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December 15, 2006
HostGator Will Not Stand Up For Clients' Free Speech

Stop the ACLU and My Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy have a disturbing story for those of us who defend freedom of speech through our blogging; a hosting service has shut down a blogger for voicing a controversial satire. HostGator has suspended the Right Wing Howler for linking to and excerpting an "editorial" at IMAO, a well-known source of biting (and excellent) political satire. Vilmar's offending web page has been cached by Google here.

To no one's great surprise, HostGator locked Vilmar out of his blog following a complaint by CAIR:

The Tampa, Fla., office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Tampa) is calling on an Internet web hosting company in that state to drop a hate site that supports calls to "kill all Muslim kids."

Under the headline, "Love Your Kids? Fear For Their Future? Kill All Muslim Kids," the Web site's owner, who lives in the Tampa area, wrote: "Makes sense to me. After all, if Muslims are raising their little crumb- snatching, curtain climbing, ankle biting rug rats to strap on bombs in order to kill us, it is logically correct to assume that in order to stop that from happening we need to kill all Muslim kids. Starting now." ...

In a letter to Boca Raton-based LLC, CAIR-Tampa Executive Director Ahmed Bedier wrote: "While we respect an individual's right to freedom of speech, we oppose hate-filled speech that calls for violence against innocent people...It's clear that (the website is) in violation of your company's 'Terms of Service' agreement which states: '...Any material that, in our judgment, is obscene or threatening is prohibited and will be removed from our servers with or without notice.' The agreement also clearly defines 'hate sites' under 'Examples of unacceptable material.'"

Bedier asked Hostgator to stop hosting the site. He noted that CAIR had raised concerns about the anti- Muslim site at a local forum on hate crimes in November.

First, the offending first piece didn't even originate with Vilmar, as I noted above. Second, it was satire, as one look at IMAO would have demonstrated, complete with the hilariously thoughtful pose of Frank J. If anyone at CAIR knew how to follow a link, they would also have seen this droll paragraph as a dead giveaway:

Finally, some think that the scope of this plan is too limited since Iran is a big supporter of terrorism but they're not Arab and thus don't have Arab children. I frankly don't understand that. If Iranians aren't Arabs, then what are they doing in the Middle East? That doesn't make sense. I'm quite sure Iranians are Arab and anyone who says otherwise is probably just confused.

So the people at CAIR have no sense of humor and apparently no knowledge of satire. Jonathan Swift once wrote a powerful political satire titled "A Modest Proposal", in which he suggested that the English eat Irish children to improve the lives of their parents. While Frank J's satire might not appeal to all tastes, it's hardly a serious call to genocide. And as far as a second passage that CAIR quotes from Vilmar's site, readers can easily surmise that Vilmar meant that war was coming to Americans and that they should prepare themselves.

CAIR, which has joined the effort to intimidate airlines into ignoring provocations from Musims, now wants to intimidate the blogosphere into silence. We can blame CAIR for this action, and it certainly reveals them as humorless and autocratic twits, but the real culprit here is HostGator. One would expect a service that hosts blogs to take the First Amendment rights of their clients a little more seriously than this. Instead of dialoguing with Vilmar, or better yet telling CAIR to pound sand, they abruptly took Vilmar's site down.

Do they have the right to do that? Of course -- it's their service. However, other HostGator customers should take notice and start arranging to take their business elsewhere, such as my provider, Hosting Matters. HM hosts many prominent bloggers and has a track record of defending our right to be heard in the political marketplace of ideas. Bloggers should spread the word that HostGator is a Quisling, a backstabber that will do nothing to defend its clients against bullying tactics of terrorist apologists like CAIR. HostGator can be reached through this link, for those who want to complain directly to the source.

The best remedy for bad speech is more speech, not prior restraint and silencing techniques. People who try to shut down bloggers have no interest in freedom and liberty.

UPDATE: Frequent CQ commenter Lexhamfox asks a very good question:

While generally agreeing with you that there should be more free speech rather than less... do we extend this courtesy to those who support terror or promote peadophilia?

I would say that a hosting provider should limit their actions to speech that is already recognized as illegal, such as incitement to riot, incitement to terror, or child pornography as examples. While Frank's satirical editorial might be viewed as tasteless by some, it doesn't amount to incitement to terror, riot, or murder, no more than did Swift's essay amount to incitement to cannibalism.

I should also note that the First Amendment applies to government action, not that of private companies. However, any blogger hosting service should understand and support the full range of political speech -- and if not, bloggers should abandon such services as soon as they discover that a service will cave to special-interest groups on every imagined slight or offense in a blogger's political essays.

UPDATE II: Vilmar has decided to shut down the blog, telling readers that he planned to quit at the end of the month anyway. He also tried to take some of the heat off of HostGator, noting that its owner finally called him to ask about the situation. I'm not impressed. HostGator should have called or contacted him prior to suspending his account. However, we wish Vilmar the best and hope he rediscovers his passion for blogging at some future date. (via the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler)

UPDATE III: Apparently, the bloggers at Pandagon have a reading disability. I know that Jonathan Swift was Irish, I know that he didn't want the English to eat Irish children -- which is why I described A Modest Proposal as effective satire. It's one of my favorite political satires, in fact. I didn't claim it was the exact analog of IMAO's entreaty, just that it serves as an example of calling for violence as a satirical method, not as a serious incitement to murder. Furthermore, it's pretty damned obvious in the context I use it above. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees!

Sphere It reading disability. I know that Jonathan Swift was Irish, I know that he didn't want the English to eat Irish children -- which is why I described A Modest Proposal as effective satire. &topic=politics"> Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 15, 2006 6:36 PM

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