T Nation

James Spader on Boston Legal


One of the greater moments of recent TV. James Spader on Boston Legal gives an excellent court room speech that sums up what many of us have been feeling these past few years.

I'm not sure you could say it much better.



Shitty ABC shows is the best you got?


I think Ann Coulter has some work for you...

Supreme Court Justice Reveals Death Threats
WASHINGTON (March 16) - Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she and former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor have been the targets of death threats from the "irrational fringe" of society, people apparently spurred by Republican criticism of the high court.

Ginsburg revealed in a speech in South Africa last month that she and O'Connor were threatened a year ago by someone who called on the Internet for the immediate "patriotic" killing of the justices.



Alan Shore: When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out to be not true, I expected the American people to rise up. Ha! They didn't.

Then, when the Abu Ghraib torture thing surfaced and it was revealed that our government participated in rendition, a practice where we kidnap people and turn them over to regimes who specialize in torture, I was sure then the American people would be heard from. We stood mute.

Then came the news that we jailed thousands of so-called terrorists suspects, locked them up without the right to a trial or even the right to confront their accusers. Certainly, we would never stand for that. We did.

And now, it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens. You and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, finally the American people will have had enough. Evidentially, we haven't.

In fact, if the people of this country have spoken, the message is we're okay with it all. Torture, warrantless search and seizure, illegal wiretappings, prison without a fair trial - or any trial, war on false pretenses. We, as a citizenry, are apparently not offended.

There are no demonstrations on college campuses. In fact, there's no clear indication that young people seem to notice.

Well, Melissa Hughes noticed. Now, you might think, instead of withholding her taxes, she could have protested the old fashioned way. Made a placard and demonstrated at a Presidential or Vice-Presidential appearance, but we've lost the right to that as well. The Secret Service can now declare free speech zones to contain, control and, in effect, criminalize protest.

Stop for a second and try to fathom that.

At a presidential rally, parade or appearance, if you have on a supportive t-shirt, you can be there. If you are wearing or carrying something in protest, you can be removed.

This, in the United States of America. This in the United States of America. Is Melissa Hughes the only one embarrassed?

Alan sits down abruptly in the witness chair next to the judge

Judge Robert Sanders: Mr. Shore. That's a chair for witnesses only.

Really long speeches make me so tired sometimes.

Judge Sanders: Please get out of the chair.

Alan: Actually, I'm sick and tired.

Judge Sanders: Get out of the chair!

Alan: And what I'm most sick and tired of is how every time somebody disagrees with how the government is running things, he or she is labeled unAmerican.

U.S. Attorney Jonathan Shapiro: Evidentally, it's speech time.

Alan: And speech in this country is free, you hack! Free for me, free for you. Free for Melissa Hughes to stand up to her government and say "Stick it"!

U.S. Attorney Jonathan Shapiro: Objection!

Alan: I object to government abusing its power to squash the constitutional freedoms of its citizenry. And, God forbid, anybody challenge it. They're smeared as being a heretic. Melissa Hughes is an American. Melissa Hughes is an American. Melissa Hughes is an American!

Judge Sanders: Mr. Shore. Unless you have anything new and fresh to say, please sit down. You've breached the decorum of my courtroom with all this hooting.

Alan: Last night, I went to bed with a book. Not as much fun as a 29 year old, but the book contained a speech by Adlai Stevenson. The year was 1952. He said, "The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live and fear breeds repression. Too often, sinister threats to the Bill of Rights, to freedom of the mind are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-Communism."

Today, it's the cloak of anti-terrorism. Stevenson also remarked, "It's far easier to fight for principles than to live up to them."

I know we are all afraid, but the Bill of Rights - we have to live up to that. We simply must. That's all Melissa Hughes was trying to say. She was speaking for you. I would ask you now to go back to that room and speak for her.



Come on... it's a pretty good show.


Shatner is the reason I tune in. Let's face it the man changed the world...


While I doubt it will convince anybody, the speech is a good summary of the frustrations of those that worry about rights being squashed under the guise of patriotism.

