Monday, December 2, 2013

The National Lawyers Guild, GUPS, and SFSU: Red Herring. Its whats for Lunch.

h/t Gary at Fousesquawk

Red Herring.  Its what's for Lunch.

Once again, the National Lawyers Guild proves that their commitment to advancing an ideology bypasses their commitment to constitutional law, justice or peace.

On Nov. 7, an event sponsored by the General Opinion of Palestinian Students at San Francisco State University featured signage stating "Our heroes have always killed colonizers", which was roundly condemned by university administrators, and advocacy groups.

In an open letter than never once mentions the controversial phrase, the National Lawyers Guild has come out with a statement declaring this as  "controversial political speech  rather than hate speech", and therefore safeguarded by protections under the first amendment. The statement, undersigned by NLGSF President R. Michael Flynn   and Rachel Lederman NLGSF President-Elect   neglects some appreciable aspects of first amendment law.  Speech that involves incitement, false statements of fact and threats is generally not protected by the first amendment.

But as importantly,  the NLG letter is a red herring.
A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to "win" an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of "reasoning" has the following form:
Topic A is under discussion.
Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).
Topic A is abandoned.
This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim.

At no point did San Francisco State University President Les Wong speak of anything that could be construed as limiting the "academic freedom" or the " right"  of the General Union of Palestinian students to make complete fools of themselves not only on their home campus, but in the marketplace of ideas. Rather, he stated:

* As president, I was deeply disturbed by incendiary language that marred an annual commemoration of a cultural mural on campus.
* I am dismayed by the glorification of violence that this message conveys.
* The university is a place where dialogue, debate and the marketplace of ideas are cherished.

However, incitement to violence is not protected speech. The litmus test remains: Was the language of the sign mean to intimidate?

Given the reputation of GUPS on campus, their past history and their current rhetoric, many believe it was.

From the Simon Weisenthal Center
Simon Wiesenthal Center officials today warned San Francisco State University of a potential threat to its Jewish students after the Amcha Initiative uncovered a picture on Tumblr allegedly posted by the President of the University-sanctioned General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) in which he is shown holding a knife with the caption saying, “I seriously can not get over how much I love this blade. It is the sharpest thing I own and cuts through everything like butter and just holding it makes me want to stab an Israeli soldier….” The Tumblr post has since been removed. See larger image of Tumblr page here).

Copies of the picture were forwarded to SFSU President Leslie Wong by Amcha and the Wiesenthal Center, and in a phone conversation earlier today with Wong’s office, Center officials warned that such avowedly violent statements, especially when linked with another recent GUPS campus event where participants used a stencil saying, “My heroes have always killed colonizers,” pose a potentially significant threat to the university’s Jewish students.

“It is outrageous and unacceptable that the leader of a University-funded group would invoke a message of death and violence,” said a Wiesenthal Center official.
Indeed it is.

From the Tumblr account of Mohammad Hammad, president of SFSU GUPS

To R. Michael Flynn  and Rachel Lederman of the National lawyers Guild, in San Francisco:   Is Mohammed Hammad, president of GUPS stated desire to stab an Israeli soldier protected free speech or is it a threat? Is this legitimate discourse, or is this incitement to violence?  Is this speech protected as academic freedom or does it represent a clear and present danger to others?

To R. Michael Flynn  and Rachel Lederman , a final question: If this form of racist rhetoric was directed towards any nationality but Israelis, would you still publicly advocate for it?


Gary Fouse said...

The Jewish Press has weighed in on this.

Gary Fouse said...

NLG was founded in the late 30s as a legal arm of the Communist Party USA. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

Mohammad Hammad published a personal statement at

Anonymous said...

Legally speaking, it is not a "true threat" nor does it incite "imminent lawless action." So yes, it is protected under the constitution.