Apres le deluge, le handwringing

Much hullabaloo recently over Chick-Fil-A and its owner’s bigoted statements about same-sex marriage and gay folk. I’m sure you’ve gotten the memo! I’m sure you have your opinion about Jesus Chicken and the boycotts and whatnot.

So I’m going to talk about the handwringing. Oh, noes! Boston Mayor Thomas Menino discouraged Chick-Fil-A from opening a franchise near the Freedom Trail! Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney told Jesus Chicken Boss Dan Cathy to take a hike and take his intolerance with him! New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn asked the president of NYU to boot its campus Jesus Chicken franchise!

Businessy people are troubled, because FREEDOM:

As a gay man, I’m disheartened by statements like Mr. Cathy’s, with their limited conception of what it means to be a family. “Family” is a treasured — I’ll say it, sacred — word in the gay community. Through decades of modern-day oppression, gay men and lesbians have created families against all odds. Love, loyalty, commitment, mutual support: these things are family. They are scarce virtues that our society should do everything in its power to foster.

But that’s my opinion. And a society that truly believes in individual freedom will respect Mr. Cathy’s right to his views. Those who disagree with him are free to boycott Chick-fil-A in protest. But if our elected officials run Chick-fil-A out of town, they are effectively voting for all of us, regardless of our respective beliefs, and eliminating our individual freedoms.

And freedom, after all, is at the heart of the controversy over same-sex marriage. True individual freedom includes allowing consenting adults to marry the partners they choose, regardless of gender. To those for whom same-sex marriage is personally objectionable, their free choice is simple: Don’t enter into one. But don’t impede the freedom of others to do so. As long as Chick-fil-A operates within the boundaries of the law, municipalities and institutions should leave the decision about whether to eat at Chick-fil-A to individual consumers.

Leaving aside the rather ignorant surprise that elected officials in a representative democracy are voting on behalf of the population at large (were you asleep that day in Social Studies? Were you not allowed to watch Schoolhouse Rock?), this is all handwringing by a business guy.

No one’s taking actual official action to block Chick-Fil-A from opening anywhere as long as they’re in compliance with the law. Wal-Mart’s been blocked from opening in NYC before because of noncompliance with local labor laws, but not because of the Walton family being composed of jackasses. Whole Foods is helmed by a jackass, too, but they’re allowed to operate.

No, what these elected officials are doing is posturing. Politicking. Blustering. Showing their gay and gay-friendly constituents that they don’t approve of Cathy’s comments. Each of them admits that there’s not much they can do to prevent the company from opening or operating a store in their cities, but all of them are entitled to express an opinion. Just like the public figures who’ve supported Cathy are entitled to their opinions.

And each of the letters to Cathy have been pretty careful not to threaten official action against the company, beyond a condemnation of the views of the owner as against the values of the city.

Now, if any of them did take action against Chick-Fil-A, then, yes, I’d have a big problem with them. But none of them are.

So unclench. Your freedom to choose to eat crappy chicken is safe. But you can’t get it on Sundays.

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159 Responses to Apres le deluge, le handwringing

  1. roymacIII says:

    Frankly, I’m glad to see liberal politicians taking a strong stance on the issue for a change, instead of the constant hemming and hawing that usually seems to come up. Not only did Menino come out and say “I support gay rights” but he called them out on prejudice and discrimination. It’s nice to see it called what it is.

  2. amblingalong says:

    No one’s taking actual official action to block Chick-Fil-A from opening anywhere as long as they’re in compliance with the law.

    I’m sorry, this is factually untrue. A number of politicians said they would deny Chick-Fil-A permits to open new franchises in their cities/districts, though some (like the mayor of Boston) walked their comments back after intense bipartisan criticism. It’s unfortunate that this distracted from the issue of Chick-Fil-A’s support of homophobia, but the approbation was entirely deserved.

  3. mxe354 says:

    People, open up your ears, please:

    IF THEY WERE JUST EXPRESSING THEIR VIEWS AND NOT FUNDING ANTI-LGBT ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVELY DISCRIMINATING AGAINST EMPLOYEES THEN WE WOULDN’T BE BOYCOTTING THEM

    There.

  4. zuzu says:

    I haven’t seen anyone threatening to deny a permit. I did see Menino saying he’d do what he could to keep them out, but that’s not the same thing.

    Also, threatening is not the same as actually taking action.

  5. Lauren M says:

    People, open up your ears, please:

    IF THEY WERE JUST EXPRESSING THEIR VIEWS AND NOT FUNDING ANTI-LGBT ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVELY DISCRIMINATING AGAINST EMPLOYEES THEN WE WOULDN’T BE BOYCOTTING THEM

    There.

    yes! freedom to say bigoted things is alive and well. but, it’s still illegal to discriminate against employees based on sexual preference, and that is something that action can and should be taken against.

  6. stop and think says:

    I’m sorry, this is factually untrue. A number of politicians said they would deny Chick-Fil-A permits to open new franchises in their cities/districts, though some (like the mayor of Boston) walked their comments back after intense bipartisan criticism. It’s unfortunate that this distracted from the issue of Chick-Fil-A’s support of homophobia, but the approbation was entirely deserved.

    So they said they would deny? Or actually denied? Big difference.

    One can tell it’s politics simply because the Boston mayor is choosing Chick-Fil-A and not the heavyweight local catholic church to spar with.

  7. amblingalong says:

    yes! freedom to say bigoted things is alive and well. but, it’s still illegal to discriminate against employees based on sexual preference, and that is something that action can and should be taken against.

    Sadly, no. No it’s not. Specific states have outlawed this, but most haven’t and there’s no federal law.

    I haven’t seen anyone threatening to deny a permit.

    Alderman Joe Moreno of Chicago did. If you’re going to be condescending towards people who criticize something, you should probably make sure you have your facts straight first.

    I did see Menino saying he’d do what he could to keep them out, but that’s not the same thing.

    If he said that in his official capacity- which he did- then yeah, it pretty much is. It is utterly inappropriate for the government to attempt to keep a business from opening due to the political beliefs of its owners. I cannot believe we’re having this conversation.

    Also, threatening is not the same as actually taking action.

    Oh, ffs. So it’s OK for the government to threaten to punish people for their speech, so long as it doesn’t follow through? Please.

  8. trishka says:

    it’s a point that cannot be stressed too much – what politicians say and what they can actually do about something can often be worlds apart.

    another example is POTUS saying that he fully supports the construction of the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. the fact of the matter is, there are virtually no federal permits involved, save for a small handful of CoE routine wetland permits, so it doesn’t matter one bit whether POTUS says he is for it or against it. there’s nothing he can do to either stop it or promote it either way. the only thing that’s at stake is the politics.

    same for all these city politicians – what’s at stake is the politics of the thing. and if they get more mileage from their constituencies by saying they’re “going to do everything they can”* to stop chick-fil-a or whatever they’re called from opening a franchise, then so be it.

    *when everything they can do is exactly “nothing”

  9. amblingalong says:

    You said: No one’s taking actual official action to block Chick-Fil-A from opening anywhere as long as they’re in compliance with the law.

    Joe Moreno said: “Because of this man’s ignorance, I will now be denying Chick-fil-A’s permit to open a restaurant in the 1st Ward.”

    So, are you going to admit you were wrong (and hey, maybe take back some of that sarcastic condescension aimed at anyone who thinks the 1st Amendment maybe has some value), or bluster along trying to split hairs about threatening reprisals against constitutionally protected speech versus actually doing so?

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-25/news/ct-met-chicago-chick-fil-a-20120725_1_1st-ward-gay-marriage-ward-alderman

  10. zuzu says:

    Alderman Joe Moreno of Chicago did. If you’re going to be condescending towards people who criticize something, you should probably make sure you have your facts straight first.

    And Moreno’s backpedaled, too. So we have exactly zero permits denied as a result of Cathy’s personal views and statements.

  11. zuzu says:

    So, are you going to admit you were wrong (and hey, maybe take back some of that sarcastic condescension aimed at anyone who thinks the 1st Amendment maybe has some value), or bluster along trying to split hairs about threatening reprisals against constitutionally protected speech versus actually doing so?

    What crawled up your ass and died?

    Also, you should read the link I posted at comment 10. Moreno hasn’t denied a permit and even though he claims not to be backing off, he is.

  12. Lauren M says:

    re: discrimination based on sexual preference

    Sadly, no. No it’s not. Specific states have outlawed this, but most haven’t and there’s no federal law.

    That is very sad. I know that Illinois has outlawed this. I guess I was just assuming it was across the board illegal. How is this not across the board illegal?

  13. noiselull says:

    Simple test to see if free speech is threatened: Ask the experts.
    The ACLU reacted strongly, therefore this shouldn’t be dismissed as just irrelevant pandering.

  14. zuzu says:

    And their reaction is the same as mine: Actively blocking bad.

    So far, no one has actually blocked it.

  15. Rillion says:

    What amblingalong and noiselull said.

    It doesn’t compromise opposition to Chick-fil-A in the slightest to point out that any government official who threatens, panders, blusters, or otherwise makes noises about not allowing the company to operate in his or her precious city because donations to anti-LGBT causes is wrong, wrong, unconscionable, irresponsible, and wrong.

    Let them join the boycotts, if their dislike of the company is so great. I’d be glad to have them. Let them not suggest that it’s in any way appropriate to use their power to forcibly block the restaurants from opening or expanding for ideological reasons.

  16. noiselull says:

    The resemblance of your post to the arguments by conservatives concerning the “Ground Zero Mosque” are telling.

  17. Tim says:

    Actually, cities have an awful lot of power to block businesses from opening up in their jurisdictions, both through outright denial of permits and through more subtle methods such as zoning or creating regulations that make it impractical for the business to operate. They can do it for pretty much any reason they want, or for no damn reason. The business can sue if they think some law or constitutional right was violated.

    The fact that some of these officials have made such explicit statements might give “Jesus Chicken” (cute, but since Jesus never said a single word about the issue, it might be better to call it St. Paul’s Chicken or Leviticus Chicken — I know, doesn’t have the same ring, and I digress) more grounds and evidence for a First Amendment suit. I dunno; I’m not a lawyer, but I do know that city governments screw over people who want to start businesses all the time and there’s not much they can do about it.

  18. Becca says:

    Definitely with amblingalong on this one. Oh noes, does that make me on the “wrong side,” a bad liberal? Or does it perhaps mean that this is a more complex question than that?

    trishka’s point on comment 8 fails because mayors CAN deny permits, as has been stated. This whole “they just threatened to, they didn’t actually do it” would not fly in other arguments, so don’t even pretend.

    Tosh: “I just threatened rape, I didn’t actually do it!”
    Bad employer: “I just threatened to fire you if you took care of your sick child, I didn’t actually do it!” (Perhaps because you didn’t take the time off because of the threat…)

    And if your argument is that Moreno backpedaled… I don’t see your point. “It’s okay to make the threat, but not to actually do it, and in fact even MORE okay because you took back the threat.” Huh?

  19. Fat Steve says:

    IF THEY WERE JUST EXPRESSING THEIR VIEWS AND NOT FUNDING ANTI-LGBT ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVELY DISCRIMINATING AGAINST EMPLOYEES THEN WE WOULDN’T BE BOYCOTTING THEM

    I would. Is there something wrong with boycotting a business who’s owner is a fucking idiot? I wouldn’t give a penny to those homophobic cholesterol pushing Neanderthals, and that is a business lesson that they should learn. If you want people to buy your fried dreck, then don’t insult them, their friends or family.

  20. Fat Steve says:

    And if your argument is that Moreno backpedaled… I don’t see your point. “It’s okay to make the threat, but not to actually do it, and in fact even MORE okay because you took back the threat.” Huh?

    Yeah, free speech, y’know…it’s not just for bigoted saturated fat merchants.

  21. zuzu says:

    The resemblance of your post to the arguments by conservatives concerning the “Ground Zero Mosque” are telling.

    What would that resemblance be? Do spell it out.

    Because I’m not at all advocating actually blocking the opening of any store that doesn’t violate the law. As I said in the post. Did you miss that part?

