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April 27, 2006

'Nuking' Euphoria
Babak Seradjeh  [info|posts]

NukeThong.jpg A friend informs me that

An American web site (CafePress) is offering T-shirts, baby clothes, mugs and teddy bears with "Nuke Iran" logos. If you have the time, please write to them and tell them what you think...
This is particularly distressing. I think we need to act to stop such ugly displays. It doesn't matter what you think of the Iranian nuclear crisis and/or the American response. It is beyond question that 'nuking' by the US is both a terrible strategic mistake and a humanitarian disaster.

Although CafePress may not be responsible for the design itself, they are still accountable for (at least providing the means for) spreading such despiteful items and hateful ideas. I think it is imperative on all those with a loving feeling about the people or even the land of Iran and neighboring regions to do the least they could to stop the spread of such venomous ideas.

I wrote the following e-mail to the CafePress who provide the venue for individual sellers to sell their designs. If you don't have the time to compose an email yourself, I suggest that you use this text as a template or just copy-past and send it to the addresses listed below. Don't forget to sign at the bottom, and spread the word!!


To: "CafePress" <info@cafepress.com, pr@cafepress.com>
Subject: Nuke EM' Design

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am writing to draw your attention to the items with the Nuke EM' logo and a nuclear mushroom cloud on a map of Iran, on display on your web site at the following URL:

http://www.cafepress.com/buy/iran/-/pv_design_details/pg_2/id_12129373/opt_/fpt_fXBa__DB___CXDc_Pz-X_7O__Dc/c_1/hlv_t

and to express my horror and disgust to see your online store is selling or providing the venue for selling such a clearly inhumane and hateful design that glorifies human death and destruction. This design not only spreads support for a distressing threat to the Iranian lives and others living in a wide region, it is a disgrace to the American dignity and just support of freedoms around the world. I feel sad that I need to remind anyone in the 21st century that "Nuking" a country is not a matter of passing entertainment, but an act of mass destruction in which millions of lives are directly affected with deadly results.

I strongly urge your executives to act sensibly and take the items with this design off your online shopping windows immediately and unconditionally.

Sincerely,

Comments
sahar at April 27, 2006 05:34 PM [permalink]:

Hi,

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I hope everyone feels responsible to take some form of action. I have linked to your article in my blog.

Thanks

Golbarg Bashi at April 27, 2006 05:39 PM [permalink]:

Well said! Thank you very much for your timely and truthful intervention...

Ben at April 27, 2006 08:49 PM [permalink]:

Babak,
This reminds me very much of post WWII anti semitic propaganda that exists even today in Germany and the U.S among others that produces caricatures/literature/jokes and items like these casual cloths that intend to offend the honor of murdered Jews and feelings of those that survived and most relevant to this case, they call for further murdering of Jews.
Among the examples I can give are shirts with the prints of "6 million happy costumers and 6 million more on the way" or the shoes with swastikas at the bottom of the sole so it makes swastika imprints where the wearer goes.
I'm going to send them my protest right now and my hopes are with you that they remove these shameful and despicable products.

Babak S at April 28, 2006 01:56 AM [permalink]:

Sahar and Golbarg, thanks for your support!

Ben, indeed it is very close to asking for a holocaust of sorts. And thanks for your support!

sahar at April 28, 2006 02:33 AM [permalink]:

Ben,

i agree. It is so unfortunate to see anything like this. Thanks for reminding us where this could end up...

Bahman at April 28, 2006 02:49 AM [permalink]:

It reminds me of american flags under our steps in our schools for 25 years ! who dared to note that to anybody ? I certainley dont agree with this logo or that.

amin alizadeh at April 28, 2006 07:05 AM [permalink]:

I know something

Aydin at April 28, 2006 03:21 PM [permalink]:

I thought the name of this blog was free thoughts. The word "Free" implies that the creators and maintainers of the weblog are open to "Free" thinking about Iran. While I have no love for nuclear weapons or any kind of weapons for that matter, I think it hypocritical and absurd to attack one way of thinking about Iran on a weblog called "Freethoughts".

Ladies and Gentlemen who do not agree with a certain school of thought would perhaps choose to spend their resources in a better fashion than enforcing another school of thoughts on others.

Jus an input at April 28, 2006 03:24 PM [permalink]:

Mr. Aydin,
It is called free "thought" not free "thoughtlessness".

Babak S at April 28, 2006 04:20 PM [permalink]:

Aydin,

I cannot understand what you mean. If you are referring to "nuking iran" as a thought, then sure it is free, and in fact those who hold those thoughts have freely discussed it to the toppest levels possible. But the "idea" of nuking Iran is more than a thought. It has consequences, terrible beyond imagination, and what I have suggested in this post, is taking action to prevent those terrible consequences. Simply put, the issue at hand has nothing to do with freedom at this point. It has to do with life.

an iranian at April 28, 2006 05:00 PM [permalink]:

totally agree with Bahman.
+ Calm down guys! Yes the idea of nuking iran sounds terrible but this is not something that is going to be changed by a web site advertising a stupid sketch on a t-shirt or whatever!

sahar at April 28, 2006 08:25 PM [permalink]:

Aydin,

What shame if one doesn't recognize the meaning of thought! Well, so you are saying that we are not free to think about NOT NUKING IRAN? Because the name of website is free thoughts? This is the end of unreasonable argument I have seen in my adult life!

sahar at April 28, 2006 08:27 PM [permalink]:

by "the end" I meant "aakhareshe"...

