate fare better as a species than those who don’t.

That’s a morality that makes sense. That’s a morality that is logical. What does your morality have? A fairy tale telling you to do things a certain way?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Replace every mention of terrorist with christians. Replace references to ISIS with religion. Replace American references with any country in the world. Review history and tell me there is major difference here. Seems to me the enemy is more religion than it is a certain group’s threats.

If you only review history anecdotally that may look true (especially oif you have swallowed the “Islamic golden age” propaganda)- but if you look at the statistics it simply doesn’t work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not all Muslims are fanatical,

True because almost all Muslims are only muslims because they were born into it. Generally they actually know very little about their own religion. Mostly it is simply part of their cultural identity. Probably one of their ancestors nominally converted to improve his prospects in the muslim country that he lived in.

In recent years they would have been fed a sanitised version of Islam – along with a pretty much fictional version of the history of the region.

If they actually knew the truth about their religion they would probably be appalled – but of course leaving is difficult because of the apostasy law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Funny argument. The gaps are completely ignored by the atheists. They are so convinced their religion is right that they ignore the gaps. Oh, and these gaps aren’t just gaps. They are large enough to drive a galaxy through. Read the book at the link above if you want to see gaps. In fact, science has not proven evolution. Exactly the opposite, it has proven the story of Genesis. “Science” has just pieced together the Genesis story only they changed a few timeframes and locations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Because science is based upon human observation, and humans got their limits. You see, if you ask science about a god (or for that matter, about anything fictional you might come up with), strictly speaking it will say “I can’t prove that it exists, nor that it doesn’t exist, so I can’t say a thing about it. Yet.”

The difference with faith or dogmas is that it’s absolute, while science lets a big margin for corrections.

The fundamental difference between faith and science is that faith claims to be perfect and absolute (heh, try asking a believer in any god about other religions…), while science is in constant evolution and growth, and in lots of fixing and patching (it’s like bugged software, lol, it works but it has some glitches that need fixing).

Other thing is the scientists themselves, that can be quite entrenched in specific theories and you won’t get them out of them even if you kill them. Iirc, Einstein found some opposition when he hinted that Newton might have missed a few things.

A good scientist doubts everything, including established theories (that’s what Einstein did, later Stephen Hawking and future scientists will do the same with their theories).

Remember that science is a way to obtain knowledge, rather than the knowledge itself.

It’s based in observation, experimentation and evidence. In fact, it’s the approach that us humans have to new things once we lose our fear to them.

We observe things, we check them, we touch them, we fiddle with them here and there. We try to look for patterns, for causes and effects. We experiment, we take note of what happens.

You don’t think so? Sure, next time you buy a new microwave oven or that you get new software(get a different brand), try using it without reading the manual. At first you overheat the food, or make mistakes with the grill, or choose the wrong program for that food; but you end up figuring out what buttons to hit based on experience, testing and observing.

See, in the example of the Gravity. For starters, Gravity isn’t a theory, but is a natural phenomenon were the bodies with mass attract to each other. Nobody has talked about the causes yet, but rather, about what happens and has been analyzed through observation.

Then Newton came up with his Law for Gravitation. In it he just states this, from Wikipedia:

“Newton’s law of universal gravitation states that any two bodies in the Universe attract each other with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.”

Those laws were measured, tested and used and well, it seems they were pretty much spot on. You see the formulae used in a lot of things, including satellites, ballistics, buildings, planes…

Einstein tried to explain it further in his theory of relativity, and well, it seems that while he didn’t get “it” yet, his observations were pretty useful in astrophysics and other applications.

But one thing is clear, so far, we still don’t understand Gravity completely from a scientific point of view. And that could be applied to a lot of phenomena.

Does that mean that the scientific method is the wrong approach? No. It just means that we need to learn and investigate more.

Now, to the approach of those Evangelist Scientists that refute theories about Gravity. To be honest with you: it’s crap.

First of all, you should read abot “Intelligent Falling” first:

So, if they seriously believe in that (they do), they have been pretty much duped by a joke that was 3 years old when they came up with their theory.

Also, it’s validity is pretty much null.

While the theories and laws about Gravity aren’t perfect and has yet to explain and prove the cause for such a force (there are theories, but nothing definite yet), they have come up with plenty of approximations that have proven very useful in our lives, as I’ve said above.

