Current Events

What’s So Bad About Flag Burning?

President-elect Donald Trump’s recent call for a year’s prison term or loss of citizenship for those who burn the American flag – incidentally a reversal of Trump’s previous support for flag-burners on the Letterman show two years ago – leaves me with some questions. Four questions, specifically: two for Trump’s conservative supporters, and two for his liberal critics.

trumpflag

My first question for pro-Trump conservatives is this: In the past I seem to recall hearing quite a few of you (though admittedly not Trump himself) speaking pretty loudly in favor of free expression when the issue was laws in Muslim countries criminalizing speech or writings that “disrespect” Islam or the Prophet Muhammad. How exactly do the arguments you gave then, not apply to Trump’s proposal now?

Second, I also recall that you conservatives used to talk a lot about government’s duty to protect people’s private property rights (although admittedly eminent domain poster boy Donald Trump was never really in your camp on that issue either). Well, if I buy an American flag with my own honestly earned money, or make one with my own cloth and thread, it seems like it’s then my property, the product of my labor; and I don’t see why I shouldn’t have the right to burn my own property, if I do it without endangering anyone else. If the government claims that it, rather than myself, is the one who gets to decide what I do with my flag – that it is, in effect, the real owner of the flag I bought or made – doesn’t that sound more like communism than like a free market?

Next, I have a couple of questions for the liberals who’ve been criticizing Trump’s proposal for its excessive harshness toward flag burners. First: It’s great that you’re calling Trump out on his contempt for freedom of expression; but how many of you were offering similar howls of outrage just over a decade ago when Hillary Clinton was supporting the Flag Protection Act of 2005, which likewise called for one-year prison terms for flag burners?

Finally, a question especially for those liberal critics who say that they support the right to burn the flag but disagree with the flag burner’s message. What exactly is supposed to be wrong with the flag burner’s message?

Even if the flag were legitimately a symbol of freedom, a ban on flag burning would be an odd way to honor the flag – sacrificing the reality of freedom to the mere symbol. But is freedom what the flag really stands for?

trumpflag2

It’s now becoming more widely accepted that the Confederate flag, however much its supporters may revere it as an icon of freedom, is inextricably associated with the cause of slavery and white supremacy. But how is the American flag – the symbol of the Federal government – any more defensible?

The Confederate flag flew over slavery for five years. The American flag flew over slavery for nearly a century, and then flew over Jim Crow and similar slavery-like restrictions for another century after that. (And the Federal government didn’t move against Jim Crow until the grassroots civil-rights movement had grown strong enough to be worth co-opting rather than ignoring.) And even today, the American flag flies over a country where blacks are disproportionately likely to be killed or imprisoned by agents of the state.

The same flag flew over the slaughtering of American Indians, the kidnapping of their children, and the theft of their land; and that theft still continues today, as for example in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline. That flag also flies right now over a land where the state records our phone calls, tells us how we can and cannot medicate ourselves, and maintains a regime of privilege that props up the crony corporate elite at the expense of everyone else.

To be sure, American citizens enjoy a higher degree of freedom than do citizens in many other countries, and it is this fact that leads so many to view the American flag as a symbol of freedom. But such liberty as Americans enjoy was hard-won, in the main, by grassroots efforts that eventually prevailed against government resistance. Honoring the flag, the symbol of the Federal government, doesn’t celebrate our freedoms; it celebrates the central authority from whom those freedoms were heroically wrested.

Around the world, too, troops bearing the Americsn flag have too often propped up dictators and bombed civilian populations, from Asia to Central America to the Middle East. American bombs have killed dozens of civilians in the past several months just in Yemen alone. Is it any wonder that millions of people around the world view the American flag with fear, seeing it not as a symbol of freedom but rather as a harbinger of terror and death? In the face of that reality, defensive insistence that the flag “really” means something else rings as hollow as the neo-Confederate’s claim of “Heritage, Not Hate.”

We’ve begun, as a nation, to relinquish our blinkered reverence for the Confederate flag. It’s high time that reverence for the American flag followed it into equally well deserved oblivion.

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  • Sean II

    The solution is obvious, isn’t it?

    Go flagless and use randomized avatars, like people do on social media.

    Build up a folder of 100 images, and just pull from that whenever it’s necessary to display some sort of national symbol.

    Maybe it could be a Hopi woman one day, then a craggy-faced Alaskan fisherman the next. Here an old New England barn set against fall foliage, there a herd of bison grazing through a light snow. Real tasteful like.

    Plus maybe sometimes we could choose special images to match a moment. Rocky on the Steps for a UN Security Council meeting, then maybe a cute cat made up to look like Bela Karolyi for the opening ceremony of the olympics.

    The possibilities.

  • Doug1943

    If all nations were on the same playbook as the Americans, this would not be a problem. We could abolish national symbols at the same time we abolished nations, and established a world government, with, if we wanted, a new flag, and other state symbols which represented all of modern, liberated humanity.

    But the self-centred ignoramuses burning American flags don’t understand that their nation, flawed as it is, with a history soaked in the blood of victims, just as every other single tribe/race/nation’s history is … at this moment in human social evolution, their nation is a bulwark of human social progress. Political power — democratic or Islamist or fascist or communist — comes out of the barrel of a gun, and from nowhere else. Those who bear the guns — not the pampered spoiled brats now throwing tantrums on university campuses — don’t do so purely out of material considerations, and definitely not out of an abstract commitment to liberal principles. Take away the mystique of their nation, and you’ll be sorry.

    So anything which weakens the US, strengthens its enemies — the communists, authoritarian nationalists, Islamists … who would run these little cry-babies through dog-food factories.

    In some ways Europe — some of it — is in advance of the Americans. But Europe is militarily weak, and is also suffering from the same social cancer that is destroying the US. If the US — whether under a Trump or under some ‘progressive’ — becomes just a big fat Denmark, we will rue the day.

    • Roderick T. long

      As I see it, the relationship between American power and Islamic terrorism is symbiotic. American military aggression is a godsend to the terrorists; it gives them their best recruiting tool. Islamic terrorism in turn is a godsend to America’s ruling class; it gives them an excuse to expand their power both at home and abroad. American power isn’t a bulwark against terrorism, it’s a practitioner of its own terrorism and an enabler of others’ terrorism.

      Contra Engels, it’s not “history” that runs roughshod over mountains of human corpses; it’s people who do that. Maybe we should stop helping them.

      • Sean II

        “American military aggression is a godsend to the terrorists; it gives them their best recruiting tool.”

        The actual content of ISIS propganda begs to differ.

        • Roderick T. long

          Really? so when ISIS propaganda videos say that “Crusade jets” are “bombing the Muslims in
          Iraq and Levant day and night, killing children, women, old, and
          destroying mosques and schools” —
          http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/03/donald-trump-isis-recruitment-video
          — you interpret this how?

          Or how about when defectors from ISIS say that Trump’s bellicose rhetoric made them hope he’d win? —
          http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-isis-candidate-analysts-2016-9

          • Sean II

            Biggest single theme in their propo is emptiness of Western materialism and contrasting beauty/dignity of the caliphate.

            You said US militarism was their “best recruiting tool”.