  22. zuzu says:

    And if your argument is that Moreno backpedaled… I don’t see your point.

    The point is, as I’ve stated many times already, that NO CITY HAS DENIED A PERMIT. No matter how much of a jackass Moreno is, or Cathy is, or Menino is.

    Also, nice minimizing rape there. I’m sure that being told you might not get a permit for your chicken restaurant is just like being threatened with rape.

  23. Becca says:

    The argument was that simply threatening an improper action, even with no intention (or unknown intention) of following through, may still be inappropriate. The 2nd is the example more in line with this one, the 1st was meant to remind us all of a current event that just happened where we made the same argument. Not meant to be a statement on the relative gravity of the threat or action in any of the 3 examples, obviously. Sorry to not make that clear.

  24. Tim says:

    That is very sad. I know that Illinois has outlawed this. I guess I was just assuming it was across the board illegal. How is this not across the board illegal?

    It’s not illegal because in the absence of a federal law, individual states or, in some cases, local jurisdictions, have to add sexual orientation (sometimes they say “sexual preference” or “affectional orientation”) as a covered basis to their state or local civil rights law/ordinance. Which, BTW, protects straight people from being discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation too.

  25. zuzu says:

    The argument was that simply threatening an improper action, even with no intention (or unknown intention) of following through, may still be inappropriate.

    Why, though? Government can only discriminate when it acts, not when politicians talk. It acts when it denies permits, or passes laws, or punishes people.

    Empty rhetoric is empty. Chick-Fil-A and its lawyers know that full well, so it’s not like they are in fear of not being allowed to open their business, and they have more than enough resources to fight if rhetoric becomes action. An employee is not in the same position of power.

  26. Lauren M says:

    That is very sad. I know that Illinois has outlawed this. I guess I was just assuming it was across the board illegal. How is this not across the board illegal?

    It’s not illegal because in the absence of a federal law, individual states or, in some cases, local jurisdictions, have to add sexual orientation (sometimes they say “sexual preference” or “affectional orientation”) as a covered basis to their state or local civil rights law/ordinance. Which, BTW, protects straight people from being discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation too.

    Yeah, that’s what I thought was sad. It was more of a rhetorical – “how is this not federal law yet?” type questioning.

  27. noiselull says:

    Imagine a conservative came up with the idea of torturing meth dealers and then retracted that statement. Would you then lampoon the purveyors of ourage by attempting to satirize FREEDOM (ha ha) and minimizing the incident by pointing out that it had no effect? Liberals shouldn’t adopt the fascism of idea control that the right has exercized so tyrannically.

  28. zuzu says:

    I see. You’re not going to tell me why I’m like the conservatives who wanted to kill Park 51, but you’re going to tell me I’m a fascist. Who wants to torture meth dealers.

    Or something.

    Exactly no one has denied a permit to a Chick-Fil-A based on what Cathy believes. Several politicians have said that they don’t want Chick-Fil-A in their cities; one guy has said he’d deny a permit and has been reminded he can’t do that.

    So, again, what’s the basis for the handwringing about freedom? There has been no violation of anyone’s freedom here. Politicians have had their free speech. So has Cathy. A business has the freedom to contract. Everyone has the right to eat shitty chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, except on Sundays.

  29. Fat Steve says:

    Imagine a conservative came up with the idea of torturing meth dealers and then retracted that statement.

    I would say he clearly wants to torture meth dealers but appreciate that he is willing to not do so because the law disallows it. I think the idea of torturing meth dealers is wrong EVEN if it was legal, so the fact that the ONLY thing stopping him is the law doesn’t change my opinion of him. He’s a fucking idiot. However, he has done nothing wrong.

    If someone doesn’t want a bigoted business in their town, I can appreciate that, but I am happy that given the evidence that such conduct is illegal, said officials are willing to put personal feelings aside and respect the law.

  30. zuzu says:

    Also, because you seem determined to miss it, here’s what the author of the op-ed is freaking out about:

    As long as Chick-fil-A operates within the boundaries of the law, municipalities and institutions should leave the decision about whether to eat at Chick-fil-A to individual consumers.

    Which is… exactly what’s happened. IOW, much ado about nothing.

  31. noiselull says:

    The purpose of the continued backlash isn’t to block the threatsmade against Chick-fil-A. Politicians need to be reminded that the First Amendment is off limits (no matter how popular it is to violate it).

  32. amblingalong says:

    Why, though? Government can only discriminate when it acts, not when politicians talk. It acts when it denies permits, or passes laws, or punishes people.

    Your position is absurd. It’s not wrong for the government to threaten to do violate our rights as long as massive protests force them not to follow through? If you honestly believe this I can’t even imagine how much ibex amines privilege that implies- there are people who don’t get to take government threats lightly.

    Evidence: you’ve moved the goalposts several times- in your first post you said nobody was denying permits, then nobody was following through, so it’s still all good.

  33. amblingalong says:

    Which is… exactly what’s happened. IOW, much ado about nothing.

    I can’t tell if you’re being purposefully deceptive or simply didn’t research the issue before posting, but that’s what happened AFTER PEOPLE LIKE THE AUTHOR OF THE OP-ED FORCED THE POLITICIANS TO BACTRACK.

    Your point: it’s not bad if the government threatens to violate our civil liberties if it doesn’t follow through, and by the way, any criticism of the threat is much ado about nothing (never mind that the only reason there was no follow-through is because of the criticism).

  34. amblingalong says:

    Also, nice minimizing rape there. I’m sure that being told you might not get a permit for your chicken restaurant is just like being threatened with rape.

    Nice display of having no fucking clue how an analogy works.

    I’m really confused because- dead serious- I have cheered on your comments in like 30 threads, and you are acting completely boneheaded here. It’s like it’s not the same Zuzu.

  35. zuzu says:

    The purpose of the continued backlash isn’t to block the threatsmade against Chick-fil-A. Politicians need to be reminded that the First Amendment is off limits (no matter how popular it is to violate it).

    What’s the First Amendment violation? There was no government curtailment of anyone’s free speech. There were a lot of politicians making statements (which they have the right to do), but — and I cannot say this enough times, though you refuse to recognize it — there was no government action. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. No government action means no First Amendment violation.

    Evidence: you’ve moved the goalposts several times- in your first post you said nobody was denying permits, then nobody was following through, so it’s still all good.

    I still say no one is denying permits. Because no one has denied anyone a permit. I originally said no one had denied anyone a permit, you brought Moreno to my attention, and as it turns out, he has not actually denied anyone a permit.

    So, the goalposts remain firmly in place.

    I also said that any action taken to block Chick-Fil-A would be wrong. That the words of Menino, Quinn and Kenney were all for show, and that everyone involved knew damn well there wasn’t a thing any of them could do to actually block Chick-Fil-A (or, rather, that they could take action, but that action would not stand).

    You can choose to ignore all that, or you can choose to make shit up.

  36. zuzu says:

    I’m really confused because- dead serious- I have cheered on your comments in like 30 threads, and you are acting completely boneheaded here. It’s like it’s not the same Zuzu.

    Maybe you don’t understand how politics work?

    Because I don’t see why you keep willfully misinterpreting what I’ve actually said here to make me out to be some kind of meth-dealer-death-cheering shitheel. I’m trying to point out that the author of this op-ed is reacting to something that hasn’t happened as if it has. And you appear to be as well.

  37. Miss S says:

    Why, though? Government can only discriminate when it acts, not when politicians talk. It acts when it denies permits, or passes laws, or punishes people.

    Seriously? Because the shit they say matters. How often do we discuss the shit politicians say in regards to reproductive health? If a government official in my state threatened to outlaw abortion, do I have to wait until he or she does it to get angry? Do I have to wait until my rights are completely taken away before getting pissed off?

    Damn right people should get angry when the people in power threaten to use their power to take away the rights of citizens.

  38. noiselull says:

    So basically all the conservatives who wanted to kill Park 51 is a non-issue becuase nothing happened, right? Rights violations are important to protest whether they occur due to good intentions or bad intentions.

  39. zuzu says:

    Oh, for fuck’s sake.

    You have a right to get pissed off if your rights are threatened, particularly given that legislatures have an unfortunate habit of following through with restrictions on individual rights.

    But NO ONE HAS TAKEN AWAY CHICK FIL A’S RIGHTS HERE. No one has actually SAID they’re going to take away Chick-Fil-A’s rights here, except one guy, and he’s already walked that back. Moreover, his action would have been challenged, and rightfully so.

    Instead, we have a whole lot of people saying that Chick-Fil-A doesn’t represent the values of their cities, and that they urge Chick-Fil-A not to come there (or, they urge the president of a private university to not renew the campus franchise). All people who know damn well there’s not much they can do about actually stopping the chain from coming in.

    Really, is that the same thing as introducing legislation to further restrict abortion rights in a state where such things are not only possible, but likely to pass?

    NOT THE SAME THING AT ALL.

    Moreover, the op-ed I quoted was saying that Chick-Fil-A’s freedom was curtailed, when it quite simply hadn’t been. And wasn’t going to be. No one’s freedom to decide to eat chicken had been made for them by government officials.

  40. amblingalong says:

    Damn right people should get angry when the people in power threaten to use their power to take away the rights of citizens.

    Exactly. Thank you.

    Zuzu- I don’t think you’re any of those things. I think that you missed something in your initial post and are now caught up defending yourself instead of taking a step back and realizing ‘whoops, didn’t know that this had happened!’

    Maybe you really do have a firm conviction that we shouldn’t protest plans to abridge our liberty until they are actually carried out, but I just have a hard time believing that.

  41. zuzu says:

    So basically all the conservatives who wanted to kill Park 51 is a non-issue becuase nothing happened, right?

    Two things:

    1) Since we’re talking about government action, your comparison (and I’m still waiting to hear how I’m just like these conservatives, btw) is inapt. The City approved the building permit. Conservatives wanted them to deny the permit.

    2) More importantly, your comparison is inapt because the conservatives didn’t just bluster. They picketed, they harassed workers at the site (or people just passing through), they attempted to physically block work on the site, and they also sued to get the city to give the building landmark status and deny the permit.

    So, not just talk. Lots of action. Got another analogy? Because this one isn’t working.

  42. zuzu says:

    I think that you missed something in your initial post and are now caught up defending yourself instead of taking a step back and realizing ‘whoops, didn’t know that this had happened!’

    I missed an alderman. By the time you brought it to my attention, it was a non-issue, because someone had buttonholed him and told him he couldn’t do what he did. I’m not sure what the problem you’re having now is. The logic still stands. Chick-Fil-A is free to open businesses everywhere someone has spoken out about them. Just like they were before they were spoken out about.

  43. amblingalong says:

    and they also sued to get the city to give the building landmark status and deny the permit.

    But they didn’t win the lawsuit, and everyone knew they wouldn’t, so according to you we shouldn’t criticize the lawsuit.

  44. noiselull says:

    The op-ed never implies that any restrictions were placed on Chick-fil-A’s business. The freedom in question is free speech, not the freedom of customers to eat chicken. The First Amendment being violated is a big deal, even if the victim is a bigoted idiot.

  45. zuzu says:

    Maybe you really do have a firm conviction that we shouldn’t protest plans to abridge our liberty until they are actually carried out, but I just have a hard time believing that.

    Oh, Jesus. I give up.

  46. zuzu says:

    But they didn’t win the lawsuit, and everyone knew they wouldn’t, so according to you we shouldn’t criticize the lawsuit.

    You have got to be kidding. You really cannot be this dense.

  47. amblingalong says:

    Zuzu- imagine that the mayor of Jackson said he was going to do his best to stop gay couples from being able to find apartments there. After a wave of criticism he is forced to retract his comments. Are you honestly saying that you’d have no civil-liberties objections to this? Essentially, you’d condemn the homophobia but wouldn’t consider it an example of governmental overreach?

  48. zuzu says:

    The First Amendment being violated is a big deal

    What’s the violation?

