Erm, hello?

Free speech has limits. You aren’t allowed to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre because someone’s probably going to get hurt. Your right to say what you like is trumped by your responsibility to stop me being trampled to death by a stampede of panicked theatre-goers. Death threats; rape threats; bomb threats; online abuse that drives someone to suicide – these are all things that free speech doesn’t cover – and which aren’t appropriate to defend in its name.

Erm, those things are indeed covered by free speech. Or at least should be. They might all be very bad things, they might even fall foul of other laws, but they are indeed things that people should be free to say–even if they then suffer the punishment of those other laws.

37 comments on “Erm, hello?

  1. I’m not sure I agree that phoning in a bomb threat to somewhere can be counted as ‘speech’, to be debated over whether it is protected or not.

  2. You aren’t allowed to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre because someone’s probably going to get hurt.

    Next time I go see Arthur Brown and he stands on stage and asks for any requests, I shall hold my tongue.

  3. Your right to say what you like is trumped by your responsibility to stop me being trampled to death by a stampede of panicked theatre-goers.

    He does know that there is no general duty to intervene in US law. Only a smallish group of people have a ‘duty to care’ – and that’s limited to people who specifically take on certain duties like lifeguards or home nurses.

    If I see you facedown in a puddle, drowning, I have no legal duty to roll you over. Indeed, except where Good Samaritan protections are explicit in law, I open myself up to liability for doing so.

    In the US the answer to the 5/1 trolley problem is ‘touch nothing, walk away, and hope no one saw you there’.

    Oh, that’s on top of the author not know what the hell he’s talking about regarding Schenk v US – in which that exact justification was used as part of a ruling that made protest of the draft illegal.

  4. It’s not censorship to refuse to publish it

    Well, it wouldn’t be here in the US. However, in the UK where the line between government and ‘press’ is being blurred every day . . . ?

    Impress + Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act

  5. JuliaM,

    ‘I think we all agree that there should be limitations on free speech.’

    I don’t agree with that at all, if there are limitations then it is not free.

    If I want to shout ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre I should have every right to.

    I am liable for any consequences that arise from my actions.

  6. Surely we don’t need to go through the origins of the “fire in a crowded theatre” chestnut yet again? Why can’t the little Berk look things up for himself?

    One of the things you should have to do when asserting that inflammatory speech should be banned (as a bare minimum) is that it was actually causally linked to something illegal. But that’s too much like hard work for the left.

    Orwell has a good bit about “playing into the hands of” being a phrase used to silence dissent. I’m not sure that Milo’s assertion that “feminism is cancer” actually adds much to the debate, but until it’s actually demonstrated that it’s causally linked to violence against women only a true fascist would stop him saying it.

  7. Free speech has limits. You aren’t allowed to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre because someone’s probably going to get hurt.

    This is the laziest, limpest and most insipid shitlibtalkingpoint.txt on free speech.

    I’m not saying anybody who uses it should be neutered for the sake of the herd, but they probably should be beaten and made to wear a pointy hat, then henceforward relegated to the dialectic kids’ table along with other midwits. Like people who think “neoliberal” is a clever pejorative.

    Anyway, what’s it all about, Alfie? Is Sam concerned that Milo is some sort of perniciously puckish phony pyro proclaimer?

    Nah. This is what’s gripping his shit:

    So when a major publishing house pays $250,000 […]

    And

    and publishing houses pay a quarter of a million dollars

    Milo’s literally rolling about naked on a bad made of money and Sammy’s well jel.

  8. This is just another Special Snowflake insisting it is different when he does it. When Stalin and Trotsky killed the Tsar’s children, Trotsky was fine with that. When Stalin killed Trotsky’s son, that was different.

    The only sensible response is to tell him to f**k off and remind him that when the Revolution comes he will be first against the wall.

    Whether it’s saying that “gay rights have made us dumber”, calling transgender people “mentally ill”, calling rape culture “a fantasy”, or being banned by Twitter for allegedly encouraging trolls to attack Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones with a tirade of racist and sexist abuse, you can usually find him saying something pathologically awful.

    Gay rights have made us dumber. We now look at someone with a functioning penis, a Y chromosome in every cell and we can’t tell what sex they are. Rape culture is a fantasy. By women who fancy a little bit of rape by the looks of it. And I like that “allegedly”. There is no evidence Milo incited anyone to do jack sh!t. But while we are at it:

    Allegedly Sam Sedgman molests under-age sheep in public parks. Deny it if you like.

  9. In the case of Milo’s banning from Twitter, what was never produced was any significant evidence that he himself had said anything racist towards Leslie Jones, or that he had explicitly encouraged anyone else to do so.

    It seemed to be rather the case that he had criticised the film and her in more general terms, that people who admired him had crossed some sort of line and that he was therefore guilty of encouraging them.

