No Honey, sorry, they’re not, they’re the same thing

Leslie Jones addresses Twitter trolls: “Hate speech and freedom of speech (are) two different things”

There’re two things you’re not allowed to do with free speech, libel and incitement to immediate violence. That famed shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre is an example of the second, as is “Let’s go lynch that nigger!”. Tim Worstall is a fuckwit whitebread is somewhere between true and mere vulgar abuse, neither of which are libel. In my opinion Tim Worstall evades tax is a not libel as it is an expression of an opinion, “Tim Worstall evades tax” is an accusation of criminal behaviour and thus libel….unless it’s true of course.

Everything else really is free speech whether it engenders hatred, shows hatred, is hateful or is just full of hate.

So, sorry, no, unless the hate is an incitement to immediate violence (and it must be immediate) then hate speech and freedom of speech are the same thing.

38 thoughts on “No Honey, sorry, they’re not, they’re the same thing”

  1. And as someone pointed out on your Valenti thread the other day, if we value free speech we have to put up with fuckwits trying to ban it. Sigh.

  2. To a lefty it’s “freedom of speech” to lie about Margaret Thatcher* (SJW, in case my memory has become selective, can you quote an instance of violence that did not originate from attacks on/intimidation of non-strikers, but I can’t remember one even though the Nottinghamshire police thought the guys sent up from the Met were much more liable to hit back) but it’s “hate speech” to comment adversely but accurately on their pals.
    *Employment in manufacturing fell by a higher %age in a shorter period between 1997 and 2010 than between 1979 and 1997 despite the shake-out of 50% over-manning in some nationalised industries.

  3. No Tim, that’s not it.

    Freedom of speech is freedom of speech. It means there is no law proscribing (or prescribing) what you may say, or write, or in other ways communicate.

    If however your speech is part of a criminal act, it will lead to consequences. If your speech is a conspiracy for instance, or treason, etc. It’s the act which is the crime, not the speech itself.

    Which is an important distinction. This is why Proggies have for decades followed a strategy of defining “hate” as a criminal act, and thus hate speech as constituting a criminal act. The act is the hate, not the speech. If you see what I mean (hate being defined not as the emotion but a wilful act of victimisation by the oppressor class).

  4. You’ve missed a bunch of other exceptions, but they mostly don’t apply to political speech.

    1. Copyright. I can say:
    “When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”
    but not much more than that without the permission of the Tolkien estate.

    2. Commercial speech is more restricted still. I can’t sell a bottle of sweet fizzy brown water and say it tastes “just the same as Coca-Cola” even if it does (trademark). And if it doesn’t that’s fraud.

    3. Provoking a dangerous panic (the famous “fire in a crowded theatre” – that was back when there weren’t proper fire exits and you were likely to create a Hillsborough-style crush).

    4. Venue. My right to speak does not create an obligation on you to publish it. Twitter can ban whoever they like; people can still get heard on plenty of other websites. And yes, if you’re a hard-core racist then you’ll probably get banned from everywhere but hard-core racist sites. But Stormfront is still there. Everyone knows it’s there. We can read it if we really want to.

  5. Don’t try to confuse Social Justice Warriors with fact and reason. Their feeling trumps all others.

  6. 1. Copyright is a valid point.

    2. Commercial speech – as pointed out above, it doesn’t become illegal unless you’re doing it as part of a crime. You *can* say your soda tastes the same as Coke (at least in the US), its not until it becomes fraud (at worst – most likely to be treated as commercial hyperbole just as such things like ‘world’s best whatever’ are) or violates some other law that it becomes illegal.

    3. Provoking a dangerous panic isn’t even that illegal here. The ‘fire in a crowded theater’ bit actually is in reference to prosecutions of anti-war communists in the lead up to WW1. The USG has since repudiated the reasoning behind that, realizing that ‘dangerous panic’ is something that the government is all to likely to call anything that someone says that opposes what the government wants to do.

    4. Venue is irrelevant. You have freedom of speech even if someone does not allow you to use their property to speak. Rights in the US are ‘negative rights’ and are not dependent on anyone providing you the materials to exercise those rights – that’s your responsibility.

  7. Yet her own Twitter feed is packed with some fairly hateful speech of her own, which she amusingly claims is there because her account was ‘hacked’.

    Yeah, love.