Science is based on evidence. Limited or not, if you make a theory, better have evidence supporting it or it won’t go through. And let me tell you that scientists tend to be very fussy about that evidence. Faith is based on pure belief.

Regarding the existence of God. I think I’ve said above that science can’t prove its existence nor deny it.

Still, I don’t know about other atheists but my approach is not to question the existence of the gods, the same way I don’t question the existence of pink winged unicorns, elves, hobbits, giants, magic, buddhas and a loooooong list of mythical, fictional and other kind of entities that I could talk about (too many RPGs in my life).

If you ask me “do pink unicorns exist”? I will tell you, without even batting an eye: “no”. Not a weak “I believe they don’t” but a proper “no”, assertive.

At least, not earthern ones, lol. You’d get the same answer if you asked me about Santa Claus, for that matter. And God gets the same treatment.

Of course, bring me a reason of why something can exist (and no, the “it hasn’t proven that it doesn’t exist”, I want something more positive and logical) and I might have grounds for an argument.

An example would be extraterrestrial life. The Universe is vast, there are a ton of stars, a shit ton of planets and there is a chance that in all that rabble, there is some kind of life. Where? No idea. What form? No clue. Will we see it? No comments. But statistically speaking, the same circumstances that brought life to us could have brought some kind of life to other planets. At least, I won’t deny the chance of other planets having life on them, even if it’s slim.

And btw, regarding that book, here is something about the documentary they made about it:

Yup, the God of the Gaps argument applies.

And even with all those gaps that you claim that they are as large as galaxies, as I’ve said before, scientific based knowledge has proven itself very useful in all these years. Just look around, unless you’re living in a cave.

Oh, waith, you wouldn’t be writing here if it wasn’t for science. Prayers don’t connect you to Techdirt, even they allow you to talk with God.

Faith… well, wait. Aren’t we in this mess with Muslims because of faith? Particularly blind acceptance of faith that justifies killnig people in the name of a god.

Well, I’d say that refuting a method that has proven itself pretty accurate and useful (remember that when you cross a bridge, it has plenty of things related to that method), plus refuting a theory that was made using strict guidelines of logical observation (and that is also pretty prevalent in that bridge we were talking about) and then claiming “it’s God’s Will” measures pretty high in the scale of Fanaticism.

Sure, such a person hasn’t killed in the name of God. Yet. Though I’m not sure what would he do if he had the opportunity to do so. There are a lot of precedents of members of that same religion killing and torturing in the name of that same God…

We atheist don’t ignore the gaps. We know that science has those gaps. Just that we prefer an imperfect human created science that tells us that we need to learn further (no scientist worth his salt will tell you otherwise), than perfect and absolute faith in God that tells us to turn off our brains and to believe in God and pray, because he’s the cause of everything.

It isn’t like that? Wait, this comes from your link:

“But readers of the Bible have already known for millennia what this one, unified force is: His name is Jesus.”

OK, we are done here, we have explained all the mysteries of the Universe and their name is Jesus. Don’t bother investigating things because, you know, the Bible explains everything.

/me facepalms

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Funny thing about abigfootists is they think their beliefs are not a religion. How can you say there is no Bigfoot?

Atheism, no matter how much you apparently really want it to be, is not a religion, and has no beliefs, dogma, edicts to be followed, or anything like that. It is nothing less, and nothing more, than the rejection of a belief, that of ‘There is a god’.

This does not mean that atheism is a claim that there is no god, though some do go that far, rather it’s simply an assertion that they do not believe the claim that there is a god.

Example time.

Say there’s a jar of gumballs of an unknown number, and you claim that the number is even. If I say that I don’t believe your claim due to not having been presented with sufficient evidence, I’m not necessarily claiming that the number is actually odd, I’m just saying that I don’t believe your claim that it’s even. If someone else comes up and insists that the first person got it wrong, and the number is odd, I could reject their claim too, for the same reason, and be perfectly justified in doing so.

Replace ‘gumballs’ with ‘god’, ‘even/odd’ with ‘exists/doesn’t exist’, and the atheist is the one standing there rejecting both claims due to lack of evidence, without actually making a claim of their own.

It is entirely possible to reject a claim without making a claim of your own with regards to whether or not it’s true. ‘I don’t know’/’We don’t have sufficient data to determine either way’ is a perfectly valid answer and stance to take.

You don’t even know how gravity works.

Not to mention magnets, how do those work?!

At most you can say you are agnostic.