    You can argue reasonably that it’s Twitter’s gaff, so they can apply their rules. But the left is increasingly ready to bully companies into dancing to their tune. Once this becomes widespread enough, you get people like Sadiq Khan turning it into actual policy, as he did with tube adverts following that Protein World tantrum.

  10. Tim – not quite sure I follow you “rape threats, death threats bomb threats” SFAIK are not considered free speech.

    “I’m gonna kill you you little fucker and rape your wife kids and blow up your dog unless you give me 5000 pounds” can hardly be considered legitimate free speech.

    However, ” your wife is a slag your kigs are stupid and your dog is gay” is entirely legitimate, however unpleasant.

    Equally if I provide a free publishing service, decide I don’t like what your’e saying I’m entitled to stop publishing it.

    And anybody else is free to criticise me or adulat eme according to their preferences.

    Isn’t that it?

  11. Yeah, there’s a fairly important distinction between “limited speech” and “free speech but you’re liable for the consequences”. If it’s illegal to shout “allahu akbar” in a crowded theatre, then you can be prosecuted even if everyone ignored you.

    Mind you, if you’re receiving credible death threats, it’s scant comfort to know that your tormentor will only be prosecuted if he actually carries out the threat.

  12. “Like the tax lawyer I met at a party who insisted several times that there was “nothing illegal at all” about what she did for a living…”

    With the likes of Richard Murphy seeking to trample the right to enjoy private property I would say a tax lawyer’s profession is moral and essential. Similarly, with the likes of Sam Sedgman seeking to ban any comment or opinion he finds disagreeable (however he tries.to dress it up and Boy does he try!) then free speech advocates stand between us and fascism.

  13. “I’m gonna kill you you little fucker and rape your wife kids and blow up your dog unless you give me 5000 pounds” can hardly be considered legitimate free speech.

    Sounds more like *legitimate* government speech. You know, threats of violence while demanding money.

    (While that’s true, I’m also being silly. Back to the proper discussion now.)

  14. …they are indeed things that people should be free to say–even if they then suffer the punishment of those other laws.

    Eh? You have evacuated ‘free to say’ of meaning there.

    You are free to say x only if there are no constraints on saying x. If there are legal constraints on saying x, you are not free to say x. Otherwise, you would be free to carry a prohibited firearm in the UK, even though it carries a legal penalty of four (I believe) years inside.

  15. > if you’re receiving credible death threats, it’s scant comfort to know that your tormentor will only be prosecuted if he actually carries out the threat.

    Quite. Which is why the authorities regard credible death threats as criminals helpfully announcing their intentions so we can catch them before they do it. On the one hand, there are plenty of people who make stupid threats who don’t mean it. On the other, there are people who are legitimately protected from harm because their would-be harmers get done for the threat instead of the action, and, since everyone knows making the threats is illegal, the fuckwits who don’t really mean it could trivially easily avoid injustice by just not threatening to kill people. Hardly a jack-booted imposition.

    There was a fascinating case a few years ago in which a man was successfully prosecuted for (I forget the legal technical term) kidnapping by fraud. He successfully persuaded his victims that he was working for some spy agency and that everyone he was connected to was a target. His victims were never technically physically locked up; they could leave the house at any time; but they were terrified to do so because they were convinced they’d be killed if they did. It was speech; it wasn’t incitement; the threats that were made were not threats of violence by himself but by hypothetical imaginary others; it was demonstrably harmful.

    Bomb threats, though? Surely we don’t want to discourage them. Is it really better when bombs go off without warning?

  16. Charlie Suet,

    “You can argue reasonably that it’s Twitter’s gaff, so they can apply their rules. But the left is increasingly ready to bully companies into dancing to their tune. Once this becomes widespread enough, you get people like Sadiq Khan turning it into actual policy, as he did with tube adverts following that Protein World tantrum.”

    Sure, but companies will also ignore them sometimes. I was reading about how people were writing to companies appearing on Breitbart asking them to remove their ads, and Nissan just told these people to get stuffed.

    But all of this rests on SJWs having money. It’s why taking a flamethrower to government spending is so important. You make SJWs poor (and they’re nearly always rich because of the state), they can’t buy products. So, advertisers don’t care about them.

    Which reminds me: who’s with me on developing a job site offering free ads to the government, so we can put the Guardian out of business a bit quicker?

  17. First of all shouting if there fucking is a serious fire is actually responsible and if not Bob Rocket is still right. Shout fire and no injuries you walk.Shout fire and hundreds die then manslaughter(at minimum) x death toll =life.

    Fuck death threats also. Make all you like and piss on wankers who wilt. If you try to follow up on your threat however extra punishment of a “turned over to your would be victim ( –or his/her friends and rels if you succeeded) for carte-blanche consequence free retaliaton” type antics will do the job.

