Dangers to free speech.....

sgtmac_46

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America was founded on, and has long existed, on the notion that free speech is a fundamental part of who we are....it is no accident that it is part of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

And free speech has long been under assault by those wanting to restrict speech they disagree with......Benjamin Franklin's Grandson, Benjamin Franlkin Bache, the editor of the Philadelphia Aurora newspaper, was jailed by the Federalists as part of their 'Alien and Sedition' act of 1798, for printing stories that the Federalists found offensive and damaging.

There is a fundamental danger in our society whenever legislatures pass laws in a knee jerk fashion to fit unique and random events.....many folks may remember the outrage surrounding the 'Cyber Bullying' case of 13 year old Megan Meier, where she was 'befriended' online by the mother of a former friend, Lori Drew, who convinced her that she was a teenage boy interested in her.....only to demean and humiliate her, the ultimate result being that Meier committed suicide.

Now, Lori Drew deserves to rot in hell.....no doubt about that.......however, one must remember this was, no matter how incendiary, an isolated, almost freak, event.......and as such, legislatures passing these laws are only doing so based on a emotional knee-jerk response to a single act.

When that happens, we ended up getting legislation that's WORSE than the singular wrong they are trying to right.....and that's what I fear we're seeing now.......government taking an EXCUSE to use that event and some others to regulate and control free speech!

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28629118/
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Philadelphia_Aurora&action=edit&redlink=1
 

Sukerkin

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That seems a complicated issue all right.

The thing that occurs to me is that surely she was a minor when her 'free speach' was infringed? How can the laws of freedom of expression apply to those who have not yet reached their majority?

I may be misunderstanding the applicable laws or reading the article wrongly, so don't hesistate to 'set me straight' on this (I'm coming down with a migraine so the old grey cells are not firing right :eek:).
 
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sgtmac_46

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That seems a complicated issue all right.

The thing that occurs to me is that surely she was a minor when her 'free speach' was infringed? How can the laws of freedom of expression apply to those who have not yet reached their majority?

I may be misunderstanding the applicable laws or reading the article wrongly, so don't hesistate to 'set me straight' on this (I'm coming down with a migraine so the old grey cells are not firing right :eek:).

The courts in the US have long ruled that free speech rights apply even to school children, though to a limited to degree in the need for maintaining good discipline. And this issue is more than just about the girl in the article (though, her case certainly warrants review.....she posted her comments on a private blog, and it should be protected).

The problem is that when we allow government a good excuse to regulate something, they will often take it....and not always for the betterment of society......and when they do get their hands around a thing, they RARELY let go.

This whole 'Bullying' phenomenon, has become a codeword for an excuse to try and regulate and suppress any view we disagree with........Americans need to develop thicker skins and DEAL WITH IT as adults, not children running to mother every time someone says something that hacks us off......but it's going to get worse......wait until the Obama Administration slips the fairness doctrine in to get rid of those 'Bullies on Talk Radio'. ;)
 

Sukerkin

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That is very true, Mac. I wholeheartedly agree with the principle of keeping government hands off the tenet of free speach as much as possible. Nothing strangles freedom of choice quicker than gagging those that disagree with those in authority.

Thanks for the additional information on how such rights apply to minors :tup:.
 

morph4me

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Seems to me that if we start to regulate what people can write on a computer blog or in an email, it's a very small step to taking those laws and applying them to newspapers, magazines and other media. We already have laws about libel that can be extended to the internet, as long as people want to go through the trouble of tracking down a poster or blogger and go through the legal system, then there's the whole intent issue. A small crack is all that's necessary to start eroding the freedoms we've enjoyed, and it appears to me that cracks are starting to appear all over the place, in the name of security, national or personal.
 
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sgtmac_46

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Seems to me that if we start to regulate what people can write on a computer blog or in an email, it's a very small step to taking those laws and applying them to newspapers, magazines and other media. We already have laws about libel that can be extended to the internet, as long as people want to go through the trouble of tracking down a poster or blogger and go through the legal system, then there's the whole intent issue. A small crack is all that's necessary to start eroding the freedoms we've enjoyed, and it appears to me that cracks are starting to appear all over the place, in the name of security, national or personal.