Nope, because while atheist and agnosticism can go together, they are not mutually exclusive. It’s simple:

If you don’t believe that a deity of whatever sort exists: Atheist.

(Pay particular attention to where the ‘don’t’ is in the above sentence unless you want to continue to use the terminology wrong.)

If you do believe that a deity of whatever sort exists: Theist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Atheists include all of them, just that there are multiple stances:

1. There are no gods or supernatural entities.
2. I don’t believe in gods or supernatural entities.
3. I don’t have enough data, I can’t discuss it.

All of them are stances that atheists take.

My case (the big wall of text above) is a mix of 1 and 2, for example. I affirm that there are no gods, though I know that I can’t prove or disprove that claim.

The thing is that I realize that as many people would look at you as if you were crazy if you asked them if Odin exists (I would, and I’m more familiar with that pantheon than most people), the same claim could be done about God/Allah/Yahveh/Buddha/Kami/Bigfoot. The grounds to support their existence are roughly the same.

In the end, if Odin or Bigfoot doesn’t even deserve the batting of an eye because it’s “obviously a myth”, I don’t think that such supernatural beings deserve it either.

Strictly speaking, my (formal) answer should be 2 or 3, if I’m being consequent with the scientific method. But from a practical and everyday point of view, I know that my attitude is 1.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

‘There are no gods’ can follow from ‘I don’t believe the claims of the existence of gods are true’ yes, but atheism at it’s core is the latter, rather than the former. To be an atheist merely requires one to hold the latter position, everything else is extras tacked on.

Those trying to claim that atheism is a ‘religion’ of ‘There are no gods’, or try and shift the burden of proof away from ‘Prove there is a god’ to ‘Prove their isn’t a god’ seem to like to pretend that atheism is an assertion of no gods, rather than a rejection of the claim of the existence of gods, which is incorrect and was what I was trying to explain. Atheism is a rejection of a claim, not an assertion of one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

Still, I’m not sure if requiring the burden of proof to both claims is fair or not. We don’t do it with pink winged unicorns when we deny their existence and we have to do it with gods, when the only difference between the two is that someone believes in one of them?

I’d say there is a clear difference between claiming that God doesn’t exist vs. God exists.

If I say, “there are no gods”, it’s implicit that I claim that because I haven’t seen them. That claim isn’t based in faith, but in pure observation, or lack of it, rather. Show me, or prove me in a logical way, that there are gods and pretty much, I will change my stance because you have showed me the evidence of the contrary. It’s not that I will believe in gods, but rather, I will affirm that they exists because I have seen them.

On the other hand, the people that claim that “gods exist”, they are basing it on pure faith. On their beliefs. There are no empirical claims of that, just what they believe in. It could be the case that even if you show them proof that they don’t exist, they will still believe in their gods, because their assertion is based on faith and not on observation.

I don’t think that both claims are done on the same grounds, nor that they should be treated the same. Sure, none of them has the rank of scientific observation (proof that either claim is true), but at least one of them is based on what you perceive, rather than on what you believe.

See that the case isn’t the same if we claim “there is no evidence that it doesn’t exist, so it exists” vs “I believe that it doesn’t exist, so it doesn’t exist”.

The former, is a fallacy in the way we perceive things: we can dismiss someothing if we see no signs that it’s there. But accepting something because there are no signs that it isn’t there is pretty much on shaky grounds.

The latter, is something based on faith. “Pink unicorns don’t exist because I don’t believe in them” is as shaky as “pink unicorns exist because I believe in them”.

Well, I’m groping with a lot of things here. Not sure if I’m making much sense or not.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

The one making the claim has the burden of proof, whether that claim be ‘There are gods’ or ‘There are no gods’.

Now, running with your example of ‘pink winged unicorns’, I’d say that the burden of proof could be mostly met simply by pointing out that outside of people tripping on psychedelic drugs, we’ve yet to see any, so the chance of them existing is pretty slim, but not completely out of the question. In that case, ‘I believe there are no pink winged unicorns, and I will continue to believe that until evidence to the contrary is presented’ would be rational. In the same way, ‘I believe there are no gods, as they haven’t been observed or demonstrated to exist, and will continue to believe that until presented with evidence to the contrary’ would also be a rational stance.