  49. amblingalong says:

    Ok. We all agree Chick-Fil-A is bigoted and wrong. We all agree that using governmental power to stop it from opening is/would be wrong. As such, I’m inclined to let the rest go, if that’s amenable.

  50. zuzu says:

    Zuzu- imagine that the mayor of Jackson said he was going to do his best to stop gay couples from being able to find apartments there. After a wave of criticism he is forced to retract his comments. Are you honestly saying that you’d have no civil-liberties objections to this? Essentially, you’d condemn the homophobia but wouldn’t consider it an example of governmental overreach?

    I’d be part of the wave of criticism. You seem to think that the criticism wouldn’t have anything to do with the potential bad action.

    But, no, merely stating an intention to do something you probably don’t have the power to do yourself, even in your official capacity, is not actually taking government action. Mayors and council members don’t rule by fiat. The homophobia doesn’t become a civil-rights violation until it’s turned into a government act, such as a resolution or an executive order. Of course you criticize and protest it when he says it, and you point out that the proposed action would be a violation. But if it’s not an action, it’s not a violation. I don’t know how many ways I can explain this until you get it.

  51. amblingalong says:

    1) The government says: we plan to violate the first amendment like so.
    2) People say: don’t do that, it’s bad!
    3)The government says: ok, fine, we won’t follow through.
    4) Zuzu says: I don’t understand what everyone in 2) was complaining about, the government never did anything!

    The olive branch above remains in place, but I wanted to answer your question re: where the violation is

  52. amblingalong says:

    Of course you criticize and protest it when he says it, and you point out that the proposed action would be a violation.

    Ok, now I’m confused, because your entire OP was about how people doing exactly this were stupid.

  53. noiselull says:

    Two things:

    1) Why in your post do you portray the worry about civil liberties as one coming from “Businessy people” and “a business guy?” The ACLU is not a corporate conspiracy?
    2) With regard to the gay apartment seekers introduced by amblingalong, would you dismiss that as “pandering” if it was brought up after the retraction?

  54. Fat Steve says:

    Zuzu- imagine that the mayor of Jackson said he was going to do his best to stop gay couples from being able to find apartments there. After a wave of criticism he is forced to retract his comments. Are you honestly saying that you’d have no civil-liberties objections to this? Essentially, you’d condemn the homophobia but wouldn’t consider it an example of governmental overreach?

    Your grasp of analogy is awesome. How about you imagine that the owner of Wendy’s comes out and says ‘I think that Christianity should be outlawed. People who believe in God are stupid.’? If a handful of local officials in heavily evangelical towns publicly claimed their intention to ban Wendy’s and then looking at the relevant law realized their mistake, I would think, ‘wow at least those fundamentalists didn’t let their beliefs interfere with the law .’ In fact, if that happened I would have a much more positive opinion of conservative lawmakers.

  55. amblingalong says:

    I mean, I agree with everything you wrote in 50), I just can’t reconcile it with the OP and everything you’ve said about how the people reacting to the mayors’/aldermans’ statements are being dumb.

  56. zuzu says:

    ) 4) Zuzu says: I don’t understand what everyone in 2) was complaining about, the government never did anything!

    WRONG. Try again.

    Seriously, are you trying to misunderstand me? Because you’re doing a bang-up job.

    What I’m objecting to is people who are acting as if the government followed through on the threats when it didn’t. Or, acting as if the government actually *made* threats when it didn’t. Okay? Are you with me? Because a politician yapping =/= government action.

    Maybe you’re still hung up on this alderman. Because here’s what happened:

    1) Menino, Quinn and Kenney all say that Dan Cathy is a bigot and Chick-Fil-A can’t discriminate in their cities, so the company might want to re-think locating in their cities.
    2) Some people say, hey, that’s a violation of free speech!
    3) M, Q and K all say, no, it’s not. We’re expressing our opinions and we were really careful about representing that we had actual power to keep them out. Fact is, we can’t do squat, so enjoy your chicken.
    4) Op-ed writer ignores this, gets up in arms about FREEDOM OF SPEECH!
    5) Zuzu mocks op-ed writer for completely missing that there was never any violation of free speech, because a violation of free speech requires government action.

    In the case of the alderman,

    1) Alderman says he’s going to deny permit
    2) Various people say he can’t do that
    3) Alderman admits that, yeah, I can’t and I’m not going to but I’m going to pretend I didn’t admit I was wrong
    4) There is no violation of free speech because there is no government action, and government action is required for a First Amendment violation
    5) Op-ed writer acts as if there is
    6) Zuzu misses this case in her writeup
    7) Commenter brings this case to Zuzu’s attention to tell her she’s wrong
    8) Zuzu reads case, decides it doesn’t change underlying point, because there was still no violation of free speech because there was no government action
    9) Stupid arguments ensue
    10) Zuzu loses mind
    11) Zuzu starts to wonder why she agreed to this guest blogging gig
    12) Zuzu needs to walk the fuck away from her computer, because she can’t believe she needs to keep repeating the very basic fact that without government action, there is no free speech violation, and politicians yapping =/= government action.

  57. zuzu says:

    1) Why in your post do you portray the worry about civil liberties as one coming from “Businessy people” and “a business guy?”

    Go to the fucking article and scroll down to the author’s information. This was not written by the fucking ACLU.

    2) With regard to the gay apartment seekers introduced by amblingalong, would you dismiss that as “pandering” if it was brought up after the retraction?

    Would I dismiss what as pandering? You’re missing words here.

  58. zuzu says:

    I just can’t reconcile it with the OP and everything you’ve said about how the people reacting to the mayors’/aldermans’ statements are being dumb.

    Let’s leave out the alderman for now, because he’s confusing you, apparently.

    Let’s go back to the OP. I gave examples of Menino, Kenney and Quinn. What do they have in common?

    Not one of them ever stated an intention of violating any free speech rights of Chick-Fil-A. Not one of them violated any free speech rights of Chick-Fil-A. All of them admitted they had no power to violate the free speech rights of Chick-Fil-A.

    The people I said were dumb were those acting as if these people were violating the free speech rights of Chick-Fil-A. Because? They didn’t. They were posturing.

    I also said that it would be wrong for them to violate the free speech rights of Chick-Fil-A.

    Now let’s turn to our friend the alderman. He apparently did intend to violate the free speech rights of Chick-Fil-A. Someone told him he couldn’t. So he didn’t. Were the free speech rights of Chick-Fil-A violated? They were not.

    It would have been wrong had he done so. But he didn’t. And, posturing.

    Are we clear now?

  59. Fat Steve says:

    1) The government says: we plan to violate the first amendment like so.
    2) People say: don’t do that, it’s bad!
    3)The government says: ok, fine, we won’t follow through.
    4) Zuzu says: I don’t understand what everyone in 2) was complaining about, the government never did anything!

    A more accurate description:

    1) ONE politician says ‘I am so offended by Chik Fil A’s views that I want to prevent them from getting a building permit.’
    2) People say : Don’t do that, it violates the 1st Amendment.
    3) Politician says ‘Wow, I made those comments in haste- I wouldn’t want to violate the 1st amendment. I’m not going to do that. Too bad, because that Cathy dude sounds a complete prick.’
    4) Well, what zuzu said is right up there, so I don’t need to paraphrase it.

  60. amblingalong says:

    What is this I don’t even… Ok, well we agree homophobia is bad, we agree infringing on civil liberties is bad, and I’m just going to chalk everything else up to evil context-eating Internet demons and move on.

  61. amblingalong says:

    Ps- if we could avoid using sexual anatomy as slurs, that’d be fantastic.

  62. Miss S says:

    Ok, I think I read your post and subsequent comments as “people shouldn’t be upset about threats to civil liberties” as opposed to “people shouldn’t be upset about free speech violations since none occurred.”

    You’re right that none occurred, and I agree. I also think that it’s a good thing that people got upset over the threats made. I’m trying to think of an instance where a politician publicly states that they would discriminate against a group of people, but they can’t, so they won’t, and people don’t get upset about it. I’m with you as far as it not being a violation of free speech, but people in power shouldn’t be publicly stating that they would strip away rights if they could. That’s all kinds of fucked up.

    I think we all agree- no free speech violations occured, and threatening civil liberties is not cool.

  63. DouglasG says:

    What saddens me here is that a lot of people think that the company being within the law equates to the company not discriminating in employment – completely missing both how much discrimination will still get by the letter of the law and how easy it is to discriminate without being caught.

  64. DouglasG says:

    Sorry, I hit Post too quickly – not commenters here, but people elsewhere. I saw almost that exact sentence quoted from a CFA semi-supporter, that it didn’t matter what he thought when the main thing was that the company didn’t discriminate.

  65. snorkellingfish says:

    [I]magine that the mayor of Jackson said he was going to do his best to stop gay couples from being able to find apartments there. After a wave of criticism he is forced to retract his comments. Are you honestly saying that you’d have no civil-liberties objections to this? Essentially, you’d condemn the homophobia but wouldn’t consider it an example of governmental overreach?

    Can I just take a moment to say that I don’t think that these two situations are really analogous, when you consider the effect of the statements?

    In the case we’re discussing, no harm was caused. In your hypothetical, harm is caused because people talking about discriminating against gay people in a world where gay people are routinely discriminated against adds to the weight of shit we have to face. In this hypothetical, the words themselves have the power to cause harm. In the Chick-Fil-A case, they didn’t.

    I think in these cases we’re all debating back and forth, we’ve got to remember that distinction. Talking about prohibiting building a mosque in a world where Muslim people already face Islamophobia causes harm and has the power to incite further harm. Talking about torturing people causes harm. Talking about preventing a fast food chain from selling fast food in a particular region (without acting on those words) doesn’t really cause harm.

    Can I offer a different hypothetical (because I’m curious of people’s views)? If one of the mayors had said something like:
    Chick-Fil-A has a history of discriminating against LGBT people. Such discrimination is illegal in this city. Given this, I think that it would be inappropriate to give planning permission to a company that has shown an unwillingness to comply with this city’s rules.
    would that be okay? If the suggestions were a response to actions rather than just speech and were related to actual laws that businesses in the city have to follow, would that be less problematic?

    I’m asking because I have a different relationship to freedom of speech to a lot of people here. Where I live, we have no express right to freedom of speech (though, in practice, it doesn’t tend to be limited). I see it as a right that has to be weighed and balanced against other rights, including people’s rights to not be vilified, harassed or discriminated against on grounds such as race, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. I guess what I’m saying is, words have power and people seem to get away with saying lots of hateful stuff because freedom of speech and oppressed groups get hurt as a result.

  66. Fat Steve says:

    Ps- if we could avoid using sexual anatomy as slurs, that’d be fantastic.

    Is this a thing? I’ve never heard of a blanket objection to genitalia based insults. What’s the basis for your objection? I should also point out that I’ve never actually met anyone who used the noun ‘prick’ to mean anything other than a jerky guy or a slight puncture.

  67. amblingalong says:

    Is this a thing? I’ve never heard of a blanket objection to genitalia based insults. What’s the basis for your objection?

    Gendered insults are problematic, and though (hopefully) everyone here knows not to conflate genital configuration with gender, that doesn’t mean the two don’t have a strong dialectical link- calling someone a ‘pussy’ isn’t rendered acceptable by the existence of trans* men.

    Anyways, I’m sure some people will argue that gendered insults that target men are fine, since women are the oppressed class here, but my take is that as long as we resort to gendered language to attack people, we’re reinforcing problematic ideologies. What, exactly, is the metaphorical link between a penis and a mean person, or a vagina and a weak person? I think we be better of sticking to variations on ‘jerk,’ or failing that, ‘asshole’ which at least everyone has.

    I’m not complaining of some mythical reverse discrimination, or whining about teh menz- I just think gendered insults cause more problems than they’re worth.

  68. stop and think says:

    I’m not complaining of some mythical reverse discrimination, or whining about teh menz

    Nope. But you are indeed being overly sensitive. “Prick”? Seriously. With soo much to choose from on here. All insults are equal, but some are more equal than others, eh???

  69. amblingalong says:

    Nope. But you are indeed being overly sensitive. “Prick”? Seriously. With soo much to choose from on here. All insults are equal, but some are more equal than others, eh???

