Does Islamic radicalization present a great enough threat to the United States to justify throwing away the First Amendment? According to an article in The New York Times, “some legal scholars” say…maybe.
Law professor Eric Posner, for instance, wrote:
Never before in our history have enemies outside the United States been able to propagate genuinely dangerous ideas on American territory in such an effective way.
According to Posner, ISIS propaganda demands “new thinking about limits on freedom of speech.”
The New York Times spoke with another law professor – Jeremy Waldron of New York University – who said, “I argued, in the adjacent area of hate speech, that the clear and present danger test is inadequate. You can poison the atmosphere without an immediate danger, but sometimes, waiting for an imminent danger is waiting too long.”
Isn’t it nice when liberals have the courtesy of removing their own masks rather than waiting for their detractors to do it? The same legal community that was so resoundingly opposed to the Patriot Act now somehow finds room for some good ol’ First Amendment wrangling. What changed?
Could it be that media empires like The New York Times have a vested interest in seeing internet content censored? After all, they used to be the voice of the nation. If you wanted to know what was happening in the world (and what to think about it), you turned to them. But with the explosion of the internet, the media has become democratized. And with millions of websites reporting things that would have never seen the light of day ten years ago, Americans are slowly realizing how much liberal propaganda they’ve been eating. What better way to recapture your elitist hegemony than to start censoring disagreeable ideas under the banner of “hate speech”?
As far as ISIS goes, how much internet radicalization is really going on here? Most of these so-called “lone wolf” attackers turn out to be more directly linked to terrorism financiers than reported. There is every reason to believe that American mosques are turning out more jihadists than Twitter.
But even if the ISIS social media campaign is as dangerous as we’ve been led to believe, the First Amendment must come first. The feds can ask Google, Twitter, and Facebook to take down radical propaganda, but these internet companies must be allowed to ignore these requests with impunity. If Americans want to boycott these companies privately, that’s another matter. But once we give the government the power to shut down sites that express hateful views, we will soon discover just how broadly the word “hateful” can be interpreted.