“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Free Speech and Dead Soldiers

From The Volokh Conspiracy

Should speech lose constitutional protection when it is "outrageous" and recklessly or intentionally causes "severe emotional distress"? The Supreme Court is facing this question in Snyder v. Phelps, which was argued Wednesday. Its answer will affect far more speech than the repulsive statements of Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., and his followers.

Mr. Phelps's group believes that the deaths of American soldiers, including heterosexual soldiers, are God's punishment for America's toleration of homosexuality. The group often expresses these views at soldiers' funerals, including the one for Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who died in Iraq in 2006. Picketers in the vicinity of the Westminster, Md., service for Snyder carried signs with messages such as "God Hates the USA," "Fag troops," and "Thank God for dead soldiers." Later they posted a Web page condemning Snyder's family for not teaching him the supposedly correct religious beliefs.

Who is the Reverend Fred Phelps? (Take that Ash!)


  1. On holidays in India recently, I saw a sign that said : English speaking Taxi driver.

    I thought, what a good idea, why don’t we have them in our country?


    Prime Minister Harper sent Canadian troops to fight in Afghanistan as a result of the 24 Canadians who died on September 11th, 2001.

    The complete democratic fibre of Canada is being dismantled on the grounds of a threat to national security arising out of the 9/11 incidents.



    1. The Canadian Action Party calls for the immediate establishment of a Royal Commission to examine all evidence and to take sworn testimony so as to ascertain what really happened on September 11, 2001 and to disclose all its findings to the public forthwith, whereas 24 Canadians met with their death as a direct result.

    2. CAP calls for an immediate moratorium on all Canadian anti-terrorist legislation pending the results of this Royal Commission

    9/11 Investigation

  3. .
    I expect that SCOTUS will eventually come down on the side of first amendment rights and deny the plaintiff's suit.

    I can live with that, probably prefer it.

    The solution, in my view, is local ordinances which restrict how closely the whack-jobs can get to the funerals. Local authorities have wide discretion here in terms of avoiding dangerous or inflammatory situations.

    Then if all else fails, I would advocate having some of the mourners beat the shit our of the protesters. It would provide some needed catharsis and no jury of their peers would ever convict.