The Phrase 'Reasonable Compromise' Should Not Be Part Of Any 'Free Speech' Discussion

from the congress-shall-make-no-law dept

Pretty stunning to see L. Gordon Crovitz, the former publisher of the WSJ (and now a columnist) make the argument that shutting down social media is fine and dandy, if governments say that it’s to stop bad stuff (as defined by those governments). Specifically, he defends UK politicians calling for blocks on social media in response to the London riots. Crovitz’s reasoning isn’t just weak, it’s full of bizarre logical fallacies.

But all uses of technology are not equally virtuous. Enthusiasm for technology should not lead to a moral and political relativism that confuses crime with free speech and the British police with authoritarian governments.

No one has claimed that the two are the same. The point, which seems to sail way, way, way over Crovitz’ head, is that the ability to block communications in one case quite easily leads to it being used in the other. Bizarrely, Crovitz then defends the highly questionable BART cell service shutdown in response to the threat of protesters, by saying it’s fine because “the world did not end.”

And the world did not end when police did indeed temporarily shut down social media. This happened last week in San Francisco, Calif., one of America’s most liberal cities.

Last I checked, the Constitution of the United States says, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” It does not say, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech… but it can if the world won’t end from doing so.” From there, Crovitz just gets weird:

Permitting peaceful protests while stopping violence seems like a reasonable compromise.

Let’s be clear: when discussing the First Amendment, the phrase “reasonable compromise” generally means someone taking away your rights. The problem, which Crovitz can’t seem to get his head around, is that you can’t set up a system that properly determines what speech is allowed and what speech is violence-inducing. People who trample on the First Amendment assume, falsely, that it’s easy to tell one form of speech from another. If someone is committing violence, arrest them for committing violence. Don’t take away their free speech rights.

From there, Crovitz insists that China’s free speech trampling is different. Why? Because it is! Don’t you see? The problem is that it’s very much in the eye of the beholder. China continues to insist that its trampling of free speech is a “reasonable compromise” because it keeps “bad stuff” away from the people. How do you determine where that line is? Crovitz pretends its easy. Our founding fathers knew that it was not, which is why they specifically wanted to make sure that “dangerous speech” was allowed.

Then Crovitz jumps into obnoxious false dichotomy territory:

Robert Andrews, a reporter for the paidcontent:UK website, asked Twitter users whether they would prefer to keep the service available so they could chat about the television music competition “The X Factor” or let the service be closed temporarily “so that fellow citizens like shopkeepers need not be assaulted, have their property and premises pilfered and trashed, and so that they need not live in fear.”

Though it was an admittedly unscientific survey, Mr. Andrews nevertheless reports that every Twitter respondent opted for “The X Factor.” He concludes: “So addicted are we to our electronic connections, we simply cannot bear to be parted, for even an hour or two, in the name of public safety while London burns.”

Or perhaps the people responding to Andrews recognized the ridiculousness of the question, and knew damn well, that social media is used for a hell of a lot more than discussing some TV show… and that allowing communications platforms to be shut down, because the government and Crovitz think “bad stuff” might happen, is a path to censorship. It’s not that people are “addicted to electronic communications.” It’s that people believe in their rights to free speech. Taking away social media wouldn’t stop London from burning, but it might harm some pretty core principles of democracy and the ability to speak your mind.

Techno-utopians would like to believe that digital technology is always a force for good, but technology can also accelerate evil. As Thomas Hobbes would say, without the enforcement of rules for ordered liberty, life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” both in the real world and online.

And since we’re doing a grand tour of logical fallacies, Crovitz closes with a claim that is simply unsubstantiated because it’s false. I’ve never heard the folks normally associated with “techno-utopianism” ever claim that digital technology is always a force for good. In fact, I’ve almost always heard them claim that technology itself is neutral and can be used for both good and bad. If anything, people tend to note that it can help amplify both good and bad uses. But the point that they make is that you can’t somehow cherry pick the “good” stuff to allow and the “bad” stuff to ban, because that always fails in the long run. It always leads to greater than “reasonable” censorship and always leads to important critical speech being stifled. Crovitz may have no problem with trampling on the rights of others. I, on the other hand, have serious problems with it — and with the WSJ advocating what appears to be flat out censorship.

