The attacks on US diplomatic facilities in Cairo and Benghazi, with the former seemingly continuing today, are related in some ways, but distinct in others.

What’s happening in Cairo appears to be a simple matter of mob protest. The crowd is angered about an incredibly stupid film that insults Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. Like the notorious ‘Danish Cartoons’, the film is a personal statement, privately funded and produced, that says nasty things. This film may have been sufficient cause for rioting in itself, but it might also have been an element of a planned demonstration for 9/11.

The situation in Benghazi, as I understand it, was an intentional attack on the American Consulate or perhaps on Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was in that city at the time. There were mobs at the consulate also, but their presence might have been because of 9/11, because of the film, or both.

At present, the murder of Amb. Stevens and three other Americans is being seen as a terrorist attack, carried out by an extremist Islamist group whose identity is as yet unknown. The incident in Cairo is being viewed as an angry reaction taking place in a situation where American constitutional freedoms clash bluntly against sincerely held religious beliefs.

As I’ve said in other instances – from the ‘Danish Cartoons’ to the disingenuous and dishonest film by Geert Wilders – protecting free speech isn’t important because it permits people to say things we like; it’s important because it allows people to say things we strongly dislike. The morons who made the most recent film (I won’t link to trailers, but they’re on the Internet) behaved within their rights. There is no law against being stupid.

Overreaction to the film, however, is dangerous. Protesting it is perfectly fine. Making insulting films that attack the filmmakers, their ideas, and all they hold holy is perfectly fine, too. What is not fine is to turn to violent actions or to call upon the power of the state to quash unpopular speech.

When protests in Cairo broke out – before the attacks in Benghazi, by the way – a press release, later backed with Tweets, was sent from the US Embassy. That has created a major political firestorm in the US. The release said, in part, “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

That is actually not what the US ‘firmly believes’. It is so far off the mark that President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and presidential challenger Romney have all repudiated it. What is more shocking to me is that this message came from a senior Foreign Service Officer, the Counselor for Public Affairs, who sent it out after being told not to do so.

I did not know Amb. Stevens; we never met. I don’t believe I know the other three Americans killed in Benghazi. It nevertheless pains me to have American diplomats killed and diplomatic facilities attacked. I have known many other diplomats who were killed, in contravention to the Vienna Conventions and in affronts to human dignity. This does bother me, intensely. If diplomats are going to be chased out of a country, then there is no room for dialogue. What will be left is more violence. The world does not need that.

September:13:2012 - 01:12 | Comments & Trackbacks (45) | Permalink
45 Responses to “Benghazi, Cairo, Killing, and Speech”
  1. 1
    G Jeff Said:
    September:13:2012 - 02:39 

    Nicely written

  2. 2
    Sparky Said:
    September:13:2012 - 03:22 

    That statement issued by Swartz was stupid and AGAINST American principles. One may have the right and freedom to be stupid as an independent thinker and filmmaker but a U.S. diplomat speaking on behalf of the U.S. government shouldn’t defy orders. Providing the information is true and he was specifically told not to tweet that message then I think he should receive disciplinary action. The fact that he hasn’t makes me wonder if there isn’t some bigger cover up. Killing and inciting violence because of hurt sensitivities be they religious or even personal is unGodly and immoral and MUST NEVER EVER be tolerated or sympathized by a country which prides itself in the protection of Free Speech!

    I think the incidents in both places in Cairo and those in Benghazi are completely unrelated. Unfortunately the diplomats were not chased out of Libya in this incidence, they were hunted down and murdered. I’m pretty sure the perpetrators of the heinous crime will in turn be hunted back down according to what I could glean from Obama’s reaction. Depending on what is used to accomplish such that can mean many more causualities.

    Nothing is positively solved with violence.

  3. 3
    Dakota Said:
    September:13:2012 - 07:22 

    It’s not all that surprising that someone living in an Arab country would pick up on the talk on the Arab Street and take seriously something I believe is carefully crafted and disseminated, and has an aspect of saber-rattling to it. (What do you call astro-turf in a country of sand and rocks?)

    As for myself, I can’t seem to get too worked up over the poor picked-on Muslims who are suppressed, repressed, trampled, and dissed, by such a powerful entity as….an anonymous person no one can seem to find whose film would have been completely unknown if they had not made it go viral by their own actions. On the other hand, it is illegal for me to practice my own religion in this country, and this is upheld, not by some fringe nutcase, but by the law of the land.