    Uhhh… what? No. Prick is specifically a gendered insult, which is problematic.

    And really? Overly sensitive? Go to hell.

  70. Chiara says:

    well prick is not that bad. It’s not gendered, it just happens to refer to a male-bodied body part. like twat or fanny in the UK refers to female-bodied body parts. There’s no sexism behind them.

  71. Fat Steve says:

    Uhhh… what? No. Prick is specifically a gendered insult, which is problematic.

    And really? Overly sensitive? Go to hell.

    You’re really beginning to sound like a bit of a boob (OH NOES! GENDERD INSULTZ!)

  72. roymacIII says:

    See, this is the sort of thing that falls under “don’t be a jerk.” If someone says “Hey, I don’t really like gendered insults.” why go out of your way to use one and mock that person for not liking them?

    “Prick” is a gendered insult in the same way that using a woman’s body parts as an insult is. Over here in the states, at least, we tend to use women’s body parts as insults against people who are acting weak, and men’s body parts as an insult to people who are being aggressive. So, yeah, there’s a gendered element there. I can’t speak to other cultures, as I’m not a part of them.

    Also: the whole “you’re complaining about *this* when there’s so much else” line of reasoning doesn’t fly. Yes, there are bigger problems than using “cock” as an insult, but most of us are quite capable of working on multiple issues, and it doesn’t actually take much time to say “Yo, gendered insults are kind of not cool.” Because they’re not.

    Also, for the record, “boob” as an insult predates “boob” as a body part by several decades.

  73. Fat Steve says:

    See, this is the sort of thing that falls under “don’t be a jerk.” If someone says “Hey, I don’t really like gendered insults.” why go out of your way to use one and mock that person for not liking them?

    “Prick” is a gendered insult in the same way that using a woman’s body parts as an insult is. Over here in the states, at least, we tend to use women’s body parts as insults against people who are acting weak, and men’s body parts as an insult to people who are being aggressive. So, yeah, there’s a gendered element there. I can’t speak to other cultures, as I’m not a part of them.

    You do know that Steve is a man’s name, right? I’m a cis male and have been carrying around said sexual organ since birth, so surely it’s not anti-male (or misandrist or whatever you call it) for me to use the term ‘prick.’ And as far as you equating me using a ‘prick’ with using ‘women’s body parts as insults’, there is a huge difference that I won’t even bother to explain.

  74. With Love says:

    We can all understand that “you’re such a cunt” or “don’t be such a pussy” implies that there’s something wrong with a vulva/vagina. Likewise, “don’t be such a dick” or “you’re such a prick” likewise suggests that there’s something wrong with a penis. Within the patriarchy, those terms aren’t equal because they lack the full weight of an egregious history of misogyny, but it’s still fucked-up to use someone’s genitals/gender against them.

    Asshole, however, is fine, because it’s an equal-opportunity insult.

  75. With Love says:

    surely it’s not anti-male (or misandrist or whatever you call it) for me to use the term ‘prick.’ And as far as you equating me using a ‘prick’ with using ‘women’s body parts as insults’, there is a huge difference that I won’t even bother to explain.

    Gendered insults don’t automatically become acceptable depending on which gender uses them.

    Yes, there is a great disparity between calling someone a cunt and calling someone a prick. That disparity doesn’t make “prick” okay.

  76. roymacIII says:

    You do know that Steve is a man’s name, right? I’m a cis male and have been carrying around said sexual organ since birth, so surely it’s not anti-male (or misandrist or whatever you call it) for me to use the term ‘prick.’ And as far as you equating me using a ‘prick’ with using ‘women’s body parts as insults’, there is a huge difference that I won’t even bother to explain.

    As someone who works with women named Daryl, Evan, and Michael, I’ve learned not to assume someone’s sex by their name. Doubly so on the interwebs.

    That being said, why does it matter if you’re a man?
    Also, where did I say it was misandrist?

    I’m not pulling some “Men have it so bad” bs. I’m not saying that calling someone a cock has the same impact that calling someone a pussy does. I am saying that using men’s body parts to insult people is still using a gendered insult, and I think it’s actually pretty reasonable to not like gendered insults. A prick is treated like the opposite of a pussy. One is someone too weak, the other is someone too aggressive. It’s not a matter of “poor men!” It’s a matter of “this reinforces some kind of fucked up attitudes about sex and sexuality.”

  77. roymacIII says:

    My response is in mod, but With Love says what I was saying, and probably more clearly.

  78. Tim says:

    What saddens me here is that a lot of people think that the company being within the law equates to the company not discriminating in employment – completely missing both how much discrimination will still get by the letter of the law and how easy it is to discriminate without being caught.

    Yes this (sorry, I used your original because it had the whole thought, I realized you clarified “not these commenters.” And in fact, the discrimination issue may not be just hypothetical with CFA, or only a matter of CEO Cathy’s personal opinion. There is an actual suit against CFA by a woman who claims her manager told her she was being fired so she would go be a SAHM. And there may be others.

    If CFA or any other company wanted a permit to open in a particular city, they would have to go through all the approval processes. And people, both city concilpersons and ordinary citizens who heard about it would have the right to say, “wait a minute, they have a really bad record of discriminating against people.” Or say, polluting the groundwater, or they closed another facility in another city and left a mess, and so on. The city council would have every right to schedule them into a city council meeting to consider their permit, have them get up and present their plans, and ask them about these issues. Let citizens speak up and ask about the issues or protest against their coming to town. More often than not, it is an empty sop to the citizens and the thing gets approved anyway. But still, the city council could vote to deny the permit or impose conditions that they had to meet. It happens all the time. In this case, the alderman who said he would vote against them even before any of this happened might have to recuse himself.

    Can I offer a different hypothetical (because I’m curious of people’s views)? If one of the mayors had said something like:
    “Chick-Fil-A has a history of discriminating against LGBT people. Such discrimination is illegal in this city. Given this, I think that it would be inappropriate to give planning permission to a company that has shown an unwillingness to comply with this city’s rules.”
    would that be okay? If the suggestions were a response to actions rather than just speech and were related to actual laws that businesses in the city have to follow, would that be less problematic?

    Yes, exactly, that would be totally OK. And what the alderman in question probably should have said, unless he really didn’t think he would ever actually be voting on it and was just pandering to a constituency.

  79. Bruce From Missouri says:

    I’m mildly surprised that not one has pointed out that we don’t know yet whether anyone of these politicians are going to follow through on their threats…this controversy is only a week old. I kinda doubt that Chick Fil-A has applied for any permits to open restaurants in these cities. So we don’t actually know yet.

    Personally, though, If a city can ban Hooters because family values!, I don’t see why they can’t ban Chick Fil-A for the same reason.

  80. Donna L says:

    Is it OK to call someone a shmuck?

  81. zuzu says:

    I’m mildly surprised that not one has pointed out that we don’t know yet whether anyone of these politicians are going to follow through on their threats…this controversy is only a week old. I kinda doubt that Chick Fil-A has applied for any permits to open restaurants in these cities. So we don’t actually know yet.

    Actually, we do know.

    First, only one guy made a threat to deny a permit. He has since said he’s not going to deny the application (which has been in process for months now, hung up on parking and traffic concerns). He could still act, I suppose, but he’d look like a bigger idiot than he already does.

    NYC already has a CFA, at NYU. Which is the one Christine Quinn asked the president of NYU to boot. She has no power to make NYU do anything, though.

    There is a proposed CFA in Boston, near the Freedom Trail, which is why Menino mentioned the Freedom Trail. He’s also said he isn’t going to block anything that follows the law.

    Philadelphia has seven CFAs, including one at the city-owned airport. That one is on a month-to-month lease right now. The only proposed action here?

    Kenney went on to say that he will introduce a resolution “condemning you and your company for this expression of intolerance and hate” at the next City Council meeting.

    That meeting, by the way, is Sept. 13, because Council is now on summer recess.

    He can introduce all the condemnation resolutions he wants, but he can’t act alone, and a condemnation is not the same thing as a denial of a permit.

    Can I offer a different hypothetical (because I’m curious of people’s views)? If one of the mayors had said something like:
    “Chick-Fil-A has a history of discriminating against LGBT people. Such discrimination is illegal in this city. Given this, I think that it would be inappropriate to give planning permission to a company that has shown an unwillingness to comply with this city’s rules.”
    would that be okay? If the suggestions were a response to actions rather than just speech and were related to actual laws that businesses in the city have to follow, would that be less problematic?

    That’s going to depend on the nature of the discrimination. If it’s just using corporate funds to finance hate groups, that’s speech, and there’s not much anyone can do about it. But if it’s employment discrimination, the cities can absolutely make sure that their antidiscrimination laws are followed.

  82. rhian says:

    As an aside: I also don’t like sexual anatomy insults because I think they’re sex-negative. When you appropriate a word to mean something bad, you imply the original thing was bad (see: “gay”). What’s so bad about pussies, pricks, and assholes? I’ve been trying to amass a collection of insults that do not impart negative connotations on sexual anatomy, but it’s tough.

  83. Drahill says:

    To me, the problem isn’t will they or won’t they follow through. The presence of the threat, at all, now can create an inference of discrimination that could create serious litigation where none would have existed before.

    Let’s say in one year, where Merino is still Mayor (or when the same alderman are still around), Chik Fil A applies for the sought-after permits. They get denied for a totally legit, legal reason. Well, the problem is that now, Chik Fil A can turn around and allege bias instead of having to appeal the old-fashioned way. And now they can actually point to actual comments. So basically, even a totally lawful denial could become a serious shitstorm for any aforementioned city.

    I am not going to try to argue that any violation has happened – it’s pretty clear it did not and has not. However, I can still want to slap the taste out of any left-leaning politician’s mouth for being so stupid as to even say anything, since their words have the potential to create legal shitstorms down the road – and potentially create a “go anywhere you want” pass for Chik Fil A.

  84. zuzu says:

    Is it OK to call someone a shmuck?

    If calling someone a shmuck is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

    Case in point: Fat Steve, while we can all certainly disagree on whether anatomical slurs based on male anatomy are in-bounds or not, you’re really doing yeoman’s work at providing an example of the application of the term you used to behavior.

    IOW, don’t make Mama get the banhammer.

  85. zuzu says:

    To me, the problem isn’t will they or won’t they follow through. The presence of the threat, at all, now can create an inference of discrimination that could create serious litigation where none would have existed before.

    You don’t go to court on an inference. You go to court on a violation.

    We have none. As I said, there are either permits in process or stores in existence in the cities at issue. If permits are denied, there are certainly grounds for a suit. Which is why I said that CFA and its lawyers know that this is all meaningless rhetoric.

  86. Fat Steve says:

    Case in point: Fat Steve, while we can all certainly disagree on whether anatomical slurs based on male anatomy are in-bounds or not, you’re really doing yeoman’s work at providing an example of the application of the term you used to behavior.

    IOW, don’t make Mama get the banhammer.

    Did I really say something that annoyed you? I apologize for the name calling derail, but that really was down to others. I honestly was trying my best. I guess I don’t even know when I’m being a anymore.

  87. Drahill says:

    Zuzu, I think you misread me. I was noting that IF a legal, rightful denial were to occur, a politician’s statements could be used to contest that denial. Of course CFA knows this is toothless. However, you probably know as well as I that lawyers take meaningless rhetoric and ride it to the bank all the damn time. And once they get TO court, that’s when the inference comes in. I’m not sure where you got that an inference can form the basis of a case. But it sure can come in once you have a case.

  88. ShelbyC says:

    What, precisely, it the point of this post? To say that politicians shouldn’t be criticized for merely threatening to take official action against people because of their views, as long as they don’t actually follow through? If so, I doubt many supporters of free speech would agree. Threats of official action certainly have a chilling effect on speech.

  89. zuzu says:

    The point of this post is to mock a concern-trolling op-ed which acts as if there has been a violation of free speech when there has not been.

