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Biden Transition Official Believes the First Amendment Has a ‘Design Flaw’ — His Remedy Is to Curb Free Speech

Richard Stengel, according to the New York Post, “is the Biden transition ‘Team Lead’ for the US Agency for Global Media, the U.S. government media empire that includes Voice of America, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.” He is also a menace to our constitutional protections and to free society in general. If he is any indication of what is coming, we’re in for a rough four years, or longer.

Stengel wrote last year in a Washington Post op-ed that the freedom of speech must be restricted, for “all speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails. I’m all for protecting ‘thought that we hate,’ but not speech that incites hate.”

What kind of speech “incites hate”? As far as Stengel is concerned, the answer is any speech that Muslims find offensive. He wrote: “Even the most sophisticated Arab diplomats that I dealt with did not understand why the First Amendment allows someone to burn a Koran. Why, they asked me, would you ever want to protect that?”

Well, maybe because a law forbidding criticism (including mockery) of any group establishes that group as a protected class that cannot be questioned, and that in turn would allow this group to do whatever it wanted without fear of any opposition even being allowed to articulate its case. The freedom of speech is, in sum, our foremost protection against tyranny. Without it, a tyrant can work his will without any fear of his opponents uttering even one cross word.

But instead of explaining and defending the freedom of speech, Stengel agreed with his “sophisticated Arab diplomats,” answering their query about Qur’an-burning with this: “It’s a fair question. Yes, the First Amendment protects the ‘thought that we hate,’ but it should not protect hateful speech that can cause violence by one group against another. In an age when everyone has a megaphone, that seems like a design flaw.”

Many other nations are fixing that “design flaw,” according to Stengel, and so the U.S. should also: “Since World War II, many nations have passed laws to curb the incitement of racial and religious hatred. These laws started out as protections against the kinds of anti-Semitic bigotry that gave rise to the Holocaust. We call them hate speech laws, but there’s no agreed-upon definition of what hate speech actually is. In general, hate speech is speech that attacks and insults people on the basis of race, religion, ethnic origin and sexual orientation.”

The destruction of the freedom of speech is an idea whose time has come, says Stengel. “I think it’s time to consider these statutes. The modern standard of dangerous speech comes from Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) and holds that speech that directly incites ‘imminent lawless action’ or is likely to do so can be restricted. Domestic terrorists such as Dylann Roof and Omar Mateen and the El Paso shooter were consumers of hate speech. Speech doesn’t pull the trigger, but does anyone seriously doubt that such hateful speech creates a climate where such acts are more likely?”

Yes. I’m not in favor of the burning of any book, and I believe that people ought to read and understand the Qur’an rather than burn it. However, note that Stengel is calling for legal “guardrails” against “speech that incites hate.” If someone burns a Bible, no one cares. If someone burns a Qur’an, there are riots and death threats. So for Stengel, burning a Bible would not be “speech that incites hate,” but burning a Qur’an would be. Saying that “speech that incites hate” must be criminalized is tantamount to calling for the heckler’s veto to be enshrined in law.

Stengel’s statement that “the First Amendment protects the ‘thought that we hate,’ but it should not protect hateful speech that can cause violence by one group against another” means that if Muslims riot over burned Qur’ans, we must outlaw burning Qur’ans. That would only signal to Muslims that they can get us to bend to their will by threatening violence, and ensure that we will see many more such threats.

In Richard Stengel’s ideal world, non-Muslims are cowed into silence by Muslims who threaten to kill them if they get out of line, and by non-Muslim officials who react to the threats by giving the Muslims what they want.

Note also that Leftist and Islamic groups in the U.S. have for years insisted, with no pushback from any mainstream politician or media figure, that essentially any and all criticism of Islam, including analysis of how Islamic jihadis use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and make recruits among peaceful Muslims, is “hate speech” and “speech that incites hate.” Thus Richard Stengel will silence that as well, and the global jihad will be able to advance unopposed and unimpeded.

In a year or two I might tell you “I warned you this was coming,” but by then I probably won’t be able to. 

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EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Biden transition official wants speech restrictions, criminalization of burning of Qur’an

I’m not in favor of the burning of any book, and I believe that people ought to read and understand the Qur’an rather than burn it. However, note that Stengel is calling for legal “guardrails” against “speech that incites hate.”

If someone burns a Bible, no one cares. If someone burns a Qur’an, there are riots and death threats. So for Stengel, burning a Bible would not be “speech that incites hate,” but burning a Qur’an would be. Saying that “speech that incites hate” must be criminalized is tantamount to calling for the heckler’s veto to be enshrined in law. Stengel says: “Yes, the First Amendment protects the ‘thought that we hate,’ but it should not protect hateful speech that can cause violence by one group against another.”