            They seem to think otherwise.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            From p. 31 of Issue #15 of ISIS’s official magazine “Dabiq” (published within the last year) http://www.clarionproject.org/factsheets-files/islamic-state-magazine-dabiq-fifteen-breaking-the-cross.pdf

            “We hate you, first and foremost, because you
            are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah –
            whether you realize it or not – by making partners
            for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him,
            claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against
            His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all
            manner of devilish practices. It is for this reason that
            we were commanded to openly declare our hatred for
            you and our enmity towards you. “There has already
            been for you an excellent example in Abraham and
            those with him, when they said to their people, ‘Indeed,
            we are disassociated from you and from whatever
            you worship other than Allah. We have rejected
            you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity
            and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone’”
            (Al-Mumtahanah 4). Furthermore, just as your disbelief
            is the primary reason we hate you, your disbelief
            is the primary reason we fight you, as we have
            been commanded to fight the disbelievers until they
            submit to the authority of Islam, either by becoming
            Muslims, or by paying jizyah – for those afforded this
            option – and living in humiliation under the rule of
            the Muslims. Thus, even if you were to stop fighting
            us, your best-case scenario in a state of war would be
            that we would suspend our attacks against you – if we
            deemed it necessary – in order to focus on the closer
            and more immediate threats, before eventually resuming
            our campaigns against you. Apart from the option
            of a temporary truce, this is the only likely scenario
            that would bring you fleeting respite from our attacks.
            So in the end, you cannot bring an indefinite halt to
            our war against you. At most, you could only delay it
            temporarily. “And fight them until there is no fitnah
            [paganism] and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah”
            (Al-Baqarah 193).”

            Clear enough for you?

          • Sean II

            This may be of interest to you.

            http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/FINAL-documenting-the-virtual-caliphate.pdf

            Note especially the thematic analysis which begins on page 17, showing that utopian enticements account for more than half the content, with invitations to fight-and-win-glory making up another third, while appeals to victimization (Roderick’s argument) are only small fraction.

            And of course, long before our time Sayyid Qutb spelled out Islamism’s case against the West clearly enough. It was then and still is a strike-at-the-root critique of secular liberalism and capitalist materialism.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Thanks for this reference. And I agree with you. People who sincerely believe that 72 virgins await them in heaven if they die killing innocent others really are not amenable to rational argument.

          • Sean II

            Between the two of us: I never understood the fixation on virgins.

            Offer me a vision of Jannah where you meet 72 highly experienced ladies, and then I’ll consider wearing the boom-boom vest.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            You funny. In any case, while I want to be very clear that I am not trying to justify our violence against Islam, it can all be explained as blow-back from its attempt to conquer Europe in 732: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tours

          • King Goat

            Interesting that the one data source Sean cites in this debate is from Quilliam, which was founded by Nawaz, who is what Sean derides later in the debate as an unreliable source of what Jihadist are about as he’s a Jihadist ‘defector’….

          • King Goat

            “Sayyid Qutb spelled out Islamism’s case”

            Good point. He did so decades before these kinds of attacks against the West.

            It’s almost like there must’ve been some intervening factor between his writings and people acting on them in these ways.

          • King Goat

            One article in one (of at least fifteen) issue of ‘their official publication’ says that? Well, of course that settles that!

          • Craig J. Bolton

            I don’t exactly know anything about your religious beliefs or lack thereof, Mark. But if you want to specify what those are, I’m rather sure I can find similar quotations from a group within the domain you specify. Try “I’m an atheist,” for instance. Let’s see, there were multiple leaders of two rather major nations who routinely called for mass liquidation of the petty bourgeois and their tools within America and Churches and Synogogues.

            Clear enough for you ?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            The question at issue is the the nature of ISIS’s recruiting tools and propaganda. So, as stimulating as your comment surely is, it is quite irrelevant to the point of my link.

          • Roderick T. long

            As in any revolutionary movement, the core leadership is moved mainly by abstract ideas, while the rank and file are moved more by tangible grievances, and the leadership win over the rank and file by offering their abstract ideas as the lens through which to view their tangible grievances. it’s the same with the American Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and ISIS (to pick three otherwise very different examples).

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Sean II said, “The actual content of ISIS propaganda begs to differ.”

            You replied, “Really? so when ISIS propaganda videos say that “Crusade jets” are “bombing the Muslims in
            Iraq and Levant day and night, killing children, women, old, and
            destroying mosques and schools” —
            http://www.motherjones.com/pol
            — you interpret this how?”

            So, we are talking here of propaganda. I noted that in “Dabiq” (which Wikipedia describes as “an online magazine used by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for propaganda[1] and recruitment.[2] It was first published in July 2014 in a number of different languages including English), they say they hate us for being non-Muslims of their particular persuasion. The clear inference is that the leaders believe this line is an effective recruiting tool for the disaffected.

            Neither of your two links push the “we hate you cause you’re bombing us” line, which is pretty much to be expected in armed conflicts. Rather they talk about the propaganda value of a president Trump being nasty to US Muslims. So, your comment is non-responsive.

          • Jeff R.

            And the shoppers in Berlin today? Who has Merkel been bombing? What symbiotic relationship do the Germans have with ISIS?

          • King Goat

            Germany has military advisers and has spent about a hundred million dollars supplying anti-ISIS forces, such as the Kurds.

          • Jeff R.

            Is this a legitimate provocation, in your mind? The original argument put forward was that western militarists and Middle Eastern jihadists are locked in mutual antagonism due to legitimate provocations by people on both sides. Do you really think sending some crates of guns and ammo to a minority faction in the middle of a war zone fits that description? Should the Germans not have done that?

          • King Goat

            Is it a legitimate provocation to send tens of millions of dollars of military supplies and advisers to the side in a war you think is committing atrocities and is ideologically awful? What do you think those military supplies are used for? What do you think those advisers advise about? In the eyes of many Muslims they’re being used in helping Western/Christian tools kill their Muslim brothers and sisters and defeat efforts to overturn Western/Christian control of the region. So, yes, of course to those who see the conflict that way, Germany’s support would be seen as provocation. Why did Germany sink the Lusitania?

          • Jeff R.

            I find this highly doubtful. If you took a survey of Muslims throughout the Middle East and asked them what they thought about German arms shipments to Kurdish militiamen, I’d be willing to bet the response of 90+% would be “the who sent what to the which, now?” Quite frankly, I think “Merkel sends arms to Kurds, so Tunisian refugee murders random civilians for revenge” is a complete fiction.

            Notice that the Kurds aren’t really using those weapons to kill ISIS’ “Muslim brothers.” The Russians and Assad are doing that. Notice also that ISIS is pretty particular about who constitutes a real Muslim brother and has no compunction whatsoever about killing people that don’t fit that pretty narrow category. Notice also that you have to squint pretty hard at the situation to really think Germany is attempting to attain “control of the region” with a few dozen “military advisers” in Syria.

            But even supposing you’re right, is it your opinion that Westerners ought to then base policy in the Middle East on these impressions? It’s pretty clear to me (maybe not to you, I don’t know) that Germany has no imperialist designs on Syria, Iraq, or anywhere else in the Middle East. If Muslim partisans insist on believing otherwise and commit atrocities against German civilians because of it, is that a reason for Germany to alter its policies in the region? Your answer seems to be yes. Are you not at all concerned about making concessions to terrorist organizations, at least insofar as it a)serves their immediate purposes and b)promotes the use of terror in the future as an effective tool to manipulate Western nations’ foreign policies?

