White Lives Matter: Eric Posner’s Call to Criminalize Speech Supporting ISIS

tumblr_ms5shyetg41rfgmbqo1_1280On December 15, 2015, weeks after the Paris and San Bernardino, California attacks, Slate published ISIS Gives Us No Choice but to Consider Limits on Speech by Eric Posner (Twitter). Even though many of the victims were non-white, Professor Posner’s article is a perfect illustration of White Lives Matter.

Posner writes:

Consider a law that makes it a crime to access websites that glorify, express support for, or provide encouragement for ISIS or support recruitment by ISIS; to distribute links to those websites or videos, images, or text taken from those websites; or to encourage people to access such websites by supplying them with links or instructions. Such a law would be directed at people like Amin: naïve people, rather than sophisticated terrorists, who are initially driven by curiosity to research ISIS on the Web.

The law would provide graduated penalties. After the first violation, a person would receive a warning letter from the government; subsequent violations would result in fines or prison sentences. The idea would be to get out the word that looking at ISIS-related websites, like looking at websites that display child pornography, is strictly forbidden. As word spread, people like Amin would be discouraged from searching for ISIS-related websites and perhaps be spared radicalization and draconian punishment for more serious terrorism-related crimes.

Disregard the issue of constitutionality, which as Mumia Abu Jamal pointed out is always a function of the strongest political movements of the time. These are some of the impacts of enforcing such a law:

  1. Its impacts would fall exclusively on Muslims.
  2. It would deligitimize criticism of USA militarism and foreign policy.
  3. It would encourage private citizens and corporations to discriminate against Muslims.

One may accept these outcomes and yet claim that the threat from ISIS is so severe that USA Muslims need to “take one for the team.” And while the majority of Muslims in the USA are non-white, isn’t the proposed law race- and religion-neutral, so how can you claim it is an example of White Lives Matter?

The reason this epitomizes White Lives Matter is because speech threatening non-Whites (including those whites who lose their Whiteness through political radicalism or converting to Islam) is never proposed as a restriction in response to violence against non-Whites. Moreover, the violence that Posner decries is the violence of non-state actors, not state actors like the USA, Israeli, Egyptian and Saudi governments.

Where is George W. Bush’s “warning letter” for lying about weapons of mass destruction to convince some segments of the USA to support the invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq? Where’s the film industry’s fines for erasing non-whites from the silver screen for a century? Where’s the prison sentences for the police officers passing around racist e-mails and posts on social media as their co-workers extrajudicially execute primarily black people in the streets? White Lives Matter.

One other thought. Posner throws in a line about how his proposal would benefit Muslims in the USA.

A narrowly tailored anti-propaganda law that reduced the ranks of homegrown jihadis would not only enhance public safety. It would also protect American Muslims like Ali Amin from the virus of ISIS’s ideology.

Perhaps ending Federal Bureau of Investigations entrapment operations which land USA Muslims into the torture of communication management units of federal prisons would benefit Muslims more.

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