Skip to main content

There's an epic battle looming, that will pit 1st and 2nd Amendments against each other.

Here's one side of the coin:

Shouting 'Fire' in a Crowded Globe
John T. Bennett, -- Sep 23, 2010

The liberal Rhodes Scholar George Stephanopoulos recently reported that "Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told me [...] that he's not prepared to conclude that -- in the internet age -- the First Amendment condones Koran-burning. ... For Breyer, that right is not a foregone conclusion."

In discussing Koran-burning, Justice Breyer said of free speech, "Holmes said it doesn't mean you can shout 'fire' in a crowded theater." Not only did the Justice misquote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' famous crowded theater quote, but he did so in a way that indicates his willingness to weaken the First Amendment in favor of appeasing radical Islam.

Actually, Holmes wrote that "falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater" cannot be protected. The key word "falsely," left out by Breyer, gave the phrase its legal significance. If you truthfully shout "fire" in a crowded theater, then that is dangerous but truthful, so it's protected by the First Amendment.

So according to that seeming conservative writer, this Classic restriction on Speech, hinges on the word "falsely" -- that if the "truth" is at stake, then Speech which 'can cause harm',  is nonetheless "protected speech".

The "crowded theater" argument is often used to define "the boundaries around Free Speech" --

Screaming FIRE! there -- is generally frowned upon.  Unless of course, there really IS an actual FIRE!

Hmmm?  that seems to imply that "Fact Checking" is a necessary precondition -- in that Arena [the one of public settings].   That the "truth" must be first determined,  in order to counterbalance the potential harm, of such incite-to-action language.   ie.  Is there Really A Fire, waiting in the wings?

What about in the Arena of Political Speech -- should "Fact Checking" be required there too?  

-- for the sake of determining "the bounds" of acceptable rhetoric?

Goodness knows, such self-monitoring  "Fact Checking" was too often missing in last year's run up to the Election:

Sharron Angle Joins Calls for Armed Revolution in America
by Ravi Somaiya, -- June 16, 2010

Sharron Angle, the Republican nominee for Harry Reid's Nevada Senate seat, has called for armed revolt against the government. Glenn Beck's new novel, The Overton Window, encourages concerned citizens to pick up a weapon, too. And they're not the only public figures calling for violent insurrection.

In January right-wing radio host Lars Larson asked Tea Party favorite Angle where she stood on Second Amendment issues. She replied:

"You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it's good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years.

"I hope that's not where we're going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, My goodness, what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."

We presume she means "take Harry Reid out" by means of the ballot box. [...]

Of course, in Politics, Politicians can always "walk-back" their Rhetoric AFTER THE FACT (as Angle tried to do in this case) -- but isn't THAT really AFTER THE DAMAGE has already been done?

After the "theater-goers" have been jostled, trampled, and terrorized -- Isn't it a little late, to come back and say:  Ooops  ?

And oftentimes, there never IS such a retraction:

[Continuing with the Newsweek analysis ...]

The Overton Window, Beck's new novel, is also out today. According to a Washington Post review, it is a parable on worthy insurrection in which earnest, plucky American patriots arm to fight an evil plot by elites bent on a government takeover. Beck calls it 'faction'—which is a melding of 'fact,' and 'fiction,' apparently. "If the book is found tucked into the ammo boxes of self-proclaimed patriots," writes the reviewer Steven Levingston, "...Beck will have achieved his goal."

At around the same time as that plan was announced, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota told WWTC 1280 AM that she too wanted people "armed and dangerous," on the issue of Obama's energy bill, "because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson," she said, her words becoming eerily familiar, "told us, 'Having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,' and the people -- we the people -- are going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our country."

Violent revolt is a regular theme of Rush Limbaugh's too. And Sarah Palin made what some considered to be her own coded call to arms when she aired a new catchphrase -- "Don't retreat, reload" -- for her followers.

Of course, some Media-Celeb-Pols simply thrive (and profit) on "stirring stuff up" -- as our instant Celebrity Culture has taught us -- Right Sarah?