          • King Goat

            i do think many radicalized Muslims know about German support for whom they see as their enemies acting militarily against them (and the Kurds certainly count as such, in fact they’re some of the more effective forces in the area). It took me less than a minute to find the info online (and these people have access to the Internet). But more importantly, it can both be true that military action by country X motivated terrorist responses and that those responses may target nation’s other than X. The radical can be angry at the U.S. or Israeli military actions and see them as part of a larger group of ‘the West,’ the Crusaders’ etc., that they then act against. People generalize and stereotype broadly beyond the particular’s action that may breed resentment all the time.

            Your second question is a different one altogether. What motivated enemies is one important, but not overriding, factor to be considered in deciding our foreign policy. I’m not saying anything about whether we should keep doing x or y now, I’m just commenting that the idea that ME Muslims just suddenly seized upon the decades old writings of a Muslim Brotherhood activist and started these attacks strikes me as less plausible than that our recent military adventures there left war dead and wounded as well as playing to age old fears about Cusaders meddling in their affairs, and that that better explains the sharp rise in animosity.

      • Doug1943

        Stop helping? You want to re-run the American Civil War, with the North declining to fight? That would have saved 500 000 lives. And WWII — if all of Hitler’s victims had just declined to create corpses … that is, not resisted Hitler, look how many lives would have been saved! Tens of millions! Had the English Parliament just let Charles have his way … had the French just let their monarch continue to rule … whoa … all those lives saved. Why didn’t we think of that? Sorry … contrary to pacifist bubbleheads, human progress implies violent struggle. No way around it.

        As for Islamic terror and American power: well, it’s a theory, and there might be something to it. The American overthrow of Mossadeqh in 1953 did immense damage to the liberal democratic forces there …we should have bought out the British and supported Mossadegh. But don’t kid yourself that Iranian Islamist theocrats were created by that intervention. They were already there, and probably — but who knows? — would have overturned any genuinely liberal regime that managed to survive in Iran. But then at least we wouldn’t have had the blame.

        Islamism is not some superficial anti-American reflex, but come from much more profound sources … essentially a reaction by those whose power is threatened by modernity. And the US is the bearer of modernity, whether it likes it or not. If you think homosexuals are loathesome subhuman creatures who need to be crushed under boulders or thrown from high buildings (Islamists differ on this, I think) then you’ll hate the Americans (and their European satellites) regardless of whether the Marines are kept at home or not. Because American pollution — from the Islamist viewpoint — will be spread by the internet and DVDs and magazines.

        Anti-Americanism has often taken forms which were at least superficially pro-modernity, with the Americans backing the reactionary side: thus Communism and leftist nationalism were movements supported by people who wanted to enter the modern world, paying at least lip service to religious and ethnic tolerance, the emancipation of women, universal education with an emphasis on science. Islamism is something different. It can’t be defeated in the short term, only held at bay, and in the long term we will defeat it, if we do, when an educated middle class grows up and wants to be get rid of their priests, just like we did in Europe. This is already happening in Iran.

        • Roderick T. long

          What motivates someone to *merely* hate America and what motivates them to risk or give their lives to fight it are two different things. Having friends and family bombed by Western powers is a lot bigger motivator then just thinking those Americans sure are decadent — though the latter becomes part of the lens through which they see the former, sure.

          When ISIS defectors tell us what motivates ISIS recruits (and likewise for al-Qaeda), I’m kind of inclined to take that seriously.

          As for the u.s. Civil War, the North spent decades propping up the slave states with the 3/5 rule (which gave the South a power bloc in Congress) and the fugitive slave act (which forced the north to subsidise the enforcement costs of southern slavery). The power of the Confederacy was in large part a northern creation. As for Hitler, he rode to power on the wave of popular resentment against the harsh terms of the Versailles treaty. Your examples seem to support my case.

          Likewise for your examples of tyrannical monarchs; I think Etienne de la Boetie said all that needed to be said about that.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            My understanding is that the 3/5 rule was a compromise between the North ,which didn’t want slaves to be considered a part of the population at all, and the South, which wanted slaves to be considered a part of the population in full. I’m not sure it was fair of you to write that “the North spent decades propping up the slave states.

            Just curious: What do you think of the anti-Lincoln tendency within the modern libertarian movement (perhaps best exemplified by your Mises Institute colleague Thomas DiLorenzo)? Do you have any truck with revisionist historical accounts of the Civil War (or as Southern Nationalists would say The War Between the States/The War of Northern Aggression/The War to Suppress Yankee Arrogance)?

          • Roderick T. long

            “My understanding is that the 3/5 rule was a compromise between the

            North”

            Which the North agreed to. They decided that a centralised union with slaveholders was preferable to not having a centralised union.

            “What do you think of the anti-Lincoln tendency within the modern
            libertarian movement (perhaps best exemplified by your Mises Institute colleague Thomas DiLorenzo)?”

            I’m not a fan of Lincoln, but I’m also not a fan of treating anti-Lincolnism as a reason to go soft on the Confederacy (as when Tom DiLorenzo includes Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee on his list of “greatest Americans”). I prefer the curse-on-both-houses approach that Jeff Hummel takes in his book:
            http://tinyurl.com/jx52ump
            where he argues convincingly that a) protecting slavery was central to the South’s motivation to secede, but b) combating slavery was peripheral (at best) to the Lincoln administration’s attempts to prevent southern secession. (And I’m not sure I count as a “colleague” at Mises these days.)

          • Sean II

            “What motivates someone to *merely* hate America and what motivates them to risk or give their lives to fight it are two different things. Having friends and family bombed by Western powers is a lot bigger motivator then just thinking those Americans sure are decadent.”

            Three obvious problems here:

            1. Most terrorists do not have the background you predict. Far from being airstrike orphans bent on revenge, they are often middle class kids who grew up in the West (or in the relatively Westernized parts of MENA), having no personal experience of US bombs and drones.

            2. People who simply want revenge or self-defense usually at least try to remain alive. The behavior to explain here is suicide-murder – i.e. the act of killing in such a way as to guarantee one’s own death, often in exchange for trivial damage to the enemy. This is an irrational act, and we must look for an irrational motive to explain it. Someting that sounds less like “I disagree with US foreign policy” and more like “martyrdom in the slaughter of infidels is the surest way to paradise”.

            3. This one should go without saying, but anyone who can spell the words “sampling bias” should be able to see why ISIS defectors are not a very reliable source of information on the motives of accomplished suicide bombers and mujahideen.

          • Sergio Méndez

            “1. Most terrorists do not have the background you predict. Far from being airstrike orphans bent on revenge, they are often middle class kids who grew up in the West (or in the relatively Westernized parts of MENA), having no personal experience of US bombs and drones.”

            Simply false. Aparently you are confusing “most terrorirists” with “most terrorirsts who commited terrorirsts acts in western countries”. But most ISIS ighters are people who were born and were recruited in ME countries like Iraq or Syria and that mostly never ever set foot in Europe or the United States to start with, let alone commited terrorist acts in those nations.

