Streetwise Professor

May 7, 2015

No Buts. Period.

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 6:48 pm

A few words about Garland.

First, the traffic cop who blew away two Islamist would-be mass murders is a total badass. He took out two guys who surprised him and were spraying him with assault weapon fire: pictures from the scene show dozens of evidence markers on the ground, most of which are likely indicating ejected brass from their assault weapons. His assailants were wearing body armor, which means he took them out with freaking head shots while taking rifle fire. With a service pistol. If that isn’t coolness and courage under fire, I don’t know what is.

I wonder if the guy has a military background, because most cops are not noted for their marksmanship. That was some serious shooting under the most disadvantageous and stressful conditions possible. He must spend a lot of time at the range, and must be thanking God that the freaks who attacked him apparently didn’t, going with the tried-and-true Muslim spray and pray thing. There are a lot of Salafists pushing up rocks in Iraq and Afghanistan because of that. I hope they keep it up.

Second, the American-born leader of this suicide mission had been convicted of a terrorism-related offense, and was on a watch list. So how the hell was he able to get his hands on weaponry that was fortunately too powerful for him and his Pakistani buddy to handle? The FBI watched this guy about as well as he watched Tamerlan Tsarnaev. (So yeah, Al Sharpton. Let’s federalize all law enforcement. Here’s a case-excuse me, another case-where the feds fucked up, and the local yokel saved the day.)

Third, this event has provoked the left into paroxysms of rage . . . at Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders, for having the audacity to engage in politically incorrect speech. As in the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo, I’ve lost count at the number of talking heads and pixel stained wretches who condemn the violence but . . . The “but” involves some variant on the theme that Geller engaged in hate speech, and had it coming, or at least the government should constrain such offensive speech to prevent such unfortunate events from recurring.  Indeed, the “buts” are more frequent and insistent here, because the Hebdo staff were hard core leftists, and Geller and Wilder are most definitely not.

As my father would say when I would try to talk my way out of something: No buts. Period.

I will not spend a millisecond discussing Pamela Geller’s words or beliefs, because they are utterly irrelevant. Utterly, completely irrelevant. The government’s powers to limit speech are extremely limited, and rightly so. Geller’s speech and actions are clearly within the protected zone, and for good reason, particularly for speech with political or religious content.

What is “hateful” or “offensive” is inherently subjective. Giving the government the power to censor or silence or punish speech because someone might be offended, or because he or she might deem words to be hateful, is to give it virtually unlimited power to oppress its political opponents. It is an instrument of social and political coercion and control.

As surely as day follows night, when being offended is grounds to call on the government to silence those who oppress those giving offense, the ranks of the offended and aggrieved will metastasize like the most virulent cancer. The ins will use “hate speech” as a club to bludgeon the outs. It will stifle all public discourse, as the circle of offensiveness will grow ever wider, like a drop of oil on still water. The most insistent and fanatical and politically driven-who are the most easily offended, and the most willing to opportunistically claim to be offended-will have a veto over what can be said, and will use it ruthlessly to enhance their power.

Cliff Asness asked on Twitter where the leftists who were die-hard advocates of free speech back in the ’60s and ’70s went. The answer to that question is almost trivial. When the left was seeking power, free speech served its interests as a way of undermining the establishment that it hated and wanted to displace. As its power grew, its interest in free speech contracted accordingly. What was a weapon that it could employ against the establishment became a threat as it became the establishment. Put differently: the left’s interest in free speech varies inversely with its power.

This can be seen in the time series, but particularly in the cross section. The institutions that the left dominates are the most hostile to free speech. Just look at any university if you doubt this. Conversely, they are most insistent about contrarian voice and speech in those institutions that they do not control, such as churches.

Insofar as those whom the left is rallying to defend in the Geller/Garland affair-that is, Muslims-are concerned, they outdo themselves. In defending Muslims, they infantilize and patronize them: apparently they believe Muslims are so incapable of self-control that they must be shielded from any hateful words, because they are liable to go on a murderous rampage if they hear them. And since when was the left so solicitous of the sensitivities of the religious? Well never, actually, including now. Muslims, and the phantom phenomenon of “Islamaphobia”, are merely battering rams that the left can use to attack its real enemies, i.e., anyone to their right, religious Christians (n.b., one of whom I am most definitely not) and Jews, Jacksonian Americans, traditionalists, libertarians, etc. (The left’s “other” is quite diverse.)

