Jonathan

Rand on Protecting the Offended

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Interesting entry and discussion on Noodlefood:

http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/2008/04/nui...ornography.html

I hadn't seen Rand's views before on limiting public displays of pornography:

The rights of those who seek pornography would not be infringed by rules protecting the rights of those who find pornography offensive—e.g., sexually explicit posters may properly be forbidden in public places; warning signs, such as "For Adults Only," may properly be required of private places which are open to the public. This protects the unconsenting, and has nothing to do with censorship, i.e., with prohibiting thought or speech.

Hmmm. One could use Rand's reasoning above to say that "the rights of those who seek limited government would not be infringed by rules protecting the rights of those who find the advocacy of capitalism offensive—e.g., politically explicit speeches, signs, posters or books may properly be forbidden in public places; warning signs, such as "For Advocates of Capitalism Only," may properly be required of private places which are open to the public. This protects the unconsenting, and has nothing to do with censorship, i.e., with prohibiting thought or speech."

J

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Hmmm. One could use Rand's reasoning above to say that "the rights of those who seek limited government would not be infringed by rules protecting the rights of those who find the advocacy of capitalism offensive—e.g., politically explicit speeches, signs, posters or books may properly be forbidden in public places; warning signs, such as "For Advocates of Capitalism Only," may properly be required of private places which are open to the public. This protects the unconsenting, and has nothing to do with censorship, i.e., with prohibiting thought or speech."

I disagree. Uttering any legal statements implies Capitalism: No law is justified unless it is supported by Natural Rights theory. Anyone using the concept of laws while rejecting their basis would be guilty of a stolen concept. The same cannot be said for someone advocating warning signs for pornography.

So there is nothing at all inconsistent in Ayn Rand's statement.

Shayne

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Since when is there a right not to be offended?! That is utter BS.

She definitely said it: AR Lexicon: Free Speech.

Only one aspect of sex is a legitimate field for legislation: the protection of minors and of unconsenting adults. Apart from criminal actions (such as rape), this aspect includes the need to protect people from being confronted with sights they regard as loathsome. (A corollary of the freedom to see and hear, is the freedom not to look or listen.) Legal restraints on certain types of public displays, such as posters or window displays, are proper—but this is an issue of procedure, of etiquette, not of morality …

The rights of those who seek pornography would not be infringed by rules protecting the rights of those who find pornography offensive—e.g., sexually explicit posters may properly be forbidden in public places; warning signs, such as "For Adults Only," may properly be required of private places which are open to the public. This protects the unconsenting, and has nothing to do with censorship, i.e., with prohibiting thought or speech.

"Thought Control," The Ayn Rand Letter, III, 2, 2

Of course she also says:

But the issue here is not one's view of sex. The issue is freedom of speech and of the press—i.e., the right to hold any view and to express it.

It is not very inspiring to fight for the freedom of the purveyors of pornography or their customers. But in the transition to statism, every infringement of human rights has begun with the suppression of a given right's least attractive practitioners. In this case, the disgusting nature of the offenders makes it a good test of one's loyalty to a principle.

"Censorship: Local and Express,"

Philosophy: Who Needs It, 173.

I don't remember which came first.

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No law is justified unless it is supported by Natural Rights theory.

Compare the passage George quoted:

Legal restraints on certain types of public displays, such as posters or window displays, are proper—but this is an issue of procedure, of etiquette, not of morality …

Rand is talking about legislation, the will of the majority, their prejudices and customs. Just another example of incoherency in her political opinions. Bless her, she did no work on the philosophy of law. Simple restatement of natural rights (from Locke and Hayek) scolded America that the Founder's "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" purpose of the social contract had been discarded, ignored in favor of majoritarian whimsy.

There's no point in arguing natural rights, negative rights, or non-aggression. In the US and Western Europe, government is sovereign and representative politicians subject to recall are as close as you'll get to fairness of a sort. You can vote, period. And you're outvoted, every time.

W.