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Comments on “The Phrase 'Reasonable Compromise' Should Not Be Part Of Any 'Free Speech' Discussion”

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Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Preaching to the choir

Is this asshole advocating blocking a tool to prevent possible future crimes? This isn’t “Minority Report”, we don’t punish people for acts they might commit. We don’t punish everyone for acts a select few may commit.

How’s this for a “reasonable compromise”? I’ll keep using the tools I have at my disposal, you can go bother people who actually do wrong.

Donnicton says:

Re: Preaching to the choir

This isn’t “Minority Report”, we don’t punish people for acts they might commit. We don’t punish everyone for acts a select few may commit.

Unfortunately, yes we do at times. (Read: Fireworks bans in some states)

I miss the days when I used to be able to celebrate July 4th with some good old outdoor fireworks in my (nanny) state.

Donnicton says:

Re: Re: Re: Preaching to the choir

You know, that’s probably the same logic that BART was going by when they shut off the cell service. Public safety and property damage rather than doing it for the sake of suppressing free speech. Flash mobs and all.

I’m not defending BART, but I don’t think that they were doing it simply because “OMGZ FREE SPECHE R BADZ” either. But irresponsible is irresponsible, nanny statism isn’t going to stop that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Preaching to the choir

Maine passed a law earlier this year allowing anything approved by the CPSC other than rockets. (It will take effect January 1st next year).

Massachusetts (H.3372) and New York (A 1102) both have bills in committee which would allow municipalities to issue permits authorizing citizens to use most fireworks.

That would leave New Jersey and Delaware as the only states banning fireworks. So, take heart. 🙂

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

or let the service be closed temporarily “so that fellow citizens like shopkeepers need not be assaulted, have their property and premises pilfered and trashed, and so that they need not live in fear.”

I actually laughed at that. It is so ridiculously over the top and stupid that I have a hard time believing anyone would mean that question seriously. Let’s ask another question: Should Mr. Crovitz be allowed to continue his absurd writing or should we throw him in shark-infested waters so that fellow citizens may be allowed to live without the specter of censorship and totalitarianism.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What is it with you people invoking Godwin’s Law? THEY STILL DON’T TATTOO YOU MORONS WHEN THEY SAY YOU CAN’T TWEET FOR A WHILE! I don’t know why you people equate not being able to steal people’s ideas, not being allowed to get on your Facespace, TweetBook, or MyFriend accounts, and all sorts of patent issues with one of the greatest atrocities that ever occurred. Maybe if you would stop with the retardation, people would stop calling you ‘freetards’.

Masnick, get these people off of your side, quick! They’re making you all look like a bunch of inept baffoons!

Havoc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Aw, you had me up until you misspelled ‘buffoons’!
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Benjamin Franklin
“The greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes.” — Thomas Paine
Meanwhile, more of my descendants(Native Americans) were slaughtered at the hands of the U.S. government than Jews by Hitler. Millions more.
Move the hell on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

[i]Aw, you had me up until you misspelled ‘buffoons’![/i]
[i]Meanwhile, more of my descendants(Native Americans) were slaughtered[/i][…]

It’s lovely to meet you, time traveler! Is it also true in your time that when correcting someone’s spelling or grammar, you will often make a spelling or grammar mistake within that very correction?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Aw, you had me up until you mentioned people that don’t exist yet (descendants are the people that come from others, not the ones that come before…unless you had millions of children and grandchildren that were recently slaughtered). If your ancestors were slaughtered then I feel terrible for you. I’m sure you knew and loved each of them. Meanwhile, there are many people alive who lost people they actually knew and loved to Hitler.