          • Sean II

            I said “most terrorists” not “most ISIS troopers”.

            Yawn.

          • King Goat

            Yeah, those fellows beheading people and filling mass graves with their executed, all caught and put out on tape, they’re not what could possibly have been understood to fall under your term ‘terrorists.’ They aren’t trying to terrorize nobody!

          • Jeff R.

            All good points from Sean and I’ll throw in a couple of others:

            1. if terrorism was a mere byproduct of US military activity in the region, why are US military personnel, the people most directly responsible for civilian deaths, rather infrequently targeted? Or politicians? Occasionally, some dirtbag or set of dirtbags will target a recruiting center or what have you, but for the most part, the victims are just random civilians, like in the Boston marathon bombings. Or gay night club patrons. Hard to square with the idea that terrorists are motivated by revenge for specific wrongs rather than good old fashioned ethno-religious hatred.

            2. Keep in mind that most Islamic terrorism is not targeted at Westerners. Most of the time it is targeted at some religious or ethnic faction indigenous to the Middle East. The recent massacre of Coptic Christians in Egypt, for example. Shia/Sunni, Alawite/Sunni, etc. Sometimes this is the result of real grievances (although the tactics remain despicable no matter the situation) or long-running feuds, but sometimes this is merely majorities persecuting unpopular minorities. Heretic-hunting, ethnic rivalry…same old phenomenons that have been around for centuries, just in the age of the IED.

            If the US ended any military engagement in the Middle East, my suspicion is that acts of terrorism would likely become more common, not less, although the targets might shift a bit.

          • Sean II

            Let me add to your additions:

            6. If “American bombs killed my family” was the cause of terrorism, then we should never have seen so much of it as in Germany and Japan, 1945.

            In fact the opposite was true. Of all the countries occupied during or after that war, those two produced the least para-military resistance.

            Despite being bombed more heavily and less discriminately than all the other nations combined.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Hope you don’t mind if I play along.

            7. How many Muslims did Salmon Rushdie, Theo van Gogh, the Danish cartoonists, and Charlie Hebdo kill?

          • Sean II

            And don’t forget the kosher grocery.

            It’s odd how these retaliations against American imperialism so often target artists, journos, and Jews.

            Even odder how they refuse to spare countries which so conspicuously opposed the offending portions of US foreign policy, sitting out the war in Iraq and other such adventures.

            Could it be that the blowback hypothesis is so bad, it constitutes an exception even to the broken clock rule?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Well, so…I have it on good authority that there were just some random dudes walking around in there. The terrorists probably hit it by mistake.

          • Sean II

            That must be the case, because NATO military HQ is only a three hour drive from Paris.

            Obviously, any real terrorist would have been on his way there, to attack the imperial serpent at the very base of its fangs.

            Probably what happened was, the fellas got hungry along the way and stopped to pick up a nice twisted challah. Followed around by the irrationally suspicious jew shopkeeper, they soon had no choice but to defend themselves.

            If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen at a thousand times. #stereotypethreat

          • Roderick T. long

            I hope it gives you satisfaction to attack a cartoon version of my argument rather than what I actually said.

            Look: take the reverse case, of Americans who spit at women wearing Muslim garb. Did those women knock down the World Trade Center? No. Are the guys who spit at them creepy bigots? Yes. But does that mean that the 9/11 attacks didn’t play a substantial role in fueling anti-Muslim bigotry? Of course not. The 9/11 attacks make acts of anti-Muslim bigotry seem more called for, to those thus inclined.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            With all due respect, I fail to see how your response even remotely connects with my comment.

            This is what you actually said, and what I replied to: What motivates someone to *merely* hate America and what motivates them to risk or give their lives to fight it are two different things. Having friends and family bombed by Western powers is a lot bigger motivator then just thinking those Americans sure are decadent — though the latter becomes part of the lens through which they see the former, sure.

            I then noted that artists/writers such as Rushdie, Charlie Hebdo, etc. didn’t bomb anyone, and thus the willingness of Muslim leaders and followers to murder them must be explained by something else. You then launch into a discussion of the effects of 9/11 on anti-Muslim bigotry. And I am guilty of attacking the “cartoon version” of your argument. Say what?

          • King Goat

            Maybe something about the German and Japanese leaders announcing their surrender makes that situation differently?

          • Jeff R.

            And as if to make my point for me: a Russian ambassador to Turkey was gunned down today in Ankara, apparently by some guy shouting about Aleppo. Again, this is notable for how rare this kind of targeted killing is.

          • King Goat

            I think it’s obvious why they don’t go out of their way to target troops-they’re outgunned in that situation, they’d be massacred. That doesn’t mean that things that troops did didn’t largely trigger their radicalization.

          • Jeff R.

            In some cases, maybe. In most cases, doubtful. Most of these guys are killed by police relatively quickly, so the idea that they’re afraid of being massacred by armed troops seems dubious. In the second place, there are plenty of soft military targets out there, like the afore-mentioned recruiting offices, bars and restaurants near military bases, military colleges like Annapolis, VMI, etc., which don’t look a whole lot different than any other college, national guard armories, ROTC facilities, etc.

            Smells like you’re rationalizing this to me.

          • King Goat

            “Most of these guys are killed by police relatively quickly”

            They are? Most of these guys I’ve read about slaughter many, many people before they’re killed. If they went in at a military base, that number would be quite lower.

            I also don’t think your numbers bear out. Terrorists often strike the kind of targets you talk about. Strikes near police stations and academies in Iraq, for example, are somewhat common. Here in the states, where we’ve only had a handful of terrorist attacks, we’ve had recruiting stations, military bases and the Pentagon as targets.

            But all this seems to be based on a more fundamental mistake to me. You seem to think that if a person is provoked by the attacks of a nation’s military they must or should focus their reprisals on the military of that nation and not the nation itself in some more general sense. That doesn’t follow.

          • Jeff R.

            Strikes near police stations and academies in Iraq, for example, are somewhat common.

            Right, which actually makes my point for me. Terrorists have no problems targeting military and police stations in Iraq, so “fear of being outgunned” probably doesn’t enter in to it in the slightest. Terrorists don’t pick such targets here because the point isn’t really to degrade military or police capability, it’s just to kill a bunch of westerners out of good ol’ tribalist malice.

            You seem to think that if a person is provoked by the attacks of a nation’s military they must or should focus their reprisals on the military of that nation and not the nation itself in some more general sense. That doesn’t follow.

            It quite naturally follows if you’re a civilized human being. If you’re angry about a distant nation’s military activities, you would try to employ tactics that would be useful in getting them to cease those activities. E.G., if they’re raining bombs on you, it might be a good idea to invest in some anti-aircraft guns or surface to air missiles. You might try to target their airfields so the planes have nowhere to land and refuel.

            If those options weren’t available, you might be motivated by the simple desire for revenge. But even then, the logical and civilized thing to do would be to target the individuals who are directly involved (ie, politicians or military members). What would you say if the US Army or Marine Corps failed to achieve its military objectives in say, Vietnam, and began targeting civilians instead because they were angry at the NVA/Viet Cong? Indiscriminate bombings, gunning down whole villages, etc? That’s pretty ugly stuff and it ought to be condemned loudly and without equivocation. I hope you would agree.