    There should be NO restrictions on free speech at all.

    As for this leftist slime, his complaints about Milo consist of the fact that the vermin of socialism can’t bear to hear their own evil exposed.

  18. In the U.S., only government can commit censorship. S&S’s publishing choices cannot, by definition, be censorship.

    Sedgman creates a strawman. Milo does not yell “fire” in a crowded theater. He says, “gay rights have made us dumber.” Sedgman argues that you can’t yell fire; he never argues that you can’t say, “gay rights have made us dumber.” The reader is supposed to equivalence that in their mind.

    ‘You can usually find him saying something pathologically awful.’

    Pathological: ‘extreme in a way that is not normal or that shows an illness or mental problem’ – M/W

    “Gay rights have made us dumber.” What is the illness or mental problem indicated by that? It is simply the refusal to go along with Leftist Group Think. You cannot get any more anti free speech than that.

  19. If you get punished by some law for speaking it, it isn’t free speech. You’re free to say it but we will put you in prison?

  20. “You aren’t allowed to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre because someone’s probably going to get hurt.”

    But what if there is a fire?

  21. Spot on, Gamecock, Milo isn’t yelling fire. Not buying certain books isn’t censorship, either.

    Typical bansturbator, failing to consider that tomorrow, it may be someone else deciding what opinions are dangerous.

  22. Hate speech is not compatible with reasoned debate. You can’t talk to it. When you try, it talks over you and ignores you and calls you a fat ugly whore and publishes your address online.

    Sedgman should read Jon Ronson’s excellent So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. Then he could perhaps be a little less clueless in his idea of who it is who does these things and what their politics tend to be.

  23. NielsR: Quite right, exactly as American Democrats are now horrified that they destroyed the filibuster and vastly expanded presidential powers.

  24. “But all of this rests on SJWs having money.”

    No. It relies on companies being scared of SJWs or run by SJWs. Twitter is almost entirely SJW-converged, which is why it’s sinking fast. It’s supposed to be an advertising company, but because Social Justice, they’re driving away many of the people they’re supposed to be advertising to. Even the left are leaving, because, without the right, they have no way to pretend to be victims.

    And real companies with real business plans are now aware that SJWs are a tiny, vocal minority, who probably don’t even buy their products anyway.

  25. Unfortunately, in this case the law is an ass. On the one hand there is both the common law and the UN universal declaration of human rights. On the other hand there is the law regarding hate speech, which looks to be ambiguous, but a potential minefield. Safest bet would seem to be to either keep it to yourself, or wrap it up in so much invective and bile as to make it meaningless wibble. Rab C would be the model.

  26. “You aren’t allowed to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre because someone’s probably going to get hurt.”

    Not this AGAIN. Fucking hell. Trust the Left to get it arse backwards yet again.

  27. What is the point of debating, when free speech has not only gone but is being replaced by proper speech or ‘acceptable speech’.
    Especially with informers everywhere.
    Say the wrong thing and you can find yourself unemployed and hungry.

  28. Bucko

    “If you get punished by some law for speaking it, it isn’t free speech. You’re free to say it but we will put you in prison?”

    You put it far better than I did.

  29. Ironman – “with the likes of Sam Sedgman seeking to ban any comment or opinion he finds disagreeable (however he tries.to dress it up and Boy does he try!) then free speech advocates stand between us and fascism.”

    Us? What’s with this “us” Kemosabe? You are on the other side of this debate. As you have repeatedly shown. This is a struggle between us and you – that is, you and Sedgman both. If you want to call yourself a Fascist, please do, but don’t think anyone has forgotten your views on banning people who say things you do not like.

  30. In the USA, there are basically only three restrictions on speech:
    Defamation, Fraud (or similar criminal offense), and “True Threats”.

    A “true threat” must be explicit and believable. “I’m going to track you down and shoot you, Tim” is a true threat if that really is my intention; “Shoot all the bloggers” isn’t a true threat.

  31. The “fire in a crowded theatre” trope is so hackneyed and unmoored from its historical context that any writer using it should be ashamed. It was first promulgated in an era when the US had the closest thing in its history to an explicitly fascist government (yet I bet Woodrow Wilson in this lazy ass’s pantheon). As an example of free speech yesbuttery, this article could have been written by an AI. Hell, it could have been lifted practically verbatim from a thousand nearly identical pieces.

  32. “It was first promulgated in an era when the US had the closest thing in its history to an explicitly fascist government”

    Disagree. It is clearly fascist today. Strong, autocratic central control of a private economy.

  33. You can shout “fire” in a crowded theatre if there is a fire…

    The point is that if you do so when there is no fire then “free speech” is not a valid defence if you’re subsequently prosecuted for manslaughter, GBH, breach of peace etc because people were crushed in the ensuing panic…

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