I’m glad that freetards and folks who love their Facebook make light of the holocaust and spelling errors. It shows they have no real arguments and are just throwing temper tantrums.

Havoc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

While ‘ancestors’ vs. ‘descendents’ was certainly an error(re-worded but not re-read) it doesn’t make your post less stupid.
While I don’t ‘make light’ of your ancestors’ slaughter, I sure as hell don’t act like mine were the only ones, like, well, a certain group of people seem want to do.
I will make errors, but at least I will admit them.
And, apparently unlike you, I will move on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Yeah, apparently you do move on since you felt the need to come back and reply to me. A smarter man would have moved on without whining about it.

I did make a spelling error. It happens. I don’t grade posts around here so I don’t look for those sorts of mistakes.

The Jews aren’t my ancestors. I don’t trust the dirty bastards. I just don’t think they should have been slaughtered like that.

There have been many people slaughtered over the course of human history. Maybe you people can start talking about the white man killing the red man instead of Hitler killing the Jews. That would at least shake things up a bit.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

AC’s analogy stands. You may get THAT worked up and angry with his analogy and it just shows how ridiculous it is.

Besides, those atrocities you are so angry about happened after they started as potentially innocuous and harmless statements from a well known figure. And maybe, just maybe, if Twitter was there and what was being done by Hitler and his minions was actually openly and widely discussed the Germans would have turned against the Government and further atrocities could have been prevented.

So chill out and keep your righteous moralism to yourself.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

> What is it with you people invoking Godwin’s Law?

Actually, *you* are the one who invoked Godwin’s law. Merely mentioning Hitler, Nazis and/or Jews invokes nothing but Hitler, Nazis and/or Jews.

You invoked the law when you used it to criticize the mention of Hitler.

So now I have to ask, what is with you people invoking Godwin’s Law every time someone says anything about a Nazi? You act like that Godwin guy was some delphic oracle on high and the fact that he made some comment years ago and self-proclaimned it a ‘law’ means that no one can ever legitimately refer to the Third Reich ever again.

It’s become a lame and pathetic anthem of internet douches everywhere to start railing about Godwin every time a Nazi comes up in conversation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

FUCKING THANK YOU! A reasonable argument. Not about the subject of the blog, but reasonable in the context of the thread, nonetheless. I thought it was just going to be a bunch of morons flaming and throwing out ridiculous statements that mean next to nothing.

Now, on to the meat of things: I believe that the Nazi reference is over the top in this particular case by a lot. I will sit on the sidelines for discussion about whether shutting down the most popular communication tools on the internet is a good or bad thing. I just come here to troll obvious idiots.

John (profile) says:

better comparison

The better comparison would be twitter ~= pubs. During the revolutionary war pubs were the common meeting places. Sure you could also get a drink and food there as well. shutting down the pub would likely quash the transfer of ideas/plans, but would also block many from getting food or drink. Shutting down twitter or social networks would stop the rioters from easily planning, but would also stop other legitimate uses. Is it a reasonable compromise to shut down all pubs/restaurants so no one can get food or drink because a few may meet in them to plan a gathering? Why isn’t this idea being promoted, it is just as likely as the use of social media in riot planning, and has similar collateral damage. shut down all the denny’s/shoney’s/McD/starbucks that anyone may gather in to have a meeting of more than 2 I say!

oh, wait, that just sounds crazy. how about we just let everyone keep their rights?

Rikuo (profile) says:

or let the service be closed temporarily “so that fellow citizens like shopkeepers need not be assaulted, have their property and premises pilfered and trashed, and so that they need not live in fear.”

So, if the service had been stopped, then the gangs of rabid youths around the corner from the local shop, armed with all manner of dangerous weapons, would have looked at their phones, looked at each other and then quietly gone home.
Yeah. That makes sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Frankly, this is a dumb argument.

