Saturday, December 31, 2011

Free speech and threats

Am I the only person who thinks freedom of speech includes threats and falsely yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater?

Over and over again I hear and/or read people talking about freedom of speech, but then they go and turn it into a privilege rather than a right by putting silly limits on it.

Recently, on Facebook, someone posted a comment to a link to one of my blogs and said something that could have been construed as a threat of violence. It was just confusing enough that I'm really not sure if that's the way it was meant or not.

Then, almost immediately after I saw that comment I watched a video about how Firefly fans "saved" freedom of speech at a university campus, but even the defenders of free speech fell for the myth that threats are not covered.

I don't buy it.

Now, if you act on a threat, or it seems credible that you might, your target is justified in acting to stop you. If you don't like that consequence maybe you should keep your threats to yourself.



  1. I have no problem with anyone yelling "Fire" in a theater or throwing threats, so long as Government does not continue to claim a monopoly on violence.

    The aggrieved person (or group of people) has the Right to stomp the snot out of anyone who puts his life in peril by yelling Fire when there is none, or by making threats.

    Once we remember that and stop yelling "Policeman!" every time someone imperils us, and once we stop agents of Government from prosecuting people for self-defense, we'll be back on the right track.


  2. Stomping the snot out of someone who uses their right of free speech in a way that harms you is one of those consequences that go along with the right.

    And I never yell "Policeman!" since I realize that doling so has a very high probability of making things much worse. There is no situation so bad that it can't be made immeasurably worse by adding a cop to the mix.

    Self defense is an absolute human right, and anyone who punishes someone for defending themselves is a danger to every individual- and by extension, civilization- and should be dealt with as such.

  3. Freedom is unbridled, unrestricted. Liberty is freedom governed by the responsibility to respect the rights of others.

    Rights and responsibility go hand in hand. You don't have a responsibility to anything you don't have a right to. And you don't have a right to anything you aren't responsible for.

    That being said, while you may have the right to say anything you want, it is not without responsibility.

    I would argue that yelling fire in a theater is a violation of the rights of others as it is a fraudulent claim that results in disruption at the least. It's essentially stealing the audience's time/ tickets via fraud, and maybe even resulting in injury.

    Also, it is clear willful intent to do as such. You don't just accidentally yell fire when there is no sign of any fire.

    A communicated threat is a declaration of war in some shape or form, and functions more like a courtesy...arguably a critical error as it ruins the element of surprise.

    Either way, if you threaten someone, you're telling them you intend to violate them. You are clearly presenting yourself as a potential, even likely, danger. You have just crossed the line into violating another. And since we all have the right to defense, the threatened have the right to respond with violence as they see fit.

    When you threaten someone, you put preemption on the table as an option.

    On the same token, the right to self preservation has it's responsibility as well, and doesn't include trampling on someone during egress anymore than it does using unnecessary shooting some hammered drunk fool just venting/being mouthy with no real intent to harm anyone.

    Someone yelling fire doesn't excuse the irresponsible act of stomping on someone.

    Using a hollow threat as a justification for brutal and/or deadly force is irresponsible as it is unnecessary.

  4. I'm with you both 100%.

    Too bad most of those sharing space with us want, indeed demand, unlimited Liberty and zero responsibility.


  5. Also consider... one may have a "right" to do or say something, but doing so may cause other people to be less apt to include you in their lives and community. Whether or not that inclusion is important to you is a different issue.

    Be careful of your words... you may have to eat them.

    I've had to eat many of them. The mustard didn't help the taste any. :)


  7. The truth is unwelcome at times. A wise man recognizes those times.