  4. 4
    Sparky Said:
    September:13:2012 - 07:45 

    The American embassy should have distanced themselves from the film in as clear terms as possible. Angry Muslims are connecting an independent film somehow with US government and policy. The communication coming out of embassy was hypocritical. They could of said we find it disrespectful and in bad taste and again distanced themselves while reiterating US core values and principles.

    This is definitely a culture clash. One in which the conflict is between the American value of freedom of expression and speech as a fundamental and the Myslim one leaning towards 0 tolerance of any type of religious freedom of choice and opinion. I use to think Bush had it all wrong but as time goes on I’m convinced of the contrary.

    Muslims in general, I’m guessing, would rather be clubbed over the head than than endure an attack on their faith. However, they need to stop acting like monkeys and climbing walls and acting out like a toddler having a temper tantrum and start fighting using common sense and their intellect assuming those qualities can trump animalistic primal instincts.

  5. 5
    Aunty May Said:
    September:13:2012 - 07:49 

    President Obama reaction to the tragic killings is that the killers will be hunted down. This indicates there will be more death.

    Yet, will this solve the problem?

    This world thinks it solves its problems by the shedding of blood. But no problem was ever solved in that way, for bloodshed is needless and leads nowhere. If you persist in capital punishment or sending out soldiers to get revenge it means that a country has not yet become an evolved society or community, because they do / not realize that they have not solved the problem. All they have done/or will do is to commit one more murder, for which they are all responsible. It is not punishment. All they have done/will do is to precipitate a soul into another world.

    Violence is encouraged as a necessary part of war; religious wars, war in families, war in neighborhoods, countries, or war against anyone who has another view of Islam or their prophet. When it comes to an end, one cannot quickly end all the violence and brutality that has been unleashed. You have a condition where the brutal side has become uppermost in larger numbers…

    One may ask, “How this is to be treated”. There are two ways; the old way, which says, ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’, and there is the newer way, which was the law to supersede the old maxim, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ That is the clear choice, which was taught by the beloved prophet Yeshiva (Isa, Jesus). If you follow the lower road, you are not obtaining any cures. You may obtain palliatives, temporary remedies, but you have not cured the evils or the brutality. If you adopt the other standard and recognize that all this viciousness is part of the maladjustment of mind, body and spirit, and treat it accordingly so that the maladjustment can be properly adjusted, then we will make better citizens.

    Each person cannot find themselves when one’s existence is untroubled, when the sky is sunny and calm and all seems smooth and placid. It is only when the storm rages, the thunder roars, the lightning flashes and the rain beats down that this wondrous spiritual awakening comes.

    Love thy neighbor.

    Sometimes stark truth is bitter and hurts, but, because it is true, it will do well.

  6. 6
    Swedish Said:
    September:13:2012 - 07:50 

    It seems that is always the most diplomatic of the diplomats who take a hit. The humble ones, the ‘People’s diplomat’
    I was just in pre-school when the US Amb. was assignated in Beruit circa Spring ’76. He had a short tenure, very short one. I am wondering where the course of history could of turned if he did not venture out that day.
    I hope our humble and geneuine stay safe…especially these days…
    BTW–GErt Wilders in my view is a NUT.. ( Sorry for the lack of diplomacy)
    Swedish–( Shanghai-China)

  7. 7
    Dakota Said:
    September:13:2012 - 07:51 

    Since I haven’t been able to go to church in a while, let me add a Bible verse, Luke 6:42, for the above comment:

    Ironically, the website is blocked here in KSA.

  8. 8
    Sparky Said:
    September:13:2012 - 08:04 

    Aunty May…I’m all for peace, BUT people should understand the consequences of their actions. Two extra ships with tomahawks have been sent and are just waiting for orders from Obama. The perpetrators have sealed their faith oops I mean fate.

    How would you deal with it? Invite them for a tea party or just lock them up and throw the key away?

  9. 9
    Sparky Said:
    September:13:2012 - 08:06 

    Miraculously it is unblocked as I just checked. Perhaps the internet Gods may have unblocked it.