Shouting fire in a crowded theater, threats of violence, incitement to violence, defamation, prank calling 911, etc. are all exceptions to the First Amendment that represent reasonable compromises.

If you think reasonableness should not be employed when determining the boundaries of free speech, then I question your ability to reason.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I get it perfectly well. Masnick said there should never be a “reasonable compromise” when it comes to free speech issues.

I think that is stupid. It is not an argument over what the reasonable compromise should be (go after the individuals or Twitter), but whether reasonableness should ever enter the conversation.

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You’re not listening to your own argument. Punishing those who have broken the law is not a “reasonable compromise”. It’s just reasonable. However, when it comes to free speech, there can be no compromise, however reasonable. By disallowing speech to innocents, for whatever reason, you are violating their First Amendment rights. As established by Supreme Court precedence, the rights of the few (or one) always outweigh the wants and “needs” of the many. Especially since the many, in nearly every case, are government bodies/representatives (i.e. the police).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“when it comes to free speech, there can be no compromise, however reasonable.”

Says you. I happen to think a prohibition against, e.g., shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater is a reasonable compromise.

“As established by Supreme Court precedence, the rights of the few (or one) always outweigh the wants and “needs” of the many.”

Um…I’d like to see the citation for that little nugget.

Travis says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

The “Fire in a crowded theater” ruling was specifically about punishing someone after the fact (i.e. they could be charged with criminal negligence or other local laws). It does not in any way refer to censoring an entire communication tool. That would be like outlawing air to prevent someone from shouting fire.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

The “Fire in a crowded theater” ruling was specifically about…

The decision was Schenck v United States in 1919, and Mr Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court.

The charges were two counts of conspiracy, and an unlawful use of the mails.

The defendants, Schenck and Baer, had printed up about fifteen or sixteen thousand leaflets. Quoting the description of these leaflets from the opinion:

The document in question, upon its first printed side, recited the first section of the Thirteenth Amendment, said that the idea embodied in it was violated by the Conscription Act, and that a conscript is little better than a convict. In impassioned language, it intimated that conscription was despotism in its worst form, and a monstrous wrong against humanity in the interest of Wall Street’s chosen few. It said “Do not submit to intimidation,” but in form, at least, confined itself to peaceful measures such as a petition for the repeal of the act.?.?.?.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“Punishing someone for what they said when it causes harm is not the same as shutting down communications tools, themselves, for what someone MIGHT do.”

You’re absolutely right. Luckily, that has nothing to do with what I’m saying.

You are arguing about whether this particular compromise (should we shut down a tool that might be used for bad things?) is reasonable or good, NOT whether we should reject reasonable compromises out of hand, always, no matter what, when it comes to free speech issues.

Any Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

No, I’m arguing that shutting something down for what you seem to think are reasonable compromises should never be considered without there being proof that something HAS HAPPENED ALREADY. Just because something bad COULD happen is no reason to cut communications. That is pretty much the essence of prior restraint as I’ve come to understand it.

Squirrel Brains (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The central argument is who gets to determine what is reasonable? I would say, based on all of your examples, that it is the court’s job. Therefore, BART/police/whoever should be required to go to court, with a full adversarial hearing with someone advocating for the free speach rights of the citizenry, including appeals, in order to make those “reasonable” exceptions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“Therefore, BART/police/whoever should be required to go to court, with a full adversarial hearing with someone advocating for the free speach rights of the citizenry, including appeals, in order to make those “reasonable” exceptions.”

That can happen in a matter of days or weeks, except for the appeals part.

I’ll change my answer from “sound good” to “sounds ridiculous” based on your further description and my further attention to the appeals bit.

Squirrel Brains (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

A matter or days or weeks would probably be often too late in itself. My point in general is that the executive authority will often overreact and use a “standard of reasonableness” that is based on its own desire and ease. Basically, you cannot trust the executive authority to consistently make good judgement calls because its judgment is one-sided. When it does prevent the speech, even if that prevention is later declared improper, the damage is already done.