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Wolf accuses Rand of being inconsistent, then me of being consistent. I think he is confused.

Shayne

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Hmmm. One could use Rand's reasoning above to say that "the rights of those who seek limited government would not be infringed by rules protecting the rights of those who find the advocacy of capitalism offensive—e.g., politically explicit speeches, signs, posters or books may properly be forbidden in public places; warning signs, such as "For Advocates of Capitalism Only," may properly be required of private places which are open to the public. This protects the unconsenting, and has nothing to do with censorship, i.e., with prohibiting thought or speech."

I disagree. Uttering any legal statements implies Capitalism: No law is justified unless it is supported by Natural Rights theory. Anyone using the concept of laws while rejecting their basis would be guilty of a stolen concept. The same cannot be said for someone advocating warning signs for pornography.

Finding the advocacy of capitalism offensive is not the same thing as rejecting capitalism. I'm pro-capitalist, not to mention pro-Mario Lanza, pro-Frank Lloyd Wright, pro-Firefly and pro-comic book art, but I often find the lunatic shrillness of Objectivists advocating those things to be more offensive that the worst pornography.

So, again, using Rand's method, it would not violate anyone's rights to require by law that people advocating capitalism, or any other political point of view, do so in whispered tones on their own property where there is no risk that those who do not wish to listen to them will overhear them.

Apparently the Objectivist notion of "free speech" and "property rights" is that a person can be labeled "free" so long as he is not completely prohibited from speaking or using his property. Being confined to a prison cell where one is allowed to say anything he wishes might be an Objectivist example of freedom of speech. And creating a law which restricts people to reading Atlas Shrugged in private booths in adult bookstores (because of the novel's highly offensive extramarital "love scenes") would not be a violation of anyone's rights because such a law would have "nothing to do with censorship, i.e., with prohibiting thought or speech," but would be designed to protect the delicate sensibilities and sweet innocence of the "unconsenting."

So there is nothing at all inconsistent in Ayn Rand's statement.

You're right if Rand's official Objectivist view is that government can control and regulate thought, speech and expression based on etiquette concerns as long as it doesn't fully prohibit thinking, speaking and expressing.

J

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One of your big errors Jonathan is in your bogus analogy. Pictures aren't the same as an argument. And obviously someone yelling capitalist arguments downtown is a nuissance, so that's easily prohibited under Capitalism.

Shayne

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One of your big errors Jonathan is in your bogus analogy. Pictures aren't the same as an argument.

Ah. I see. We're being very literal. Actual vocal speech is the only legitimate means of expression which we are free to use. It's perfectly acceptable for government to control, regulate and even prohibit non-verbal modes of expression because such modes are not technically "speech."

And obviously someone yelling capitalist arguments downtown is a nuissance, so that's easily prohibited under Capitalism.

Jesus. My use of the word "shrillness" was more of a metaphorical description of style than actual vocal volume. If I had said "feverish" instead I image that you'd now be trying to measure the internal body temperatures of various Objectivists and getting back to me as soon as possible with accurate data which demonstrated how wrong I was.

J

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Ah. I see. We're being very literal. Actual vocal speech is the only legitimate means of expression which we are free to use. It's perfectly acceptable for government to control, regulate and even prohibit non-verbal modes of expression because such modes are not technically "speech."

No I'm not being literal and legalistic. We grasp the perceptual (as in pictures) at an unchosen level. To process words requires choice. This is why your analogy is bogus.

Jesus. My use of the word "shrillness" was more of a metaphorical description of style than actual vocal volume. If I had said "feverish" instead I image that you'd now be trying to measure the internal body temperatures of various Objectivists and getting back to me as soon as possible with accurate data which demonstrated how wrong I was.

"Jesus" indeed--you miss the point and then act like I did. Your bad analogy is the root problem, this is probably irrelevant.

Shayne

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Ah. I see. We're being very literal. Actual vocal speech is the only legitimate means of expression which we are free to use. It's perfectly acceptable for government to control, regulate and even prohibit non-verbal modes of expression because such modes are not technically "speech."