By claiming that there are no gods, you do have a burden of proof attached to your stance, much like the ones claiming that there are gods have a burden of proof attached to their claims. In your case however, since your claim isn’t adding anything that isn’t already there, the burden of proof is lower, such that the above example, ‘They have not been demonstrated to exist…’ would, I would think, meet it, so long as you attach the qualifier at the end with regards to any evidence that might be presented in the future.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

Ok, all that is good, nice and that. Consistent too. And you’re pretty much right.

But I’m trying to be more practical about it. Pragmatic, if you want.

I see double moral standards applied when someone claims that “pink winged unicorns don’t exist” vs. “gods don’t exist”.

I’m talking about how atheists themselves treat these issues when asked about them.

The first one, would in most cases (unless you feeling nitpicky) bring a comment like “ah, sure” and then ignore the issue (maybe with some sympathetic smiles), while the second has a lot of chances of bringing up a debate like the one we are having right now, regarding believes, claims, burden of proof or whatever else.

That part, that attitude is what isn’t too consistent. Gods are good but pink winged unicorns aren’t? Just because someone believes in them we are going to change the approach?

Even if it isn’t a scientific approach, I won’t bother to question whether everything that can come up from my imagination (or others’) deserves a discussion about their existence or not.

Unless someone brings me some proof that there is a chance for it to exist apart from purely theoretical ones (and no, don’t even bother with faith), I am not going to consider whether it exists or not, and if asked, I won’t bother to attach qualifiers or anything.

And many people, whether they believe in gods or not, do the same when asked about pink winged unicorns. They won’t even question their existence.

The scientific approach is a proper one when dealing with unknown things. Pretty accurate too. But people don’t act solely based on it, and I’m not even talking about faith, but about convenience.

Do you imagine the pain in the ass of having to question everything that some madman may come up just because there is no proof that it doesn’t exist?

Our brains are limited, so we (well, at least “I”) apply some sort of Occam’s Razor here: unless there are grounds to think that something could exist, whether is based on beliefs, on solid proof or at least, on theoretical grounds (like the existence of extraterrestrial life based on statistics); I won’t bother to even question it’s existence. In fact, it doesn’t exist and I will act as if it doesn’t.

The Occam part I guess that comes from, if there are no proof of existence or not existence, it takes less assumptions to assume something doesn’t exist than to assume it exists. Pink winged unicorns require assuming how they can fly, why they are pink and why do they have a horn in the middle. And gods are the same kind of myths than pink winged unicorns, so they should be given the same treatment.

Strictly scientifically speaking has a lot of gaps, but at least it’s consistent with my attitude and is convenient. I don’t want to bother trying to explain questioning whether Cthulhu and Hastur exist. Or they don’t.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Re:

That part, that attitude is what isn’t too consistent. Gods are good but pink winged unicorns aren’t? Just because someone believes in them we are going to change the approach?

In practice, yes, it is just a tiny bit absurd how the two are treated differently simply because a large number of people believe one, and don’t similarly believe in the other. The number of believers of a particular claim should have no bearing on how valid it’s seen as, unless it has sufficient supporting evidence to back it up.

Part of it is simply how the belief affects someone, and how it affects other people. You can generally brush aside a P.W. unicornist, because odds are good they’re not out there looking for converts to also believe in the all fluffy Pink Winged Unicorn. They might regale you with tales of just how fluffy the P.W. unicorn is, and bring up the debate as to just what particular shade of pink it is, but for the most part they’re likely to keep to themselves.

When it comes to the theist however, a good portion of them are looking for converts, and just brushing their claims aside isn’t going to get you more than a temporary reprieve, given how persistent some of them can be. They take their belief seriously, and there’s a good number of them of various types, so even if you don’t see any difference between a P.W. Unicornish and a theist, you do have to treat them and their claims differently.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

How can we say that there is no god? We can’t. But considering the evidence, it’s safe to assume there is none.

I mean I could enact some other theories, like that the universe was created by a great spaghetti monster, or that it was born out of a great snake or whatever. And I can invent as many of those as I wish. None of these can be proven or disproven. So why should I give credence to any other peoples figments of imagination?

So the evidence for any god is about the same as for the existence of Harry Potter, except that the books about Harry Potter are better written.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Give it a reading to this, that source seems to be pretty shaky:

If we go by these numbers and correlations, Christianity has a quite bloody History behind it, for 2000 years.

I bet that a similar analysis on Christianity would bring worse numbers.

Because, you know, a lot of the genocydes in America where done by christians… And the slavery, and the crusades (Christian version of a Jihad)…

And don’t leave out what we did at home. Persecution of jews in cities (yeah, Hitler wasn’t the first one who did it), Inquisition, witch hunts, European wars (particularly Catholics vs. Protestants in XVII century, they were fun times).