    I’ve always liked that quote

  10. 10
    Aunty May Said:
    September:13:2012 - 08:15 


    You forget one thing, each of us, no matter what colur, creed or religion are spirit animating in the physical.
    Answer to your question is, I would lock them up, but not throw away the key.

  11. 11
    John Burgess Said:
    September:13:2012 - 08:18 

    @Sparky: I don’t think disciplinary action could have been taken within 24 hours of the event. If he’s still there next week, then there will be questions.

    @Swedish: Yes, Wilders is a nut. He’s found a hobby horse and flogs it, riding it into the ground.

    @Dakota: Irony noted.

    @Aunty May: While the principle is good as you’ve explained it, it does not work well in the political realm. I can think of one example where it worked — Gandhi — but not before or since.

  12. 12
    Aunty May Said:
    September:13:2012 - 08:22 


    Then let Gandhi be an example for each to aspire to.
    Then peace may come.

  13. 13
    Sparky Said:
    September:13:2012 - 08:23 

    Aunty May…No, I haven’t forgotten that perhaps the departed and soon to be departed are to meet up in the realm of spirit.

  14. 14
    Aunty May Said:
    September:13:2012 - 08:27 


    It is better to be reflective than implusive in one’s thought, espcially when emotions run high in regards to this tragic event.

  15. 15
    Sparky Said:
    September:13:2012 - 08:30 

    @ Aunty May: There is more to it than we know…I’m sure! There are interests to be protected…which include human ones.

  16. 16
    Sparky Said:
    September:13:2012 - 09:48 

    Obama says that Egypt is neither ally nor an enemy

    This time around, American really needs to see it that any further aid to Egypt (providing all calms down and Morsi can bring both himself and his people to their senses) goes to where it’s really needed and not into the hands of the corrupt few.

  17. 17
    John Burgess Said:
    September:13:2012 - 10:09 

    Just to note that I’ve deleted anti-Semitic comments made by a Serafin Vazquez Covelo. Rants about Jewish/American plots to dominate the world are simply not going to get space here.

  18. 18
    jay kactuz Said:
    September:13:2012 - 10:21 

    Well said, John.

    The problem is that Muslim rage has become a weapon. They have learned that RAGE gets them respect when nothing else does.

    The big problem is that the film (and I am not going to see it, as I have never seen any of them) doesn’t say anything new that is not in Islam’s own hadith. Where do you think these anti-Islam people get their ideas and facts?

    This inability to question Islam and its teachings is, in my opinion, the root of all the Arab/ Muslims world’s problems, and they want to subject us to their intellectual and moral prison.

    About Gandhi – it has been said that his method only worked because it was against the british. Had India been controlled by the Chinese, Russians, germans, etc… it would have been Gandhi, who?

    The RAGE will be back, bigger and better

  19. 19
    Jerry M Said:
    September:13:2012 - 10:38 

    This is a very strange incident. Unlike ‘Fitna’ which was a real product that was available both online and in dvd, this video doesn’t seem to exist. What is available is a set of crudely videod snippets that look like a spoof on a video (imagine what a monte python skit looked like in rehearsal). The anger was orchestrated by someone or a group of someones who found something they could use as a pretext for demonstrations the week of Sept 11th. Those people are the ones truly responsible.

  20. 20
    Jerry M Said:
    September:13:2012 - 11:30 

    I did finally find a video of the film that is more obviously offensive (there are several different parts on the web apparently). (Too me it looks like a porn video.) Still that is no justification for murder.

  21. 21
    John Burgess Said:
    September:13:2012 - 11:56 

    @Jerry M: The film does not seem to be complete. The trailer appears to have been put out there to fish for funding to complete it. I don’t think that’s going to succeed, unless a deep-pocketed Islamophobe steps in or holds a fund-raiser.