Ali Rostami at April 29, 2006 12:36 AM [permalink]:

Shame on you and US Gov, for such a lie.

Mehrdad H at April 29, 2006 03:59 AM [permalink]:

Sahar, I agree that “thoughts” should be free, not just on this forum but also everywhere else. But, when it comes to speaking your thoughts out, the term “thought” is no longer appropriate. “Thoughts” that are spoken out and that are acted upon are no longer simple thoughts; they are “actions” and, thus, need to respect the basic rights of all members of a civilized society. Never forget that “the Freedom of speech and/or thought” is different from “freedom of insulting and/or inciting hatred.”

Mehrdad H at April 29, 2006 04:00 AM [permalink]:

Sahar, I agree that “thoughts” should be free, not just on this forum but also everywhere else. But, when it comes to speaking your thoughts out, the term “thought” is no longer appropriate. “Thoughts” that are spoken out and that are acted upon are no longer simple thoughts; they are “actions” and, thus, need to respect the basic rights of all members of a civilized society. Never forget that “the Freedom of speech and/or thought” is different from “freedom of insulting and/or inciting hatred.”

alireza at April 29, 2006 05:04 AM [permalink]:

if an iranian ads show the usa like this they called iranian as terrorist,morderer blablabla .. but now what iranian peaple should say to americans?

an Iranian Student (AIS) at April 29, 2006 05:36 AM [permalink]:

It is another sign why stupidity and evil knows no border or name tag. Thanks for bringing this up Babak.
And thanks Ben for your timely comment. The amount of propaganda by the islamic regime and its long time subjugated masochistic but ever faithful allies (when it comes to foreign policy etc.) the leftist to portray any such crap as the direct effect of Israeli lobbies, make clear how important such comments are for people to read.

Aydin at April 29, 2006 08:19 AM [permalink]:

Sahar, Perhaps I did not explain myself well enough. CafePress website provides individuals with means to try and sell merchandise based on ideas. Anyone can upload their "artwork" and cafepres will automatically create T-shirts, mugs, etc based on that design. One person had the idea that "Nuking Iran" is a wonderful concept, so he made t-shirts and mugs based on that. We do not agree with him. We obviously have a logical argument based on common sense against this person's line of thought. What if the T-Shirt creator is not a logical human being? or lets say what if he thinks with a logic that is flawed from our point of view? My question is: "What gives us the right to try and shut him up based on the way we think? Especially if we believe that all schools of thought should be respected" What if a person thought that human race should be destroyed completely because earth is better off without us living on it? What if a person decided that men should be slaves to women? I believe that if someone claims to support free thought, they would tolerate all of these ideas regardless of how absurd they found it based on their own logic. Asking a website to shut down one person's way of expressing their ideas, in my opinion is not a sign of tolerance.
respectfull, Aydin

Aydin at April 29, 2006 08:34 AM [permalink]:

Mehrdad,

I respect your argument. I am however, not aware of any methods for understanding abstract thoughts without expression. I see expression of thought as the only way, however flawed, that humans can make eachother aware of what they are thinking. As far as abstract thought goes, thoughts are arguably always free. It is really the freedom of expression that can be a major dilemma. If you seperate "freedom of speech" from "freedom of insulting and inciting hatered", how do you define the line? the basic rights you speak of, are a set of rights developed based on humanist concepts. What if someone believes in an all powerful deity and therefore reserves all "rights" for this god. Is he not allowed to express his thoughts? What if someone believes in racism or elitism or some other school of thought that does not allow everyone to have "basic" rights? Should he not be allowed to express his thoughts? How would this be different to censorship? I don't like wars or weapons or armed conflict of any type and I think human life is sacred beyond doubt, but these are my beliefs. If my peer does not believe in sanctity of life, how should I tolerate him? Does such a thing as "free" thought really exist? Let me know what you think.
Aydin

Justin at April 29, 2006 12:46 PM [permalink]:

Aydin, very well said. Voltaire and Evelyn Beatrice Hall would be proud.

Its never easy to discern intent from a statement. There are things each of us will disagree with, for whatever reason. We shouldn't be afraid of the idea being spoken or written. We should be afraid of the action. For instance, satire or hyperbole has a point, but it isn't always obvious by the face value of how its presented.

Voltaire earned a reputation as a heretic for criticizing his government, which was a [pseudo?] theocracy. While its entirely plausible that he did lack a faith in the religion of the state, it is also quite possible that he felt the government was misusing religion as a crutch for bad policy. There is significant commentary about Voltaire, so I'll just leave this as it stands.

I don't believe that action can be prevented by simply pushing an idea into a box, sealing it up, and burying it. The only way to effectively 'kill' an idea is with a better idea -- the respective relationship of orbit between the Sun and the Earth, for instance. In other words, by pointing out flaws of logic, affirmation of fact or fiction, etc. Thought policing people isn't something I would want to entertain or fully attempt. It happens to some degree, but I certainly hope that it doesn't accelerate. It has proven hard enough to police antisocial behavior or action.

Mehrdad H. at April 29, 2006 01:43 PM [permalink]:

Dear Aydin,

First of all, I apologize for mistakenly writing my last comment as a response to Sahar while I wanted to answer you.