Religions are shit in general, and not only Islam. The Old Testament is as entertaining as Game of Thrones because it’s full of rapes, genocydes, massacres and such, many of them in the name of religion (tell that to the Phillistines). And God (or Yaveh or whatever) was pretty much clear about what to do with infidels…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes, Old Testament is rough, but who can tell God what to do. If you follow the whole story though, through the New Testament, you will see that any evil somebody did in the name of Christianity was because the bible told them to do it. It is most likely someone hiding behind the book.

Very convenient that you leave out all the problems that athiests and Darwinists have caused. Hitler and Stalin were Darwinists. Mao was most likely an atheist. All told, responsible for something like 100 million deaths in just a few years span.

Also, your lumping all problems in America on Christians is suspect at best. And your claim that it would have worse numbers than Islam, or even the people I named above is ludicrous. But as they say, reference please.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

And? What’s the difference between the Bible telling you what to do and Allah or whoever doing the same?

Yup, but the causes of those deaths weren’t because they believed in God or anything, but political in nature (you know, “The Party” rules): they were against The Party, that in dictatorships (Hitler was the same) is akin to a religion (it’s a dogma, roughly speaking).

In fact, you didn’t even have to talk about religion to get shot, you just had to say that you didn’t like Stalin’s moustache and your life was forfeit.

And regarding America and Christians, I’m being ludicrous because the deaths didn’t come only from religion or whatever. Of course it’s ludicrous to mix them all into religion when there were also political causes and particularly economical (gold gold gold gold gooooold) ones.

Some people blame it all on Christianity because of convenience too. Sure, Christians weren’t saints themselves (some were made into saints for killing people, though), but not all crusades were motivated by religion. Many of them had the $$$ component too. And also, the fact that it was a good way of taking the war out of Europe.

When I say a “similar analysis” I’m talking if you mix population reductions from multiple sources (wars, famine, disease, migrations…) to a single cause, plus you consider population reductions of religions as only deaths and not as conversions (many Muslims were converted in Spain in XV century, for example).

That analysis is shit, and if we had someone that for starters isn’t neutral doing an analysis that is shitty at best, we’d get whatever numbers that guy wanted.

Get an anti-Muslim to write something about them and you’ll get a lot of deaths and athrocities.

Get an anti-Christian to do the same and you’ll have the same thing.

Do the same with an anti-Jew and well, you even got memes on the internet to illustrate what happens.

The thing is that we are calling Muslims fanatics and then we are listening to fanatics to talk about how fanatics the Muslims are.

Sorry, but not my game.

I don’t like people who impose their ideas on others, whether they cry “Allahu Ackbar” and blow my shit out, they use a Tokarev, they use unmanned drones, they starve me (economically or literally) or they use “diplomacy”.

Oh, and also, I don’t swallow that all this shit is only happening because they are “fanatics” and “barbarians”.

Things aren’t that easy, that only happens in comics and movies.

The situation is more involved than just purely religious causes, there are (geo)political, economical, ideological and many other factors that make the waters pretty muddy to figure out what is really happening.

“Follow the money” and “who wins” approaches got a lot of hints to start figuring out who, at least, is profitting from all this shit.

And let me tell you, citizens, whether from Middle East, US, Europe or Russia, are in the losing side of all this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

And the slavery, and the crusades (Christian version of a Jihad)…

Well the Muslims were the slave wholesalers. They also captured slaves of all nationalities and races in the Mediterranean right into the 19th century.
Thomas Jefferson had problems with them.

Mohammed owned slaves and approved of slavery.

Early Christianity accepted Greco-Roman slavery as a fact of life – but many of the saints railed against it – for example St Augustine and St Theodore the Studite.

The crusades were a belated response to Jihad (about 400 years late) and were on nothing like the same scale.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

They weren’t the only ones. Spanish galleys were crewed by “prisoners” (from bona fide prisoners to captured Muslims) on their oars.

Also, it seems that things weren’t so black and white. Spanish soldiers also sold slaves to Muslim traders to make money.

And crusades, I’m not only talking about the Crusades as we know them. When king Phillip II decided to have fun at the Netherlands he was saying something about not wanting to rule heretics and he got Europe trembling for 50 years or more.