Very true! And unfortunately both current political parties are more than happy to do so based on their own pet reasoning.......those that thought Obama was some kind of cure for this are going to be sadly mistaken, as the left promises whole new ranges of restrictions on free speech for their own reasons.

It's time to start fundamentally reviewing the direction we're going as a country.
 

shesulsa

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What a shame that adult educators can't apply the general rule of tolerance and use the tool they've earned through the years called "experience" and know where this speech was coming from.

And it is most definitely dangerous to silence blogs, etcetera.

Grrrr.
 
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sgtmac_46

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What a shame that adult educators can't apply the general rule of tolerance and use the tool they've earned through the years called "experience" and know where this speech was coming from.

And it is most definitely dangerous to silence blogs, etcetera.

Grrrr.
I couldn't agree more.......ultimately, the damage done by a passing comment in a personal blog is EXTREMELY negligible......the damage done to free speech by silencing it is incalculable!
 

MA-Caver

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So how long before our free speech (alibet as long as we follow the forum guidelines) are going to be regulated HERE? Or any other forum?
 

arnisador

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She was complaining about the school--a govt. entity. It's complicated by her status as a minor, but yes, if she can't complain, what message does that send? I hope she wins her suit.
 

Tez3

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Seems to me that if we start to regulate what people can write on a computer blog or in an email, it's a very small step to taking those laws and applying them to newspapers, magazines and other media. We already have laws about libel that can be extended to the internet, as long as people want to go through the trouble of tracking down a poster or blogger and go through the legal system, then there's the whole intent issue. A small crack is all that's necessary to start eroding the freedoms we've enjoyed, and it appears to me that cracks are starting to appear all over the place, in the name of security, national or personal.


The problem too is as any parent can tell you, banning or regulating something also makes it more attractive. I don't listen to or read quite a lot of things as I either find them not to my taste or distasteful but thats my choice, the minute one of these sources is banned or taken to court I would become instantly attentive. For example I really don't like jazz music I'm afraid, so never listen to the radio stations dedicated to it but if it were to be banned (as in Nazi Germany) I would campaign strenously to get it back on air though I wouldn't listen to it still.

For some groups too such as extreme right wing, fascist type groups or rascist groups being banned or taken to court legitimises them in their eyes, it also bring very welcome publicity to them that they don't deserve.

I don't believe free speech means you can say exactly anything you want, I don't believe racial hatred should be spouted or incitement to riots etc but over here the law has always been more than adequate to deal with that as I suspect it has been in America. New legislation is rarely needed to control the worse elements who abuse free speech.

I can understand governments wishing to block free speech from a Machevellian point of view, getting rid opposition etc but sometimes I think the worse offenders are the do gooders who mean well in trying to protect us but end up with more draconian legislation than the would be tyrants. The Lord save us from the well meaning!
 

Carol

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Doesn't surprise me. The educational system, including academia, supports free speech only when it directly benefits themselves.

Doesn't anyone remember the "drunken pirate" - the young lady that was denied her degree in education at the last minute because of a MySpace page that showed her drinking form a plastic cup on Halloween?

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2007/0426072pirate1.html

Who is the REAL bully?
 

Empty Hands

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Carol is absolutely right here. This sort of behavior by the school systems has been going on for a long time, and any latching on to "cyber-bullying" legislation is opportunistic on their part. Speech by students out of school, and speech and actions by educators outside of school, has been used to end careers, deny graduation, initiate discipline, and similar. Unfortunately, with the rise of such easy communication, we are also seeing the private sector do this more and more. Make inflammatory comments on your blog that get wide attention? Say goodbye to your job.
 
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sgtmac_46

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The problem too is as any parent can tell you, banning or regulating something also makes it more attractive. I don't listen to or read quite a lot of things as I either find them not to my taste or distasteful but thats my choice, the minute one of these sources is banned or taken to court I would become instantly attentive. For example I really don't like jazz music I'm afraid, so never listen to the radio stations dedicated to it but if it were to be banned (as in Nazi Germany) I would campaign strenously to get it back on air though I wouldn't listen to it still.