            So why is it different when some illiterate band of third world thugs does the same thing? Why do we get these pseudo-apologetics from you and Roderick Long of “well, it’s kind of understandable that they’re angry at us, with the 12th Century Crusades and all?” I don’t get it. Why not hold people to the same standards?

          • King Goat

            “Terrorists don’t pick such targets here”

            But they do, as I noted and you elided (Ft hood, the Pentagon, that recruiting station)

            As to your second point, no one is apologizing for these murderers by pointing out that perceived atrocities by our military play a role in motivating them, because people can be wrong, and yet what they’re wrong about can motivate them. Happens all the time. They might be wrong about what they see as atrocities, and morally I’d say they’re wrong to then target civilians in response, but people are wrong factually and morally all the time.

          • Roderick T. long

            1. One can be upset at injustice to others, not just at injustice to oneself, surely.

            2. Lots of people who don;t believe in an afterlife have martyred themselves for a cause; look at all the anarchist Attentats in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most of those guys were atheists. I don;t see why “rational” has to mean “narrowly self-interested.”

            3. I do not see your “sampling bias” point. People who’ve been on the inside of an organisation surely know more about its members’ motivations and strategies than outsiders do.

          • Sean II

            In reverse order:

            3. The sampling bias at work here is you seem to think people who left ISIS are a representative sample for ISIS generally.

            No. The people who left obviously found the organization too crazy (or too brutal or too stupid, etc) for their tastes.

            Which means they are probably a different sort of people from the ones who joined and stayed.

            2. True. I can’t think of a major cause that inspired absolutely no martyrs.

            But like so much in life, this is a numbers game. Many more people were willing to martyr themselves for Hirohito than, say, Admiral Halsey. A fact which is generally taken to be interesting and in need of explanation.

            And of course there is no cause in history more dependent on martyrdom than Islamic terrorism. Also no cause which spent the sacrifice of so many martyrs to such limited effect.

            It’s one thing to give your life for a 10% chance of sinking a billion dollar warship. Quite another to give it for the sake of killing three people in a supermarket.

            1. “One can be upset at injustice to others, not just at injustice to oneself, surely.”

            One can, but how often does one? In the clannish world of MENA, the answer is: not bloody often.

          • Roderick T. long

            “you seem to think people who left ISIS are a representative sample for ISIS generally.”

            Where do I ever say or imply that?

            My point is that people who’ve been part of ISIS are better informed about how *other* ISIS members generally think, than people who haven’t been part of ISIS are.

          • Doug1943

            As I understand it, your argument is that if we all just didn’t do what the Bad Guys in Power want us to do, they couldn’t rule us; and also, had you or people thinking like you been in power, there wouldn’t have been slavery or fascism in the first place.

            Let’s assume both of these arguments are true. I’m perfectly happy to agree with them: if we had just been good boys and girls and not had slavery, then there would have been no need for the Civil War. Had everyone just told the French monarch to go jump in the lake, he couldn’t have ruled. Or had the Southern slave-owners been sensible, like the British ones were, they could have been bought out. (I’m not so sure about Hitler — it wasn’t just Versailles, but also the depression, and the fear of Communism. Anyway, at the last free election that the Germans had, the Nazis got a third of the vote, and were actually outnumbered vote-wise by the Socialists and Communists alone. It was the stupid arrangements for dealing with a no-majority-in-parliament that put Hitler in power, which should have been the signal for a national uprising and civil war. Of course, the Communists bear a lot of responsibility for it because of their idiotic equation of the Socialists with fascism.)

            But the problem is, we live in a world where we have to make a choice among evils. All these counter-factual assumptions didn’t happen (and cannot happen, given human reality.)

            The colonists were bad boys and girls and did have slavery, which is a universal human social institution at one point in our evolution — what was unusual about that particular slavery was that it was adopted by a relatively advanced society instead of primitive, backward ones, such as the Europeans found in Africa.

            Human progress made itself felt among some of them and it was abolished in North but not in the South, and the only way, as it turned out, to get rid of it was by violence. And the same with fascism — perhaps it could have been averted by a different policy towards Germany, but given that it wasn’t … what do you do? (Of course, we haven’t mentioned Italy, where it came despite Italy having been on the victor’s side, or Spain, where it came despite Spain not being involved in the war at all. )

            The argument, ‘If we had some eggs, we could have ham and eggs, if we had some eggs’ is of course logically air-tight. But it’s no guide to how to act in the sinful world.

            But I don’t want to seem to oppose all of your arguments, half of which — in my opinion — make sense: what ‘we’ do can influence the world, and a lot of what we do is stupid, taking no account of the national pride of other tribes/nations, their resentment at being manipulated by stronger powers, the deep resistance among large numbers of people to shocking ideas like women’s equality and rights for homosexuals. A smart foreign policy would take these feelings into account.

            But at the end of the day, Al Capone’s advice is still unanswerable: ‘You can get a lot further in life with a kind word, and a gun, than with a kind word alone.’

          • Sergio Méndez

            “As I understand it, your argument is that if we all just didn’t do what the Bad Guys in Power want us to do, they couldn’t rule us; and also, had you or people thinking like you been in power, there wouldn’t have been slavery or fascism in the first place. […] if we had just been good boys and girls and not had slavery, then there would have been no need for the Civil War.”

            No, I do not think that is profesor Long argument regarding slavery and the Union. I think his argument is that the North concedeed having a country formed in an union with many states that accepted slavery, when they could have refused to form that specific union in particular (slavert will have continued to exist in the south, but the north wouldn´t have been a complicit of it).

          • Doug1943

            Okay, let’s assume the Northern states kept the Southern slave-owning ones out of the Union. So what?

            The argument isn’t over how can I keep myself Pure and Clean, but how can social progress go forward? Can it go forward without conflict, including violent conflict? Answer, no it cannot. There are people with strong material interests in bad arrangements of social and political power, who will use force to defend those arrangements. Only greater force can break them.

            Had the South been a separate country, it’s possible that slavery would have ended there peacefully. Maybe the opprobrium of the civilized (ie. European) countries would have eventually been enough to force the slaveowners to agree to being bought out by …. well, by whom? Or agree to a slow termination of slavery.

            If enough other civilized countries are around, providing good examples, making new norms of human conduct … this can have an effect. The fascists won in Spain, but only ruled for less than two generations — when Franco died, the overwhelming consensus in Spain was that it should become a liberal democracy.

            But had Hitler and the Japanese militarists not been violently defeated, we might have seen a New World Order centred around dictatorial/authoritarian governments, rather than liberal democratic ones. (In fact, you could make a case that that’s where we’re headed now.)

          • Roderick T. long

            Of course evil causes would fail if everyone were good. But that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that evil causes would (much more often fail) if those who in theory oppose them would stop giving them actual support.

            “the only way, as it turned out, to get rid of [slavery] was by violence”

            Well, when the north decides to reject every other way of getting rid of slavery, of course it’s going to look as though what they ended up doing was the only thing left.

          • Doug1943

            What other ways were there?

