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Should Freedom of Speech and Expression have limits?

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LandJ Posted: Mon, Aug 20 2012 2:59 PM

Is freedom of speech dangerous?

A friend of mine claimed that full freedom of speech would provoke dangerous reactions of the masses, vandalisms, murders or even wars between countries. What do you think?

Some things must be banned some claim. One may say that the public expression of Nazi and Communist ideas should be banned, but....people are different in many other ways. Therefore, if we start banning some ideas, we have to ban more and more... 

 

  • What about flag burning? I am sure this would provoke many reactions. Should we ban it to prevent unwanted harmful situations? (In most Europe it is banned)
  • Or Mohammed portraying?
  • And what about a more complicated case (for me): The public insult by appearing naked in public places waving your genitals? Should police arrest he or she? If yes, doesn't this mean that we should outlaw flag burning, Mohammed portraying and other things that are supposed to provoke massive reactions?
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Yeah the most common example people like to pull out when they want to justify censoring someone's speech is Justice Holmes' nonsense "the right to freedom of speech does not include the right to shout 'fire' in a crowded cinema".  And it usually does get butchered into some version of that. 

Of course the judge actually said "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic." [emphasis added]

So even in his case he basically identifies fraud...and not just any fraud, but fraud where arguable harm is done (i.e. "causing a panic").  (Granted it could technically be argued a "panic" was caused anytime someone's heart rate increases a single bpm, but still...the fact that he included that caveat is telling.)

But to answer your initial question, sure, you could make a valid case that freedom of speech could be dangerous.  Just like freedom of movement...or freedom to bear arms...or freedom to cook your own food.  Living is pretty hazardous to your health.  But obviously just because something can be dangerous, it doesn't mean it should be banned.  And it certainly doesn't give anyone the authority to go around enforcing such a mandate.

The answer to this of course is quite simple...the property owner sets the rules.  If you're in my house, you can't be setting things on fire, flags or otherwise.  My house, I make the rules.  You're perfectly free to go to your property or the property of someone else who doesn't mind you burning things.  As long as you aren't violating anyone's rights, there's no justification for aggressing upon you.

This would work for Mohammed/Muhommad/Muhammed/Mohommad portrayal, and nudity as well.

See here for resources on this kind of thing as well as many others in terms of free society.

 

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Bogart replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 3:28 PM

My response is similar to the previous.  No it is not right for government to ban or make illegal any form of speach.  Regulating speach is not a government function but one of the legitimate property owner.  The theater example like any other case of limiting behavior is best left up to the owner of the property.  For example:  The threater owner would disallow the people to cause a panic by taking a deposit or a credit card number prior to letting people in the theater.  Other alternatives would include hiring private security to identify previous rule breakers and disallow them from entry to the theater or to monitor potiential ones afterwards.  Then that person would be responsible for any damages their behavior causes.

As for flag burning or offending any group, that should also be left up to property owners who would have full rights to deny perpetrators access to their property and be able to sue for payment of any damages the offenders cause.

It is the commons that is the issue not the speach.  As long as there is communally owned property then there will have to be violently enforced rules constraining behavior as there would not be a market based system to assign liability to those damaging the person or property of others.

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LandJ replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 3:31 PM

@John James

I understand what you say. But

  • If we have to ban shouting "Fire!" in a crowded place because panic, injuries, or death may happen, why don't we ban flag burning or Mohhamed portraying, as well? These cases may cause panic, injuries or even deaths, too.
  • I understand this about the private property. Even if you are in  public place, the flag belongs to you. Does the same go and for public nudity, too? Ok, your genitals belongs to you...but it is very strange for me to see naked people in public and police not to have the right to arrest them.
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You and JJ have nailed the important points. First, life is dangerous; you could die from it. And it we should ban all dangerous (or potentially dangerous) acts, then we should also ban all acts that lead to potentially dangerous acts. Then we should ban all thoughts that may lead to acts that may lead to potentially dangerous acts. Ultimately, the consclusion must be arrived at that since life itself is dangerous, life should be banned. Of course, that's downright ridiculous, meaning each ban on thoughts, or on acts that lead to potentially dangerous acts, or on dangerous acts themselves are not just, no matter the intention, because it should lead to the conclusion that life should be outlawed.