BTW, thank you very much for sharing your viewpoint on this topic. I understand what you say and know how you suffer from being misunderstood by others. I am completely sure that what you think about this website and the way you feel about your country is not much different from the way other commentators feel.

However, I should note that sometimes intelligent people like you fall in the trap of trying to define all the previously discussed and concluded concepts of a specific field by themselves regardless of what many experts have already agreed upon.

Based on my academic background in psychology, there is a major difference between “thoughts” and “expression of thoughts.” In psychology, we say people are allowed to think and have whatever emotion or feeling they have as long as these are not transformed into actions and behavior. Feelings and thoughts by themselves should not be criticized or judged. Psychologists believe even if one feels like killing another person, it is absolutely ok. Neither s/he nor anyone else should blame him/her for having such a feeling or thought. No treatment is needed and the individual is considered normal as long as he/she does not have any internal conflict with his/her own thoughts and emotions.

But, as you yourself mentioned, “the freedom of expression of thoughts is a major dilemma.” Of course, there has been much controversy over the limits and borders of this freedom. For instance, as you said, there has been much debate on where to draw the line between “freedom of speech” and “insulting others.” But this controversy should not result in the elimination of the line itself in the fear that someday someone may distort the border and suppress others’ legitimate rights of expressing their ideas.

Let me answer one of your questions. You said that if we agree to set a limit for expression of thoughts, then what if someone wants to censor others’ legitimate ideas to his own advantages. I answer, if we completely remove borders, what if someone wants to be free to kill someone just because he thinks that way??? Of course, going to the extreme on each side is wrong and this is why we need a dividing line.

There has always been much debate on what are “the basic” rights of human beings and how should we define humanistic concepts. So far, neither religions nor governments have been able to reach a universal agreement on this issue. However, almost everyone agrees that living in a society and interacting with other people necessitates some sort of restrictions and borders for preventing people from invading each others’ rights and freedom. By accepting that even one person can be absolutely free to express his/her thoughts, we are in danger of damaging others’ rights and freedom.

And to answer your last question, a thing as “free thought” does exist. But, nothing as “absolute freedom of expressing thoughts” is accepted. In your first line of argument you said we have “no methods for understanding thoughts without expression.” But, I would like to remind you that the majority of our thoughts and feelings are, in fact, unexpressed. The lack of expression does not necessarily annul our thoughts.

Mehrdad H. at April 29, 2006 02:10 PM [permalink]:

Dear Justin, we do need to be afraid of an idea being spoken or written because there are always enough stupid people who blindly act on whatever idea they read or hear. For example, there is a hardliner cleric in Iran who advocates killing converts. Needless to say, how many stupid people we have in our country, all ready to follow this cleric’s evil addresses. As Babak said, we should consider the consequences of an idea before talking or writing about it.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at April 29, 2006 02:56 PM [permalink]:

Aydin,

What you say is both internally and externally inconsistent.
Someone has been calling for our "death". We are asking for his hateful comment to be removed from merchandise. Surely if he has the right to express them, so do we. So what are you objecting to? It is interesting that you yourself are asking for something to be removed too, the word "free thought" on this weblog. Again don't you see the similarity?
Anyone who writes them and ask for this to be removed is using his freedom of speech. If enough people do this, the Cafepress might decide to actually remove them. Everybody is acting freely , making decisions by their own free will. What is the problem?

On the other hand there is also the external inconsistency. The whole point of freedom of speech is so that people can enjoy a free life. See free life. If someone threatens you to death, he is asking for your life to be taken from you and with it of course all the freedoms you are enjoying.

I give you hypothetical examples why there is a problem here. Suppose it is the height of inquisition. (say a little before Voltair's time.)
It is very tense times. there has just been several witch huntings. Atmosphere is charged. Someone who doesn't like his neighbor starts publishing pamphlets accusing him and his entire family with witchcraft and pacts with the devil and asks for them to be burned alive.
You think he is just simply exercising his free speech and there is no moral impediment here?

Take another example. You are summoned to the court to be a witness in a murder trial. You don't like the accused. Can you just lie and make false claims to see him hanged? If it comes out you were lying, wouldn't you be prosecuted yourself? Why? Isn't lying still a matter of speech and you are free to say what you like?

Babak S at April 29, 2006 03:18 PM [permalink]:

Aydin,
What if the T-Shirt creator is not a logical human being? or lets say what if he thinks with a logic that is flawed from our point of view? My question is: "What gives us the right to try and shut him up based on the way we think? Especially if we believe that all schools of thought should be respected" What if a person thought that human race should be destroyed completely because earth is better off without us living on it? What if a person decided that men should be slaves to women? I believe that if someone claims to support free thought, they would tolerate all of these ideas regardless of how absurd they found it based on their own logic. Asking a website to shut down one person's way of expressing their ideas, in my opinion is not a sign of tolerance.
The answer is very simple: in any case, we have no right to shut him up, but we have every right to oppose his ideas, and especially ask any third party not to sell his stuff, or help him. That is all I am calling for (see the letter). The T-shirt creator is free to go stand by the street and sell his T-shirts or distribute his pamphlets or whatever else he wants to do personally, and I fully support his freedom to do so. He is free to ask others to help him and others are free to accept to help him. But so are we. That is all we are doing. There should be no logical problem, as we are not trying to take away his freedom (we are not, I am not at least, calling for his imprisonment or prosecution) and what's more, there should be no moral hesitation or relativitization of our right to call on others not to help the guy or accept his thought.

