Despicable: U. of Chicago professor claims America ‘overvalues’ free speech

In his speech to the UN General Assembly today, a simpering President Obama disingenuously stressed the importance of free speech while cowering to radical Islamists’ commitment to violently silencing critics’ voices. The president’s message apparently resonated with one Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago. Posner, feeling inspired, penned an utterly despicable essay slamming America for holding the First Amendment as sacred. Posner deemed free speech-loving Americans’ defense of an anti-Islam video as evidence that the U.S. overvalues freedom of expression:

The universal response in the United States to the uproar over the anti-Muslim video is that the Muslim world will just have to get used to freedom of expression. President Obama said so himself in a speech at the United Nations today, which included both a strong defense of the First Amendment and (“in the alternative,” as lawyers say) and a plea that the United States is helpless anyway when it comes to controlling information. In a world linked by YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, countless videos attacking people’s religions, produced by provocateurs, rabble-rousers, and lunatics, will spread to every corner of the world, as fast as the Internet can blast them, and beyond the power of governments to stop them. Muslims need to grow a thick skin, the thinking goes, as believers in the West have done over the centuries. Perhaps they will even learn what it means to live in a free society, and adopt something like the First Amendment in their own countries.

But there is another possible response. This is that Americans need to learn that the rest of the world—and not just Muslims—see no sense in the First Amendment. Even other Western nations take a more circumspect position on freedom of expression than we do, realizing that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order. Our own history suggests that they might have a point.

We have to remember that our First Amendment values are not universal; they emerged contingently from our own political history, a set of cobbled-together compromises among political and ideological factions responding to localized events. As often happens, what starts out as a grudging political settlement has become, when challenged from abroad, a dogmatic principle to be imposed universally. Suddenly, the disparagement of other people and their beliefs is not an unfortunate fact but a positive good. It contributes to the “marketplace of ideas,” as though we would seriously admit that Nazis or terrorist fanatics might turn out to be right after all. Salman Rushdie recently claimed that bad ideas, “like vampires … die in the sunlight” rather than persist in a glamorized underground existence. But bad ideas never die: They are zombies, not vampires. Bad ideas like fascism, Communism, and white supremacy have roamed the countryside of many an open society.

So, to Posner, freedom of speech is to blame for destructive ideologies like Communism and Nazism. Free speech kills!

Disgusted Twitterers exercised their First Amendment rights and took Posner to the woodshed:

When you’ve lost Oliver Willis

Indeed. Sadly, this editorial was no parody. And Posner is regrettably in a position to influence the thinking of young people, the very people on whom we depend to protect the future of our country and defend the values that make it so exceptional. Men like Posner are dangerous and, while he has the right spew his anti-American garbage, by the same token, we can continue to fight back against those who seek to poison the well of our freedom. And, until our last breath, we will.

  • Discontentwliars

    Next they’ll be burning books that don’t agree with their philosophy. Kinda scary huh?

  • Love of Country

    Anyone who props up any values coming out of Chicago, the murder capital of the world, is a darn fool IMHO.

    • ZoriahShepard

      I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that this opinion came out of Chicago.

      • Love of Country

        … word!

  • Rafael Eduardo Peña-Rios Riber

    abusses more likely, something is speaking your mind but do it in a way where others wont get offended

  • grais

    He certainly seems to overvalue his own free speech.
    Maybe he should be the first one he silences.
    …Idiot kid…

  • Jack Offelday

    The Law Professor from the University of Chicago where the Obama family has its roots? From the UofC website:

    “President Barack Obama, senior lecturer in the Law School for 12 years, has personal, family, intellectual and professional links to the University as do many of his top advisers.”

  • ACF

    People like Posner are going to put The Onion out of business!

  • PennyRobinsonFanClub

    OMFG “The need for order.” THE SPIRIT OF ’33!

  • CAmom760

    With 2 college age kids, I’m happy there is one less college to apply for ~ not that it was ever on the list to begin with, but it’s DEFINITELY off the list now – even a full scholarship (for my 4.7 GPA math and science wiz daughter or my slightly lower GPA son) wouldn’t convince me to sign up for that!

  • Robert

    Over the top extreme rhetoric on the internet does nothing to help mend this country and understand each other’s point of view. But understand this. I will die fighting or kill you, idiot, before you take away one of the founding principals of this country. It’s in the 1st Amendment for a reason, jackass. I will go to war and give up everything I have and ever will have before I let a bunch of Chicago pukes give away something that has guided the United States for the past 225 years.

    • BeeKaaay

      Too late. The country is circling the drain of Marxism.

    • Shawn Smith

      Robert, I couldn’t agree with you more, and if Obama had said something like this, despite everything else, I might have considered voting for him. Was the video obnoxious and unnecessary? From everything I’ve heard, probably so. That doesn’t change our obligation to defend free speech against people who apparently can’t even conceive of freedom.

    • GaylePutt

      Well said, Robert. And I’m sure there are millions more who agree with you. And I bet that many of them have fast jets, big ships, and a huge love of country.

  • Cyborg0012

    Fahrenheit 451… ’nuff said.

  • Derelictus

    To be fair, the West’s tolerance for anti-freedom scum’s activities like Lenin, Hitler, and more recently Chavez and Correa could be held partially responsible for their rise…my answer would be, “and”? That’s the price we pay for a free society. What’s the alternative?

    • Cyborg0012

      I agree with you. The way to combat unsavoury speech from the people you mentioned is more speech. Let these people speak and put their ideas out there. There will always be brave, smart men and women who will speak out and fight against them. Cory Ten Boom comes to mind with hundreds of others.