Catholics also organized a lot of Crusades at home, like the Albigensian one and that quote (kill them all, God will know his own, or something like that).

Also, those Crusades were also politically motivated, the same as Islamic ones. Religion was just the excuse to go and have fun. Lots of nobles joined them because they would be rich from what they would plunder there (plus they would be offered lands and such that might not have received in their own countries because they were 2nd and further sons).

Muslims came to Spain (so yeah, studying about the Jihad is pretty much in my History lessons) and they weren’t as extremists as we paint them, at least while they were winning, lol.

They usually accepted other religions, even if grudgingly (they had special taxes) and they weren’t warring for the whole time in the peninsula. In fact, there were cases where Christian nobles and Muslim nobles used each other to take care of enemies (as in, negotiations and such to take care of rivals and other stuff).

Things weren’t as black and white as we think, there were a lot of shades of grey.

And as a footnote: in those centuries, Muslims were pretty enlightened and educated people (Algebra, Chess…) while Christians were the “barbarians” (they still were sorting out the fall of the Roman Empire).

Oh, before I forgot. Muslims went harsher on Christianism (forcing conversions) at the end of their period in the Iberian peninsula.

But well, once Christians got in power, don’t think that they were very tolerant. Conversion or exile. In fact, the Spanish Inquisition also had the role to weed out “fake conversions” and woe you if you weren’t an “Old Christian”.

Again, the causes of all this weren’t purely religious oriented. You wanted to get rid of a rival? You only had to spread that he was a Muslim whose conversion was fake. Or that he was gay (that got you the stake). Witches… what a great way of taking care of a GF, lol.

I don’t forget that whether Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Communists, Fascists or whoever are in the end humans. Greed, hate, love, necessity, fear… there are a lot of motivators in our psyche that move us to do even the stupidest and shittiest things so that we can keep living (or move up the ladder while stepping others).

So yeah, I don’t forget that we are all humans, and we don’t really need religions, gods or devils to do all sorts of athrocities.

We can do it well enough without help.

Anonymous Coward says:


Reality is that ISIS is just the lunatic fringe and not really a threat in the US.

However actual Islam – as promoted by Saudi money would have exactly the same effect if allowed to succeed.
Their plan is demographic conquest and it will be peaceful at first however eventually – once they are numerous enough – it will become violent and at that point it will be too late.

Looking at various countries at different stages of “islamicisation” one can see the pattern.

Oddly there seems to be a taboo that amounts to censorship on anyone who has the temerity to point this out.

SO yes – more free speech please!

Anonymous Coward says:

Stealth Zionism

Eric Posner is a die-hard Zionist who would like nothing more than to bring Israel’s worst human rights abuses to the United States, because turning the USA into a repressive police state would benefit Israel by diverting that country’s international condemnation elsewhere and normalizing the brutal authoritarianism within its own borders and occupied territories.

Consider him the counterpart to Alan Dershowitz.

Violynne (profile) says:

Eric Posner,

You upset me with what you wrote.

I feel…

Wait a second! There’s a morally ambiguous sense of irony with his opinion.

Posner, I’m a veteran of the US Navy, and I’m going to tell you what I tell any person who spews rhetoric like you do:
I may not like what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death you’re right to say it.

Time to agree to disagree.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

I am not saying that ISIS is not a legitimate threat to cause some damage

Then I will: they’re a bad joke. Their “great victories” came because they attacked garrisons too cowardly to defend their posts even when they had a 10:1 advantage over the ISIS fighters. Somehow mistaking this for an actual victory, they then went on to do one of the stupidest things in the history of the Middle East, which is really saying a lot: they proclaimed a new caliphate.

For those unfamiliar with the cultural issues involved, this is essentially a Muslim-world analogue to the government of the UK formally announcing an intent to restore the British Empire. Just imagine how well that would go over in the USA, Canada, Australia, India, and plenty of other nations worldwide, and you’ll have a good idea of what the rest of the Middle East thought of that.

Since then, they’ve had their hands full making a big mess of the territory they’ve managed to capture, (unsurprising, as conquerors are basically never good governors or administrators,) and fighting everyone around them. The attack in Paris notwithstanding, they seem to be mostly accomplishing a whole lot of nothing, but for some reason (because we need a bogeyman and Al Qaeda isn’t much of a threat anymore?) everyone seems afraid of them.