    Let me reiterate: There hasn’t been a violation of free speech. With the exception of one Chicago alderman, there hasn’t even been a threat of a violation of free speech. And he was criticized, and backed off. But let’s not act as if the threat became real action.

    We absolutely should criticize attempts to violate free speech. AS I SAID IN THE POST. And look! There was criticism. Boo-yah. But we should also be careful to assess threats, and not act as if contigencies are actualities.

  90. amblingalong says:

    It’s not a matter of “poor men!” It’s a matter of “this reinforces some kind of fucked up attitudes about sex and sexuality.”

    Exactly. Thank you.

    You do know that Steve is a man’s name, right?

    Oh, FFS.

  91. amblingalong says:

    Is it OK to call someone a shmuck?

    …wow, I had to look that one up. Learn something every day, I guess.

  92. ShelbyC says:

    The point of this post is to mock a concern-trolling op-ed which acts as if there has been a violation of free speech when there has not been.

    But we should also be careful to assess threats, and not act as if contigencies are actualities.

    I don’t see where the op-ed acts as if there has been an actual, as opposed to threatened, violation of free speech. The op-ed says, “But if our elected officials run Chick-fil-A out of town…” To me, this suggests that the threat is indeed a contingency. And I don’t see any other part of the op-ed that suggests that an actual, as opposed to threatened, free speech violation has occured.

  93. amblingalong says:

    I’ve been trying to amass a collection of insults that do not impart negative connotations on sexual anatomy, but it’s tough.

    In terms of insulting people’s comments on blogs, a fantastic resource:

    http://ergofabulous.org/luther/

    Some are of a decidedly religious bent (for example: “I can with good conscience consider you a fart-ass and an enemy of God;” “Just as the devil is disorderly and jumbles things together, so your writings are equally disordered and mixed up, so that it is exceedingly annoying to read and difficult to remember what you write”) but most are widely applicable (“Your words are so foolishly and ignorantly composed that I cannot believe you understand them;” “Such loose, lame, empty talk, set forth on the basis of your own reason and idiosyncrasy, would lead me to believe first of all that your opinions amount to nothing;” “I beg you put your glasses on your nose, or blow your nose a bit, to make your head lighter and the brain clearer”).

  94. ArielNYC says:

    I agree with the piece. This is the best kind of political posturing: using your bully pulpit to shame and raise awareness, as well as shifting the political norm leftward and making anti-gay discrimination contemptible rather than an acceptable norm. It has also raised awareness of chick-a-fil’s massive political donations to the Family Research Council and other anti-gay organizations. More posturing please.

  95. zuzu says:

    I don’t see where the op-ed acts as if there has been an actual, as opposed to threatened, violation of free speech. The op-ed says, “But if our elected officials run Chick-fil-A out of town…” To me, this suggests that the threat is indeed a contingency.

    By the time this ran, the one guy who’d made a threat had already stood down. The other three had never made an actual threat.

    So, there was no effort to run anyone out of town, yet the op-ed is framed as if there is an ongoing effort to do so.

  96. Donna L says:

    http://ergofabulous.org/luther/

    Given what group was the target of Luther’s most notorious and vituperative insults, this as problematic (seriously so) as all hell. Come on. The Shakespeare insult generator is far less offensive.

  97. amblingalong says:

    Given what group was the target of Luther’s most notorious and vituperative insults, this as problematic (seriously so) as all hell. Come on. The Shakespeare insult generator is far less offensive.

    From the tone and content, I assumed that would be theologians with whom he disagreed? There’s not much that any group could object to in ‘fart-ass.’

    I’m assuming I’m missing something, so sorry in advance for the gap in my knowledge (I think).

  98. amblingalong says:

    Oh, hey, just kidding. I hadn’t placed the writer for some stupid reason. I don’t think any of those quotes were actually actually aimed at Jewish people, but I should have picked something else anyways. Sorry.

  99. Joe from an alternate universe says:

    Zuzu,

    I agree with what you say, but it’s scary that politicians have to be reminded of what is constitutional. You’d think they would have known, before the threats to block permits, that they couldn’t do that. And I actually don’t think they did know that until they looked into the process and were told it’s not legal. So, I do think they actually indended to try.

    And politicians have made serious and sometimes successful attempts to use government power to keep Walmart out, mostly by creating carefully tailored zoning requirements aimed just at Walmart, while exempting everyone else.

    Howard Stern is a blowhard and way too obsessed with sex. If someone doesn’t like him don’t listen to him.

    Rush Limbaugh is an arogant blowhard as well. If someone doesn’t like him, don’t listen to him.

    If someone doesn’t like Cathy’s outdated religious views, get your chicken sandwich at KFC or Popeye’s.

  100. Joe from an alternate universe says:

    Is it OK to call someone a shmuck?

    Not if you’re Lenny Bruce, LOL.

  101. Joe from an alternate universe says:

    Gendered insults are problematic, and though (hopefully) everyone here knows not to conflate genital configuration with gender, that doesn’t mean the two don’t have a strong dialectical link- calling someone a ‘pussy’ isn’t rendered acceptable by the existence of trans* men.

    And to reiterate what’s already been said: schmuck and putz are used all the time, not to mention prick, and the ever popular dick head, which is the same as putz I think. And most people laugh. All have negative connotations.

    Now I’ll stop side-tracking this thread.

  102. snorkellingfish says:

    Howard Stern is a blowhard and way too obsessed with sex. If someone doesn’t like him don’t listen to him.

    Rush Limbaugh is an arogant blowhard as well. If someone doesn’t like him, don’t listen to him.

    If someone doesn’t like Cathy’s outdated religious views, get your chicken sandwich at KFC or Popeye’s.

    I find this somewhat patronising. The issue isn’t disliking what people say. The issue is people actively campaigning to limit our rights. I can do everything in my power to try to ignore homophobes, but that won’t stop me being affected by whatever laws those homophobes successfully lobby for. It won’t stop me being hurt if someone who listens to those homophobes decides to escalate it to physical violence. It won’t stop some gay kid who has little support from elsewhere from feeling like he or she is the problem. I know you mean well, but the problem isn’t that us queer people are too sensitive – the problem is that people still think that saying shit like that is acceptable and that we should just shut up and take whatever crumbs straight people throw to us.

    Honestly, I don’t really have any tears for if homophobes lose some business or aren’t allowed in some communities. I get that I probably should hold some shining principle about freedom of speech, but I don’t have that level of caring for people who hate me for being gay. If people want to send some message that no homophobes are allowed, my reaction is, “Good on them.” There’s a saying: your rights end where my rights begin. I don’t see why that should apply differently to freedom of speech compared to other rights.

    I get the whole slippery slope thing, but I honestly can’t get worked up about this case. Maybe I’m a bad progressive for putting my right to not have to deal with bigots above their right to be bigoted. I don’t know.

  103. amblingalong says:

    I get that I probably should hold some shining principle about freedom of speech, but I don’t have that level of caring for people who hate me for being gay

    A+ in missing the point. It’s not because we care about the assholes that freedom of speech is important, it’s because one mans hero is another mans asshole, and we don’t trust the people in power to determine who’s speech is legitimate and who’s is not. And yeah, no liberal should be ok with that level of institutional control over activism.

    There’s a saying: your rights end where my rights begin. I don’t see why that should apply differently to freedom of speech compared to other rights

    A) there’s no right to not have people be jerks to you
    B) there’s no way to write this law that isn’t open to massive abuse. Every major social justice movement in the history of everything has been unsettling- even offensive- to those in power. That actually kinda the point. So to give those in power the right to determine what type of speech shouldn’t be allowed is idiotic.

    If you let this type of thing slide, you can’t really stop another town from refusing to give a permit to a store run by an atheist, because the mayor finds their criticism of religion offensive.

  104. lambda says:

    I do wonder whether the people proposing that politicians should decide which political views are necessary in order to open a business understand why people who defend free speech defend free speech. If you understand why the ACLU defended the right of Neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, what point do you hope to establish by pointing out that Cathy’s speech is reprehensible? Do you think that Cathy’s donations to the FRC are incomparably worse than those of Nazis, or do you suppose that the patent awfulness of the speech is just not the point?

    An alarming number of commenters seem willing to embrace the view that endorsing free speech for assholes like Cathy might be a nice thing to do, but is not obligatory since Cathy holds really bad views. That is not, and has never been, the point of freedom of speech. If you want the state to punish Cathy for his political views, you are not committed to a state where just this once we punish a bad man for his opinions and donations; you are committed to a state where punishing people for their opinions is fair game as soon as your team gets into power. This is not an abstract hypothetical: look through this list of cases and consider how many of them involve people like war resisters, socialists, labor organizers, protesting students, sex educators, librarians who curated gay and lesbian literature, journalists exposing brutality in the South in the 60s, etc. etc. etc. Every one of the counter-parties in those suits thought that the other group’s speech constituted a malicious threat, and tried to use the machinery of the state to stop them.

    If you think it’s ok for the state to stonewall Cathy for his views, presumably would also be ok for a conservative city council to deny (say) a permit for an office rental to any of the above groups? Keep in mind that such people think that the above groups are at least as harmful to a decent way of life as we think Cathy is.

  105. lambda says:

    your rights end where my rights begin. I don’t see why that should apply differently to freedom of speech compared to other rights.

    With much respect, it doesn’t. Let’s just stipulate that Cathy’s speech is bad and has bad effects. We agree on that. The question is whether Cathy’s speech meets the standard of urging “imminent lawless action”. Unless I’m unfamiliar with some facts of the case, it doesn’t. It is merely reprehensible. Unless you can demonstrate that Cathy was attempting to bring about the commission of a crime, he is allowed to say what he wants.

    Why not apply a looser standard and argue that because Cathy is speaking in favor of a bad idea with deleterious effects, he should be punished? We tried that before, in Schenk v. US, which established the now-obsolete “clear and present danger” test: Schenk was a war resister who was arrested for distributing pamphlets urging opposition to the draft. What everyone forgets about that case is that the court agreed that he did constitute a clear and present danger, so Schenk went to jail for ten years. We now (since Brandenberg v. Ohio) insist it be shown that the speech actually immediately urged a specific crime before locking the speaker up or otherwise interfering with them.

  106. CisMale3 says:

    I agree that Cathy should be allowed to share his voice in the current debate about gay marriage, regardless of how regressive it is. But the President and COO has also used his considerable financial resources to support those insidious “pray away the gay” camps. There is demonstrable evidence that these types of camps do nothing but destroy the emotional stability of the individual. They ought to be recognized for what they are: acts of terrorism against American citizens. Here in California, the state recently passed a law banning any type of psychological re-programming based on sexuality (the first of its kind in the country, hopefully not the last). Allowing this restaurant to exist in public spaces (here in California, at least) ought to be seen for what it is: the tacit support of an organization that supports activity which has been identified as illegal in the state of California. Of course, smoking weed is still technically illegal here too, so do with that what you will.

  107. Fat Steve says:

    There’s this bible passage, Proverbs 25:21 ‘If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat.’

    All opponents of Chick-Fil should pop down for a free sandwich. Make sure to point out that a commandment from the lord is better than a coupon.

  108. lambda says:

    Clearly, if people commit crimes or torts they should be dealt with accordingly. But we have mechanisms called courts for that. Going after (rightly) disfavored people through zoning board hearings, besides being unwieldy and wrong, would only underscore the fact that you don’t have a strong enough case to bring to a court. If it is illegal to donate to groups who do illegal things, charge Cathy with that. That is totally orthogonal to decisions about how zoning permits get allocated. None of us would prefer to live in a world where cities get to decide whether you are a Good Person before they discharge basic civil duties on your behalf.

    Again, I would suggest that supporters of these tactics ask themselves a basic Kantian question: would I be willing to subject myself to the principles by which we run Cathy out of town? Should business owners who donate to NORML or Planned Parenthood be subject to the same sort of scrutiny when applying for licenses? What if Planned Parenthood gets outlawed, de jure or de facto, in Mississippi?

    I would recommend Glenn Greenwald’s discussion of this issue.