Anonymous Coward says:

How is

Shutting down Twitter a violation of free speech? I guess I’m pretty dense on this but I don’t see how shutting down a medium is a violation of a person’s right to free speech. I don’t think the medium is a right, i.e. you don’t have a constitutional right to tweet (or Facebook or whatever). I believe the violation would be if Twitter were blocking specific expressions or tweets. I would consider it like shutting down a newspaper vs. censoring the editorials. Would you really say it’s a violation of free speech if a newspaper stopped operations and didn’t publish any papers?

Anyway, I just can’t make the logical leap from shutting down a service to a first amendment violation. As I said, blocking specific expressions in tweets would be a violation of free speech rights. Stopping them altogether is not. At least to my thinking.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: How is

Your argument seems to be that you can have all the free speech you want as long as you are unable to use any form of communication to converse with others.

As long as you are in isolation, you may have unlimited free speech.

Attempt to use technology, of any kind, to interact with others, and it is “reasonable” to isolate you so that nobody else can hear your free speech.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: How is

No,I think the argument is that the medium is not the message. We don’t have absolute rights to use any medium at any time in any way, there are legal restrictions that exist that do not violate free speech, such as limited television broadcasts to licensed entities.

The technology in and of itself is not the speech. Locking the doors of a Business Depot at night does not suddenly limit free speech until morning (because nobody can photocopy). The lack of access to technology isn’t in itself a limit on free speech.

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: How is

What you are missing, however intentionally, is that Home Depot has every right in the world to close their store whenever they want. The police cannot, however, go into that Home Depot and turn off all of the copying machines, since they had somebody go into a store yesterday and print off flyers organizing an event, and the police had decided a similar event was not “legitimate” free speech.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: How is

If you shut down Twitter to prevent riots because it’s the main and preferred mean of communications then it fails because ppl use Pastebin, Facebook, Myspace [whatever] then it’s ok to shut down the Internet to prevent riots. If it fails and ppl use telephones then it’s ok to shut down every communications after all you can still shout your free speech out and loud. Even if there are tanks and machine guns from the Government killing every free speech loud advocate. Oh but fear not, you can still throw paper planes and hope it reaches the world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How is

Mike takes a 4th grader’s view of the First Amendment (“the Constitution says ‘no law'”), but the reality is that lots of laws (if not all laws) have some effect of free speech and expression. Rather than look at it like a child, courts employ actual analysis, comparing the benefit and the detriment, the interest and the burden.

A different Mike says:

Re: How is

Would you really say it’s a violation of free speech if a newspaper stopped operations and didn’t publish any papers?

No. I wouldn’t. But I would say it is a violation if the government forced a newspaper to stop operations without due process because it thought that some criminals used the personal ads to set up a violent action.

dwg says:

Re: How is

I’ll make it easy for you:

Twitter can shut down to stop whatever it wants, whenever it wants.

The State cannot shut down Twitter to stop certain communications when the medium is used for limitless other communications.

Please tell me you see the legal, Constitutional difference. Please, oh please.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: How is

So then, if the government asked nicely for Twitter to shutdown and Twitter did it voluntarily, that would be ok?

I think I see the altruistic point of view but I don’t know that I can agree with it entirely. As someone said earlier, when weighing the consequences, even if on simple terms, it seems reasonable to stop a particular medium if that medium is contributing to some sort of widespread violence.

Then again, this is a case of a few bad apples spoiling the whole barrel. Is it OK to remove the privilege (not the right) to tweet from everyone when just a few people are using it to incite bad behavior? It’s a tough question to answer without soap-boxing one way or the other. I’m picking on Twitter but obviously the debate extends to all forms of social media.

