Calling a Thug a Thug

Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy (a blog about the law, mostly inhabited by libertarian and conservative bloggers) today condemned a court ruling whose effect was to vindicate threats of violence by a group of thugs in Seattle against Seattle’s Metro regional transit system.

Here’s a synopsis of the case.  The thugs in question, a group of (mostly) anonymous individuals, disagreed with an advertising campaign that condemned Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.   So they sent threats to the King County Department of Transportation to block Metro buses, deface ads, and commit other unspecified acts of violence.  The Department of Transportation then canceled the ad campaign, citing established policy against ads that were extremely objectionable, violated community standards, etc. etc. etc.  (You get the idea.)

Naturally, the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, whose ad campaign this was, objected to the ads being canceled because of anonymous threats.  The whole messy thing ended up in court, and on Friday the court ruled for the Department of Transportation.

Volokh takes exception to this ruling on the perfectly reasonable grounds that “behavior that gets rewarded — here, the making of threats — gets repeated”.  This is despite his sympathy with Israel (I believe that he’s Jewish), despite his decided lack of sympathy with most things left of center, and despite his expressed sympathy with the poor Department of Transportation, whose main concern was to prevent violence directed against its buses and passengers. He wasn’t afraid to call people who make threats of violence intended to inhibit freedom of speech, “thugs”.

We need more people who are willing to condemn all thugs, regardless of where they stand politically, and more people who are willing to uphold freedom of speech, regardless of whether they agree with what is being said or not.

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