Louder Than Bombs<2>

2010-10-26 08:26


As a slogan, "Bomb America" enjoys great popularity among young, fanatical Muslims. It is heard rather frequently on the streets of Tehran, the Gaza Strip, and Syria. Interestingly the word "slogan" comes from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning "battle-cry," which is doubtless what it was, a call to arms. This is quite different from a soundbite, which is a "short phrase or sentence that deftly captures the essence of what the speaker is trying to say." An example of the latter is Bush pere's infamous "Read my lips, no new taxes." (Also an example of a broken promise.) But should a British citizen -- regardless of how vile and despicable his person -- be deprived of liberty for emitting a battle-cry against a foreign government?

IT IS A TOUGH CALL. I have heard the very same folks who sniff over European laws criminalizing Holocaust denial insist that the Brits were right to lock up Javed, as though the two issues were miles apart. The question boils down to whether Javed was indeed soliciting murder or just being an obnoxious, Koran-thumbing loudmouth. The Crown's case was that Javed explicitly and directly encouraged those present "to commit acts of murder against the Dutch and Americans." Presumably had he said "Down with America," his speech would have been protected. The phrase "Bomb America," however, was not. The difference could mean a maximum of life in prison.

Worse, Javed was also convicted of a hate crime, for "stirring up racial hatred," which is patently silly. Whatever one thinks about so-called hate crimes, it must be obvious that "American" and "Danish" are not races, but nationalities. Perhaps there needs to be yet another law outlawing "stirring up nationalist hatred, or hatred toward the people of a particular nation," with a minimum two years in solitary for criticizing the French.

As more than one commentator has noted, it used to be a badge of honor that we in the West might not agree with what you say, but will defend your right to say it. Today if we do not like what you say we toss you in the hoosegow. Personally I find that to be potentially as dangerous as any bomb.