War porn and First Amendment rightsAndi's World reports that "war porn" is all over Youtube.com. Citing the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:
The wildly popular video-sharing Web site YouTube.com has dozens of videos purporting to show individual American soldiers being killed in Iraq, in what amounts to snuff films, overlaid with music and insurgent slogans.
Some of the videos, including ones of American soldiers purportedly being picked off by snipers or being blown up by improvised explosive devices, have been viewed tens of thousands of times each in the past few months. Some are posted in YouTube's "news and blogs" category, but others are listed under "entertainment" and even "comedy."One shows what appears to be three U.S. soldiers in desert fatigues questioning Iraqi men in a street or alley as young boys mingle around. Suddenly, one soldier slumps to the ground, felled by a single bullet, as the children scatter. In another, a U.S. soldier is standing through the top hatch of a Humvee, then slumps over as the sniper strikes.
There are also "violent videos that claim to show U.S. soldiers killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan." The appearance on Youtube of jihadist propaganda video,
... shows that insurgent propaganda -- including genuine footage -- already available on more obscure Web sites has seeped in the mainstream of American popular culture, said Eben Kaplan, assistant editor of CFR.org, the Web site of the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank headquartered in New York.
As disgusting as war porn is, fairness impels me to point out that US troops have been making personal videos in Iraq from the beginning. I have seen several examples, via military officers I know well. Some video scenes are extremely graphic and show, unblinkingly, extremely violent combat sequences. One such sequence that I can't seem to forget is of a fairly close-up scene wounded jihadist in Fallujah attempting to climb to his knees and aim his weapon. He's cut down by a burst of machine gun fire to his head.
Whether any of the troops post that kind of video to Youtube I have no idea. Possibly the videos of American troops killing Iraqis or Afghanis the article says are on Youtube were posted by private soldiers. (The volume of videos posted to the site boggles - 65,000 per day.) But our troops are posting other in-theater video for certain, including combat footage. For example, the video below is of a foot-infantry firefight in Afghanistan. The enemy is never seen and there's no blood, but the action is intense. (Warning: some "soldier" language.)
On the whole, the advent of internet citizens' media has been more than positive, but not an unalloyed good. There is a line between a video such as this one and those that show the graphic scenes the Star-Bulletin describes. Which videos are clearly on one side or the other are easy to identify. But others aren't so clearly identified.
A man told me this week in conversation that "it's time to set some limits on the First Amendment." I disagreed and think that we already have too many limits (cough, McCain-Feingold, cough). I have written before that, "The only good answer to free speech with which you don't agree is more free speech. "Yet (to move off the topic of videos) there are justifiable limits to First Amendment rights of speech. The famous USSC opinion by Oliver Wendell Holmes - in which he referred to falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater - is actually germane to a point made yesterday by Harvard Prof. Harvey Mansfield. Holmes, reports Wikipedia, was writing on whether Congress could forbid the distribution of fliers opposing the draft during World War I. The USSC said yes:
The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.
The case's legal point was later reversed in another case by the Supreme Court of 1969, which held the test was different than what Holmes said it was. Now Prof. Mansfield has written,
The preaching of radical Islam is in fact "a clear and present danger," and we need to suppress it. This sort of speech is not just blowing off steam or keeping us honest or puncturing our complacency. Here is a new task to occupy the anxious minds of civil libertarians in universities: how to distinguish truly dangerous speech and how to defeat it?
I think that such "preaching" falls under the category of inciting insurrection, which has never been protected speech since Washington's day. But the good professor is right: we have to recognize that there is such a thing as speech that is dangerous to the republic before we can take prophylactic measures at all, and there are an awful lot of elites in America who won't confront that fundamental task.
Crossposted at DonaldSensing.com