Please note the difference between "toelrance" and freedom of expression (which I repeat I fully support) and critisizing, suporting and opposing, and even attempting to kill an "idea" (not the person) in a way that does not take away the freedoms of the persons involved. Now, if somebody acts on a call to kill, he is of course persecutable by law, and it's a wholly different matter.

Babak S at April 29, 2006 03:31 PM [permalink]:

Mehrdad,
"Freedom of speech and/or thought" is different from “freedom of insulting and/or inciting hatred.”
I beg to differ. Freedom of speech is only different from freedom of inciting hatered, but freedom of insulting is an integral part of freedom of speech. For two reasons: 1) "insult" could be a very subjective quality. One could feel, think or claim that he is insulted even though no insult not been intended in a speech. 2) for reason 1, it is practically impossible to allow people only to speak without insulting anyone (and "anyone" is important in this phrase) especially if they are criticizing or opposing an idea, an action, etc.

So the best way is to allow and include the right to insult, implicitly, in the freedom of expression but separate the instances of causing objective harm, such as "inciting" people to act criminally. This is what lets so many comedians, such as Jon Stewart, Colber, Jay Leno, Seinfeld, etc. to work and help their society in so many ways, in free countries like the US.

Also, what you say about the differnece between "thought" and "expression of thought" might be true in psychology, but here we are concerned with the "sociology" and "ethic" of freedom, and as far as the society is concerned, there is no practical and meaningful difference between a thought and its expression.

So, on the issue of freedom of expression I have to side with Aydin, although I think he is confused about its practical and internal logic.

misneach at April 29, 2006 04:30 PM [permalink]:

Herregud! That's absolutely terrible, how on earth can people have such little respect for the sanctity of human life? That is absolutely appalling that they would be willing to glorify or even play down the magnitude of the death and destruction that this apparell is advocating. Thank you for bringing this to all of our attention.

Mehrdad H. at April 30, 2006 02:22 AM [permalink]:

Dear Babak,

Thanks. It seems most of our disagreements rises from the difference in defining key words used by the authors or the commentators.

1- I admit that distinguishing “thought” and “expression of thought” as psychologists do is not applicable to social and ethical issues. Thus, my second comment was totally irrelevant and Aydin was right to object.


2- I also agree that we should “separate the instances of objective harm” from thoughts whose effects are subjectively disliked. This can be a very reasonable clue for defining the limits of freedom of thoughts. However, when talking about “inciting hatred” and “insulting”, we have to clarify what we mean by “insult” and “inciting hatred.” One may say, that “insult” is something which incites hatred rather than aiming to correct, while another person may put “insult” in the same category as “humor” and in a different category from “inciting hatred.”

3- Our other common point of view, I guess, is that both of us believe that we have nothing as “absolute freedom of thoughts.” As for example, you said we should not allow “freedom of inciting hatred.” But, there is an irony in your comments which I would appreciate it if you could please explain more. In response to Aydin you said:

“The T-shirt creator is free to go stand by the street and sell his T-shirts or distribute his pamphlets or whatever else he wants to do personally, and I fully support his freedom to do so.” “but we have every right to oppose his ideas, and especially ask any third party not to sell his stuff, or help him.” “…and what's more, there should be no moral hesitation or rationalization of our right to call on others not to help the guy or accept his thought” as long as we are not “calling for his imprisonment or prosecution.”

Can I interpret your comments this way: “The T-shirt creator should be free to incite hatred towards us and we should be free to incite hatred towards him as long as none of us prosecutes the other?!”

I guess something is wrong here and would like to remind that it would be too idealistic to let everyone do whatever he/she wants to do provided that we acknowledge the right to retaliate for others. However, I am not sure of what I am saying. I just want to ask for your idea and believe an ethicists can better help us in this regard.