Simply respect others property and rights, and there is no issue. Fraud and tort and other violations of natural rights can still be objected to by a free society without needlessly mandating things that are not only unenforcable, but unreasonable and illogical.

The only one worth following is the one who leads... not the one who pulls; for it is not the direction that condemns the puller, it is the rope that he holds.

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IF you cede that shouting fire in a theater is illegal in and of itself, regardless of the wishes of the property owner and of the patrons, then, yes, one could argue that flag burning too should be illegal regardless of who owns the flag or on who's property the flag is burned. But then, shouldn't reading articles that make the reader angry with the government and might possibly incite flag burning be illegal? And even writing such articles? And speaking such things? Or even thinking such things? Or even living, as one might go on to think, or speak, or write, or read, or do something with their own property on their own property? 

There is no middle ground that is logically consistent. Either living is outlawed, or natural rights (including property rights) are upheld.

The only one worth following is the one who leads... not the one who pulls; for it is not the direction that condemns the puller, it is the rope that he holds.

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LandJ:

I understand what you say. But

  • If we have to ban shouting "Fire!" in a crowded place because panic, injuries, or death may happen, why don't we ban flag burning or Mohhamed portraying, as well? These cases may cause panic, injuries or even deaths, too.

You'll have to define "have to".  And define "we".  Do you mean government?  Or do you mean each individual theater owner setting up his own rules as I said, and as Bogart described?  There is a big difference.

 

  • I understand this about the private property. Even if you are in  public place, the flag belongs to you. Does the same go and for public nudity, too? Ok, your genitals belongs to you...but it is very strange for me to see naked people in public and police not to have the right to arrest them.

You misunderstand the point about property.  I'm talking about the space you're standing on / occupying.  When you talk about "public nudity"...what does that mean?  Nudity that is in general view of the public?  Or nudity on "public property"?  In a free society, there would be no "public" (i.e. government-owned) property.

So yes, if someone owned a piece of property that was adjacent to someone else's property that the general public was allowed to enter and leave as they please, that's their problem if you want to be naked.

Say for example, Tom owns a large plot of property, and there is a road that is very convenient for people to use that runs through this land.  Tom allows people to freely travel the road unimpeded.  Dick owns a vacant lot adjacent to the road, and is a fan of nude sun bathing.  He doesn't mind the cars passing by as he lay out in the sun on his own property.  He's on his property, the travelers are on someone else's property.  Where is the issue? 

For one thing, they don't have to use that road...and for another, it's not even their property to begin with.  So they really have no grounds to quarrel with Dick.

It would be like you driving into some neighborhood in a different city, and then bitching about someone's loud music coming from their basement.

 

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Marko replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 4:51 PM

I think your friend is a Communist.

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LandJ replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 5:02 PM

Burning my flag or waving my genitals on public property (government-owned) like a street?

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LandJ replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 5:08 PM

@Marko

My friend is a far right fascist - nationalist (Golden Dawn Party supporter) who tries to fit free economy and market with his far right social ideas. And I am new in Libertarian ideas, thats why I have so many wonders.

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LandJ:
Burning my flag or waving my genitals on public property (government-owned) like a street?

Again, if we're talking about a free society, as I said there would be no such thing as "government-owned property".

If you're asking how we deal with these things in our current environment where such a thing does exist, well, that's a different discussion...as I was under the impression we were talking about the "need" to ban or limit speech.

The reality is,

(a) there is no such need

(b) there is no legitimate, logically consistent way to justify it anyway.

 

Definitely check out The Ultimate Beginner meta-thread.

