UPDATE AND RETRACTION This post was based on a mistake. I spotted what I thought was an offensively racist ad on the Volokh Conspiracy. In fact, the image in question was part of a post discussing the legal question whether a public agency had the authority to ban such images in advertising. My apologies to Eugene Volokh, and to RBC readers for misleading them.
Despite our political differences, I’ve always had a good deal of affection and respect for Eugene Volokh, who welcomed me to UCLA and got me into blogging. But on matters concerning Arabs specifically and Muslims generally Eugene is sometimes tempted to go well beyond the limits of decency. He promoted the silly “Egypt’s Islamists are going to allow sex with dead women” hoax, and although he later noted “the possibility that Al Ahram and Al Arabiya may not be accurate on this,” never retracted when the was shown be false by the simple fact that none of the people pushing it could produce the actual text of the purported proposed law. It seems to me that if you spread a rumor that holds an entire ethnic and religious group up to hatred and contempt, and the rumor turns out to have been baseless, you should take it back.
And now the Volokh Conspiracy is running the following ad:
So Arabs are “savages”? And the moral difference between this and “Jews are vermin” is … what, precisely?
Note that “atlasshrugs.com” is the website of Pam Geller, who actively opposes religious freedom for Muslims.
This is especially shocking given the VC’s purported commitment to “civility”: I still remember the rivers of crocodile tears they shed because Republican politicians who had questioned Paul Wellstone’s loyalty when he was alive were booed for having the chutzpah to show up at his memorial service after he was safely dead.
Now it’s possible that the ad was placed by some service without direct intevention by any of the Conspirators. But if so, they should take it down, quickly, apologize, and get clear with their ad service about some limits.
Update Commenter Dave Schultz points out that Eugene had a post agreeing – on a legal basis – with a court ruling that the New York transit authority had to accept this piece of filth as an ad, under First Amendment law as applied to either “designated” or “limited” public fora. Perhaps that post helped lead to the ad plaement.
In that post, Eugene says he “sympathizes” with “arguments that the government, acting as service provider, should be able to exclude material that is likely to greatly alienate or offend some of its customers, while still making money from material that won’t have that effect.”
Several commenters there analyze the ad as if it opposed “jihad” alone, rather than doing what it clearly does: identify Israeli Jews as “civilized” and Israeli and Palestinian Arabs as “savages,” trying to attach the scare-label “jihad” to anything that supports the Arab cause: including, presumably, objection to the forced displacement of Arab residents by settlers. Eugene is silent as to the ad’s merits; if he thinks that there’s some problem with frank anti-Arab racism other than that it might offend some of the MTA’s customers, he doesn’t say so.
There’s an argument that the courts, in applying First Adendment law, should be either content-neutral or (less restrictively) at least viewpoint-neutral. Whether that’s right or not as legal doctrine, it surely doesn’t apply to those commenting on the courts’ actions. It seems to me that Churchill took the better course when he refused to be neutral “as between the fire brigade and the fire.”