Babak S at April 30, 2006 05:09 AM [permalink]:
Dear Mehrdad, I really appreciate your honesty and seriousness for and clarity in discussion. I feel like I can have a real and creative discussion with you, which I appreciate highly. Now, to your points: 1- Okay! :) 2- I think I was somewhat sloppy in my choice of words here in the beginning. I did not mean to limit freedom of thought so to exclude the freedom of "inciting hatered" specifically. What I meant was, as I wrote further down in my comment, to exclude "inciting people to act criminally." Personally, I do not regard hatred, thus inciting to hatred, a criminal act, although there are laws to this effect in many countries. (In Canada for instance, "hate speech" is a criminal act.) Killing and murder, on the other hand, are criminal acts, and if someone, through his words or ideas, incites others to kill, I would consider that out of the scope of freedom of expression and prosecutable by law, in my hypothetically ideal society. I should clarify further that "inciting" should be unambiguously defined in this framework. For instance if a comedian uses an expression like "we should just kill him" or something like that as a joke, it should not be considered as "inciting to kill," whereas a call by a religious or moral authority for, say, the forced removal of a group of people from their land, should. These are (important) details coming from the intended goal of setting up such a framework, which is to protect life, freedoms and other basic human rights of individuals and groups in a logically and practically consistent way. To give you one more example, consider that Mr. I(nciter) is campaigning or giving instructions for others to kill Mr. V(ictim) without being able to present and prove his case for doing so in a fair court of law. Mr. K(iller) calls Mr. I to tell him he would kill Mr. V for $100. If Mr. I enters into this agreement, he has committed a crime (and of course Mr. K too). If Mr. C(heap-)K(iller) called Mr. I and offered $10, again Mr. V and CK have commited a crime. Now, I am saying even if a Mr. F(anatic) accepts to kill Mr. V for free and out of devotion or because he was convinced by Mr. I's case, this is still a criminal act. The instances of Mr. K and CK would be called, "hiring to kill," and the instance of Mr. F, is "inciting to kill." There is one serious objection though: why should Mr. I be prosecuted before Mr. F has actually killed Mr. V? I am not a legal expert, but my answer is, 1) if we know who Mr. F and his intention is, the case is the same as when Mr. K has received $100 to do the same, and it is similarly criminal; 2) even if we don't know of the existence of Mr. F and/or his intentions, still if there is a reason to believe demonstrably that there could be such Mr. Fs, I think it is reasonable to assume that there are. The cases obviously can be very complicated and I leave this subject to the experts. 3- With point 2 in mind, I do consider freedom of expression as absolute. The only restriction comes from the internal logical constency of constructing such a framework as in our examples. So for our original situation, if "Nuking" as suggested is a criminal act I think actually it should be illegal to call for it too. But assuming that it is not a criminal act in certain circumstances then the T-shirt creator is free to create and try to sell and distribute his T-shirts, and we on the other hand are free to try to stop others from selling, buying, or otherwise helping him. We are also ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Babak S at April 30, 2006 05:47 PM [permalink]:

One more thing: I did not say "there should be no moral ... rationalization of our right" to oppose ideas, but "no moral relativization." I actually think there should be a lot of the former :))

Mehrdad H. at May 1, 2006 05:20 AM [permalink]:

Dear Babak thank you very much for your detailed response and for your kind compliment.

1- Finished.

2- As far as I found, in your “hypothetically ideal society”, “inciting to kill” is a criminal act but “inciting hatred” is not. You also mentioned that different legal systems may have different viewpoints on this issue, as for example “hate speech” is an act of crime in Canada while it can be not somewhere else. Although, I personally favor a legal system which considers “inciting hatred” an act of crime, I admit that there may not be a universal solution for this, as well as for many other controversial issues such as stem cell research, euthanasia, etc. I agree that we would better leave these very complicated issues to legal experts. Being aware of their own countries’ social concerns, cultural background, and political systems, legal experts are probably the most eligible ones for choosing “the framework which best protects the basic human rights of their citizens in a logically and practically consistent way.” At the end of this section, I would like to thank you once again for your very nice model.

3-1- I again would like to re-emphasize that we both do not believe in “absolute freedom of speech” because considering “freedom of expression as absolute but with some restrictions”, be these restrictions inciting hatred or inciting to kill, is not “absolute.”

3-2- In your letter to CafePress, you “urged the executives to act sensibly and take the items with this design off their online shopping windows immediately and unconditionally.” I agree with your letter to CafePress and particularly with its last sentence because I consider their logos as an instance of inciting hatred, which, in my opinion, is one of the exceptions of that so-called “absolute freedom of expression”. However, I believe this last sentence of your letter is justifiable only if one assumes the logos to be an instance of inciting hatred and that one accepts that inciting hatred should not be freely expressed. Otherwise, how can we convince the CafePress executives to take the items off their windows or a third party to object to them. To do this, we need a more compelling rationale than just arguing that one is “crazy” or “his ideas are worthless.” Even for proving the latter, we need a cogent logical reasoning. Therefore, the best ground for our objection, which I strongly support, is the fact that CafePress, as you said, is “providing a venue for selling such a clearly inhumane and hateful design that glorifies human death and destruction.”

Babak S at May 1, 2006 10:34 AM [permalink]:

Dear Mehrdad,

1- I still think a constraint coming only from logical consistency is so minimal (considering the infinty of other ways to restrict freedoms) that it should not be thought as nulling the "absolute" in "absolute freedom." It is there to make sense of the concept, not to restrict its application.

2- The reason I have given CafePress for taking off the items, is indeed "a clearly inhumane and hateful design that glorifies human death and destruction." Protection of life, and not necessarily prevention of hate, is the main reason. Although I do not refute anyone's right to argue based on the latter, I think there is a stronger case here.

Another point is that if the only way to argue CafePress should do what I say in the letter is that "inciting hatred should not be freely expressed" then by the same argument it should also be illegal. This I do not support. I think, more like Aydin, that it should be legal to freely express these ideas, and even more so to freely oppose them. Only in this way we have a meaningful chance to fundamentally get rid of the bad ideas and keep the good ones.

My reservation about "incitement to criminal act" is actually a weak one indeed, and I would only like to apply it to the most horrendous crimes, like killing and such. The reason is simple: a society, even my hypothetically ideal one, might pass a "bad" law, outlawing certain harmless acts. Or maybe even it is not a "bad" law when it is enacted, but it becomes one as the circumstances change. There should be a chance to change this law later. If the legal and political system fail to do so in time, the opposers must have a chance to attempt to show the badness of the law, even by urging others to (partially or temporarily) break it, i.e. incite others to act criminally vis a vis the bad law, in an act of civil disobedience. This is very important. Breaking such a law itself may still be prosecutable, but if urging others to do so is also equally prosecutable then the chances to mutate out of the trap become very low indeed. I think this was the case, say, for the civil rights movement in the US and many instances of non-violent social change.