  8. “Tim Worstall evades tax” is an accusation of criminal behaviour and thus libel….unless it’s true of course.”

    I thought that here, in the UK, that it’s ‘the truth’ IS NOT always a valid defence.

  9. “It’s the act which is the crime, not the speech itself. Which is an important distinction.”

    Speech itself is an act, so can be a crime; and our host has it right.

  10. One useful measure of just how useless someone is in real life is to find out whether they have a twitter account.

    Yeah, I know, they’ll claim it’s useful in building their ‘brand’ or whatever, but truth be told, all it does is tell folks like me that they have way too much time on their hands and not enough brains to use it productively.

    It’s a series of electronic bumper stickers… If you want to attach a deeper meaning to it, well, please excuse my dismissive laughter.

  11. Theo-

    Speech isn’t necessarily an act (in this sense). It may be an act depending on the context.

  12. I dunno, I think the shouting fire in a crowded theatre example should really fall under private property rights. Your right to(falsely) shout “fire” in my crowded theater ought to be circumscribed by my right of ownership.

  13. On the actual topic though I agree, and have recently had this exact fight with a certain chief editor. I used to think he wasn’t too bad, but now I think he’s a cunt.

  14. “Freedom of speech … means there is no law proscribing… what you may say, or write …” I’ve never been happy with that definition. When I was young speech was much freer in the UK than in the US, and the difference wasn’t in the law (the US had firmer protection by law) but in customs and conventions. Americans were rather mealy mouthed, the British less so.

    Since the Blair years the difference may have vanished, though I’d guess that American speech is more constrained at work than is our habit, and perhaps in schools and universities too. Or even on TV programmes.

  15. @: Dennis
    My wife and son persuaded me to have a twitter account so thatI could read stuff on twitter- as far as I can remember I have never posted a single letter, let alone word.
    So, yeah, I’ll excuse your dismissive laughter due to your ignorance

  16. Dearieme,

    Well I agree, but that’s the practical freedom of speech rather than the legal constitutional thing.

    But then I take the view that liberty is more than being against the State, or legal structures. Ultimately I believe in a kind of personal libertarianism, which means a personal code of supporting the everyday freedom of other people. There are some people in Libertarianism, particularly on the overtly Conservative wing, who seem eager for a reduced State being accompanied by an increase in “civil social control” by shunning and shaming, and that’s not my cup of tea at all.

  17. Worstall, stop blogging this rubbish, or I’ll burn your house down with you inside it.

    Obviously I don’t mean that. But threats of violence should not be protected as free speech.

    (John77: you’ll allow me not to enter into debate about violence during the miners’ strike. Certainly there was fault on both sides.)

  18. @ SJW
    Of course: but you are someone who will give an honest account from a differing viewpoint so I thought that if I forgot something you might point it out.

  19. Social Justice Warrior
    July 22, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    Worstall, stop blogging this rubbish, or I’ll burn your house down with you inside it.

    Obviously I don’t mean that. But threats of violence should not be protected as free speech.

    OMFG. So, was that a threat then? Or was it hyperbole?

    There’s already a whole long train of jurisprudence that seperates ‘true threats’ from hyperbolic asshatness. *The key* is what *the speaker* intends and not what the listener infers. Because doing it the other way is just asking to fill up jails with internet fuckwads. And being a fuckwad shouldn’t be illegal.

    We don’t need to toss every G.I.F.T. motherfucker into jail to keep a handle on real threats.

  20. @ Dennis
    I’ve never heard about a bumper sticker concerning me.
    But now you mention it I think I got confused – my main client asked me to get a twitter account, my wife and son asked me to sign up to Facebook. IMHO all social media is junk, but other people have other views.

  21. I have Twitter account as the local transit authority and utilities etc use it for posting updates and often only on Twitter or at least only on Twitter in a timely manner, e.g. No water the other day, only notice about a broken main was on Twitter. It has its uses to be fair
    Never written a word on it though and don’t follow any celebrities

  22. Sad all this.
    In the olden days you were allowed to hate brussel sprouts or even porridge and not get arrested.
    Now look what you all have come to.

  23. According to my law professor, “I think he molested that child” is indeed slander, and actionable. But I’m not an expert and won’t endorse that opinion, or even guarantee my memory is right. I don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone to give advice on what is and isn’t protected unless he is an expert professional or quoting one.

