Where Do We Draw A Line?

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, and in recent times that has been challenged and the limits sorely tested.  It is a slippery slope, one fraught with the danger of going a step too far in censuring free speech, but it is the opinion of this writer that there must be a line … somewhere.  Last night I came across one of the right-wing pundits who I believe has crossed the line no matter where the line is.  His name is Josh Bernstein, and he is an online commentator.  His online show is called, predictably, the Josh Bernstein Show.  His bio says he is an anthropologist, writer, news anchor, political analyst, and more, but I rather doubt most of that, and don’t have time to spend trying to confirm or deny.

What brought him onto my radar was his call for Trump to “sharpen up them guillotines” to use on special counsel Robert Mueller in response to Mueller’s comment during his public statement on Wednesday that “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”  Bernstein went into attack mode, accusing Mueller of taking bribes.josh-bernstein.png

“How much were you paid to do that press conference? All of you are just disgusting, despicable excuses for human beings and, honestly, I hope you all go down. Treason. President Trump said treason. Guess what? I agree with that. … You know what they do for treason? U.S. Code 18 § 2381. They put you to death, that’s what they do. Let’s sharpen up them guillotines, let’s bring out Old Sparky, let’s make sure that those lethal concoctions are ready to go, because you people deserve it!”

Now, we’ve all become used to the hate speech that emanates from both sides of the political spectrum, but most viciously from the far right, and most of us take it with a grain of salt these days.  But I sense a more ominous tone here.  The danger is not in him saying it, but in people hearing it, and some people hearing it as a call to action.

If this were an isolated episode in Mr. Bernstein’s hate speech, I might be more inclined to chalk it up to the ravings of a lunatic and move along, but it is one of many.  In January, he had this to say about democrats …

“Democrats don’t care about Americans, they don’t care about their security, they don’t even care about their paychecks.  The bottom line is, and I hate to say this, these are the types of people that Americans fought against in World War II. These are the ones who should be sterilized so we can start over.”

In October, after Alex Baldwin made a statement that through the electoral process, we need to effect a change in government, Bernstein called him treasonous and said he should be banned.  He went a bit further, though …

“These idiot liberals, these morons that want to bring us down to a third-world level, these people should be locked up for treason. Liberals like to say, ‘Well, it’s very patriotic to say something nasty about your own country.’ You know what? No it’s not. It’s treasonous.”

He has called for all Muslims to be ‘eradicated’ …

“These people need to be eradicated from Western Europe, they need to be eradicated from the United States, they need to be eradicated, I would say, pretty much from everywhere, because they have shown time and time again—whether you’re a peaceful Muslim, whether you’re a radical Muslim—you’ve shown time and time again that you just cannot deal and cope with being in a civilized society. So we’ve got to do something about it.”

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  Why is this man allowed to say these things on the airwaves?  Because of the 1st Amendment right to free speech.  I think by now you all know that I fully support the right to free speech and freedom of the press.  But, I’ve said more than a few times, with every right comes an accompanying responsibility to use that right with conscience.  Josh Bernstein is taking his right, but not exercising his conscience.

Picture a white supremacist, or a hater of gay people, or an Islamophobe sitting at his computer one night, watching one of Bernstein’s videos calling for the execution of President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Robert Mueller, or just ‘liberals’ in general.  The man has a few guns, maybe a few beers under his belt, and decides to take up the gauntlet.  I don’t need to paint the picture, do I, for we’ve seen it far too many times already.

Remember last October when Cesar Sayoc sent pipe bombs through the U.S. mail to a number of prominent Democrats and Trump critics, as well as CNN?  Fortunately, he was stupid, the bombs were discovered, and nobody was hurt.  But, what about next time, or the time after?  Remember the mosque shootings in Philadelphia last year and New Zealand this year?  What inspired those killers?

I think that the time has come to draw a line somewhere.  Alex Jones’ conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook school shooting has had terrible consequences for the families of children who died in that horrific event.  In December 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch entered Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., armed and planning to kill whomever he came across.  His inspiration was the conspiracy theory that would become known as Pizzagate.

Words have consequences.  While I would not wish to stifle the ability of the press or anyone else to speak freely and offer an opinion, I think we must draw the line at calling for the death of another.  Mr. Bernstein just happened to cross my radar, but how many more are out there calling for the death of an individual or a group that we don’t know about?  I think that when you allow a right or a privilege to be abused, it ultimately ceases to be a right.  Think about it.

25 thoughts on “Where Do We Draw A Line?