Mehrdad H. at May 1, 2006 02:03 PM [permalink]:

Dear Babak, You mean, “inciting people to act criminally” should be prosecutable but “urging people to incite crime” should be free because some day later the law that prohibits inciting crime may need to be changed. You say, although breaking a law is prosecutable, people should be free to urge others to break the law in order to ensure that laws can evolve based on later changes in circumstances. Again I have to say that I am not an expert, but I doubt if any legal system thinks so idealistically to pass a law and its exact antidote at the same time so as to ensure that the original law has a chance to mutate when needed. In fact, there are lots of more practical means of changing a bad law, one of them being exactly what you said: non-violent social demonstration. However, it is very important to note that organizing demonstrations for asking a change in a law is different from urging people to break that law while it is still in effect.
To wrap it up and not to waste your time more, I think the reason why some individuals, like you and Aydin, advocate absolute freedom of speech, expression of thoughts, etc is that they are afraid accepting the slightest restriction of freedom may pave the way for its total restriction as it is now the case in many non-democratic countries. However, I believe, as it is currently being practiced in almost all democratic countries, some people should be given the authority to restrict other people’s freedom of speech in cases they found necessary for the good of their whole society. To prevent these authorities from abusing their power, however, each system usually takes a number of other measures such as recognizing people’s right to ask for a change in the law. The system hardly ever accepts absolute freedom in urging people to act against the law. Last but not least, the most compelling evidence which shows absolute freedom of speech is too idealistic to be practical is that it is not being adopted even in the most liberal countries today.

Babak S at May 1, 2006 02:22 PM [permalink]:

Dear Mehrdad,

I'm not saying that the legal system should accept its own anti-dote, but that it should not close the way for its change. Non-violent social demonstrations can and often do include acts of civil disobedience, which is nothing but a favourable term for breaking a bad law. Whereas any legal system may consider illegal such bereakings of the law and arrest and punish the perpetrators, the ones who call for such acts of civil disobedience must not necessarily be prosecuted. Allowing for that is similar to allowing for people at large to consider the case more seriously and perhaps use the legal capacities to change the law as a result. In my view, this could depend on the subject of the law and must be more thoroughly (and expertly) discussed, something that is beyond my resources now.

Also, yes, I do think that giving "some people ... the authority to restrict other people’s freedom of speech in cases they found necessary for the good of their whole society" is a sure way to total destruction of freedoms over time, even if we start with a state of wide freedoms, let aside a state of precarious and limited to non-existent freedoms such as in Iran. Of course it is an ongoing battle to attain new and keep exisiting freedoms in any country, and we may not just call it a night ever on that front. The current political reality that even in most liberal countries today, absolute freedom of speech has not been adopted (although I argue they are very very close) does not mean that it "is too idealistic to be practical." Basing on such a premise 400 years ago would have been a tragic mistake as attested by history, since even a minuscule fraction of the freedoms enjoyed in today's liberal countries would be a far-fetched, even utopean, concept then.

Babak S at May 1, 2006 02:38 PM [permalink]:

BTW, I do not understand what the term "the good of the whole society" means if it is not good for those whose freedom of speech is taken away. Societies do not have goods, individuals do. I wouldn't object to this term if what was understood was "the good of everyone" but it seems to me that you are using it for a meta-entity called "society," which in my view has no rights, goods and bads, preferences, etc. per se whatsoever.

It is perhaps relevant to compare this with what is called the "public good" in economics: this is what is good for all, but no one wants to pay for. Clean air for instance is good for all, but no one wants to pay for it, because its benefits will go to others beyond his control. This is the most compelling ground (I have seen) for taxation.

Mehrdad H. at May 1, 2006 03:12 PM [permalink]:

Dear babak
If giving some people the authority to restrict other people’s freedom of speech in cases they found it necessary for the good of their whole society is “a sure way to total destruction of freedoms over time”, then why “the tragic mistake of 400 years ago” has now changed to “a very very close to absolute freedom today?”

Babak S at May 1, 2006 03:35 PM [permalink]:

Because enough brave souls, at the cost of their lives or their freedom, rose to challenge the long-established status quo, of giving some the authority to restrict the freedoms of others, around and after the Renaissance and Enlightenment in Europe, which led to the (now mostly mainstream) acceptance of the principles of freedom as laid out in such documents as the American Revolution's Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, the French Revolution's The Declaration of the Rights of Man (See especially article 4 on the left) "modeled on English and American examples", etc. ever since.

Mehrdad H. at May 1, 2006 04:14 PM [permalink]:

Dear Babak,
My other reservations are as below:

1- You said:

“Non-violent social demonstrations can and often do include acts of civil disobedience, which is nothing but a favorable term for breaking a bad law.”

I believe:

Non-violent social demonstrations do not necessarily include civil disobedience and hence they are not necessarily an instance of breaking a law. They are, in fact, a legitimate means of changing a bad law and can be quite effective even if they do not include civil disobedience.