  22. 22
    Majed Said:
    September:13:2012 - 18:00 

    I think the film was just ( a straw)or pretext for Muslims to give vent to feelings they have long suppressed against the US.
    When we hear some people talking about bringing back others to their senses,one can only think that the US is an epitome of sense and a walking talking incarnation of goodness and kindness,and I don’t know how to describe my feeling when I heard Mrs.Clinton saying Mr.Stevens was killed trying make better Libya,I dont know him so I can’t judge the man,but she forgot saying just the same way we made better Iraq,Afghanistan,Pakistan,Syria,Somalia and yes Yemen,you know I used to think that Hadramout my father land no matter how poor and dry and barren and number one immigrant maker in human history, yet was one of the safest and the most natural place on earth, silly me,I can not deny that there always been drones in my father land ,but their bites were fun and always left good memories and were the subject of funny stories to be told in old age,but now we have hybrid drones and they are so F…ING bad ,they kill and they kill mostly good people, and it does not matter who they kill,as long as the killer can put some kind of label on the victims, just a label and the killing and murder is legitimate,just a verbal label for the murder to go unquestioned yes better places are on the make by lovely,sensible and so considerate US, diplomacy or hypocrisy or national interests no matter what, i don’t know, but the older I am getting the firmer my conviction is becoming that the man who is holding the stick takes the buffaloes,cows,donkeys and of course my favorite things babes too and can put his own ethical and freedom codes, and yes might is right I think the US is still holding the stick so far, so Amen to whatever Mr. Jhon,Sparky and bro Jay says.
    Sorry, I could not express sorrow about the death of the Diplomats,as we see so much death that we have grown special bond with it, and we have become impervious to death news unlike others,after all we are going to heaven unlike the infidels remember, ok at least we can hope we will, may be that is why we dont care much about death.
    I forget to say that I think US never learns lessons the easy way,they always invent unconventional weapons and deploy them in active battle fields without duly studying the consequences,first they invented the (Qaeda) weapon that was successful in bringing USSR to its knees,and after sometime it backfired and still a pain in the ass, and now they have created yet another new weapon (the bloody f…ing free armies) of uneducated stupids who are filled to the brim with love of Jihad and laser guided them to hit their own homes, I think this one has already started back firing,and are you not afraid that such weapon does not require so much of scientific capabilities and might be used by other as well,but it is the US who said there is something called Creative chaos but are you sure of it,may be, wasn’t it the big bang that created the universe,everything is possible,well why to worry we are all going to die one day sooner or later on bed or by a drone who cares,life has become a nightmare anyway.

    Oh yes Mr. jhon be careful,never allow anyone to practice his freedom of expression by writing anything against the jews on your blog,such freedom of speech is already considered a crime in GB,who allowed Mr.Ghandi to win, just to get out of India with some face left for them to live with,at that time,dont you think it was the easiest way out for the old bitch.

  23. 23
    Dakota Said:
    September:13:2012 - 18:35 

    U.S. film critic Roger Ebert agrees with the Egyptian embassy:

  24. 24
    John Burgess Said:
    September:13:2012 - 21:40 

    @Dakota: Yes, Ebert doesn’t quite understand the First Amendment, either.

    You might be interested in a piece I wrote for another blog:

  25. 25
    Svend Damgaard Said:
    September:14:2012 - 06:13 

    Hey John.

    I´ve just watched the trailer of “Muslime Innoncence” at Youtube. “Oh my dear!!!” What a load of crap. In my mind you can´t call it a movie, cause it is so badly done, that it may you think the people behind it, have shot most of “the mess” in their livingroom. The set-up, the acting and the directory are extremely poor. That itself should clearly spring in to mind of even people who have no knowledge of Islam whatsoever. Then there is som grave historical facts. The guy who is personating the prophet Mohammed is ordering an old Jew to read The Quran. For crying out loud The Quran did not exist during the lifetime of Mohammed, but was compiled, written and published long after he passed away.
    So too all you Muslims out there being it in Saudi-Arabia or anywhere else in the World my advice is and i beg you: STAY CALM. IGNORE AND FORGET IT. IT SIMPLY NOT WORTH YOUR ATTENTION.

    Too you John: I´am Danish and I´m not really happy about your camparison with this stupid misfoster and the socalled “Danish Cartoons”, about which you write was a “personal statement”. This it absolutely wasn´t, but regarding this particular mater please write me personal. Then I´ll explain you in detail, what it was that really turned things so badly. Misinformed og ignorant Muslims in Beirut, Teheran and Pakistan then attacked the Danish embassies, which left around 50 people dead. Similar or even worse has now already happened in Libya. May it not be repeated anywhere.