 

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What about flag burning? I am sure this would provoke many reactions. Should we ban it to prevent unwanted harmful situations? (In most Europe it is banned)

We've been through this in the US legal system.  It is not wrong to burn the flag.  All of the hooplah over it back in the day was about nationalistic pride.  Europe are a bunch of douche governments.  They would ban something harmless.  Pretty soon, I'd imagine, people will be able to burn all flags but NATO and the UN.  That's what they want dun dun dundunnnnnn

Or Mohammed portraying?

Like on the Super Best Friends episode of South park?  Mohammed shoots fire from his hands.

The public insult by appearing naked in public places waving your genitals? Should police arrest he or she? If yes, doesn't this mean that we should outlaw flag burning, Mohammed portraying and other things that are supposed to provoke massive reactions?

Well, this last example is an action not a statement.  It is considered lewd and is against the law in the US.  But, this last one is a little bit tougher to try to justify...Even if it is outlawed it doesn't provide precedent to ban the other two things.  Aaaand now that I think about it, nudists have pride parades as well.  So the state does allow them to have their "speech" seperate from their "actions" (like flashing or jerking off in public after your internet video goes viral).

  • If we have to ban shouting "Fire!" in a crowded place because panic, injuries, or death may happen, why don't we ban flag burning or Mohhamed portraying, as well? These cases may cause panic, injuries or even deaths, too.
  • I understand this about the private property. Even if you are in  public place, the flag belongs to you. Does the same go and for public nudity, too? Ok, your genitals belongs to you...but it is very strange for me to see naked people in public and police not to have the right to arrest them.

Literally everything could spark violent outrage.  Should we ban basketball because when a team WINS the fans riot?  Should we ban south park for insulting christians and americans?  After all, someone may kill themselves over it...not ...our....problem...

the naked people thing is tough.  Obviously, the less police action the better, but all this means is that someone will beat their ass for flashing their wife or kid, you know?  You could always try to pepper spray the genitals and say you thought they were a rapist?

 

"The Fed does not make predictions. It makes forecasts..." - Mustang19
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cab21 replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 6:06 PM

property owners can set the limits and contracts.

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Neodoxy replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 6:16 PM

Freedom of speech should have its limits. Otherwise it would be perfectly acceptable to threaten other individuals. With this said it's highly subjective as to where the freedom of speech line should be drawn, and my answer is simply that if it's something that isn't directly indicative of violence (I.E saying that you're going to kill someone) then it should be legal. The existence of Christianity and Islam on the same planet in our current context could possibly be a source of violence, but the answer isn't to attempt to ban the religions.

Public nudity is sort of a different issue, but the fact is that in a world where everything is owned no one's gonna let you do that in public.

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bloomj31 replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 6:16 PM

I would say yes but I've rarely encountered a case of speech or other expression where I felt so offended that I thought the speaker/expresser should be arrested.

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John Ess replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 6:22 PM

I think you should limited to a certain number of characters, like twitter.

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LandJ replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 8:17 PM

I am talking about our current world, where there are still "public" properties...

Case 1: My flag, my house. Can I burn it? Yes

Case 2: My flag. I am standing on a state-owned street. Government bans burning flag. Should I obey or my property right on flag is superior, thus I can burn it?

Case 3: My body, my property. I am standing on a state-owned street. Government bans public nudity. Should I obey or my property right on my body is superior, thus I can wave my genitals?

Case 4: My body, my voice, my property. So, I have the right to speak freely. But I am standing on state-owned street. Government bans expressing Libertarian ideas, for example. Should I obey or the property right on my ideas, thought and speech is superior?

Case 5: Threaten/defame a specific person X or a group, like Communists. I am in my house. Government bans threat/defamation. Should I obey?

Case 6: The same as Case 5, but I am standing on a state-owned street and government again bans defamation/threat. Should I obey?

 

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cab21 replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 8:47 PM

it's up to you. some abstract superiority will not save you from the consequences of your actions.

how libertarian is is to threaten others?

what's up with the desire to stand in public streets and wave your genitals?

public property, public laws, you can find a public place without certain laws, you can find a private place to do it as well

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The fact is, although libertarians believe in full property rights and believe the state (and therefore, anything it says or does) is unjust and should be rightfully of no force, in our current system, the state is superior to all things. You don't even own your self. The state is sovereign over all. This is why we (libertarians) desire a free society.