So if Muslims riot over burned Qur’ans, we must outlaw burning Qur’ans. That would only signal to Muslims that they can get us to bend to their will by threatening violence, and ensure that we will see many more such threats. In Richard Stengel’s ideal world, non-Muslims are cowed into silence by Muslims who threaten to kill them if they get out of line, and by non-Muslim officials who react to the threats by giving the Muslims what they want.

Note also that Leftist and Islamic groups in the U.S. have for years insisted, with no pushback from any mainstream politician or media figure, that essentially any and all criticism of Islam, including analysis of how Islamic jihadis use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and make recruits among peaceful Muslims, is “hate speech” and “speech that incites hate.” Thus Richard Stengel will silence that as well, and the global jihad will be able to advance unopposed and unimpeded.

In a year or two I might have told you “I warned you this was coming,” but by then I probably won’t be able to.

“Joe Biden transition official wrote op-ed advocating free speech restrictions,” by Steven Nelson, New York Post, November 13, 2020:

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team leader for US-owned media outlets wants to redefine freedom of speech and make “hate speech” a crime.

Richard Stengel is the Biden transition “Team Lead” for the US Agency for Global Media, the US government media empire that includes Voice of America, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Stengel, an Obama administration alumnus, wrote last year in a Washington Post op-ed that US freedom of speech was too unfettered and that changes must be considered.

He wrote: “All speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails. I’m all for protecting ‘thought that we hate,’ but not speech that incites hate.”

Stengel offered two examples of speech that he has an issue with: Quran burning and circulation of “false narratives” by Russia during the 2016 election.

“Even the most sophisticated Arab diplomats that I dealt with did not understand why the First Amendment allows someone to burn a Koran. Why, they asked me, would you ever want to protect that?” Stengel wrote.

“It’s a fair question. Yes, the First Amendment protects the ‘thought that we hate,’ but it should not protect hateful speech that can cause violence by one group against another. In an age when everyone has a megaphone, that seems like a design flaw.”…

“Since World War II, many nations have passed laws to curb the incitement of racial and religious hatred. These laws started out as protections against the kinds of anti-Semitic bigotry that gave rise to the Holocaust. We call them hate speech laws, but there’s no agreed-upon definition of what hate speech actually is. In general, hate speech is speech that attacks and insults people on the basis of race, religion, ethnic origin and sexual orientation,” Stengel wrote.

“I think it’s time to consider these statutes. The modern standard of dangerous speech comes from Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) and holds that speech that directly incites ‘imminent lawless action’ or is likely to do so can be restricted. Domestic terrorists such as Dylann Roof and Omar Mateen and the El Paso shooter were consumers of hate speech. Speech doesn’t pull the trigger, but does anyone seriously doubt that such hateful speech creates a climate where such acts are more likely?”…

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EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

The President’s Conference and its message: “Think Again, Turn Away”

Today starts a three day conference in Foggy Bottom at which President Obama will appear before an audience of representatives from 60 countries dealing with the threat of “violent extremism”.  The White House and State Department have made it abundantly clear that they refuse to identify the perpetrators and the victims of the Paris Charlie Hebdo and Kosher Supermarket attacks, this weekend’s attacks in Copenhagen, among them Jews, and the grisly beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya by ISIS.  The critics of this no name policy suggest that if you cannot define the threat of radical Islam and its basis, Qur’anic doctrine and Sharia Islamic law,  that you can’t develop a strategy for “degrading “and” defeating” the Islamic State.

Given what happened in Egypt’s Sinai and this past weekend in Libya, the area of conflict with IS might be expanded to include North Africa and, obviously, the West, given the attacks in France, Belgium and Denmark, as well as America and Canada. Thus the “violent extremism” conference will focus on warning potential IS recruits of foreign fighters from across the globe to “Think Again, Turn Away.” That message is  being  refined by the State Department  Center  for Strategic Counter-terrorism Communications (CSCC) set up under an executive order issued by President  Obama in 2011. Otherwise, the recruits might end up dead either as suicide bombers or at the hands of IS masterminds. The CSCC has a daunting task. According to its website:

CSCC is comprised of three interactive components. The integrated analysis component leverages the Intelligence Community and other substantive experts to ensure CSCC communicators benefit from the best information and analysis available. The plans and operations component draws on this input to devise effective ways to counter the terrorist narrative. The Digital Outreach Team actively and openly engages in Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, and Somali to counter terrorist propaganda and misinformation about the United States across a wide variety of interactive digital environments that had previously been ceded to extremists.

As a New York Times (NYTarticle on the conference pointed out the State Department CSCC coordinator, Ambassador Alberto Fernandez is leaving shortly after trying to lead the messaging effort across a broad spectrum of competing internal State, Homeland Security and intelligence echelons. This comment by former State Department counterterrorism coordinator Daniel Benjamin sums up why Fernandez will retire in April, 2015. “After its first year or two, it was never taken seriously and got little support from higher-ups.”