  26. 26
    Niels Christensen Said:
    September:14:2012 - 11:44 

    It’s worth remembering that Britain have is own ‘documentary’ crises. Tom Holland has made a documentary which is based on his book from this spring ‘In the shadow of the Sword’. Channel 4 has just decided not to send the documentary again because of dead threats directed against Tom Holland.
    One could argue that Holland build to much on the thesis from Patricia Crone ( and Michael Cook in their book Hagarism) , while the general thesis in the book is generally dismissed, it still stands as an experiment and as a piece of research it still raises questions, and Crone still stands as one of the leading researchers in the field of early islam. She can be rather polemic, as it’s illustrated in her dismissal of Fred Donner ‘Among the believers’, which can be found in Tablet Magazine. But sharp standpoints is necessary if science is going somewhere.

    The reception of the documentary has been harsh from even mainstream traditional muslim side, but I’m sorry to say without much debt. Much of the criticism ( in New Statesman and Huff Post) just illustrates that most muslim isn’t interested in a scholarly debate, if the consequence are that they have to discuss the mainstream islamic narrative about the development of Islam.

  27. 27
    Dakota Said:
    September:14:2012 - 13:57 

    Sparky, the Bible Gateway website is now unblocked for me too, a miracle indeed. It used to trigger the porn block

    FWIW this: Andras Rajki’s Arabic Etymological Dictionary is still blocked, also this article about “taimiya” which seems to be some kind of Koranic commentary. My Facebook friends tell me the reason for the first block is “Etymology is the enemy of fundamentalism.”

  28. 28
    Dakota Said:
    September:14:2012 - 14:06 

    On second thought, the taimiya block is probably from the website itself; it’s not triggering the green Saudi censorship page. The message is “The Web server you are attempting to reach has a list of IP addresses that are not allowed to access the Web site, and the IP address of your browsing computer is on this list.”

  29. 29
    Dakota Said:
    September:14:2012 - 17:23 

    @John Burgess, yes the article was quite interesting and I had the same reaction as reader Jib. American bureaucrats do not have the attitude of “don’t be a jobsworth” (i.e. it’s not worth my job to ignore obviously ridiculous instructions) or “obedesco pero no cumplo” (I obey but I do not carry out the instructions since they are clueless) that serves so well in this part of the world. Americans expect policies to be in writing, and are used to going through channels to accomplish things. I can’t imagine an experienced officer (if that’s the right title) not having written instructions and not following them if he had them, and not going through the correct chain of command. There is also the matter that his actions were signed off on by someone higher up, and the next higher person, the ambassador, being out of the country: this person who gave approval does not seem to be in trouble and is not even being mentioned. So going after a junior officer — something is not right there.

    First amendment, meh. Of course it is basic to us and is the foundation of law, but try to explain “rule of law” here….the Arab world looks more at practices.

    The statement that went out from the Cairo embassy definitely missed a teachable moment…maybe. Tell me you can’t walk down the street where ever you live in the Arab world and size up the mood quickly. I can even do this in my home town. When the Street is ready to explode, you can feel it. When saber-rattling has achieved a satisfying outcome and everyone is quiet, you can feel that too, even if you don’t understand all the nuance.

    The embassy statement that went out was basically placating, for fear of a tantrum, not explaining things on an adult level. Was the timing right for a difficult conversation? Who can judge, the Cairo embassy is better off than the Libya embassy right now. Maybe the timing was right for pouring oil on the waters. On a slightly different non-adult level, the movie trailer assumed that Moslems could be manipulated once again into showing the world that they were not ordinary reasonable people.

    There is a moment when you can talk to Moslems about these issues, in my home town it came during the Danish cartoons. When I explained that you could put a statue of Jesus in a vial of pee and show it publicly as art, and it is totally legal no matter who objects, they got it. They didn’t understand why, but they understood cultural difference. Then they said you couldn’t do it with Jews, and I thought, well, yes, there have been cartoons of Moses. There was one cartoon banned, of some Issraeli leader, maybe Sharon, but it wasn’t banned because it was critical, it was banned because of the hook nose. Another pause while they took that on board. Religion, no problem. Ethnic stereotype, problem. Bottom line, even if they were deeply offended by the Mohammed cartoons, and refused to even look at them, they understood that their religion was not being treated any differently from other religions, and it was possible to live with that and move on.