To be realistic, if shutting down social media during social unrest was proven to be an effective deterrent I would support it whether the government forced it or the service provider did it voluntarily. But I also agree that’s a slippery slope. It’s a tough one.

dwg says:

Re: Re: Re: How is

It’s totally legal for the government to ask Twitter nicely to shut down for any reason at all. Twitter has the complete right to decide which government policies it supports and which it doesn’t. It doesn’t have to be altruism–it can be pure self-interest or altruism or anywhere in between, as long as it’s Twitter’s choice.

But you can’t have the State dictating a shutdown for content-based reasons, especially where the medium itself is completely, 100% content-neutral. That may seem reasonable to you, or even arguable, but it’s completely unconstitutional–and so, as a matter of law, it’s unreasonable in this country.

V says:

It starts small...

Abridging freedom usually starts small… and is usually for a “good” reason. “Good” reasons are the favorite tools of power hungry politicians and extremists to do the unspeakable.

To a Muslim extremist… blowing up a building full of people is fine… because it’s for a “good” reason.

When China censors everything that it’s people see, they say it’s for a “good” reason…

Even Nazi Germany did things for a “good” reason.

And because it may not directly affect us at that very moment, we sit back and accept it… until suddenly, they’re using the same law to prosecute us for something “good” that we’re doing.

Just a reminder from Niem?ller back on January 6, 1946:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Crovitz and Leviathan

Okay, so we’ve got Crovitz concluding with a quote from Hobbes’ Leviathan. This is a work which directly states that monarchy is better than democracy, that sovereign power should be absolute, and that the sovereign’s actions are beyond popular criticism or punishment. Is this seriously where he’s getting his political inspiration?

btr1701 (profile) says:


> Our founding fathers knew that it was not,
> which is why they specifically wanted to
> make sure that “dangerous speech” was allowed.

Indeed. The very fact that the 1st Amendment is prefaced by the phrase “Congress shall make no law…” indicates the absolute protection they intended to give speech in America.

Nowhere else in the Constitution do you find such a bold and forceful limitation on government power, not even in the other amendments which make up the Bill of Rights.

And yet somehow in the 200+ years since the document was inked, our courts and legislators have found a myriad different ways in which “Congress shall make no law…” can be interpreted to mean, “The goverment can make many laws”.

Another Anonymous Coward says:

Cellular service does not equal free speech. Restricting the use of a cell phone doesn’t restrict free speech, it’s just an inconvenience.

Everyone seems to accept restrictions on cell phone usage in hospitals and on aircraft because of safety concerns. Nobody seems to be complaining that their 1st amendment rights are being trampled in those situations. Why not extend that reasoning to situations where public safety is of concern?

dwg says:

Re: Re:

Private entities can do whatever they want. If a hospital does not want you to use a cell phone while int he hospital, that’s fine. No State action. Ditto an airplane. If I’m wrong about who’s making the decision here and it’s in fact the State (FAA, State-run hospital, whatever), then it’s STILL fine: it’s the cell phone that’s being blocked, not the speech itself that would be broadcast that’s causing the blockage. This is called a “Time, place and manner” restriction and is fine, SO LONG AS CONTENT-NEUTRAL.

When the State decides that, based on a communication’s content, that communication should be curtailed–well, then, you have a Constitutional violation. The reason for the Twitter shutdown is expressly to stop certain communications based on their content. Thus: unconstitutional.

known coward says:


I do not think any transit system should EVER allow cell phone usage on their subways / buses. Transit systems aer soft targets, and IED?s are can easily be set off with vibrating cell phones.

As to Facebook and twitter, hell they keep records of all the twits that go out, and posts and what not. These twits and post and things can also be called ?evidence?, I know it is a new concept but this ?evidence? to prove who the troublemakers are and convict them of ?crimes? that are committed. I know silly me, I am just another known coward.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just a short comment: I think that this pretty much sums up the reasons why it is hard to take Mike Masnick seriously at times. All human rights are built on being reasonable about the rights of others. We have to co-exist, we cannot have it all our way regardless of the effects on others. That is “reasonable”.