    • Shawn Smith

      Reminds me of a quote from a fascinating historical play, and something that a lot of “liberals” (who are remarkably opposed to freedom) should watch:

      William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
      Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
      William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
      Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

  • BeeKaaay

    If it was not for freedom of speech and expression, universities would never exist.

    I’m sure they’ll scream “Academic freedom” if they were being shut down for incorrect opinions.

  • Owen007

    “Somehow” I doubt that Professor Dipstick would feel that way if it was HIS freedom of speech at risk.

    • TomJB

      Exactly. Someone has to be the arbiter of what is and isn’t appropriate speech and Posner no doubt feels he is just the type that should step up and do it.

  • Rebekah Kloeppel

    My brother just asked the family’s opinion, re: the possibility his younger son would go to U of C for undergrad. The replies were not in the prettiest of language. The boy is looking elsewhere. (Our father went there for grad school, & won’t give their alumni association any $$, now, with the deepening radicalization of most programs, & resulting loss of depth of actual education.)

  • George Kafantaris

    It is becoming increasingly clear that Islam has been intertwined with government for so long that Muslims cannot fathom their countries without it.
    Though this may be difficult for the rest of us to understand, we should still recognize it as a distinguishing fact of most Muslim countries.
    But it is their fact not ours. We should not set our clock back centuries to accommodate the Muslim mindset or lack of understanding of basic concepts of individual freedom.
    It is they who should bring their ideas up to speed and in pace with the modern world.
    The Muslim leaders should, therefore, continue to educate their citizens on the ways of other countries; that people elsewhere are free from their government to worship the God they want, and free to offend the God that others worship; that this is how it must be if religious freedom is to have meaning — protection is not needed when others agree with you.
    Moreover, Muslim leaders should explain that forcing others to honor Prophet Mohamed can be deemed as forcing them to some extent to adopt the Muslim religion itself. As others cannot impose foreign religious etiquette on Muslims, neither should they impose their reverence of Prophet Mohamed.
    It is imperative that Muslims learn the workings of individual freedoms so that they can harmoniously play their rightful role in the 21st Century. Reading the First Amendment might be a good place to start:
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  • Shawn Smith

    The worst of this hypocrisy is that the man who said this is a tenured professor: the person with the highest possible speech protections. Even if we’re protected from legal consequences, any of us could be fired if we said something sufficiently obnoxious, not this disconnected lunatic.

  • Brett McMicken

    i seem to remember, when another president was in office, all we heard about from the liberal side of the political spectrum was that free speech and dissent were about to be eradicated and that they were the highest form of patriotism to be engaged in by an american citizen. well, that was, as i said, another time, when the “wrong” people were the ones being spoken against…..just as insults hurled against a religion are unacceptable unless the insults are hurled at the “wrong” religion. the good coming out of this is that liberalism is being exposed for the gigantic fraud that it is

  • James Payne

    Dear slate, “SHUT IT YA COMMIE TWIT”.
    This smackdown sponsored by a person who knows you wouldn’t last five minutes in the America I long for…

  • cospgsmark

    I’m sure Eric Posner has no problem with the free speech of “art” that denigrates Christianity. In fact, it probably warms his heart.

  • chetnapier

    The first amendment is only as strong as the second amendment

  • Todd Hill

    Should I view Posner’s article as an indictment of the ACLU’s excessive zealousness regarding their defense of freedom of speech? That is, after all, one of the cornerstones of the ACLU’s legacy.

  • ejochs

    I would only add that he is the son of Richard Posner, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge.

  • Paul C.

    R&R 2012

  • Guy_Montag_OG

    Fascism and Free Speech: Ahh, Chicago. The Mid-Coast home of Tammany Hall.

    Enrico Fermi, in his six-foot dirt nap, is rolling over.

  • GaylePutt

    I discussed politics with my son in grade school. We discussed our values when driving places in the car, it was a neverending dialog. I’m happy to say that today he’s engaged in politics, will fiercely debate anyone who espouses liberal philosophy. If you educate your kids at home they can and will make it through college without being indoctrinated into liberal idiocy,

  • Steve Czaja

    There was a very important reason our Founders listed freedom of speech in the 1st amendment. Without it we are NOT FREE.

  • Brontefan

    How quickly these Marxist professors are ready to eliminate our Bill of Rights…

  • Zefal

    These people had no outrage when murtha slandered our military. And had no outrage when the Marine who sued him for slander had his suit thrown out because of a legal ruling saying elected officials can’t be sued 4 slander.

  • CalCon10

    Men like Posner used to be called traitors; their rantings, treason. Oh, to return to the days when treason wasn’t “academic discourse,” and generic Biblical religious speech wasn’t considered “dangerous!”

  • [email protected]

    Did anyone notice that this guy never mentions Islamic Extremist

  • Paul Marks

    Is this the same Prof Posner who endorsed Keynesianism? Ever more government spending (“fiscal stimulus”) and money creation (money creation from NOTHING) by the Fed – “”montetary stimulus”.
    Well, if it is the same Posner, at least he is consistent – an enemy of economic freedom and an enemy of civil liberties. Just an enemy of the limited government, natural rights principles of the United States Constitution and Founding Fathers generally.

  • Marina Neff

    The only ones who would actually dare to refer to basic freedoms as “Overvalued” are those who seek to take it away from those who would disagree with them and their rhetoric. Opinions can be overvalued, Freedoms can not be valued enough.