No I'm not being literal and legalistic. We grasp the perceptual (as in pictures) at an unchosen level. To process words requires choice. This is why your analogy is bogus.

So, if I overhear people next to me talking (at a normal volume, just to be clear, and not "yelling downtown") you think that I won't understand what they're saying unless I first choose to process their words? If I see ink on a two-dimensional surface designed to look like human breasts, you think that I will grasp on a perceptual level that they are representations of breasts, and that I will have no choice in recognizing them as such, yet when I hear the word "breasts" I will not instantly and automatically grasp what it means, but will first have to remind myself that I'll need to turn on my mental processing system and choose to understand the word?

"Jesus" indeed--you miss the point and then act like I did. Your bad analogy is the root problem, this is probably irrelevant.

"Root"? Problems don't have roots! They don't grow in the ground like plants!

J

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[No I'm not being literal and legalistic. We grasp the perceptual (as in pictures) at an unchosen level. To process words requires choice. This is why your analogy is bogus.

Whoa, wait a minute. Now you've banned outdoor advertising billboards, images on packages, movie posters, etc. The right solution has nothing to do with freedom of expression in 'public.' Let each street and highway be privately owned. The owners can decide who exhibits what. In The New Left, Rand wanted us to believe that the entire people of California were a 'body politic' who owned the Cal-Berkeley campus and could therefore ban speech and assembly on public property. Phooey.

W.

Edited by Wolf DeVoon

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[No I'm not being literal and legalistic. We grasp the perceptual (as in pictures) at an unchosen level. To process words requires choice. This is why your analogy is bogus.

Whoa, wait a minute. Now you've banned outdoor advertising billboards, images on packages, movie posters, etc. The right solution has nothing to do with freedom of expression in 'public.' Let each street and highway be privately owned. The owners can decide who exhibits what. In The New Left, Rand wanted us to believe that the entire people of California were a 'body politic' who owned the Cal-Berkeley campus and could therefore ban speech and assembly on public property. Phooey.

W.

Making these things private would not address the issue Ayn Rand raised, for the same reason that you can't make noise all night on your property that disturbs your neighbors.

I guess that's the question I should ask: Would you be for letting your next-door neighbor "express" himself by blaring his stereo at all hours of the night? I assume not but at this point, given your arguments, I have to ask. In any case, Ayn Rand's argument as I take it is from this angle.

Shayne

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No I'm not being literal and legalistic. We grasp the perceptual (as in pictures) at an unchosen level. To process words requires choice. This is why your analogy is bogus.

If there is no right not to be offended, is there a right to be offensive?

Noise ordinances are easy to understand in terms of property rights.

However, this argument is old. Do you have a right to build on your property in such a way as to block my sunset?

If you can do "whatever you want" on your property, then you can blast your woofers as well, and put up huge pornographic images... Michelangelo's David, for instance...

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Noisy or visually offensive neighbors? Not property law, but rather a case in equity.

Originally an English chancery doctrine of righting wrongs, equity became a vital adjunct to American common law in colonial times. It persists today in probate, contract, family law and abatement of public nuisances (fishing with dynamite). The U.S. State of Georgia, for instance, codified Equity as a discretionary county court jurisdiction "established and allowed for the protection and relief of parties where, from any peculiar circumstances, the operation of general rules of law would be deficient in protecting from anticipated wrong or relieving for injuries done." The main equitable remedy is a restraining order, although equity can void contracts and compel action. If a dairy cow wanders away into a neighbor's farm, common law only allows the cow's owner to sue for money damages if his neighbor refuses to return the cow. An equity judge can order him to return the animal and jail him for contempt of court until he complies. Laissez Faire Law