2- You said:

“Whereas any legal system may consider illegal such breakings of the law and arrest and punish the perpetrators, the ones who call for such acts of civil disobedience must not necessarily be prosecuted.”

You also said:

“Now, I am saying even if a Mr. F(anatic) accepts to kill Mr. V for free and out of devotion or because he was convinced by Mr. I's case, this is still a criminal act.” “Mr. I should be prosecuted even before Mr. F has actually killed Mr. V provided that there is a reason to believe demonstrably that there could be such Mr. Fs.”

Now, would you please answer:

If civil disobedience is an act of crime then why its inciters (those who call for such acts) are not be prosecuted as you suggested in your legal model?

If civil disobedience is not an act of crime, then why the perpetrators should be arrested and punished?

3- By “the good of the whole society”, I meant “the good of all members of society.” However, I did not say taking people’s freedom of speech is good. I said “absolute” freedom of speech can sometimes be against the good of all members of the society. For example, letting some people to incite killing through their speech is not good for all members of the society. On the contrary, it would be good for all the members of the society, even the killers, to accept restrictions imposed by some authorities in this regard.

Babak S at May 1, 2006 05:25 PM [permalink]:

Dear Mehrdad,

1- To my knowledge, all successful non-violent movements have included acts of civil disobedience. Examples range from India's Indepndence, South Africa's ANC modelling of Gandhi's ideas, civil rights movement in the US, etc.

2- I also said: My reservation about "incitement to criminal act" is actually a weak one indeed, and I would only like to apply it to the most horrendous crimes, like killing and such. To supplement this, I should say I would apply make "incitement to criminal act" illegal only when the criminal act is a direct attempt to take away others' (specific individuals or groups) rights and freedoms without due legal course. Killing is the same as taking away someone's right to life, and fits into this category. Burning their passes, as black South Africans did, does not fit in. So I would not want to make it illegal for ANC and Nelson Mandella to call on others to burn their passes if it were to happen in other circumstances and in an otherwise liberal society, though I would want to make it illegal for someone to hire or invite others to kill a person without due legal action or beyond and outside what is permitted in the law.

3- As I said, inciting to kill fits in the above-defined category of "incitement." Banning it, in my view, is an instance of the logical consistency of absolute freedoms and rights of all individuals, and there is no need to redefine freedoms or give extra authority (beyond what is necessary for this logical consistency) to someone to decide when to restrict others' freedoms.

Justin at May 1, 2006 11:20 PM [permalink]:

"South Africa's ANC modelling of Gandhi's ideas"

It is not really a disagreement, but more intellectual intest as its something I've been recently spending a great deal of time reading about. I'm not sure that Ghandi's ideas were as effective for the ANC as compared with it's relative success in India/Pakistan. The ANC, in its later years specifically (1976-mid/late 1980s), put much less emphasis on this and more on civil disobedience/sabotage/counter-military efforts/etc. They didn't abandon Ghandi's ideas, but they didnt gain much traction with it either. The ANC had a rather huge membership base so it would be easily to attribute their sucess to any number of efforts. However, considering they ANC had been trying Ghandi's ideas for 50 years with little measurable progress..

It's off-topic, but someone asked about looting during the Great Depression in the US.. yes there was, but in different ways than what is described as happening in Iran. From all I can gather, it happened at a greater frequency to foreclosed businesses, rather than to public services; although public services were not immune from looting either.

I wish I had more time to contribute and address some earlier questions directed specifically to me, but my schedule has tightened up.

Justin at May 2, 2006 12:09 AM [permalink]:

RE: ANC..

Also, I'd be concerned with the results civil disobedience, sabotage, etc brings. Even if the political changes an organization wanted to happen did occur, what kind of position will your country be in to resume production and assume the desired prosperity as the drive for political change?

Mehrdad H,

That's a very specific concern, not easily answered by posturing ;)

Why does Iran's current President profess and propagate a belief that converted Christians must die? If he believes it (and it is not one of many rhetorical utterances to merely to build frenzied nationalism), and his ideas go unchallenged, who's responsibility is it if he continues to believe as he does and inflict upon society his sense of right and wrong? Is it the society he inflicts his rule upon, or the society that permits him to rule?

Mehrdad H. at May 3, 2006 01:15 AM [permalink]:

Dear Babak,

1- If I am to define civil disobedience, I have to say it is “an action against currently adopted civil laws.” Based on this description, say, Americans’ non-violent anti-war demonstrations are not instances of civil disobedience because such demonstrations are permitted in the US law. Burning cars and shattering shop windows, however, are considered civil disobedience because current US law prohibits them. This example alone suffices for proving that NOT “all non-violent movements should necessarily include acts of civil disobedience to succeed.”

2- If you believe civil disobedience does not fit into the category of criminal act, then why you said “the perpetrators should be arrested and punished”? (Second question in part 2 of my last comment).

3- You said “banning incite to kill and other horrendous crimes” are instances of the logical consistency of absolute freedoms and rights of all individuals and thus does not need to be redefined.”

Now, would you please explain who is going to decide which action is a horrendous crime and which one is not? What if some people argue that, say, “hate speech” is an instance of the logical consistency of “absolute freedom of speech” and thus should be restricted, while others hold that “hate speech” does not fit into this category and thus should be restricted. Don’t you think some sort of redefining by authorities, who surely have been given their authority through legislative system, is much needed in this case and in many other similar cases?