The CSCC has endeavored to communicate that the IS Salafist jihadist slick presentations in videos, tweets and Face book pages corrupts the central message of Islam of “peace and justice” – that is only to adherents of the faith. In point of fact, the IS following in the way of Allah, Jihad.

How slick is the IS agit-propaganda spewed out on-line to the unwary recruit? One recent example is reflected in a new release translated by MEMRI, entreating recruits to come to Libya and join the gateway to the Conquest of Rome – a thought that should be unnerving to Pope Francis. The NYT CSCC article cited as examples of effective “messaging”:

One online image two years ago, for instance, showed photographs of three American men who traveled to Somalia and died there, including Omar Hammami, a young man from Alabama who became an infamous Islamist militant. The accompanying message reads, “They came for jihad but were murdered by Al Shabaab.”

Another image showed a young man weeping over a coffin. The message read, “How can slaughtering the innocent be the right path?”

Each of the online posts carried a warning: “Think again. Turn away.”

Last June, Islamic State supporters warned fighters to beware of the center’s Twitter account and not to interact with it.

The reality of the CSCC mission, is that it has been corrupted- to quote Egyptian President Al-Sisi- by the origin of  IS and Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).  As late as January 2015, the State Department was caught in a conference with alleged Egyptian MB leaders.  There were graphic messages on twitter set against the backdrop of the Seal of the State Department by one of the participants flashing the ‘rabbia’ hand sign-a signal to support ousted President Morsi and hundreds of others currently being tried for sedition in Egypt.  Last May, the State Department was embarrassed by a tweet it sent about the presence at a White House meeting on messaging with Sheik Bin Bayyah, a deputy to notorious MB preacher, Yusuf Al Qaradawi.  Bin Bayyah had been there before along with another Egyptian legislator and member of a terrorist group in 2013.

The President’s Conference on Violent Extremism is being stage managed by a skilled media expert, Richard Stengel, former Time Magazine managing editor, who was appointed in 2013 as Undersecretary Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.  Stengel will be assisted at the Conference by Ambassador Rashad Hussein, current Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and former Deputy White House Counsel with MB connections.  Stengel admits that countering the ISIS supremacy in messaging its appeal to young impressionable Muslim recruits is daunting. He was cited by the New York Times saying, “We’re getting beaten on volume, so the only way to compete is by aggregating, curating and amplifying existing content…. These guys [meaning IS] aren’t BuzzFeed; they’re not invincible in social media.”

Last fall, Stengel was interviewed by the Voice of America while in the midst of the propaganda war with IS:

VOA: What are some challenges in terms of dealing or confronting the ISIS propaganda machine?

Stengel: There are a lot of challenges. They are very sophisticated. They will stop at nothing, so to speak. They are not bound by the truth in any way. There are structural problems in the Middle East and the Arab world that can sometimes make Daesh’s ideology attractive, attractive to young men who don’t have jobs, who don’t see a great future for themselves, who have only heard a kind of misbegotten idea of Islam. So that is part of the challenge. What we’re trying to say, along with the coalition partners, is that Daesh is not the true face of Islam, it doesn’t represent what the prophet or the Koran stands for, and that the vision they’re creating of a caliphate is a false vision where none of the things they say are true are true.

Clearly, Stengel is toeing the White House line that IS is ‘misinterpreting’ Islam, even as  some scholars believe it is reflecting the core doctrine of Salafist/Jihad.

Last October, Stengel appeared at a forum on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California’s Center for Public Diplomacy (CPD).  Watch the video of his talk and Q&A here:

USC Professor of Journalism and International Relations Phillip Seib in a CPD article suggested that countering ISIS messaging capability is in the wrong place at State’s CSCC. Rather it should be transferred to the CIA. He wrote:

A much more effective approach to combat their message would be a bare-knuckles operation: no disclaimers and a product that matches up better against the videos coming from Al Hayat, ISIL’s video production arm (the name stolen from the pan-Arab newspaper, Al-Hayat).

These videos should feature imams denouncing ISIL’s tactics and women urging their sisters not to be enticed by ISIL’s recruiting messages. They should include video testimony from disillusioned ISIL fighters who have returned home. And they should show the ravaged Muslim communities that have been attacked by ISIL. But few anti-ISIL speakers want to participate in a State Department-branded video. And even fewer jihadist recruits believe it. American credibility in the region remains low, and many Muslims are wary of a new round of U.S. involvement in their homelands.

Our comment on the President’s “violent extremism” Conference this week in Washington is soft power is trumped by raw Islamic Jihad every time. That is embodied in failure to recognize the Qur’anic doctrine behind the rise of IS. To paraphrase the CSCC motto, “Think Again, Turn Away” from Taqiyya – lying for Allah.

RELATED ARTICLE: Islamic supremacist groups including Hamas-linked CAIR say Obama terror summit wrongly singles out Muslims

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.