  1. Jill, this is a hard one, but if we cannot shot fire in a crowded theater, we should not be able to solicit or instigate violence on a group of people. That is when free speech should be shut down. I think the website could simply state – due to language promoting violence, this group’s site has been removed. They can petition for reconsideration at a future time. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • If it were only just this one website, it would be simpler, but there are many … perhaps hundreds for all I know, but I know of at least 10-12 that are as bad as his. This is what happens when the president calls for people to hurt one another at his rallies, and defends a campaigning Senator (Greg Gianforte) who physically assaults a reporter, then says that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are “good people”. You know what I wish we could do? I wish we could bring the Founding Fathers back here now, show them how some of their words have been abused and misinterpreted, and let them re-write parts of the Constitution.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill, it takes a concerted effort to play whack-a-mole with hateful groups. Real leaders must condemn these groups. The dilemma is the socio-pathic modus operandi of the man in the White House who will support anyone who says things nice about him. Morality is a less relevant to winning an argument. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • You hit that nail on the head. He will condone, and in some cases even praise, these behaviours, and if he does, so will his sycophants in Congress, ie., Mitchell McConnell & cronies. Morality in our government appears to have had a massive coronary and died, my friend.


  2. The best thing we can do is tune these knuckleheads out. Who can possibly take these loudmouths seriously in this day and age? Remember… a retard like Mr. Bernstein will never recognize his own deficiency, and telling him such will only strengthen his resolve.
    I will defend his right to say what ever nonsense he spews, but I don’t have to listen!


  3. I am perplexed. I did think that the US had the same caveats about free speech as the UK – i.e. the right to free speech as long as it does not incite to violence, does not create a life-threatening situation (the not shouting ‘fire!’ in a crowded theatre maxim), and not advocating or advancing illegal views.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our caveats are much more narrowly defined than yours, than most countries on your side of the pond. In part, I think that is because we didn’t actually have WWII on our shores, did not have Nazis marching down the streets in our towns … it was distant to us, so the hate speech seems not to bother people in this country as much. You’re right, yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, or “bomb” on an airplane will land you in a bit of hot water, but other things, too many things in my book, are considered protected speech. These days, the restrictions seem even less than they once were, which isn’t surprising when we have a ‘president’ who called upon people to hurt other people during his campaign rallies, supported a candidate for Senate who punched out a reporter from The Guardian, and has called neo-Nazis and white supremacists “good people”. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Just one more voice in the wilderness of Trump supporters, trying hard to deflect the reality they see into the reality they want to see. With one big difference, this guy is all rhetoric and no will of his own. He talks a big game, but couldn’t come out of his rat hole if it was on fire. But if, as you say, he talks someone else into doing something, he will publicly deny he meant anything by it, while privately boasting he succeeded. Such are the Republican right-wing COWARDS!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right in your assessment of him, but the atmosphere in this country at the moment is like a tinderbox waiting for a spark, and to some, this man’s hateful rhetoric may be just that spark. But, we will just sit on our hands and wait … until it is too late … until people are dead … and then the pundits will say, “wow … who knew?”. Sigh.


  5. If a person can be charged with communicating threats, then one would thing we could charge someone with advocating the killing of certain people. Besides finding a democratic way to change the law, we could organize boycotts of his sponsors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it depends on who you are. If you or I made the same comments, we would likely find the men in dark glasses on our doorstep in the morning. But … the far right can yell, incite violence, threaten innocent people, and it’s okay because … they support Trump. Boycotts of his sponsors might work, if he has sponsors. I’m not sure … I will check into it. Sigh. Too much hatred and divisiveness in this country today.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hear Hear, I guess he’s a\n angry man because he has a face only a mother could love or perhaps it’s just that he’s a Republican adhering to all the right wing views they have of others. Hate being spit out with every breath.They are the real traitors to the principals on which America was built.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I started to make a similar remark about his face in my post … just looking at him, one can almost see the hate. I understand a person disagreeing with a liberal or conservative viewpoint … I realize we don’t all think the same or have the same goals in life. But to wish someone dead, simply because you don’t agree with them? They say that humans have brains that are “superior”, more developed, than most animals, but this man and his ilk prove the lie in that line of thinking. It is … archaic. It is not human. How many others are there? Hundreds? Thousands? Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. We do have a right to free speech. But when that speech incites or suggests violence….no way. I’m with you. These people are way over the edge of what is acceptable. What to do about it is another matter though…..Damn, democracy is so messy!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • It is indeed messy, Jeff. I think there is so much hatred and tension in this country at the moment that it is beyond dangerous to spout such rhetoric as this man does. Who knows how many people are just waiting for someone to make a suggestion? Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

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