Equity jurisdiction is especially important for the protection of innocents. "Great inadequacy of consideration, joined with great disparity of mental ability in contracting a bargain, may justify equity in setting aside a sale or other contract." (Georgia 23-2-2) "In all cases of fraud, except fraud in the execution of a will, equity has concurrent jurisdiction with the law." (23-2-50) "Misrepresentation of a material fact, made willfully to deceive or recklessly without knowledge and acted on by the opposite party constitutes legal fraud." (23-2-52) "Any person who may not bring an action at law may complain in equity and every person who is remediless elsewhere may claim the protection and assistance of equity." (23-4-5) Traditional legal maxims of equity are simple and eloquent. Equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy. Equality is equity. Equity regards substance rather than form. One who seeks equity must do equity. One who comes into equity must come with clean hands. Equity will not permit a party to profit by his own wrong. Equity delights to do justice and not by halves. Pretty swell, huh? But American equity is mostly inoperable. Architecture of Liberal Democracy

Property disputes will no doubt appear on the docket, with Neighbor A claiming that Neighbor B wrecked a communal septic tank, or some such rot. I hope you realize that courts are not very good at settling such cases. Factual evidence is always debatable, and the parties to a suit are often emotionally exercised far beyond the real (or imagined) injury they sustained. People do things for spite, typically at the fringes of technical legality. In Virginia City, Neighbor A had a splendid view of the scenery. He verbally offended Neighbor B, who proceeded to erect his house smack dab on their common property line, totally blocking Neighbor A's view and access to sunlight. It was perfectly legal. Last night, someone told me an identical tale of "spite" that happened three thousand miles away and a century later in Nosara. Some things never change. Property

;)

Edited by Wolf DeVoon

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If there is no right not to be offended, is there a right to be offensive?

The issue as I see it has nothing to do with being offended. If your stereo is blaring then I can't sleep. So it's an actual health hazard. A similar life-harming argument can be made for pornography, especially when it involves children who might accidentally see it.

It's a biological issue, not a matter of taste and "offense".

Shayne

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The issue as I see it has nothing to do with being offended. If your stereo is blaring then I can't sleep. So it's an actual health hazard. A similar life-harming argument can be made for pornography, especially when it involves children who might accidentally see it.

It would be interesting if someone were to actually make that argument instead of just asserting it without evidence.

Throughout my childhood I lived near towns which had drive-in theaters which would occasionally show movies that contained explicit sexual content. I and many of my young friends got eyefuls on several occasions while riding in our parents' cars on highways next to the theaters. I think that our parents generally tried to avoid those routes at night if we were riding with them, but they'd sometimes forget. We as children, both boys and girls alike, would talk about what we had seen. Being humans, we were very interested in sex, and we liked seeing the images on the drive-in screen. Not one of us turned into a rapist. We didn't have nightmares about the images. We didn't start having sex at a young age. We didn't become addicted to porn. We didn't end up to be cold or impotent in our relationships, or incapable of happiness. None of us turned into murderous sex-starved zombies. There were no "health hazards."

And we didn't turn into sex zombies or victims when we'd look at the nudes in the elementary school library, be it art books, National Geographic, or the illustrated books which explicitly explained the entire reproductive process.

Now, of course, similar to my enjoyment of a wide variety of art which some feverish Objectivists see as proof of moral and psychological deficiencies, I suppose that my disagreement with Rand and Shayne on etiquette laws might be proof in itself that I've been severely damaged by having seen film segments of naked people copulating when I was a young child?

Btw, the internet is known to have porn and other "health hazards" that are much, much easier to access by children, even accidentally, than the adult movies that I caught glimpses of as a kid. If it is proper to ban images in storefront windows or on billboards because of the yet-to-be-proved damage that they might perhaps maybe possibly do to a single child somewhere, then surely the internet should be heavily regulated and policed, no? For example, if government investigators discover that a single child gained access to an Objectivist site where members sometimes use language that the state has determined to be a "health hazard" to children, then the site should be shut down or censored, and each member who has used "hazardous" language should be severely punished. Sound good?

J

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It would be interesting if someone were to actually make that argument instead of just asserting it without evidence.

