Letters from the Lunar Outpost

Never ask the gods for life set free from grief, but ask for courage that endureth long.
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Victory for Free Speech in "Irvine 11" Trial

Victory for Free Speech in "Irvine 11" Trial

The case:

Ten Muslim students who are on trial for disrupting Israeli ambassador Michael Oren during an appearance at UC Irvine in effect acted as censors, a prosecutor argued in closing statements Monday. In front of a packed Santa Ana courtroom, Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner told jurors that the protesters interfered with Oren’s right to free speech last year when, one by one, they stood and shouted as the ambassador tried to give a planned address on U.S.-Israeli relations.

The verdict?

After more than two days of deliberation, an Orange County jury on Friday found 10 Muslim students guilty of two misdemeanors to conspire and then disrupt a February 2010 speech at UC Irvine last year by the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

Source: LAT and LAT

Twitter is in full meltdown mode right now with people hysterically tweeting it’s the end of free speech, it’s the end of Democracy, etc., but without a doubt, this verdict is a victory for free speech.

California law is quite clear about it, an organization or university has every right to invite a speaker and expect that speaker will be able to exercise their right to free speech and speak their mind without being censored and shouted down by people who don’t agree with their message.

The emails which encouraged these students to show up and shout the ambassador down warned them to be prepared because they would probably be arrested, so they knew full well what they were doing was against the law (a misdemeanor) in California. That’s the law and the jury came back with the correct verdict, and it would be the correct verdict regardless if the speaker was an ambassador for Israel, a member of the PLO or even a spokesperson for NAMBLA.

There’s an even more important question people crying about the end of free speech should be asking themselves, however: if this is your cause, do you really think this is any way to win people over to your side?

I’m sure the people whose every other words are “Zionist this” and “Zionist that” were pumping their fists triumphantly at the video of the Israeli ambassador being shouted down and I’m sure the Irvine 11 are going to be like rock stars among their activist peers when they return to campus after their suspensions, but outside of your small circle, do you really think you made anyone else more sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians?

This is a university. A university is a place where young minds (hopefully) come to listen to and consider diverse opinions. A university is a place that’s supposed to foster debate in the name of seeking knowledge and greater understanding and you know it’s an absolute given that there was a question and answer session planned for the ambassador after he made his remarks.

Here’s a crazy idea: How about acting like bright-minded, intelligent people, letting the man speak and then nailing him with some devastating questions at the Q & A?

Face it, shouting people down is a complete and total DEBATE FAIL.

Now there may be some people who will find in the verdict an opportunity to nurture their secretly cherished persecution complexes, so hooray for them, but in the big scheme of things, the Irvine 11 has done nothing but embarrass themselves and their cause.

*** UPDATE ***

The sentences came in and the Irvine 11 will get no jail time and 3 years probation with community service. That’s Goldilocks right there, not too harsh, not too lenient. Let’s just hope the next time we hear from these individuals, it will be in hearing them take part in an intelligent debate.

Source: Electronic Infitada

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2 Responses to Victory for Free Speech in “Irvine 11” Case

  • What seems to be lost on those who call the Irvine 11 protest an attack on free speech is that Oren was not there to speak his mind. He was there to deliver the official line from the Israeli govt. It’s my understanding that ambassadors do not speak contra to their government’s position. The Irvine 11 were not protesting Oren himself… they were protesting the presence of the state of Israel on their campus. Other protests were staged against Israeli soldiers speaking in their own capacity, and they were not shouted down… the students simply put tape over their mouths and walked out on the speaker.

    Freedom of speech is to protect individuals, not nation-states. I can’t imagine Iranian gay, women or Baha’i students shouting down Ahmadinejad would be met with similar hostility from attorney generals or Israel advocacy groups or you most of all, considering his nickname in the link above. The Irvine 11 were prosecuted because in US officialdom Israel advocacy is treated with a special favoritism. The notion that this is about Oren’s freedom of speech, as individual or ambassador, can not be taken seriously.

    • Thanks for the reply, Andrew. Although Ambassador Oren may be arriving in an official capacity, when he speaks, he certainly doesn’t lose his rights as a human being entitled to free speech in this country. I can understand the distinction in the students’ minds perhaps in their being more antagonistic to a member of the Israeli government as opposed to an Israeli solder / citizen of Israel, but there shouldn’t be and isn’t any distinction in the eyes of the law. (Far from having less rights than a native citizen, governments usually grant visiting diplomats more rights, such as the leniency shown when diplomats park illegally knowing full well they’re above the law in that respect. Whether that’s right is another debate, but the point is, visiting dignitaries certainly don’t arrive with less than the basic rights.)

      So no, I don’t think you can argue that the ambassador loses his rights to free speech simply because he visits in an official capacity. He is a human being freely speaking his mind regardless of his position. He chooses to be the ambassador and he chooses to speak for the state of Israel just the same as he could choose to quit and speak against the party line.

      I couldn’t have been more sincere in saying:

      >> That’s the law and the jury came back with the correct verdict, and it would be the correct verdict regardless if the speaker was an ambassador for Israel, a member of the PLO or even a spokesperson for NAMBLA.

      And I could go one step further and say the verdict would have been correct even if it were people trying to shout down a speech where the invited guest was Little Hitler, Jr. A verdict of guilty would be just as correct in that case as well and I would hope a jury of my fellow citizens would reach the proper verdict. (Although in that case, if I met them all in a bar afterwards, I’d be tempted to buy them all a beer.)

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