  109. FYouMudFlaps says:

    Ok, and what about the “freedom” for mayors to run their city as they see fit? Who cares about the rights of this shitbox company which does not simply utter hideous musings but actually donates to known hate groups? Think people. I would damn well support a mayor’s right to block a company from going there if it is involved with hate groups, which may even be against city ordinances etc regarding discrimination and the sort. Sheesh.

  110. lambda says:

    There is no such thing as the “freedom” for mayors to run “their” cities as they see fit. Mayors in the US are elected executives in a constitutional republic, and their actions are circumscribed by a constitution.

    If you want to convince people of the correctness of your view, you would do well to start addressing their arguments.

  111. Lauren says:

    There is no such thing as the “freedom” for mayors to run “their” cities as they see fit. Mayors in the US are elected executives in a constitutional republic, and their actions are circumscribed by a constitution.

    They are also beholden to city councils, planning committees, zoning committees, etc. They have no ability to act alone.

  112. Lauren says:

    I agree with what you say, but it’s scary that politicians have to be reminded of what is constitutional. You’d think they would have known, before the threats to block permits, that they couldn’t do that.

    It’s posturing. This is politics.

  113. lambda says:

    It’s posturing. This is politics.

    The next time the other party does something like this, we will no doubt take this as consolation.

  114. snorkellingfish says:

    A) there’s no right to not have people be jerks to you
    B) there’s no way to write this law that isn’t open to massive abuse. Every major social justice movement in the history of everything has been unsettling- even offensive- to those in power. That actually kinda the point. So to give those in power the right to determine what type of speech shouldn’t be allowed is idiotic.

    If you let this type of thing slide, you can’t really stop another town from refusing to give a permit to a store run by an atheist, because the mayor finds their criticism of religion offensive.

    As I acknowledged – I get the slippery slope argument. I know that freedom of speech matters. I understand that we need to ensure that right extends to people, however disagreeable their views are. I just don’t believe that freedom of speech is a shining paragon that is automatically more important than other rights. For example, where I live, one limit on freedom of speech is:

    (1) It is unlawful for a person, by a public act, to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of persons on the ground of the homosexuality of the person or members of the group.

    I believe that opens the door to a civil action, though I could be wrong. More serious forms can lead to a penalty of imprisonment for six months or a fine of $1100 for an individual or $11000 for a corporation. It’s a balancing of rights as a result of recognition that words encouraging extreme homophobia can also encourage homophobic violence and other forms of discrimination.

    Not everyone will agree that such laws are appropriate, but I think we’d all agree that there is a balancing act between what’s covered by freedom of speech and what can be prohibited under other legislation. For example, threatening to kill someone is a crime, as is conspiring with someone else to commit murder. That’s a limit on free speech, but a necessary one. I think what we’re arguing about, really, is where that line should be as opposed to whether there should be one. In Australia, our courts protect political communication but they don’t protect hate speech.

    In terms of this case – yes, without further laws the mayors probably shouldn’t use their power to prohibit Chick-Fil-A from setting up franchises in their cities because that’s open to abuse. (I wouldn’t find it particularly objectionable if there were some sort of anti-vilification laws, though, but I understand that would be impossible in the US under the first amendment.) However, given that I have a limited capacity for caring about issues, I’d rather spend that limited energy caring about the gay people who are being hurt by what Chick-Fil-A is doing than on Chick-Fil-A’s right to be a bigot.

    And let’s stop acting like this is just about words and hurt feelings. One of the groups Chick-Fil-A has been donating to has lobbied in support of the “kill the gays” bill in Uganda. They’re donating to groups who’d quite happily see us dead. Even in countries like the US and Australia, homophobia kills people and shit like Chick-Fil-A is pulling just encourages that. If they were just being jerks, I’d say fuck ’em and just ignore them. Personally, I think trying to institute discrimination and hatred of an oppressed group goes beyond being jerks.

  115. zuzu says:

    Lambda, what is the violation? What is the government action?

    Who’s been run out of town?

    You’re making the same mistake a lot of people are and failing to distinguish between bluster and actual steps taken. Because “take a hike” isn’t the same thing as denying a permit or not renewing a lease. Nor is asking a private landlord to consider removing a tenant.

    The only thing that was remotely a threat was one guy saying he wouldn’t grant a permit application. And he realized he couldn’t do that.

    So, I ask you again: where’s the action? Where’s the threat?

    If there had been a credible threat, I’d be objecting loudly. But there just isn’t one.

  116. zuzu says:

    there’s no way to write this law that isn’t open to massive abuse.

    WHAT law?

  117. Liz says:

    I can’t see anything wrong with Councils denying the right to refuse businessses the right to open up in their city. In Australia it happens in the context of an urban plan that has been developed with the local constituents. This usually effects multinational businesses. It’s academy of locals saying, ‘we don’t think your business fits with what we want our city to be’. What’s wrong with that? Freedoms are often competing with each other. In the USA , the emphasis seems always to be on the side of the individual. In other countries, that freedom is balanced with group/community freedoms. Not saying one is right, or wrong. Just say other liberal democracies view ‘freedom’ in different ways.

  118. Chiara says:

    Not everyone will agree that such laws are appropriate, but I think we’d all agree that there is a balancing act between what’s covered by freedom of speech and what can be prohibited under other legislation. For example, threatening to kill someone is a crime, as is conspiring with someone else to commit murder. That’s a limit on free speech, but a necessary one. I think what we’re arguing about, really, is where that line should be as opposed to whether there should be one. In Australia, our courts protect political communication but they don’t protect hate speech.

    sorry but free speech is absolutely critical and should not be abridged in any way.

    here in the uk we dont have free speech. want to speak your mind and voice your opinions? you better be prepared to spend a couple of million on legal fees when the more powerful party sues you for ‘libel’ or some such BS. free speech is only truly available to the rich and powerful and their ability to suppress the speech of others is limited only by how many lawyers they can hire or how many lords they go hunting with on the weekends.

    that’s what happens when you start ‘drawing a line’ in free speech. mofos start shoving their antiquated notions of ‘public decency’ down yr throat. remember whithosue?

  119. Chiara says:

    It’s academy of locals saying, ‘we don’t think your business fits with what we want our city to be’. What’s wrong with that?

    so say it’s a city full of bigots. you would be happy with them denying a permit or whatever to a homosexual business?

  120. snorkellingfish says:

    WHAT law?

    I’m pretty sure this was in response to me saying that I’d have no issue with a hypothetical law that banned hate speech, even though such a law could limit freedom of speech. It’s not about anything any of the mayors did.

  121. lambda says:

    zuzu,

    My comments were addressed to #102, 106 and 109, who wouldn’t mind if state officials punished Cathy for his political views, or regret that they didn’t go far enough to punish him.

    As for what actually happened, I share the sense of other commenters here that Mereno and Menino were not merely using their offices as bully pulpits, which would have been fine, but intended to block franchises through zoning shenanigans.

    We already agree about Moreno. If Menino didn’t make threats, or write something that could be construed by a reasonable person as a threat, in his letter to CFA then his retraction of said threats (calling them “a mistake” and “a Menino-ism” in the Boston Herald) doesn’t make any sense at all.

    If Menino intended “there is no place for your company at [the site where they plan to expand]” as the opinion of a private citizen, rather than an ex cathedra pronouncement, then fine. But when he said “if they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult”, he announced his intention to effectively hell-ban a business for its owner’s politics. There isn’t any ambiguity there.

    I’m really trying to understand your argument that the proper response to prominent politicians threatening to violate the first amendment (before retracting those threats amid outcry) is to shrug your shoulders. Here’s my best attempt:

    1) The officials knew that it was too late to do anything about the CFA locations.
    2) They wanted to do some grandstanding for their constituencies.
    3) They embarrassed themselves on the national stage with their ignorance, real or feigned, of constitutional law.
    4) In response to objections from all corners, (which they must have anticipated, otherwise they’d have to go through with it) they apologize and back down.
    5) ???
    6) Electoral victory!

    Is that why you’re not worried about the mayor of one of the largest cities in the country issuing mafia-esque speculations about the shame it would be if a conservative business’s building permit got lost in the mail? I don’t know which explanation is less reassuring: “politicians threaten to violate the first amendment out of ideology and ignorance of the law”, or: “politicians cynically pretend to threaten the first amendment for the sake of getting out the vote”.

  122. lambda says:

    Not that it should matter, but Greenwald is also gay. In his blog he has described the hardships that current US policies have imposed on his own married life.

  123. lambda says:

    Liz,

    City councils get to make decisions about these things. Otherwise the city councils wouldn’t be making decisions about these things as the article mentions. What they’re not supposed to do is block an otherwise suitable business because of its owner’s political beliefs and donations, which would be a violation of the US constitution.

  124. lambda says:

    I understand that we need to ensure that right extends to people, however disagreeable their views are. I just don’t believe that freedom of speech is a shining paragon that is automatically more important than other rights.

    Then you don’t understand that freedom of speech must be upheld even for repugnant speech. It’s only repugnant speech that requires protection, and there are plenty of people who find your political beliefs and ideals as repugnant, harmful and toxic to the social environment as you find Cathy’s. If your policy is “free speech unless I disagree with it and find it harmful”, then you don’t endorse free speech. And once you have opened the door to silencing your political enemies, what happens when your favored party falls from power? The list of cases I linked earlier is a graveyard of examples. You haven’t explained how your policy will suppress only the speech you find objectionable without allowing your opponents the same power.

    And let’s stop acting like this is just about words and hurt feelings. One of the groups Chick-Fil-A has been donating to has lobbied in support of the “kill the gays” bill in Uganda.

    Let’s not forget here that the various city officials in question, as well as many people on this site, belong and perhaps have donated to the “kill kids in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia with drones party” here in the U.S. Would you assent if a commenter on this site had a rental contract dismissed by the state on such grounds?

    I mentioned earlier that I am unmoved by descriptions of Cathy’s views and activities, because I already agree that they are reprehensible. If Cathy actually did something illegal, that should be examined by a court. Otherwise, turning a zoning hearing into the star chamber is a terrible idea. Not because I particularly care whether Dan Cathy, that perfect storm of unsympathetic characteristics, gets another chicken joint. Because I want to live in a society where people can deal with functional institutions that discharge their stated functions according to relevant criteria rather than whether the mayor agrees with you.

  125. snorkellingfish says:

    Is that why you’re not worried about the mayor of one of the largest cities in the country issuing mafia-esque speculations about the shame it would be if a conservative business’s building permit got lost in the mail? I don’t know which explanation is less reassuring: “politicians threaten to violate the first amendment out of ideology and ignorance of the law”, or: “politicians cynically pretend to threaten the first amendment for the sake of getting out the vote”.

    Can I offer an alternate explanation: politicians stand in solidarity with LGBT constituents in order to say that homophobia is unacceptable in their city, knowing that message is worth something even when they lack the practical power to give effect to their words. I know that I take something from that, even knowing that Chick-A-Fil will continue to donate to anti-gay hate groups. It matters to know that people care – and it would matter even more to someone who has less support than I have.

    Of course, I don’t have a massive problem with the first alternative, but I should I should offer up another option. Or it could be a combination – not everything is black and white.

    City councils get to make decisions about these things. Otherwise the city councils wouldn’t be making decisions about these things as the article mentions. What they’re not supposed to do is block an otherwise suitable business because of its owner’s political beliefs and donations, which would be a violation of the US constitution.

    I think that part of the issue here is that some of us non-Americans don’t see the US Constitution as something without fault. We can agree that some level of freedom of speech is necessary without thinking that the US model has necessarily gotten it right. Honestly, I have the impression that a lot of Americans don’t necessarily think the US has it right at the moment, even in relation to the First Amendment: otherwise, how would you explain the outcry against Citizens United, which found that limits on the political spending of corporations abridged their right to freedom of speech?

    Another example that I can think of that adds to my disquiet with the US model is the Westboro Baptist Church case, where the US Supreme Court found that any attempt to stop the Church from picketing funerals while holding signs saying, “God hates fags,” would amount to a breach of their First Amendment rights. Personally, I think Australia goes too far the other way – we don’t have a Bill of Rights at all – but I think that there’s room for discussion over what level of freedom of speech is beneficial. I just don’t think that all limits are automatically a bad thing.