The only one worth following is the one who leads... not the one who pulls; for it is not the direction that condemns the puller, it is the rope that he holds.

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LandJ replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 9:03 PM

* When I write "Should I obey?", in fact I am asking you if you agree or disagree with the government ban law, in each case that stated.....in our current world

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In that case:

I do not agree with the notion of public property (or communistic property). It is a weird, contradictory usage of the word "property" as I know it. Therefore, I believe you can do what you like to your own property on your own property.

The only one worth following is the one who leads... not the one who pulls; for it is not the direction that condemns the puller, it is the rope that he holds.

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cab21 replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 9:41 PM

what would the ban law be? what consequences would the law have?

i don't think criminal activity is fair game for speech, such as advirtising a murder for hire business or a ad looking for a murder for hire business

public murder for hire is not really worse than a private murder for hire. neither are good.

 

 

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LandJ replied on Mon, Aug 20 2012 9:50 PM

Thus, according to the current world, in Case 2 although the flag is mine, since I am standing on a state-owned street, government should punish me if I will burn the flag.

-------------------------

In USA flag burning is legal.  According to this US legislation , is it allowed to burn my flag standing on state-owned place? 

 

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Rothbard addressed this in For a new liberty.

Simply put no.

Im thinking that youre thinking about shouting in a theatre and disturbing people, in which case it would not be a matter of free speech, but a matter of private property rights and voluntary contract.

 

“Since people are concerned that ‘X’ will not be provided, ‘X’ will naturally be provided by those who are concerned by its absence."
"The sweetest of minds can harbor the harshest of men.”

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LandJ replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 5:11 AM

 

I understand the right on property. 
Person A prohibits debates on politics/religion inside his house.
But, isn't it oppression on freedom of speech and fascism itself?
 
How can we justify that right on property should be superior to right on freedom of speech?
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eliotn replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 7:18 AM

"I understand the right on property. 

Person A prohibits debates on politics/religion inside his house.
But, isn't it oppression on freedom of speech and fascism itself?
 
How can we justify that right on property should be superior to right on freedom of speech?"
 
Person A is not oppressing you, but is merely setting up a contract: please don't debate inside my house.
 
The answer ecause liberterians do not support an absolute right of freedom of speech, but rather property rights.  Thus, freedom of speech is recast as a property right.  Fully supporting property rights or an absolute right to freedom of speech is contradictiory.
 
I recommend reading this article to get a sense of the liberterian stance, as rothbard addresses the question of freedom of speech quite well here, including a discussion of the famous "fire in a theatre" example.

Schools are labour camps.

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Property and freedom of speech are mutually exclusive. Property is a very effective tool to censor everybody. Just look at the copyright wars the content mafia is waging on all people. Their "intellectual property" enables them to silence everybody.

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Neodoxy replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 12:49 PM

^

1. Who are the "content mafia"?

2. How exactly do you intend to have anyone produce any material in the absence of property?

3. How is it that the content monopoly is "silencing everybody" and from whence do they obtain this power, with or without intellectual property?

4. If I own my own property, and on it I can say what I like whenever I like, and no one is allowed to stop me from doing so, and I'm allowed to print or publish whatever I am capable of, be it from my own property or what others allow me to do, then how exactly is freedom of speech restricted beyond how it is necessarily restricted due to scarcity?

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In a covenant concluded among proprietor and community tenants for the purpose of protecting their private property, no such thing as a right to free (unlimited) speech exists, not even to unlimited speech on one’s own tenant-property. One may say innumerable things and promote almost any idea under the sun, but naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary to the very purpose of the covenant of preserving private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance towards democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society. Likewise in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. They — the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centred lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism — will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order.

~ Hans Hermann Hoppe

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
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