FIRE in a Crowded Theater – That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

Let’s talk about Schenck vs. the United States, Brandenburg vs. Ohio, the origins of the phrase ‘shouting fire in a crowded theater’ and how the free speech game is played in terms of legal precedent and government powers.

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9 comments

  1. This was a pretty interesting video. I’m pretty sure that I learned about this back in high school but it was nice to refresh since I like history.

  2. Here is what I understand about the situation in Charletsville:

    Both sides lined up and started the brawl. (Think of the Battle of the Last Alliance in the first LOTR film but 85% less awesome) This voided BOTH sides rights to protected speech.

    Granted I understand that by the time all is said and done the white supremists are going to end up worse off due to having more charges,including at least one murder charge, overall.

    • Than I don’t think you understand the situation in Charletsville very well.

      I’m trying to restrain myself here. Since it’s beyond the topic of this video that I’d much rather write about, but hopefully I can summarize the most important thing to take away with going into flaming. This was not an evenly match fight. AT ALL.

      While the numbers may be hard to verify and it may be difficult to determine exactly how the fight got started, their isn’t any question that this United the Right rally combined multiple white supremacist group worked to intimidate and threaten violence, hurled racial and sexual epithets multiple times and in at least one case run over peaceful protestors killing one of them. The white nationalist appeared in larger numbers and more heavily armed and clearly came wanting to make trouble and install fear. Counter-protests made up of a greater verity of group and individuals with little in common other than their opposition to white supremacy.

      As Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino so precisely put it two compare any excesses by the opposition in this case is like “comparing a propeller plane to a C-130 transport.” “Using the fact that some counterprotesters were, in fact, violent, creates a structural and moral false equivalency that is seriously undermining the legitimacy of this president.”

      • I did not write a tactical review. I wrote a legal review. Most of your points have no legal importance and the points that do are repeating what I already said.

        • I was not responding as a consideration of law and couldn’t tell if that was you only intended assessment. I’m just a little feed up with the suggestion there was somehow plenty of room for blame on both sides in this case.
          I do agree that a distinction needs to be made between merely advocating violence and instigating it and that it’s not always a clear line. In this case I’d say it’s clear violent instigation was intentionally (if not altogether premeditated) and coming predominantly from one side.

      • Really? One group sets up a rally {it doesn’t matter what that group is or what the rally is about because the 1st Amendment in the USA protects their right to do so so long as they are not likely to cause IMMINENT harm}.

        And then another group sets up in opposition in the same place WITHOUT a permit. {because they knew they’d never get one due to the obvious danger of two opposing groups rallying in the same place!}.

        And you think it is the first group that went looking for a fight!?!

        The group that violated the law first was the SECOND group!
        The group that went looking for a fight was the SECOND group!

        If the second group hadn’t turned up the first group would have had their rally, gone home and been forgotten about!

        Unfortunately one man decided during this confrontation to drive his car into a crowd – WE DO NOT KNOW WHY HE MADE THAT DECISION!
        He could have been scared and trying to flee
        He could have been angry and trying to kill
        BUT HE DID NOT PLAN THIS THEREFORE HE IS NOT A TERRORIST – It was a spur of the moment decision and the worst he can be convicted of would be 2nd Degree Murder {which is very very bad in itself!}.

        One big problem with an absolutist view on Free Speech however is that you have situations like this one where a rally ostensibly in support of the 1st Amendment of the USA on US Soil by US Citizens was taken over by some very nasty people {both Right Wingers AND Left Wingers} – The advocates of Free Speech Absolutism cannot say to the Neo-Nazi next to them “Oi mate, You’re not welcome here at this Free Speech Rally” because that would be total HYPOCRISY!

        Free Speech cuts both ways – It protects ALL sides!

        • That is false!

          The other group didn’t even need a permit as public officials have confirmed. U-Va allows access to open spaces.
          https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/08/16/president-trumps-false-claim-that-counter-demonstrators-lacked-a-permit/?utm_term=.ecbf07730f94

          The first group was repeatedly chatting anti-semitic slurs and wielding torches. “President Teresa A. Sullivan condemning the “intimidating and abhorrent behavior displayed by the alt-right protestors.”

        • This rally was not in support of the 1st amendment. In was in support of white supremacy. I agree with Susan that law punishing someone because of an offending message would only work against the minorities they are supposed to protect, but there isn’t any question that this United the Right rally was made up of people who don’t believe in first amendment rights or any rights for whoever they can classify as not “real Americans.” This was not a case of a rally taken over by nasty people. This was a rally for hate lead by nasty people.

          Also I’m not a free speech absolutist. The first amendment also means the right to associate and by the fault deciding not to associate. If you’re going to demonstrate for free speech you should consider who’s going to represent your cause and if they’re going to draw attention away from your cause. Yes it would be hypocritical to deny someone participation in such a rally for free speech (if indeed that is what you’re rallying for) simple because you don’t like their politics, but not if they were using the event to flaunt their politics at the expense of whatever message you’re trying to send.

          When you swim with sharks your going to be looked at as a shark supporter. The same is true with Nazis.

        • This is false.

          The counter-protestors didn’t even need a permit.

          This claim as already been given four Pinocchio’s by the Washington Post

          (Charlottesville spokeswoman Miriam I. Dickler told Moyer that only one permit was issued for Emancipation Park — the one received by white nationalists staging the “Unite the Right” rally. However, counterprotesters did not need permits to protest that rally, she said.

          “Please bear in mind that people do not need a permit to enter a public park, even when another event is scheduled to take place there, nor are they required to have one to be on streets or sidewalks adjacent to or outside the park,” Dickler said in an email.)

          The Unite the Right really came wielding torches and chanting anti-Semitic slurs. (U-Va. allows access to open spaces, and so permits were not required for such marches, according to a statement by U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan condemning the “intimidating and abhorrent behavior displayed by the alt-right protestors.”)

          (Charlottesville Police Chief Al S. Thomas Jr. told The Post the white-nationalist groups went back on a plan that would have kept them separated from the counterprotesters. The two sides started clashing, and by 11:22 a.m. police had declared an unlawful assembly.)

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