Mark my words: another 5 or 6 years and they’ll be just another historical footnote, and they will have done it to themselves.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Tempting as it would be to believe this, I don’t think you’re right. The true danger in ISIL is their ability to export and fester while having the legitimacy of a “state” and territory. We’re already seeing the sociopolitical ramifications from the people they’ve displaced, the territory and commerce they’ve disrupted, and the terror they’ve exported.

If you’re point is that Islamism and theocracy are self-defeating systems, I happen to fully agree with you, but you have a very optimistic timeline and I frankly am not willing to allow the death and suffering of our Muslim brothers and sisters toiling under ISIL’s rule to go on while we wait….

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Mmmm. Sounds familiar?

According to some of the papers today, ISIS are going around smashing up satellite dishes and receivers in and around Raqqa to stop the locals seeing all the nasty things the West are saying about them.

Would one of those nasty things be “ISIS are going around smashing up satellite dishes …..”

anonymous coward 200 (profile) says:

So much trouble over the bill of rights...

I do not agree with Eric Posner, but I do find it interesting how much passion the first of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights generates when it comes to the idea of limiting it or ending it.

All ten were drafted to attempt to protect the individual from misuse of power by authorities. Most people get that about the ‘miranda’ rights section.

Why are they so willing to jettison another of the bill of rights when it is also part of the same bloc that was passed by the same people to protect us from misuse of power by authorities?

just curious… .

Steve (profile) says:

The bigger picture is Governments off all persuasions seeking to reign in the internet as a means for organising dissent. This is not necessarily a co ordinated undertaking, but more a natural systemic reaction to dissent using the most effective means of communication the world has ever known.
The causes of dissent are now manyfold, as the world approaches massive levels of instability, primamily as a result of resource competition & the comming effects of climate change.

scatman09 (profile) says:


That’s right, terrorists. Smack us and we smack…each other!

That’s how terrorism works; attack us–and instead of attacking our attacker…we attack each other. Instead of doubling-down on our own constitutional rights and freedoms, we start trying to find fault in our selves and in our American culture. America’s not perfect, by any means, because people are not perfect. But dang.

Smack us around enough, and we’ll be rolling out sharia law for the terrorist ourselves. It’s like cultural terraforming.

John85851 (profile) says:

How about restricting the Second Amendment

It seems like we hear story after story about how politicians, law-makers, and “think tank” people want to restrict people’s 1st or 4th amendment rights in the name of stopping terrorism.

You know what else will stop terrorism, or at least mass shootings? How about restricting people’s 2nd amendment right to own guns.

I find it extremely hypocritical when people scream “take away their right to free speech” and then turn around and say “you can’t take their guns away”.

Anonymous Coward says:

I dont dislike the us government for the things that isis has apparently wrote that ive never even read
I dislike the us government for the things they say, the things they do, and the belief, that they have a right to but DONT…….

that goes for ALL governments not just u.s.

Governments have evolved from monarchs to agree and impose laws even onto themselves, i.e. criminal law i.e. innocent until proven guilty, suspect, evidence, peers and more……….something that they are attempting to abolish by granting themselves absolute authority, using terrorism as the excuse

To much power to give to the hands of the few…
Sometimes, the cure can be worse then the disease…….and i worry what this absolute authority cure is gonna look like years from now, when people start to exercise their freedoms

The laws they create, the systems they implement, the teachings they teach……….its easier to introduce these things, its a hell of alot harder to fix, nearly impossible to remove ……..

Worried reader

Wyrm (profile) says:

“Such a law would be directed at people like Amin: naïve people, rather than sophisticated terrorists, who are initially driven by curiosity to research ISIS on the Web.”

Yes, let’s save poor “Amin” from Isis Internet propaganda by criminalizing him. I’m sure he won’t resent the US and be an easy target for actual physical Isis recruiters in jail.

Seriously, can’t those politicians PLEASE stop using the hypocrite argument of “saving people from themselves by criminalizing them” and simply admit they want more power to themselves and less rights for the common people? It’s not like it would change much of anything at this stage.

Zhtwn says:

Never before in our history have enemies outside the United States been able to propagate genuinely dangerous ideas on American territory in such an effective way—and by this I mean ideas that lead directly to terrorist attacks that kill people. The novelty of this threat calls for new thinking about limits on freedom of speech.

News Flash!

Leon Czolgosz was not an American citizen; was not influenced by dangerous foreign ideologies; and did not assassinate the President of the United States of America.

Ugh. Just Ugh. TSIH

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