The fact that a local traffic cop was the only thing that saved hundreds from the homicidal plans of two Islamist fanatics (one of them a native born American citizen) is deeply concerning. But what is far more disturbing is that this isn’t what disturbs what I would wager is a clear majority of the chattering class. What disturbs them (or what they opportunistically claim disturbs them) is speech that they disagree with, and which they are hell-bent on limiting the rights to engage in such speech. They are not targeting hate speech: they are targeting speech and speakers that they hate.

Fine. As we say in Texas: Come and take it.


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  1. Well, the idea that freedom to offend is an integral part of freedom of speech and therefore cannot be curtailed – that is what they seem not to get in Russia. I have discussed this with many people… total failure to understand.

    So people are getting fines and even jail terms for dancing in front of a war memorial. Or writing something offensive to the Church.

    Comment by LL — May 8, 2015 @ 11:18 am

  2. @LL-This is another example of the US converging to Russia from above.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 8, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

  3. This tweet from the NYT’s Rukmini Callimachi just about sums it up “Free speech aside, why would anyone do something as provocative as hosting a “Muhammad drawing contest”?” (

    That sentence just seems inherently silly; “something as provocative as… a drawing contest”? How the hell did we get to the point where a drawing contest can be treated as justification for murder? That is what “provocative” in these sense means, that it is so outrageous that it would justify irrational acts of violence by otherwise reasonable people, thus excusing their actions. Very bizarre, and very disturbing.

    As an aside, unlike the other Muhammed cartoons I’ve seen, I actually thought the winner of the Texas contest was actually quite good, provocative in the sense that it was thought provoking, not in the sense that it would make the artists murder a justifiable action.

    Comment by JDonn — May 9, 2015 @ 11:30 am

  4. @SWP The difference between the Russian situation and the US is that in Russia the State is using deliberate censorship to create a Russian identity in order to bind a disparate society together and exert oppressive control over them. In the US it is a result of a loss of identity, a society that is fracturing and turning on itself, rather than being bound together. If I were a pessimist I would make an analogy to the Roman Empire, consumed by petty internal squabbles and concerns, leading to extreme myopia, paralysis and an inability to act, even to respond to obvious and fatal threats.

    Comment by JDonn — May 9, 2015 @ 11:38 am

  5. Meanwhile, the Saudis are saying in no uncertain terms that there is no way they would be taking the risk of Iran getting the nukes without them getting their own. So Obama is indeed very likely to have a legacy: a Middle East packed with nukes. May not be a very long-lasting legacy, though.

    Comment by Ivan — May 10, 2015 @ 12:11 am

  6. @Ivan-I’ve been saying for months that a nuclear arms race in the ME would be an inevitable consequence of Obama’s dealings with Iran. Particularly outrageous given that the guy has a long record of claiming to desire a nuclear free world, and his stated objective of reducing nuclear arsenals.

    What’s amazing is that this has not seemed to have induced the slightest hint of cognitive dissonance in Obama. Either he has a capacity to compartmentalize that would fascinate any psychiatrist, he has a similarly fascinating (and frightening) detachment from reality, or has some other, unstated objectives in mind.

    As an aside, after suggesting he would attend, KSA King Salman has decided not to attend Obama’s GCC Summit. An obvious snub, for obvious reasons.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 10, 2015 @ 12:11 pm

  7. Props Professor. Great post.

    Comment by pahoben — May 12, 2015 @ 1:29 pm

  8. Thanks, @pahoben.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 12, 2015 @ 2:18 pm

  9. […] Craig Pirrong of Streetwise Professor has kudos for the policeman in Garland. […]

    Pingback by May 12, 2015 « Pickerhead — May 12, 2015 @ 5:32 pm

  10. What you point out fits with the “lone wolf” narrative. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of a man? The Progressives know.

    Comment by pahoben — May 13, 2015 @ 3:04 am

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