  126. snorkellingfish says:

    Then you don’t understand that freedom of speech must be upheld even for repugnant speech. It’s only repugnant speech that requires protection, and there are plenty of people who find your political beliefs and ideals as repugnant, harmful and toxic to the social environment as you find Cathy’s. If your policy is “free speech unless I disagree with it and find it harmful”, then you don’t endorse free speech. And once you have opened the door to silencing your political enemies, what happens when your favored party falls from power? The list of cases I linked earlier is a graveyard of examples. You haven’t explained how your policy will suppress only the speech you find objectionable without allowing your opponents the same power.

    Note that beliefs are very similar to what the law is in Australia. In summary, the current test to whether a law breaches our right to freedom of political communication is based on a two-stage test:
    1) Is the communication about government or political matters?
    2) If so, a law prohibiting that speech may still be valid where it is reasonably appropriate and adapted to serve a legitimate end the fulfillment of which is compatible with the maintenance of the constitutionally prescribed system of representative and responsible government.

    I don’t think that the anti-vilification law I used as an example has ever gone before the High Court, but in applying the above criteria, you’d have to ask firstly whether vilifying gay people is related to a government or political matter and secondly whether the law is reasonably adapted to a purpose other than screwing with representative and responsible government. I think it would pass the test because it’s reasonably appropriate and adapted to a purpose of limiting discrimination and hate crimes against gay people – but that would ultimately be a matter for the courts to decide. If a law did risk limiting an individual’s right to freedom of political communication and had no other good purpose, the court can strike it down (and has done so in the past).

    I mentioned earlier that I am unmoved by descriptions of Cathy’s views and activities, because I already agree that they are reprehensible. If Cathy actually did something illegal, that should be examined by a court. Otherwise, turning a zoning hearing into the star chamber is a terrible idea. Not because I particularly care whether Dan Cathy, that perfect storm of unsympathetic characteristics, gets another chicken joint. Because I want to live in a society where people can deal with functional institutions that discharge their stated functions according to relevant criteria rather than whether the mayor agrees with you.

    I actually agree with you here (as I said in my post). Given that there isn’t any relevant law in place, it’s problematic for the mayor to step in because it creates a precedent for other mayors to step in for more objectionable reasons. I just said that I don’t really have the energy to feel particular sympathy for Chick-A-Fil and will leave that to others who haven’t already been exhausted by the kind of hate they’ve been condoning. I think our main disagreement is over whether it would be a problem if there was a law limiting freedom of speech in particular areas. YMMV.

  127. snorkellingfish says:

    lambda: My response to your latest post is in moderation at 125 – my post before that was before I saw your reply. I have a response in moderation, but in summary, I agree that as things stand the mayors probably shouldn’t be able to prevent planning permission but I don’t think that the First Amendment has quite got it right in balancing freedom of speech against other rights.

  128. Past my expiration date says:

    I think that part of the issue here is that some of us non-Americans don’t see the US Constitution as something without fault. We can agree that some level of freedom of speech is necessary without thinking that the US model has necessarily gotten it right.

    When I (an American) say, “It is unconstitutional for Person X to do Action Y in the US,” this does not mean that I think that the US Constitution is a pure and perfect document and expect everybody in the whole world to agree. It means that I think that Person X may not legally do Action Y in the US because the US Constitution says so — as distinct from US federal law, or state law.

  129. Liz says:

    I understand what you’re saying lambda. However, I’m just bemused by the USA’s insistence on individual rights. In Australia, we have different laws, which at times try to balance different rights. We don’t have a Constitution and free speech is only an implied right in common law.

    For instance, there have been occasions when Councils have banned neo-Nazi groups from gathering in the streets. Is that infringing on their rights? Maybe. What if they’re gathering outside a synagogue? What about the rights of people in those circumstances to feel safe? None of this is simple.

  130. zuzu says:

    City councils get to make decisions about these things. Otherwise the city councils wouldn’t be making decisions about these things as the article mentions. What they’re not supposed to do is block an otherwise suitable business because of its owner’s political beliefs and donations, which would be a violation of the US constitution.

    Yes, it would be, if that were even remotely what was happening, or threatened. As you say, city councils get to make decisions. They’re not bound by every dumb thing the mayor says when he gets in front of a microphone (that he immediately walks back when criticized).

    Otherwise, turning a zoning hearing into the star chamber is a terrible idea.

    Oh, please. That’s not even close to what’s happened.

    Yes, it would be a problem if it did. But it didn’t. Even Menino’s loose statement (and the mafia reference is a bit de trop) was walked back when he was criticized. What he put in writing was essentially, “I really think you might reconsider coming here.”

    More to the point, I think that the time for speaking out is right after the questionable statement. That happened, Menino and the others have clarified their intent and their statements. I think it’s utterly alarmist, and utterly ignorant of political realities, to act as if Menino actually intended to block the application, or had the power to do so (or wouldn’t have been advised not to by city attorneys).

    It’s also alarmist to act as if CFA’s rights *have* been violated, which they have not. But that’s the tone of your comments, and that’s the tone of the op-ed.

  131. Chiara says:

    For instance, there have been occasions when Councils have banned neo-Nazi groups from gathering in the streets. Is that infringing on their rights? Maybe. What if they’re gathering outside a synagogue? What about the rights of people in those circumstances to feel safe? None of this is simple.

    There is no right to feel safe. there is a right to be safe. If the neo-nazi group gathering outside a synagogue started assaulting jews then that would be a violation of the law, because assault is against the law. jst having neo-nazis demonstratnig there doesnt violate anyones rights.

    what you fail to see if that the arguments you use to defend the suppression of bigots speech cud easily be turned around and used by bigots to defend the suppression of minorities. homosexuals may be be threatened by homophobes and bigots demonstrating. but at the same homophobes may be threatened by homosexuals as they threaten their views of gender and the straight identity.

    obviously we can say as lefts that the homosexuals feelings of being threatened by bigots are valid and that the bigots feelings of being threatened can be solved by them simply wising up. but it’s not the law’s place to make such judgements as to whos feelings are valid and not. it has to remain impartial. therefore it’s necessary that homophobes be allow to demonstrate, otherwise homosexuals will be prevented from too.

  132. Fat Steve says:

    Chick-FIl-A says they operate on ‘Biblical Principles. The owner has stated this on numerous occasions, and uses that to defend his views on gay marriage.

    There are countless numbers of Biblical principles which conflict with the law of EVERY state in the USA. Mr Cathy is indicating that he will not run the business according to the laws of the state, so it only makes sense that officials would be immediately hostile to giving him a permit.

  133. matlun says:

    @zuzu: When you are in a hole, you should stop digging.

    If you really feel the need to continue the argument, you should at least do so honesty.

    What they’re not supposed to do is block an otherwise suitable business because of its owner’s political beliefs and donations, which would be a violation of the US constitution.

    Yes, it would be, if that were even remotely what was happening, or threatened.

    As has been pointed out above, that was exactly what was threatened. Even in cases where the threat was not explicit (eg Merino) it is still deeply problematic.

    It’s also alarmist to act as if CFA’s rights *have* been violated, which they have not. But that’s the tone of your comments, and that’s the tone of the op-ed.

    So now that it has been pointed out that no one actually claimed this, it is instead the “tone”?

  134. lambda says:

    Thanks for all of the replies. I’ll try to address them in turn.

    snorkellingfish @ 126,

    Can I offer an alternate explanation: politicians stand in solidarity with LGBT constituents in order to say that homophobia is unacceptable in their city, knowing that message is worth something even when they lack the practical power to give effect to their words.

    Isn’t that actually another description of the second interpretation (viz. ‘politicians knowingly recommend unconstitutional actions on the hope that it will play well with their constituencies.’), gussed up a bit? There are many ways to demonstrate your solidarity with LGBT folks that do not involve the abrogation of constitutional guarantees, or even merely bluffing about it.

    I think that part of the issue here is that some of us non-Americans don’t see the US Constitution as something without fault…

    My argument doesn’t presume the infallibility of the US Constitution. If you want my opinion of it, it is significantly flawed in many ways. I’m only claiming that freedom of speech is a vital civic principle that the Constitution happened to get right. The provisions of the Constitution require interpretations, of course, and I’ve explained above in #105 why I think the precedent established in Brandenburg is correct. If you disagree, I would invite you to explain your objections to Brandenburg and argue for an alternate interpretation. But the observation that the Constitution isn’t perfect and the line might have been drawn elsewhere isn’t itself an argument for drawing the line elsewhere.

    This discussion is complicated by the fact that we are simultaneously considering what is normatively right, and what is positively legal in two different jurisdictions, the US and Australia. If I understand you correctly, you would normatively prefer some sort of anti-vilification framework upheld in the US, even if such laws are presently unconstitutional. One obvious difficulty I see with such laws is that they open the door to the criminalization of half of the comments appearing on this site, which heap “contempt or severe ridicule” on other groups (who, of course, often deserve it). You will likely object that LGBT folks deserve special protection whereas evangelical Christians do not, but of course the evangelicals feel the same way. Now we will need some sort of fact-finding procedure by which we will make determinations about who will be recognized as a special group, which will become an extremely high-stakes inquiry since obtaining such status gives you a very big legal stick with which to beat your enemies when they criticize you publicly. If any of feministe’s usual suspects were ever to obtain protection under such laws–which though facially laughable is not that politically implausible–this site would be over. That doesn’t seem to me like a political climate worth working for.

    Citizens United

    was indeed a tough call, but I will take the minority view that it was correctly decided, in that certain provisions of the BRCA were unconstitutional. See, again, Glenn Greenwald for substantiation of that argument. I don’t want to derail this discussion, remember that this case arose from the state’s actions to prevent a group of citizens from airing a documentary critical of a candidate. That’s clearly unconstitutional.

  135. lambda says:

    Liz,

    I’m not sure what you mean by “insistence upon individual rights”. Perhaps you could clarify with an example that clearly contrasts an individual right from a group right. Maybe “group rights” is some shorthand for “individual rights inhering to a group of people historically denied their protection”, but in good faith I don’t understand what you’re trying to argue for. Maybe I’m missing something here. Groups, especially demographic groups, don’t have consciousness, wills, intentions, interests, goals, pains or disappointments; individuals do.

    But if I could try to interpret your comment as charitably as possible, I’m not concerned about Dan Cathy’s interests in particular. I’m concerned about all of our interests in living in a society where you are free to express your views without state retribution. That occasionally means sticking up for people like Cathy, for fear that you will be next. As I showed in the list of cases I linked to in #104, that fear is historically well-grounded.

  136. lambda says:

    zuzu,

    Having read through your exchange with amblingalong twice, I am pessimistic about the possibility of breaking new ground here. Let me just summarize the propositions I believe (and which I gather you do not) that perhaps explain the disagreement:

    1. Various officials (Moreno and Monino at least) did threaten in their official capacities to block CFA.
    2. These threats were credible at least in the sense that they had the explicit formal power to block proceedings through aldermanic privilege (in re Moreno) and/or the informal political power to drag the issue to a standstill (in re Menino). In general, mayors and aldermen have significant latitude to quietly kill issues–through rules governing the operation of the government or straight-up zoning shenanigans–that are important to them but unimportant to others. Witness the sorry history of Planned Parenthood on that front.
    3. Government officials threatening or calling on others to violate the Constitution, even as a calculated ploy much like a drunk coward egging on a fight while relying on his friends to hold him back, is bad. Not as bad as actually going through with it, mind you, but bad nevertheless. Even hinting about using state power to punish people for their political beliefs (which per 1 and 2 is what happened) is bad.
    4. The fact that so many people in this thread seem disappointed that they didn’t go through with it merits having a conversation about this.

    I suppose this is a final point on which we disagree:

    5. The tone of one’s writing does not bear on the soundness of one’s arguments.

  137. lambda says:

    Fat Steve,

    I’m searching for a way to ask this respectfully, but are you serious? I ask: is that your best, considered objection to denying CFA a franchise in Chicago or Boston? That they will probably break the law because the owner claims to endorse the religion that 90% of the population also claims to endorse?