For some groups too such as extreme right wing, fascist type groups or rascist groups being banned or taken to court legitimises them in their eyes, it also bring very welcome publicity to them that they don't deserve.

I don't believe free speech means you can say exactly anything you want, I don't believe racial hatred should be spouted or incitement to riots etc but over here the law has always been more than adequate to deal with that as I suspect it has been in America. New legislation is rarely needed to control the worse elements who abuse free speech.

I can understand governments wishing to block free speech from a Machevellian point of view, getting rid opposition etc but sometimes I think the worse offenders are the do gooders who mean well in trying to protect us but end up with more draconian legislation than the would be tyrants. The Lord save us from the well meaning!

I agree with your general points, but I can tell with your comments on 'racial hatred' speech that you're European......as Europe has restricted such speech......in the US, however, our courts have (so far) concluded that even THAT speech is protected......and SHOULD BE! As the damage done by RESTRICTING even that speech far outweighs the damage OF the speech.

I suspect in the VERY NEAR FUTURE we'll see restriction of 'Hate Speech' as well.......with MANY folks cheering it on......that is how Liberty dies!
 

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As much as we might like to see restrictions on hate speech, any restriction on freedom of speech just opens the door for interpretation of what hate speech is, and then next thing you know it becomes hate speech if someone says anything at all that could be construed by someone, no matter how much they have to stretch to do it, as hate speech. We do have some restrictions, e.g. not yelling fire in a crowed theater, on what we can get away with. We also have laws regarding slander, but I'd hate to see it go much further than that.
 
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sgtmac_46

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As much as we might like to see restrictions on hate speech, any restriction on freedom of speech just opens the door for interpretation of what hate speech is, and then next thing you know it becomes hate speech if someone says anything at all that could be construed by someone, no matter how much they have to stretch to do it, as hate speech. We do have some restrictions, e.g. not yelling fire in a crowed theater, on what we can get away with. We also have laws regarding slander, but I'd hate to see it go much further than that.

And the list of what would QUALIFY as 'Hate Speech' would continue to grow, as new powers saw a chance to use it to silence opposition.

It's been done in America before, and fortunately it's been defeated......as I mentioned earlier the Federalists used the Alien and Sedition act of 1798 to silence Benjamin Franklin Bache, the grandson of Benjamin Franklin, and critic of the Federalists, and his newspaper, the 'Philadelphia Aurora', and put Bache in prison, for printing unflattering and critical stories about the Federalists, where he died before the act could be struck down!

One should also study Woodrow Wilson's domestic policies during WWI, and his use of millions of volunteers to suppress ANY dissent within the country.....so effective was Woodrow Wilson that even today it's not widely known.
 

Tez3

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I agree with your general points, but I can tell with your comments on 'racial hatred' speech that you're European......as Europe has restricted such speech......in the US, however, our courts have (so far) concluded that even THAT speech is protected......and SHOULD BE! As the damage done by RESTRICTING even that speech far outweighs the damage OF the speech.

I suspect in the VERY NEAR FUTURE we'll see restriction of 'Hate Speech' as well.......with MANY folks cheering it on......that is how Liberty dies!


We don't restrict free speech and laws in each country are different on this point. What we have in the UK is an offence 'inciting racial hatred' which means if for example the National Front or their military offshoot Combat 18 start their rants about Asians, black people etc which usually consist of 'rivers of blood' being called for they can be prosecuted. We've also had recently radical Muslim clerics calling for their supporters to kill British people. Saying you hate a particular race or group of society is not illegal, however calling for the deaths of and violence against an ethnic group is an offence. It actually constitutes 'threatening behaviour' which is an offence in it's self ( thats the one where if someone is threatening you, you're then aloowed to strike first as you are 'in fear of your life')

Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994

154 Offence of causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress
In Part I of the [1986 c. 64.] Public Order Act 1986 (offences relating to public order), after section 4, there shall be inserted the following section
4A Intentional harassment, alarm or distress

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he
(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.
(2) An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the person who is harassed, alarmed or distressed is also inside that or another dwelling.
(3) It is a defence for the accused to prove
(a) that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or
(b) that his conduct was reasonable.
(4) A constable may arrest without warrant anyone he reasonably suspects is committing an offence under this section.
(5) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or both..