  30. 30
    jay kactuz Said:
    September:14:2012 - 18:52 

    Dakota, you are too nice. If you are going to ask questions of Muslims, go right to the heart of the matter – that is the adult thing to do. The “we do this to others too” rational is only half the story. The problem is two fold: 1) Muslims refuse to consider the evil in Islam, and 2) they have found that hate and rage empowers them.

    If you want a glimpse of the real Islam and the true Muslim, ask them first about the many verses in the Quran that denigrate non-Muslims and then ask them about the vile things their prophet did to others. I assure you you will not like their response, which will be either the usual excuses (out of context, that was then, others did it too, etc…) or a quiet, soft and very private apology saying those things are problematic, but lets not talk about them. They don’t want to talk about these things, particularly with other Muslims. Muslims do not fear us, but they are afraid of being seen as ‘against Islam’.

    This, my friend, is why nothing will change. Well, maybe I’m wrong – getting worse is change.

    So it really doesn’t matter that we do. Explaining the first amendment or telling them that that we treat all religions the same is a waste of time. They don’t care about us, our rights and culture or even ‘all religions’. Muslims need rage, particularly those in Islamic societies – it gives meaning to their lives. It gets respect.

  31. 31
    John Burgess Said:
    September:14:2012 - 21:37 

    @Dakota: The Saudi government has officially deprecated ibn Taiymiya’s works. They’ve taken his texts out of the schools and libraries and now consider him dangerous. Not all clerics agree, of course.

  32. 32
    Freedom is Seldom Free Pinged With:
    September:15:2012 - 07:59 

    [...] Over at Crossroads Arabia (a blog crafted by my sibling, John Burgess) he articulates sentiments which I fully endorse and share a portion from his piece, “Benghazi, Cairo, Killing and Speech“: [...]

  33. 33
    Dakota Said:
    September:17:2012 - 07:08 

    @Jay, Your points: 1) I refuse to subscribe to any “all X are Y” pronouncements. For one thing, I have too often been embarrassed at having my own religion grouped together with the likes of Pat Robertson. For another, it creates an expectancy effect, or self-fulfilling prophecy, where only the crackpots are recognized, and the ordinary moderates are silenced. 2) Rage empowers anyone, that’s why in the west we have football.

    @John They’ve taken his texts out…
    This to me is a metaphor for what is wrong with the Middle East and the root cause of the Arab Spring. We don’t erase old theologians, we still have Origen and countless others, along with cartloads of commentary about why they were wrong. But in the Arab world, if you don’t like something, you just get rid of it, like a baby throwing toys out of its crib, without saying what is wrong with it, or what you want in its place.

  34. 34
    Majed Said:
    September:18:2012 - 02:51 

    No matter how little were those whoe went to the streets against the film, and were being told,that, they are overreacting to a stupid film or cartons etc, will feel much relieved to see their overreaction has finally started yielding,as some people started changing what they firmly believe,for example the German chancellor Angela merkel has denied entry of Terri jones to Germany which is in a way punishing him for his practcing his freedom,even though he swang his hands without hitting nobody `s face,I know some might explain it, as prevention of hate speech,racism,Noe-Nazism,extremism or to maintain social stability whatever might be the cause,but firm beliefs are being changed and the curiosity to know the prophet peace of Allah be upon him is increasing and with it our love of him is getting stronger.

  35. 35
    John Burgess Said:
    September:18:2012 - 04:10 

    @Majed: Germany is free to allow or not allow whomever it chooses across its borders. That is truly within its sovereign powers.

    Germany, however, does not stand for freedom of speech. It criminalizes, for example, Holocaust denial and most mentions of Nazism.

  36. 36
    Marnie Tunay Said:
    September:18:2012 - 08:26 

    “There is no law against being stupid.” Well, actually, there are, many of them; it all depends on the form of stupidity being contemplated. In Canada we have laws against the promulgation of hatred and or contempt of an identifiable group of people. But we also distinguish between slander and mere abuse; the former is capable of being believed and the latter is mere abuse, like calling someone a scoundrel or a bitch, without specifying a reason. The film ‘The Innocence of Muslims’ might well be vulnerable to a legal complaint in Canada, on the grounds that it incites hatred and or contempt.