          • Roderick T. long

            NOT propping up the slave power with the 3/5 rule. NOT propping up the slave power with the fugitive slave law. Garrison and other abolitionists were convinced that the maintenance of slavery in the south would have become prohibitively costly were it not for the fugitive slave law in the north. Were they right? Gosh, we’ll never know, because the north never tried the strategy of abolishing it.

          • Doug1943

            Yes, of course the North should have allowed escaped slaves to remain free, and should have shot the slaveowners who came after them, which they would have, had slavery seriously been threatened by this policy. Some might have been able to escape slavery, but no serious person who wants progress can escape the use of violence.

            “We’ll never know” if earnest entreaties to Hitler not to murder people might not have worked. But my money is on the negative side of that bet.

            Pacifism can only flourish where pacifists are protected by armed men. A delicious paradox!

          • Roderick T. long

            I’m certainly not advocating pacifism. Though it’s worth pointing out that pacifist techniques have been much more effective against dictatorships than “realists” tend to expect: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2013/07/the_literature_1.html

            Your Hitler hypothetical doesn’t strike me as being in the ballpark, or even tri-state era, as my fugitive slave hypothetical.

          • King Goat

            What motivates tivates someone to *merely* hate America and what motivates them to risk or give their lives to fight it are two different things

          • Rob Gressis

            Why aren’t there more Latin American terrorists?

          • King Goat

            Uh, when the US was more militarily involved in the area there was a lot of it. Che. Shining Path. FARC. Etc.

  • sandy

    question for pro-Trump conservatives

    Reporting for duty!
    (Well, I don’t exactly love Trump, but I thought before the election, and still think now, that Trump-on-REP-ticket was a much better deal than Hillary-on-DEM-ticket.)

    […] laws in Muslim countries criminalizing speech or writings that “disrespect” Islam or the Prophet Muhammad. How exactly do the arguments you gave then, not apply to Trump’s proposal now?

    It is reasonable to expect those who want to continue to benefit from the citizenship status granted by a nation, to be loyal to said nation.

    It is not reasonable for a nation to require anyone to be loyal to a particular religion. State and religion should be separate.

    That said, I think flag burning should probably remain legal, because it’s safer to err on the side of too much free speech than too little.
    But there is definitely a difference, at least in degree, between the two things you’re comparing.

    If the government claims that it, rather than myself, is the one who gets to decide what I do with my flag – that it is, in effect, the real owner of the flag I bought or made – doesn’t that sound more like communism than like a free market?

    Now you’re being melodramatic.

    Property ownership is not an all-or-nothing deal: There are plenty of legal restrictions that already apply to privately owned things, and always have. Ownership of some kinds of things (e.g. a gun or a pet) comes with more restrictions, while other things (e.g. a pencil) can be owned more “absolutely”.

    If your question is to be taken literally, then the answer is “no”: Ownership with one minor restriction, does not sounds more like communism (0%-absolute ownership) than like a free market (100%-absolute ownership).

    • Roderick T. long

      “It is reasonable to expect those who want to continue to benefit from
      the citizenship status granted by a nation, to be loyal to said nation.”

      A state that requires “loyalty,” thereby enables whoever is in power to define what counts as disloyalty. Giving rulers the right to disenfranchise their opponents doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

      Also, most of the rights “granted” to citizens are natural rights that everyone is entitled to, citizen or not. That includes the right to vote; if “taxation without representation is tyranny,” what justifies taxing non-citizens?

      I’ll also point out that in your section on property, you just endorsed the standard liberal argument for gun control.

      • sandy

        A state that requires “loyalty,” thereby enables whoever is in power to define what counts as disloyalty. Giving rulers the right to disenfranchise their opponents doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

        The flag isn’t tied to any particular party or administration though, it represents the nation.

        I’ll also point out that in your section on property, you just endorsed the standard liberal argument for gun control.

        Liberals don’t have a “standard” argument for gun control – they come at it from all directions, and whenever they see an opening for any kind of gun control, they go for it and find a legal/philosophical rationalization afterwards. (And don’t seem to care whether it contradicts the rationalization of the previous gun control measure they tried.)

        Luckily, the Second Amendment is specific enough to mention some of the aspects of gun ownership that are protected.

        So yes, accepting that property rights exist with various degrees of restrictions, means that some forms of gun control could be legitimate (like holding people liable if they don’t keep their guns secure from children).
        However, the restrictions must not meaningfully negate gun owners’ ability to “keep and bear”, nor limit gun ownership in such a way that the spontaneous formation of a militia in time of need would be impossible.

        • Sergio Méndez

          Liberals don’t have a “standard” argument for gun control – they come at it from all directions, and whenever they see an opening for any kind of gun control, they go for it and find a legal/philosophical rationalization afterwards. (And don’t seem to care whether it contradicts the rationalization of the previous gun control measure they tried.)

          Which is exactly what you and other right wingers are doing with flag burning…rationalize it (with the idea that patriotism cand be enforced under the guise of “loyalty”).

      • Lacunaria

        The right to vote is a natural right? Are you suggesting that democracy is somehow innate to nature? Or that people cannot be excluded from states?

        “No taxation without representation” was a slogan of largely British citizens, not non-citizens. It seems like you are abstracting it in order to misapply it.

        And notably, just because you grant someone some sort of representation does not justify compelling them to pay any taxes you might come up with.

        • Roderick T. long

          The right of self-defense is a natural right. The right to vote is the (imperfect) form that the right of self-defense takes so long as one is stuck in a political democracy.

          I’m not sure what you point about taxes is. Obviously I’m not advocating taxes.

          • Lacunaria

            That’s like saying, “if someone robs you, then your robber has to give you a 2 second head start” or “if someone attacks you, then your attacker has to give you a sword to defend yourself”.

            Sure, such pseudo “rights” would aid self-defense, but they are not derived from the natural right of self-defense. Instead, they are artificial inventions to *possibly* reduce some of the negative consequences of an unjust act, and grant a minuscule sense of control and consent.

            My “point about taxes” is that by morally tying together and legally codifying BOTH your right to vote AND taxation, you are de jure and de facto validating taxation.

            Of course, you could argue that immigration and the right to exit contribute a moral legitimacy to taxation itself that makes it different from robbery, but that has nothing to do with the legal right to vote. Indeed, you could choose to immigrate to a country without suffrage and it would be your choice that is determinative of the morality of taxes, not your inability to vote.

            So, not only is suffrage NOT an extension of self-defense, the way you are using violates the right of self-defense because a primary purpose of a State is mutual defense. i.e. you are placing the right to vote above a people’s actual right to defend themselves.

    • urstoff

      “It is reasonable to expect those who want to continue to benefit from the citizenship status granted by a nation, to be loyal to said nation.”

      Counterpoint: no it’s not.

    • TracyW

      It is reasonable to expect those who want to continue to benefit from the citizenship status granted by a nation, to be loyal to said nation

      But what if the benefits of the citizenship status come from being the sort of nation that tolerates disrespect of its symbols?

    • Sean II

      “If your question is to be taken literally, then the answer is “no”: Ownership with one minor restriction (let’s call it 90%-absolute ownership), does not sound more like communism (0%-absolute ownership) than like a free market (100%-absolute ownership).”