Offence of racially inflammatory publication etc. to be arrestable

155 Offence of racially inflammatory publication etc. to be arrestable

In section 24(2) of the [1984 c. 60.] Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (arrestable offences), after the paragraph (h) inserted by section 166(4) of this Act, there shall be inserted the following paragraph
(i) an offence under section 19 of the [1986 c. 64.] Public Order Act 1986 (publishing, etc. material intended or likely to stir up racial hatred);.


In Europe they have a problem we don't have here, so in austria and Germany Holocaust denial is illegal, I can see where they are coming from here but I can also see the implications to free speech.
 
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sgtmac_46

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We don't restrict free speech and laws in each country are different on this point. What we have in the UK is an offence 'inciting racial hatred' which means if for example the National Front or their military offshoot Combat 18 start their rants about Asians, black people etc which usually consist of 'rivers of blood' being called for they can be prosecuted. We've also had recently radical Muslim clerics calling for their supporters to kill British people. Saying you hate a particular race or group of society is not illegal, however calling for the deaths of and violence against an ethnic group is an offence. It actually constitutes 'threatening behaviour' which is an offence in it's self ( thats the one where if someone is threatening you, you're then aloowed to strike first as you are 'in fear of your life')

Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994

154 Offence of causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress
In Part I of the [1986 c. 64.] Public Order Act 1986 (offences relating to public order), after section 4, there shall be inserted the following section—
“4A Intentional harassment, alarm or distress

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he—
(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.
(2) An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the person who is harassed, alarmed or distressed is also inside that or another dwelling.
(3) It is a defence for the accused to prove—
(a) that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or
(b) that his conduct was reasonable.
(4) A constable may arrest without warrant anyone he reasonably suspects is committing an offence under this section.
(5) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or both.”.

Offence of racially inflammatory publication etc. to be arrestable

155 Offence of racially inflammatory publication etc. to be arrestable

—In section 24(2) of the [1984 c. 60.] Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (arrestable offences), after the paragraph (h) inserted by section 166(4) of this Act, there shall be inserted the following paragraph—
“(i) an offence under section 19 of the [1986 c. 64.] Public Order Act 1986 (publishing, etc. material intended or likely to stir up racial hatred);”.


In Europe they have a problem we don't have here, so in austria and Germany Holocaust denial is illegal, I can see where they are coming from here but I can also see the implications to free speech.

None of that is illegal in the US! The only kind of speech illegal in the US is immediate incitement to riot (actually out in the street actively inciting an imminent riot) and shouting fire in a crowded theatre.

Such evil books as the 'Turner Diaries' are perfectly legal here and, distasteful as they are, it's reassuring that we don't prosecute folks for distasteful, sometimes even evil, speech.

I'm aware of the 'Inciting racial hatred' laws of Europe and Canada, and I find even those dangerous.


My personal view is that power of government should be the LAST resort solution to social problems, not the first.
 

Tez3

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In this country you can write and say that you hate 'purple' people, that they stink, are nasty, subhuman, pinch your jobs, your women, your dogs etc etc ad nauseum but what you can't do is write or shout out in public that they should be killed, battered or otherwise harrassed or harmed. You can say that in the privacy of your own home however but not to the public.
You cannot in this country legally threaten violence to anyone even your own family. I imagine most countries have similiar laws.
 
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sgtmac_46

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In this country you can write and say that you hate 'purple' people, that they stink, are nasty, subhuman, pinch your jobs, your women, your dogs etc etc ad nauseum but what you can't do is write or shout out in public that they should be killed, battered or otherwise harrassed or harmed. You can say that in the privacy of your own home however but not to the public.
You cannot in this country legally threaten violence to anyone even your own family. I imagine most countries have similiar laws.
The only restriction we have the US is an IMMINENT threat of physical violence is considered an assault......meaning if you I yell in your FACE that i'm going to kill you right now, for example.

But the difference between the US and other western counties is our implicit 1st Amendment.
 
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