Hmmm?   Can't we equate Profiting off of reckless Violent Political Speech, to the modern day version of Shouting FIRE! ...  falsely?

Afterall you NEVER KNOW, just which of those theater-patrons are going to "take your call to action" as SERIOUS invective.

But of course, we must promote "Free Enterprise" mustn't we? -- no matter the Costs to society?   Afterall it's really "just Talk" -- "hot air really, ya know, just kidding ya all." ... Oopsie.  

There's always time to "laugh off" the hate ... later, if circumstances demand it ... Just Tweet away ...

Palin tells followers to ‘reload’ and ‘aim for’ Democrats
By David Edwards and Muriel Kane, -- March 24th, 2010

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has now done her part to raise the rhetorical intensity, telling her Twitter followers, "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: 'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!'"

Palin then refers supporters to her Facebook page, where she once again employs gun imagery in offering a list of 20 potentially vulnerable pro-reform Democrats in Congress.

Commentators from the left have reacted with alarm to what might be taken as an incitement to violence. "Most (but probably not all) Palin supporters may insist the tuckered-out former Alaska governor meant 'reload' metaphorically," notes Salon's Joan Walsh. "But in a country where angry right-wingers carry guns to see the president speak, and spit on African-American congressmen, I thought it was a chilling statement.  Will any Republican denounce Palin's language?"

I remember that overly-charged politically-fear-laden season.

AND I don't remember "any Republican denouncing Palin's language" ... they were as quiet as "church mice", as I recall.  More Cheese for them.

(If any Gopher spoke out against Sarah's mixing of Political Speech with Hunting Metaphors, please enlighten us.  The Facts must be always checked.)

Since you never know when SOMEONE in the Virtual Audience, will just miss the "subtle nuances" of your Violently Charged rhetoric ... Do you now, Glenn?

Did Glenn Beck's rhetoric inspire violence?
By Brad Knickerbocker,, Staff writer -- October 16, 2010

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, who’s honed being provocative – even outrageous at times – to a fine and lucrative art, is the focus of criticism for inciting violence.

Specifically, his dozens of comments attacking the Tides Foundation are being linked to the attempt by a heavily-armed man to assassinate employees at the San Francisco-based foundation, which funds environmental, human rights, and other progressive projects. The attack in July was thwarted in a shoot-out with police in which two officers were wounded.

Since then, alleged attacker Byron Williams has said in jailhouse interviews that he wanted to "start a revolution." He says Beck was not the direct cause of his turning violent. But he does say: "I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn't for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind."

At various times, Beck has referred to Tides as "bullies" and "thugs" whose mission is to "warp your children's brains and make sure they know how evil capitalism is." More recently, Beck (who describes himself as a "progressive hunter") has warned the foundation "I’m coming for you."

Funny, you'd think violent events like these, would make the "likely instigators" pause, and rethink their ways, rethink their Invective ...

but of course, when your "livelihood depends" on such Incitement Speech, on such "rallying of troops" -- it's probably easy to find some other "social ill" to blame.  

-- Instead of the one staring back at you, in the mirror.

If the "truth" be told.


I wrote this diary, as a call for a serious moment for reflection:
if we never stop to see where we've been, we shouldn't be suprised with where we finally end up.  As a Country, and a Society.  Our common Humanity deserves better.

On the second day of the 112th Congress (January 6, 2011), Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords read aloud on the House floor: The First Amendment


My condolences to all injured or worse,
due to the senseless act of hatred and violence,
from the tragic events of January 8th, 2011.

Whatever their "root causes" ultimately end-up, to actually be.

Peace to all public servants.  You are performing a great service to society, whether it is recognized or not, (when you take your charge seriously, that is.)

Here's to restoring more "fact checking" with regards to all extreme political rhetoric ... every-time it is raised.   Is there really a FIRE?  or is it just another False Alarm?

Originally posted to Digging up those Facts ... for over 8 years. on Sat Jan 08, 2011 at 04:04 PM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site