      Good point. The property right involved in flag burning is so trivial as to be unworthy of mention. It’s just silly to pretend like adding that right (or taking it away) has a meaningful impact on the character of property rights in a society.

      The free expression right is what counts here.

      • Roderick T. long

        But free expression is a property right. I have a right to express myself with, and on, my property. I don;t have a right to express myself with, or on, your property. Devaluing property rights and then trying to uphold free expression cuts the ground out from under what you’re trying to defend.

        And when a particular entity is empowered to decide which property rights are important and which are trivial, we shouldn’t be surprised when it makes those decisions in such a way as to solidify and expand its own power.

  • Dan045

    :Shrug: Flag burning is legal, sends a strong (but nasty) message, and Trump is saying outrageous things to stay in the news and distract from what he’s really doing.

    So it must be a day ending with a “y”.

    Trump isn’t going to be punishing flag burning but Google might. Imagine that in 20 years a “google” search of your name showing you burning a flag. That’s more than enough without the government getting involved (especially since it can’t, giving it control over speech is a bad idea).

    • Roderick T. long

      Or if people come to recognise the American flag as a symbol of hate, then *flying* that flag might be what gets you in trouble on Google in 20 years.

  • Irfan Khawaja

    “…but how many of you were offering similar howls of outrage just over a decade ago when Hillary Clinton was supporting the Flag Protection Act of 2005, which likewise called for one-year prison terms for flag burners?”

    This question has a pretty clear answer. The 2005 legislation was pretty obscure. I would not have had trouble attacking Clinton over it at the time, but I don’t remember the law being much reported on in 2005 or 2006. Clearly it was reported on (see below), but I missed it, so I never formed an opinion about it. I suspect that the same thing is true of many liberals. Few had ever heard of the law, so few ever protested it. One can’t expect close attention to every bill that makes its way through Congress. By contrast, Trump’s claims come from a flamboyant president-elect, so they’ve been (um) trumpeted a bit more loudly. That explains some of the discrepancy. But the discrepancy doesn’t really amount to hypocrisy, as far as I can see.

    Plus, lame as the rationalization is, Clinton tried to equate flag burning with cross burning as an act of “intimidation.” It’s worth noting that cross burning is also illegal, even if the cross you’re burning is your own, and you’re burning it on your own property. Perhaps Clinton was wrong to make the equation, and perhaps cross burning itself should be legal, but the point is, Clinton’s argument (however lame) was subtler than Trump’s. A subtle (but wrong) argument is less deserving of criticism than a downright idiotic one. So that mops up some of the remaining discrepancy in treatment.

    In any case, many liberals were paying attention to Clinton’s sponsorship of the bill, and attacked Clinton over her sponsorship of the bill. Here is a 2005 editorial from The New York Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/07/opinion/senator-clinton-in-pander-mode.html

    And here is the Times reporting the “liberal split” with Clinton on the issue a few months later:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/washington/28hillary.html

    The article makes clear that Clinton’s view was anomalous among left-liberals, and that some at least did voice outrage against it.

    Finally, the 2005 bill failed to pass, which is implicitly a protest of its own, as did a later version proposing a constitutional amendment intended to nullify the Supreme Court’s opinion on the issue. Obviously, a sufficient number of legislators had to oppose both pieces of legislation for that to happen. It’s reasonable to conclude that some of those legislators were outraged, as were their constituents. Which is why it remains legal to burn the flag in the first place.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/29/us/politics/trump-flag-burners-citizenship-first-amendment.html

    So two cheers for garden variety liberalism! But no flag waving, please.

    I can’t answer the other questions, alas.

    • M Lister

      “It’s worth noting that cross burning is also illegal, even if the cross
      you’re burning is your own, and you’re burning it on your own property.”

      This isn’t quite right. It can be made illegal (that is, the states may do so) if it’s done so as to intimidate or threaten people. This doesn’t seem that outrageous to me. But, if you are all alone, on your own property, not bothering anyone with your own private KKK/Alt-Right rally or whatever and want to burn a cross, you are free to do so. That has not been, and under current first-amendment jurisprudence could not be, made illegal. Otherwise, I largely agree with the statement above.

      • Irfan Khawaja

        Agreed; I put that badly. Yes, flag burning can be made illegal if the intention is to intimidate or threaten people, not otherwise. My point was, in that case, it doesn’t matter whether the cross you burn is yours or not, and doesn’t matter whether you burn it on your own property or not. In other words, a state can make it illegal for a person to burn his own cross on his own front lawn, if the cross is visible to his neighbors, and his intent is to intimidate those neighbors.

        Incidentally, many municipalities prohibit open flames of any kind–so that, depending on the size of the object, it’s as illegal to burn a cross or a flag as it is a log, a bunch of sticks, your trash, or a bale of hay. And where is the outrage over THAT?

        • M Lister

          Yes, thanks – I’m happy to largely go along with that.

        • Sean II

          “And where is the outrage over THAT?”

          Another form of expression that is shockingly unfree: skywriting.

        • Roderick T. long

          I have no problem banning cross-burning in cases where it’s a threat. There are plenty of contexts in which cross-burning is a nonverbal equivalent to saying “I’m going to lynch you.” If people burn a cross off privately by themselves in their little Klan ceremony, then it’s not a threat. It may be a sign that you’re the kind of person who’s likely to become a threat, but that’s not illegal in a free country.

          I can’t think of many contexts in which flag-burning counts as a threat.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            I’m not disagreeing with any of what you’ve said in the preceding comment. As a general principle, if any act can be shown to constitute an assault-like threat, it should be treated like assault, hence banned. Cross burning certainly can be. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that flag burning can constitute a similar threat, but I’m probably as skeptical as you that that actually happens. Obviously, the sheer fact of a flag’s burning is not a threat–unless it becomes a fire hazard. But in cases like that, the sheer fact of anything’s burning becomes a threat. I was joking a bit about open flame laws, but the truth of the matter is that I think the whole issue of flag- or cross- (or Quran- or whatever-) burning can be disposed of via the law of assault and laws concerning fire hazards.

            My real point was that left liberals can’t generally be indicted of hypocrisy for failing to criticize Hillary Clinton’s erstwhile position on flag burning. For one thing, they did criticize it. For another, there was less reason to pay attention to the proposal back when she proposed it than there is to pay attention to what Donald Trump is saying now. And third, the Clinton proposal was itself slightly more reasonable than the Trump proposal, so that there was less to criticize in it than there is to criticize in Trump (less–not nothing).

            NB: I am not defending Clinton or her proposal; I am defending American liberals (on this particular issue). My whole point is that Clinton’s view was illiberal and explicitly declared illiberal…by liberals. Maybe they could have been *louder*, but you haven’t acknowledged the criticisms they did make. Once acknowledged, the challenge you pose to the liberals is answered.

            It seems to me an attempt at false equivalence or false balance to mention liberal hypocrisy in the same breath as right-wing hypocrisy on flag burning. The two things are really not comparable. The liberal hypocrisy, if any, is very marginal. The right-wing hypocrisy is obvious, egregious, and unapologetic. Rhetorical considerations aside, I see no good reason for bringing the liberals up at all.

          • M Lister

            Than you should have liked Clinton’s bill, because that’s really the only time it applies! I mean, if you want to criticize what she did, you have to look at what she actually did, not what you wish she did.