    There is a CFA across the street from my present location. Should I call the police on the grounds that they’re probably stoning adulterers and blasphemers, destroying idolatrous posters of Colonel Sanders and righteously slaughtering the families of KFC employees on divine command?

  138. zuzu says:

    1. Various officials (Moreno and Monino at least) did threaten in their official capacities to block CFA.
    2. These threats were credible at least in the sense that they had the explicit formal power to block proceedings through aldermanic privilege (in re Moreno) and/or the informal political power to drag the issue to a standstill (in re Menino). In general, mayors and aldermen have significant latitude to quietly kill issues–through rules governing the operation of the government or straight-up zoning shenanigans–that are important to them but unimportant to others. Witness the sorry history of Planned Parenthood on that front.

    See, where we differ is that I don’t view Menino’s threat, to the extent he actually made one, as credible in the least. If he wanted to quietly kill something, he’d have to do it quietly, instead of issuing press releases and open letters and telling the company to consider backing out on their own.

    The way you quietly kill something in a zoning process is to slow-walk it and find problems with the application that are facially neutral — building capacity, fire exits, etc. Curb cuts. Stuff like that.

    If what you want to do is make a big show for a political constituency but not have to follow through, you make a big deal about values and say you’ll do everything you can to stop something, knowing all the time what you can do to stop it is “not much.”

    So Menino, in my considered opinion, was just blustering for political effect.

    Moreno’s threat probably had more teeth to it, though again, he could have just quietly killed the damn thing. But he rightfully got blowback and changed his stance. He can hardly deny the permit now, can he?

    So as I said, acting as if this is a live issue is simply being alarmist.

  139. Fat Steve says:

    I’m searching for a way to ask this respectfully, but are you serious? I ask: is that your best, considered objection to denying CFA a franchise in Chicago or Boston?

    Absolutely not. I’m suggesting that it was an understandable first reaction. After best consideration, everyone in this example backed down.

  140. Liz says:

    lambda @ 136, I’ll give an example. Under Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act, you can be prosecuted if you say something which offends, humiliates or degrades a person on the basis of their race and ethnicity. Although I just referred to individuals, this Act has successfully been used when groups of people have used it to run their case. Google Andrew Bolt, a columnist who was successfully sued by a group of Indigenous Australians under this Act.

    On a more philosophical basis, I see the insistence of the individual’s rights to bear arms as an example where the greater good of the community to live safely is drowned out by individual whining.

  141. lambda says:

    Liz,

    Without trying to drag this conversation too far afield, both of the examples you mention involve individuals rights: the right not to be libeled, and the right to personal safety. Re: firearms, everyone has a moral right not to be a victim of violence. If Alice, Bob and Carol are standing in a room, then everyone in that room has a right not to be a victim of violence. But there is no such thing as the group consisting of Alice, Bob and Carol which possesses an additional right, over and beyond what Alice, Bob and Carol each claim. Whether private firearm ownership is a good idea or not is a matter for another time, but you don’t need to invoke group rights to argue against it: once you’ve argued that firearms pose undue risks to innocent individuals, you’ve made your case. There is no one harmed by gun violence that is not an individual person.

    If you want to argue that guns create a climate of fear and retaliation, that climate must ultimately be bad to someone, or many people. Sometimes there are so many victims of a harm (e.g. consumer product defects, pollution) that it becomes legally expedient to treat the aggrieved group as a class, but this just means that a lot of people got hurt. It does not mean that there is such a thing as a group which got hurt in any way that is not fully explained by the facts of the individual members getting hurt.

    One quick thing about Bolt’s case, since I take it that you offer the example as one which illustrates the advantages of having anti-vilification laws on the books. It seems pretty striking to me that nine “fair-skinned Aborigine people” spoke for the emotional status of perhaps 200,000 people, and that whether an entire small city’s worth of citizens were offended and insulted was seriously hashed out in a court of law. If you read the public summary of the decision, the court had to make determinations about whether the nine plaintiffs

    “[were] raised to identify as an Aboriginal person and [were] enculturated as an Aboriginal person… ‘chose’ to be Aboriginal… used their Aboriginal identity inappropriately… [or are] entitled to regard themselves and be regarded by others as an Aboriginal person.”

    Just from what you have read from conversations on this site alone, how confident do you feel about putting those questions before a judge and having them decided correctly, when the outcome is legally binding? How could this not have been handled with conventional libel laws, unless their case was already too weak to prevail under that tort?

  142. matlun says:

    @Liz: But is this not still an individual right? I guess the Andrew Bolt case is interesting since it was a class action suit, but surely that by itself does not in principle make it about group rights?

    As a side note, that kind of free speech restriction is fairly common here in Europe also.

  143. amblingalong says:

    Under Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act, you can be prosecuted if you say something which offends, humiliates or degrades a person on the basis of their race and ethnicity.

    Such a law could easily be used to shut down a social-justice site which contained criticism of the way white people behaved.

  144. a lawyer says:

    That really isn’t true. Politicians in both towns have said directly–or at the least deliberately implied–that they will try to keep Chick-Fil-A out. Even if the end result is technically WITHIN their discretionary realm, it’s still a problem.

    Imagine that a mayor disliked gays, and stated her intent to keep gays out: No Gay Bars!.

    She could make it hard to get on the agenda. She could ensure that the building inspector didn’t allow even the smallest deviation from code. The town could occasionally “lose” mailings or “fill up” slots on the board of appeals. Town employees could be rude, or fail to return calls, or never happen to have office hours. Lots of discretionary rulings could go against the gay bar: it might be “too noisy” even if other hetero bars are OK; it might be “too many alcohol establishments,” or “insufficient septic de-nitrification” or “historic issues,” or whatever.

    Almost EVERY building involves some exercise of discretion, somewhere in the process. If you start abusing that discretion it’s a problem. the only reason you’re supposed to vote “too much noise” is if it’s actually too noisy, not if it’s a gay bar or a Nazi bar or a Chick-Fil-A.

  145. Liz says:

    AmblingalOng@143. It never has shut down a social justice site, because social justic sites don’t humiliate people on the basis of their race or ethnicity.

  146. trishka says:

    Almost EVERY building involves some exercise of discretion, somewhere in the process.

    actually, that’s not true, at least not in every state. i work in land use planning, and it is possible to get a building approved with discretionary process.

    a case in point, walmart is building a store right now in our community. the local people are up in arms (we are a small left college town). our land development code has been written to specifically exclude big box stores. but it is not, and cannot be written to exclude specific applicants. so walmart is building a small box store that is 100% compliant with every single zoning regulation.

    there is nothing anyone can do about it. not the mayor, not the city council, not the planning commission, not the state land use board of appeals, nobody. if the mayor were to say “i’ll do everything in my power to stop walmart from building that store” (she hasn’t) it would be mere political posturing as it is a completely empty threat.

    the only time a mayor and/or city council has authority to approve a permit is when discretion is requested by the applicant. and even then, there are authorities to which an appeal can be directed; at times a City’s approval (or denial) of a permit s overturned. so even in discretionary situations, they are not dictators, and their power has limits.

    (btw, my above posting #8 was bad because i didn’t realize that someone had actually threatened to deny a permit. that’s a completely different story than vague political posturing. however, since the threat has been taken back, there is to be done about it).

    as to the other side doing the same sort of posturing – in general their not credible threats of abuse are directed towards those who are in some way powerless or disenfranchised in some way (e.g. people of color, poor women, LGBT community, combinations thereof). i’m not too worried about a national fast food franchise having hollow threats tossed their way – they have access to the resources, where by resources i mean lawyers and money to pay them, to know darn good and well what their rights are in the situation.

    that to me is why it is different when the other side does it.

  147. trishka says:

    oops, dang it, my first paragraph should read WITHOUT a discretionary process. my bad. sorry.

  148. amblingalong says:

    AmblingalOng@143. It never has shut down a social justice site, because social justic sites don’t humiliate people on the basis of their race or ethnicity.

    BS. I’m sorry, the way the law is written any white person who felt that a conversation about white privilege humiliated or offended them could sue, and conceviably win. Would the law be enforced that way? I don’t know. But it easily could.

    I understand that if you were in power you wouldn’t enforce the law that way. If you were the judge, you’d rule against the litigant. And if you predicate your preferred rules on the people you support being in power forever, you’re an idiot.

  149. Fat Steve says:

    Imagine that a mayor disliked gays, and stated her intent to keep gays out: No Gay Bars!.

    Yeah, imagine that far fetched scenario! That would never happen. Clearly the reason why there are so few gay bars in Bible Belt towns is that there are no gay people there.(sarcasm)

  150. Lauren says:

    This is actually a video of a bunch of women yelling, “MOTHERFUCKER!” in eight different languages.

  151. Lauren says:

    Wow. Wrong thread.

    I’m going home.

  152. matlun says:

    Yeah, imagine that far fetched scenario! That would never happen. Clearly the reason why there are so few gay bars in Bible Belt towns is that there are no gay people there.(sarcasm)

    Exactly. And many people would consider this type of thing to be bad.

  153. Q Grrl says:

    Imagine that a mayor disliked gays, and stated her intent to keep gays out: No Gay Bars!.

    You’ve seriously never wondered why the majority of gay bars are in the warehouse districts? LOL-*sob*

    Most mayors don’t have to work that hard to keep the gays out. When it is legal to discriminate against gays in employment and housing, you don’t really need to worry overmuch about a preponderance of gay businesses.

    When we start kicking Christians out of their homes for going to bible study, then I might take a handful of politicians seriously who claim to want to block certain businesses. In the meantime, everyone’s civil liberties remain intact. Oh, wait. Mine don’t.

    Maybe we can focus on that?

  154. amblingalong says:

    Maybe we can focus on that?

    Sorry, I forgot that civil liberties are a zero sum game.

  155. Liz says:

    ambling along, calling someone out for white privilege is not humiliating and degrading them. It simply never has been used that way. But, you know who wants to change the law? Right-wingers. That’s because they don’t like the fact that marginalised people have used it to call out racism. Strange that you side on the extreme on this issue.

  156. amblingalong says:

    ambling along, calling someone out for white privilege is not humiliating and degrading them. It simply never has been used that way.

    Oh, for FFS. Are you really this oblivious? The point isn’t that I think that this is humilating or degrading, the point is that there is no guarentee that the judge ruling on this hypothetical lawsuit will interpret social justice issues the way you and I do.

    Let me spell this out really, really simply:

    1) Political parties do not remain in power forever
    2) It follows that, at times, political parties you disagree with will be in power
    3) Those parties may use governmental powers in ways you disagree with
    4) Giving the government the power to censor speech, because you think they’ll only use it against people who’s speech you dislike, is idiotic because of point 3).

    Get it?

    But, you know who wants to change the law? Right-wingers. That’s because they don’t like the fact that marginalised people have used it to call out racism. Strange that you side on the extreme on this issue.

    What are you, six? ‘If you disagree with me, you’re a communist! Neener neener!”

  157. snorkellingfish says:

    1) Political parties do not remain in power forever
    2) It follows that, at times, political parties you disagree with will be in power
    3) Those parties may use governmental powers in ways you disagree with
    4) Giving the government the power to censor speech, because you think they’ll only use it against people who’s speech you dislike, is idiotic because of point 3).

    The thing is, giving the government the power to censor some sorts of speech isn’t the same as giving them the power to censor all sorts of speech. For example, our government can’t sensor political communication unless they can come up with a bloody good reason that has nothing to do with politics (with the courts as an independent judge of that). They can censor other sorts of speech. To me, that’s a good balance – you probably disagree and would draw the line elsewhere.

    I think we all agree that some sorts of speech (political speech in particular) need to be free from government interference while other sorts of speech can be legally limited (with death threats as an extreme example). The disagreement is over what sorts of speech should fall into the first category and which sorts shouldn’t. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s misunderstanding us to say that we’re arguing that the government should have free reign to prohibit free speech – we just think that free speech has its limits.

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