Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Free Speech Limits? 

Where does free speech end and speech control begin? The Supreme Court has been busy on both ends of this question, notably here and here. However, society has been busier in controlling speech, notably this case out of Oakland, Calif. The question is when does speech harm members of society and cannot be permitted. There is little argument in such things as advocacy of slavery and racism. There is plenty of argument over lifestyle choices, whether or not biologically determined. At issue is where to draw a line, if there is to be a line. Eventually the Supreme Court will step in, but it is a useful reminder that in multicultural societies, self-imposed limits on speech are prerequisites for getting along.


If I may disagree with one part of your post:

At issue is where to draw a line, if there is to be a line.

Rather, it is not about where to draw the line, but who gets to draw the line. The Surpeme Court has recognized that "community standards" can be the basis for restricting the freedom of expression, most directly through adult-use ordinances. They have also ruled that special "protest zones" are permissible to maintain public safety (such as limiting the ability to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater).

Thomas Jefferson once said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that a tyranny of the majority is just as wrong as a tyranny of one person - if that person had the power to impose his will.

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