    • CJColucci

      That’s all very sensible and fact-based. How did you get in here?

      • Irfan Khawaja

        How did I get in here? It sounds rhetorical, but it’s actually a pretty good question. I’ve been asked to leave in the past (by Matt Zwolinski), and am usually ignored by many of the other bloggers who post here (Brennan, Vallier, Teson, Van der Vossen). I’ve been tempted to accept Zwolinski’s invitation not to return, but end up making the rare appearance, usually with interlocutors like Roderick, Jacob Levy, or James Stacey Taylor, whom I know and trust from real-life experience. But given the overt contempt that most of the bloggers here have for their readership (they talk about it with semi-surprising candor on FB), it’s a bit of a puzzle why they post here, why anyone responds to them, or indeed why the site exists at all. So I don’t get in much, and don’t intend to. I have my own group blog, Policy of Truth. I don’t have trouble getting access there.

        • Jeff R.

          That’s interesting, because the comments here are quite frequently better than the original posts.

  • M Lister

    For what it’s worth, the presentation of the law that Clinton co-sponsored is rather misleading here (and in the link.) That law would have made it a crime to burn a flag, “with the primary purpose of intimidation or inciting immediate violence or for the act of terrorism.” This is language that mirrors, to a large degree, the “Brandenburg” test for free speech, and which has been used in making things like cross-burning illegal in similar limited circumstances. It would not make most instances of flag burning illegal. Now, it’s hard to know what Donald Trump has in mind in any particular instance, but nothing he said, and nothing that we know about him, suggests that he had anything like this law in mind. Given that, the equivalence is a false one, and drawing it is more misleading than enlightening. I assume you were not trying to mislead, and so must not have known this, so I expect that you’ll clarify.

    I should add that I think that the law co-sponsored by Clinton was a bad one. It offers too much potential for abuse by prosecutors, and even beyond that, there is no reason, given the current law, why the flag would need special protection here. (Current law would allow for prosecution for doing pretty much anything “with the primary purpose of inciting immediate violence or for the act of terrorism.”) So, I am happy that the law did not go anywhere. It was a mistake, at best, for Clinton to support it. But, again, it’s pretty clearly not the sort of thing that Donald Trump, or most proponents of banning flag burning, had in mind. I trust you’ll clarify this soon.

    • Sean II

      This comment is a good corrective to the overstatement about Hillary’s anti-flag burning law, but it also ends up needing a small correction itself. Namely:

      Let’s not kid ourselves. In 2005 the Hill’ was already deep into her presidential campaign prep. She knew damn well that being able to say “I backed a bill to protect old glory” would help her in middle America.

      The fact that the same bill could also be sold on the coast as a “new and tough measure to combat hate crime” was part of its charm.

      It also happens to be a fine specimen of Hillary’s outdated grasp of political messaging – i.e. she spent most of her life in a world where you really could tell Ohio one thing, and Connecticut another, without having to fear they might meet up and compare stories.

      The fact that this changed in the past ten years seems key to explaining her failure.

      • M Lister

        For what it’s worth, I don’t doubt, and maybe even slightly hope, that Clinton’s support for that bill was cynical. (I would rather have non-cynical and good politicians, but if forced to choose, I’d probably rather have politicians who support stupid laws for cynical reasons than ones who support stupid laws because they think they are good.)

    • Roderick T. long

      Whatever the law Clinton sponsored may have said, her own spoken comments had no such qualification.

      • M Lister

        Nah, this sort of “bothsidesdoit!” -ism won’t fly. Clinton is a lawyer and surely knows the Brandenbug test. She proposed a bill that would apply an even more restrictive test than that to flag burning. (It may well have been cynical, but that’s what she did.) With politicians, if you want to know what they are doing, look at the laws they proposed. There’s no equivalency here. You should just give it up.

  • Craig J. Bolton

    “Next, I have a couple of questions for the liberals who’ve been
    criticizing Trump’s proposal for its excessive harshness toward flag
    burners. First: It’s great that you’re calling Trump out on his contempt for
    freedom of expression; but how many of you were offering similar howls
    of outrage just over a decade ago when Hillary Clinton was supporting the Flag Protection Act of 2005, which likewise called for one-year prison terms for flag burners?”

    Hmmm, interesting. I don’t recall doing that. In fact, I don’t recall ever supporting much of anything Hillary has ever done. And I am, rather indisputably, a liberal. So could you name names rather than just engaging in false generalizations? I might give you more credibility. Unless, of course, you think that the answer to your pseudo-question is “near zero.” In which case you probably shouldn’t have posed the question.

    • Roderick T. long

      You want me to name names of people who didn’t criticise Hillary? I don’t think I understand your question.

      • Craig J. Bolton

        The question is really quite simple. You contend that there are people who you refer to as “liberals” who oppose the legal penalties for flag burning proposed by Trump, but favored similar legal remedies when sponsored by Clinton. Who, exactly ? I ask because, as a liberal, I have always opposed such legal remedies. But I’m sure that you are familiar with such people, apparently a significant number of such people. Who are they? Or are you just trying out to be a Fox News commentator?

        • Roderick T. long

          I didn’t “contend” anything. I asked a question: how many liberals who currently denounce Trump for his stand on flag-burning, also denounced Clinton a decade ago for her similar stand? If lots of them did, great, but I’ve seen no evidence that that’s the case.

          And I never said anything about liberals positively supporting her stand. I’m just suggesting that a lot fewer of them openly denounced her.

          So what you’re asking me for is a list of people who didn’t denounce her. That doesn’t make sense.

          • Craig J. Bolton

            OK, I now completely understand. It was just a pure speculation on your part that there might be such people. You didn’t have anyone in particular in mind. In fact, when you asked the question you did so without knowing whether the set of such people was empty. It was sort of like the question “How many pigs flew over Central Park last week.”

  • Theresa Klein

    I think Jonathan Haidt might have an interesting answer to this. The thing is that flag burning violates TWO of conservatives sacred values – loyalty AND sanctity.
    That’s why many people find it so offensive, and probably why the people doing the flag burning do it – to offend the sensitivities of those people by violating their sacred cows.

    The question though should really be ‘Does flag burning “work”?’ Which depends on one’s objective. If you’re trying to change people’s minds, burning their flag probably isn’t going to work. It is going to make them angry. It’s probably going to antagonize them and make them more prone to confirmation bias and to reject your arguments. It’s going to cause them to associate you with feelings of disgust, which is likely to make your arguments LESS persuasive. (There is empirical research to back up this last point).

    If your goal is to make your opponents angry and stupid, so you can defeat them in battle, maybe it’s a good idea. But so few battles are actually fought in this way that I speculate that this sort of desire to make one’s opponent angry and hence stupid might not be a good strategy in today’s world, especially not in a democracy where victory really depends on convincing people to go along with you.

    On the other hand, perhaps systematic desecration of sacred symbols is what’s really needed to desacrilize certain things thereby gradually undercut those values in society in general. If you want to weaken the hold of “loyalty” and “sanctity” on people’s minds, maybe repeated exposure to flag burning will desensitize people and make flags seem less sacred. Or maybe not.