  24. Dennis The Peasant: “One useful measure of just how useless someone is in real life is to find out whether they have a twitter account.”

    Ah, the Electronic Hipster speaks…

  25. “Speech isn’t necessarily an act (in this sense). It may be an act depending on the context.”

    That’s very opaque. You can distinguish between thought and action ( and, a fortiori, between thought and speech), but not clearly between speech and act.

  26. The Meissen Bison

    Hate speech and freedom of speech (are) two different things

    This is manifestly true.

    Hate speech (whatever that might be) is a type of speech.

    Freedom of speech is a type of freedom.

  27. OMFG. So, was that a threat then? Or was it hyperbole?

    As much hyperbole as talking about woodchippers.

    (I don’t think Preet reads British blogs.)

  28. SJW, did the police chuck concrete off a bridge, killing an innocent taxi driver, too..?

    Nowadays (probably then, too; it just wasn’t as clear) the police would be on their own side which may or may not coincide with the rest of government.

  29. As others have said, free speech is free speech – the exceptions are not so much exceptions as acts forbidden by separate rules. The basic underlying principle is the Harm Principle – speech that does no harm cannot be interfered with.

    Libel is only libel if it imposes real costs. Calling someone a child molester is unpleasant, but has no cost if nobody takes it seriously. Calling someone a child molester so that they’ll get arrested, investigated by the police, lose their job, and get stoned by the mob does them actual harm, and the speech makes you responsible for that harm. With libel, you’re not being prosecuted for offending or insulting them, you’re being prosecuted for getting them jailed unjustly.

    Likewise with the exception for incitement. The idea is that it’s not only the people who beat you up that are held responsible, but the person who gave the orders is considered responsible too.

    Immediacy has nothing to do with it. What matters is whether you reasonably expected that your words would result in actual violence – whether there is a causal connection between the two.

    Thus, the head of the local Klansmen saying “Next month you’re gonna burn down the church” can reasonably expect that his orders will be carried out. Someone sat in their mother’s basement tapping out anonymous calls across the internet to “Rise up this minute, march on Parliament, and hang the corrupt MPs!” can reasonably expect to be ignored. Even if someone does do it, the cause will be seen as more to do with the insanity of someone obeying random voices on the internet than the one who gave the instruction. They need to have some sort of authority to issue orders, or knowledge of their consequences. There are grey areas, though; it’s all dependent on culture and context as to what response could be reasonably expected.

    Threats are similar. The crime is intending to actually harm someone (like attempted murder), even if that intention is conditional. The threat is evidence of that intention, so it’s entirely reasonable for the police to investigate to find out if the intention was real. Also, making threats to obtains goods and services that you would otherwise not be entitled to is a form of theft, and a crime for that reason. Even making criminal threats simply to scare somebody imposes a harm on them, although that one is a bit more borderline. Threatening to do things that are legal to do, even if they cause fear, is not illegal. (e.g. “I’ll sue you for libel and ruin you!” is a threat, and a potentially devastating one, but not preventable.) Fear is also not objectively measurable, so would be vulnerable to judicial abuse. As a rule, fear of what others might do, on its own, should not be sufficient reason to curtail their freedom.

    The other one missed out of the list is speech intended to obtain goods and services to which one is not entitled by deception. Fraud is another ‘exception’ to free speech. But again, it’s a crime because of the direct harm it does.

    In general, ‘Speech with consequences’ can be a crime, but only because of the illegality of the consequences. And the connection has to be causal. The speech alone is not.

  30. “In my opinion Tim Worstall evades tax is a not libel as it is an expression of an opinion,”

    Tim, I worry about you. You are a dear sweet guffin straight out of P.G. Wodehouse and I wouldn’t want you to get hurt. Haven’t we had almost exactly this conversation before? If I recall correctly, last time you came out with this deluded talk I quoted chapter and verse from Geoffrey Robertson* and Andrew Nicol’s “Media Law” to say YES IT BLOODY WELL IS LIBEL. Neil Ferguson is right in his comment above. Social Justice Warrior is also right (not a sentence I write often.)

    Here it is again:

    Putting “in my opinion” before a libel has *zero* value as a legal defence. It’s about as much use in court as claiming your fingers were crossed when you said it so it doesn’t count.

    *Geoffrey Robertson QC is one of those slimy creeps who seeks to overturn the referendum by a legal trick but there is no doubt he knows his business.

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