4- “Giving some people the authority to restrict other people’s freedom of speech in the cases they found it necessary for the good of all members of a society” is NOT “a sure way to total destruction of freedoms over time”, as you gave a perfect example for it.

In the past, “many brave souls rose to challenge the long-established status quo, …” because legitimate means of changing a bad law were not available. However, nowadays, legal systems, though not offering absolute freedom of speech to citizens, have devised more practical and effective means of changing a bad law and preventing authorities from abusing their power. (Non-violent demonstrations, for example, are one of the legally accepted means of changing a currently accepted law). Instead of completely rejecting restrictions of any kind for the sake of achieving an idealistic goal of absolute freedom, legal systems prefer to adopt more practical means of changing laws and have so far been on the right track towards the improvement of their citizens’ basic rights and freedoms.

Babak S at May 3, 2006 05:03 AM [permalink]:

1- I don't understand what you mean here, Mehrdad. You say,Burning cars and shattering shop windows, however, are considered civil disobedience...Pardon me?! Burning cares and shattering windows are disobedient but they are certainly not civil! The whole meaning of civil disobedience is to break the "bad" law and pay the price right on spot by being arrested and going to jail. (What bad law does burning cars break?) Algorithmically that is it. What it achieves though is to show that the law is so bad that people are ready to break it, though they do not want to be criminals on the run and so accept the consequences of their action in a civic way. If you persist that non-violent movements do not contain civil disobedience as a necessary component, and/or think of civil disobedience in terms of shattering windows and such, I would have to refer you to the extensive literature and history of the non-violent movements. Examples of civil disobedience are strikes, walk-outs, and passing curfews, etc. not shattering windows and setting cars on fire.

2- To be prepared for being arrested is part of the concept of civil disobedience.

3- As I said, I would consider only incitement to crimes that directly violate "others' (specific individuals or groups) rights and freedoms without due legal course" illegal. In order to determine this sort of incitements, it is sufficient to have a bill of rights and freedoms or some such document that specifies them, and a legal framework that sorts the crimes that does so directly violate them. This is objective. Potential dispute would be addressed in a court of law like others. Whoever decided what rights and freedoms are there has already decided about this sort of incitement as well: people with accumulated human experience and understandingthroughout history.

4- I think you are repeating yourself here without any new supporting ideas. Also, complete freedom of speech (within logical consistency) is in existence today in many parts of the world, including the US.

Babak S at May 3, 2006 05:13 AM [permalink]:

Justin,

Thanks for the input. I know that ANC's policy of following Gandhi's ideas was not particularly fruitful in dealing with the plague of apartheid. I was only using their non-violent movement, which they adopted from Gandhi, and its inclusion of civil disobedience (breaking various apartheid laws and going to jail) to illustrate the fact that non-violent movements almost by default include civil disobedience. Of course they had to abandon and modify this policy according to what they saw necessary in their circumstances. Wheras Gandhi believed in non-violence almost as a matter of faith, Mandella for instance was very clear on that he viewed non-violence as an effective tactic not an end in itself.

val at May 3, 2006 11:38 AM [permalink]:

how is a nuke Iran shirt more troubling than Iranians chanting Death to America and the Iranian president supporting hamas and Hezabola all the while threatening to wipe Israel off the map?

Is free speach OK as long as you agree with it?

just wondering...

Babak S at May 3, 2006 11:59 AM [permalink]:

val,

Who said "nuke Iran shirt is more troubling"? And who claimed "free speech is OK as long as" we "agree with it"? Even a cursory look at the long stream of dilogue in the comments above invalidates your rhetorical questions at once. In case you need a direct answer, both your answers are a clear NO. You can also see these posts: The War That Need Not Be and Public Display of Evil.

Mehrdad H. at May 3, 2006 04:09 PM [permalink]:

Dear Babak,

1- You are right. I defined civil disobedience wrongly so my reservation was also wrong.

2- With the correct definition of civil disobedience this comment of mine is also irrelevant.

3- Well, I am now relieved that your description of “absolute freedom of speech within logical consistency” is the same as what I meant by “not-absolute freedom of speech.”

In fact, I was a bit confused to see how I could agree with the article “Nuking Euphoria” but not agree with its author on the very basic foundation of its subject, namely freedom of speech.

Now, I think I am right if I define “absolute freedom of speech within logical consistency” as “freedom of speech which is in accordance with due legal course.”

4- Based on our agreement on the definition of “absolute freedom of speech”, I should now confess that yes it is practiced in many parts of the world today.

At the end, I would like to thank you very much for your patience in responding to all my reservations until the final resolution emerged. Admittedly, it was such a long somehow time consuming discussion, but I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from you.

Regards,
Mehrdad

Babak S at May 3, 2006 04:22 PM [permalink]:

Dear Mehrdad,

I enjoy and appreciate this sort of discussion, so there is no need to thanking me really--or in fact I should also thank you for your patience. It helped me clear my thinking about some of the pressing questions about freedom as well. Indeed, sometimes our disagreements seem to boil down to notaional differences, but as anyone involved with symbolic analysis (math, physics, engineering, etc.), indeed any discipline seriously trying to generate human knowledge, could attest, definitioins and notations are a long way in finding the right framework for thinking and solving our problems.

Cheers!