As it isn't being offered as proof of anything, there is no need to attempt to discredit it based on which show or which station it was aired on.

Honestly, it probably represents the viewpoint of about 50% of your populace. It might make sense to listen to it and try to understand it, where it is coming from. You don't have to agree, but it won't hurt you to know the thoughts of others.


I agree in at least one respect: the complete apathy of the American public. Something has gone wrong with our republic, and we ought to be taking it back. I'm not just talking about the Bush administration, I'm talking about almost everything from FDR forward.


The fact that this speech was made on national television, on a very popular show, is proof no one's rights are being quashed.

If 50% of the populace can't figure out the difference between being ignored or disagreed with and being punished by the state for speaking, then even Shatner can't help them.


That's not entirely true.

The innocent people who have been declared terrorists (if there are in fact any of these) have had their rights quashed.

Those that have been kidnapped and sent to other countries for torture, their rights have been quashed.

If the wiretapping (so to speak) was done illegally, then there are other people who's rights have been quashed.

Those people that can no longer wear a t-shirt that contains a political message have possibly lost some aspect of their freedom of speech.

You don't have to lose all ability to speak all at once in order to be suffering from an erosion of rights.

Anyway, I'm not so much trying to argue the points above as I am trying to illustrate that your argument is flawed.

Whether or not rights are eroding has nothing to do with the fact that it was possible to say such things on a television show.

This isn't an all or nothing situation...


We are discussing the right to speak your mind - Free Speech. Hence, assuming the folks you mention are having their 'rights quashed' by another means:

But not because they spoke out against the government. You can get thrown in jail for murder and have all your 'rights' taken away, but that doesn't mean you are being punished for speaking.

But not for exercise of Free Speech - see above.

There is no Free Speech right to plot to destroy the government. Can't quash a right you don't have.

That is like suggesting the government is quashing your right to kill people by making murder illegal.

Possibly lost some aspect of their speech? Are they having a right they currently possess under law quashed when it wasn't before? Make the case.

Regardless, the whole point was the very specific right of being able to speak. Maybe other rights are being eroded - but the point was whether or not your ability to speak on that was being quashed.

Keep trying. Originally, we were discussing whether or not Free Speech rights were being curtailed - which they are not.

Go back and read my post - there are many people claiming that, specifically, their ability to speak freely is being quashed. My point was that they are wrong - there is no shortage of speech these days criticizing Bush and the government, evidenced by the TV show.

Let me explain it this way - the mere fact that you can openly complain that rights are being eroded without government punishment is proof that the right to free speech is alive and well, even if you think others are not.



I think it is a bit of an "all or nothing" stretch to simply be pointing out that not ALL rights have been quashed.

Nobody has claimed that ALL rights have been quashed.

What are you resisting so vehemently?


Umm, no.


Umm, yes - read the transcript posted:

The whole point was about being able to speak out.


You keep referring to this 'all or nothing' thing - I never suggested such. I am responding to JTF's poibt about being able to speak your mind.

You may be getting tripped up on what I said :

Proof that no one's free speech rights are being quashed, to clarify, which is what the text complained of.



Look, let's leave this simple. I completely disagree with your view of what this thread is about.

You've picked a line out of the transcript and claimed it has something to do with what JTF said.

He said the show sums up the feelings of a lot of people. That means, a lot of people were concerned at all of the events, but were labelled un-American for having those feelings.

The central point is not about whether or not free speech exists (in my opinion).

However, perhaps we should defer to JTF and let him tell us what his point was?


The point is this: Denny Crane!


Smacking myself in the head for not coming up with that...

Point for Boston!


While I may not always agree with his politics, Spader's character represents real integrity IMHO. I think that kind of integrity is inspiring.


i don't see much tv but a couple years ago i saw the last season of 'the practice' when the denny crane thing started...that was some of the best tv ever. is 'boston legal' any good ? still as edgey/ borderline absurd as back then ?