  37. 37
    John Burgess Said:
    September:18:2012 - 08:44 

    @Marnie Tunay: I agree. But then, I vastly prefer how America deals with speech than how Canada does!

  38. 38
    Marnie Tunay Said:
    September:18:2012 - 15:16 

    In America, defamation law is weighted in favor of the source of the defamatory statements: the legal burden is on the complainant to prove that the defamation is Not true. It’s much more difficult to prove a negative than a positive. In Canada, the burden is, rightly so, IMO, on the source of the statements to prove they Are true. One reason you don’t see the kind of mud-slinging up here that one does in America at election time. Curiously enough, Britain, from which Canada derives a great deal of its defamation law, nevertheless tolerated rabble-rousing ‘Imams’ such as Anwar al-Awlaki long after everyone else had had enough, all in the name of ‘free speech.’

  39. 39
    John Burgess Said:
    September:18:2012 - 18:25 

    @Marnie Tunay: Here, I’ll have to disagree. Someone who alleges he’s been defamed is the accuser. The person making the statement is the defendant. In US law — as in British law and Canadian law — the accused is assumed to be innocent unless it it proved otherwise. An accuser has the burden, rightly, of proving his claim. He’s not proving a negative, he’s proving that the accused did something wrong. He is being asked to prove that the accused said something untruthful. That’s not ‘proving a negative.’

    A statement is true; it is false; or it is not subject to true/false analysis, that is, it’s an opinion. A statement may be not exactly true, but the result of hyperbole. If I were to say, “X is the worst human being since Genghis Khan!” no one expects that to be utterly true. We all know what exaggerations are. If I were to say, “X is a smarmy human being!” well, that’s just opinion. No one knows precisely what ‘a smarmy human being’ is, other than unpleasant.

    If, on the other hand, someone says, “John is a thief!” that is something that is subject to true/false analysis. He either is or isn’t. I can prove — for most purposes — that I’m not a thief. I’ve never been arrested or convicted of theft. That’s not proving a negative, either… it’s showing that there’s no evidence of the allegation.

  40. 40
    Dakota Said:
    September:18:2012 - 19:05 

    @Marnie Tunay, the American libel and slander laws are different for public figures, you not only have to prove it isn’t true, you also have to prove malice.

  41. 41
    Marnie Tunay Said:
    September:19:2012 - 00:03 

    @ both John Burgess and Dakota, I maintain my position and provide this link: in support of my claim that the burden is indeed on an American plaintiff, public or private to prove falsity in a defamation action: “Falsity: The statements must be false; truth is a defense to a defamation claim. Generally, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof of establishing falsity.” Additionally, I would challenge the implied assumption in America’s perspective on free speech that the untrammelled right to speak freely if falsely leads to a greater revelation of truth. IMO, one who knows that punishment will be meted out if one makes an unproven and negative statement regarding another person or institute is more likely to take pains to be accurate and to be sure they can substantiate their statements with facts.

  42. 42
    John Burgess Said:
    September:19:2012 - 08:16 

    @Marnie: Yes, one is “likely to take pains” to be accurate, at the price of keeping one’s mouth shut, even when on is right. This is why the concept of Strategic lawsuit against public participation has come about and why it is so important. There is a big difference between publishing something that is actually false and something that might embarrass or inconvenience.

  43. 43
    Marnie Tunay Said:
    September:19:2012 - 13:54 

    @ John Burgess: Well, I think the materials that I myself have published, some of which reflect negatively on public officials in high places, suggest that I am well aware of the “big difference between publishing something that is actually false and something that might embarrass or inconvenience.” We have protections against vexatious proceedings in Canada, but, as my post on several recent judgments evidently written by Alberta Court of Appeals Justice Peter Martin indicate: in my opinion, the courts are not always fair and going to court is always a bit of a roll of the dice.

  44. 44
    Dakota Said:
    September:19:2012 - 16:11 

    @Marnie Tunay,

    And then of course there’s the Streisand Effect, “the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely.”

    “Instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity and media extensions such as videos and spoof songs, often being widely mirrored across the Internet or distributed on file-sharing networks.”

  45. 45
    Marnie Tunay Said:
    September:19:2012 - 17:21 

    @ Dakota, lol exactly. Thanks for the link.

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