Techdirt is appearing to be more and more unreasonable as times goes by.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Your framing of the question seems to presume your conclusion. Namely, that any limit on speech abridges your right to free speech.

However, it may be reasonable to conclude that your right does not extend to any type of speech you could possibly conceive of.

This is, in fact, the nature of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, as interpreted by generations and generations of legislators, courts, and scholars, many of whom were and are, shocking as it may be, reasonable people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

We have a winner!

Free speech isn’t an absolute. Even in the US, the courts have found that some speech is protected, and some speech is not. As an example, consider the concept of obscenity. Obscene material is not protected free speech.

Your rights, your freedoms, they stop where they start to limit the freedoms of others. When your freedom hurts the liberty of someone else, or hurts them in a manner that takes away from that liberty, your rights have stopped.

Reasonable people in the last 400 years or so have debated it, they have ruled on it, they have taught it, and they have nurtured it. Without reasonable men and women, freedom would be anarchy, which is the ultimate form of freedom. That isn’t what the constitution had at it’s core.

It’s just disappointing that Mike is do frigging paranoid, that he can no longer trust his fellow man.

Any Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Obscenity laws are still being challenged to this day. I can wear a shirt that says ‘Fuck you right up your motherfucking ass’ and the cops really can’t do much about it in most situations. In places with obscenity laws, I will gladly, and loudly, defend my rights. You don’t have an intrinsic right to not be offended.

dwg says:

Re: Re:

Do you think that being serious about upholding the Constitution is unreasonable? Your “all human rights are built on being reasonable about the rights of others” phrase is just tripe. It sounds good but it’s nonsense. Rights are legal constructs, and here in the US, one of our most basic Human Rights is ensconced in the First Amendment–hmm…wonder why it’s FIRST?–to the US Constitution, which trumps everything else in US law. And you think the person who hosts this blog is unreasonable?

trish says:

damn twitter...

re commenter #93: Your example is flawed. Of course you can ask someone to kill your wife, as many people have done in the past (50$ though? cheap cheap…)
If you do, you will have committed a crime because it is illegal to hire someone to murder someone else. This does not mean that people should be prevented from speaking because they might hire someone to kill their wife. Some people might just want to tell their wife they love her, but they couldn’t, and that violent dude could just kill her himself. Don’t you see how censoring speech is stupid even when you try to turn the argument into “if you are against censorship you are for crime”? because you wtotally FAILED

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: damn twitter...

Whether or not my example is analogous to, e.g., shutting down Twitter does not make it irrelevant to the conversation I was having regarding the rights of one interacting with the rights of another.

If you’d care to join that conversation, replying is easier to follow along with the posting a new comment on a different topic.

Anonymous Coward says:

I remember a few years back when Newt Gingrich said that there should be limits on speech, that’s when I decided that he no longer deserved my support.
Like every other progressive out there in the world who wants to tell you what to do. I got no use for any of them.
Its not a coincidence that the First and Second Amendments are speech and guns, because when the second is taken away, the first is soon to follow, then the Forth and Fifth.

When it says the Right Of The People, it means YOU and I.

dwg says:


Your example is definitely true: that’s because the statement itself is a criminal act. It’s not the speaking it that’s criminal–it’s the hiring someone in any way to kill your wife: you’ve just chosen speech as the means to do that.

Incitement to violence that poses an imminent threat is illegal, under First Amendment jurisprudence. The Supremes have decided that you can’t do that with your speech. This was and remains a mushy area of the law, for obvious reasons. Note especially the 4-year sentences against those guys in the UK who posted incitements to riots in the UK where the riots didn’t even happen…it ain’t the US, but it’s an interesting twist.

But the State can’t say: “You, who offered a contract to kill your wife, can no longer speak, write, Tweet, post on FB, etc.”…although these rights may be severely curtailed while in prison.

Have I answered your question? Because I’ve certainly confused myself.

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