I'm not sure I agree with the argument. I'm just pointing out the fact that you've made the most innane interpretation possible of Rand's position. Moronic behavior like yours fans the flames of the zealots you hate so much. Use your intelligence when you read Rand if you really hate them so much, don't egg them on with stupid remarks.

Shayne

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It would be interesting if someone were to actually make that argument instead of just asserting it without evidence.

I'm not sure I agree with the argument. I'm just pointing out the fact that you've made the most innane interpretation possible of Rand's position. Moronic behavior like yours fans the flames of the zealots you hate so much. Use your intelligence when you read Rand if you really hate them so much, don't egg them on with stupid remarks.

You're claiming that the visual content of posters in a neighbor's windows might in some way have a physical effect similar to that which loud sounds have on your house and its occupants and contents, and you're calling me a moron? Heh. "I can feel the porn waves pounding against my walls and rumbling in the floor boards. They're physically shaking the foundation of my house!"

Why not argue in favor of color and style laws while you're at it?

"The ugly green tone that my neighbor painted his house is radiating disturbing green waves onto my property. The color gives me an upset stomach which keeps me up at night. It's for health reasons that laws should be established to dictate which colors people may paint their homes."

"The privately owned temple which was built by that defiant new architect is an abomination! It will spiritually harm many citizens of this city for generations to come, and spiritual harm is just as damaging as physical harm, if not more so. There should be a law which requires that architects get design approval from a state board of governors before building."

J

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You're claiming that the visual content of posters in a neighbor's windows might in some way have a physical effect similar to that which loud sounds have on your house and its occupants and contents, and you're calling me a moron?

You can't fathom the possibility for a negative psychological effect of porn on a child. Yes, that makes you a moron.

Shayne

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You're claiming that the visual content of posters in a neighbor's windows might in some way have a physical effect similar to that which loud sounds have on your house and its occupants and contents, and you're calling me a moron?

You can't fathom the possibility for a negative psychological effect of porn on a child. Yes, that makes you a moron.

Shayne

There was a great female NYC wit who once remarked: Do what you want in the bedroom, but don't do it in the street and frighten the horses.

--Brant

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You're claiming that the visual content of posters in a neighbor's windows might in some way have a physical effect similar to that which loud sounds have on your house and its occupants and contents, and you're calling me a moron?

You can't fathom the possibility for a negative psychological effect of porn on a child. Yes, that makes you a moron.

I can fathom that porn might have negative psychological effects on a child, just as I can fathom that the rape scene in The Fountainhead might have a negative effect on a child. Should there be a law which states that people under 18 years of age shall not be allowed to read The Fountainhead? Should libraries which allow the public to use their books and services be restricted by law to keeping Rand's novels in an "adults only" section?

I can also fathom that the CBS Evening News could have negative psychological effects on children. I saw some horrific images of Vietnam on department store television sets when I was a child. Should there be a law dictating which types of news programs stores may or may not tune their televisions to where children might be present?

I had childhood playmates who were terrified of the Big Bad Wolf in the The Three Little Pigs storybook. The cover art alone was enough to give them recurring nightmares. That's a very real negative psychological effect. Should scary children's stories be banned by law or relegated to "adults only" sections?

And, again, the color and style examples that I mentioned earlier have real negative psychological effects on adults as well as children. There are people who feel absolute rage over certain architectural designs. Shouldn't they have the right to not be tormented by the things which cause them so much anguish? Feeling that much hatred as frequently as they do surely must have negative psychological consequences from which they have the right to be protected at the expense of other people's property rights!

J

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I can fathom that porn might have negative psychological effects on a child, just as I can fathom that the rape scene in The Fountainhead might have a negative effect on a child. <snip>

This just proves you can't hold context, more proof that you're a moron. The context was: pictures of things that someone might accidentally see. You can't accidentally read a book, or watch the news, etc.

Care to try again, or would you rather quit while you're way behind?

Shayne

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