freedom of speech: where to draw the line?

so what does “freedom of speech” mean? it has become increasingly clear that many people are very much against “freedom of speech” as it currently stands. many people publicly take the position that everyone should be able to speak freely if they are not offended by what is said, though i’m sure they wouldn’t claim that is their position. specifically coming to mind here are those who say NAMBLA should be prosecuted for promoting the abolishment of age-of-consent laws, or that pro-marijuana ads shouldn’t be allowed in public fora.

so where is the line commonly drawn? justice holmes’s fire in a crowded theatre analogy comes to mind, certainly. last summer, SCOTUS allowed the conviction of a man who burned a cross on private property, with the owner’s permission, under anti-terrorism laws. if you advocate the breaking of the law, you can be charged with disturbing the peace. libel and slander are not protected by freedom of speech. so it seems to me that you are allowed to say whatever you want, so long as your words don’t break any existing laws. but the first phrase of the first amendment is “congress shall make no law…”? that doesn’t seem like a reasonable place to draw the line.

so, on to the questions: should freedom of all speech be protected or should only certain types be? if you opt for the latter, where is the line drawn, and why? if you opt for the former, what do you mean by “freedom of speech”?

Advocating committing a crime (like NAMBLA) should be prohibited.

Burning a cross on someone else’s property is not speech, that’s an overt act of vandalism/destruction of proerty/trespassing what have you. Burning your own cross on your own property should be protected. It’s despicable, but it should be protected.

Barring the above, I think freedom of speech is one of our greatest rights, and absolutely Congress should not get mixed up in it.

“Free speech is the right to shout ‘theatre!’ in a crowded fire.”
–Abbie Hoffman

Technically, I have not seen NAMBLA advocate committing a crime. What I have seen is NAMBLA advocating the changing of laws.

Granted, it’s a law that I don’t think should be changed, but then I think some other laws should be changed, and many people do not. I think that would fall under “petitioning the government for a redress of grievances”.

NAMBLA doesn’t advocate criminal actions. they advocate decriminalization of certain types of behavior. on the other hand, why should it be illegal to advocate criminal actions? why isn’t that protected under “freedom of speech”?

the person whose property it was burned on allowed it. i stated that above. i agree that burning a cross on someone’s lawn without their permission is a criminal offense, and speech doesn’t even come into play. but the SCOTUS allowed a person to face criminal charges for burning it with permission. they called it an act of terrorism, even though it wasn’t directed at the property owner.

so why do you draw the lines where you do?

I’d scale back the ability of the gov’t to censor comercial speech to be on par with political speech. For example, the ban on cigarette ads is, in my mind, an overstepping of the gov’ts authority. As long as cigs are legal, advertising them should be legal as well.

I agree.

I personally don’t think there should be any line drawn at all. It’s words. If some one tells you to commit a crime, you aren’t going to go out and do it just because some ass with a mic for five minutes said you should. If you were so inclined you would do it without some one elses incouragement. If you draw a line you have to draw more and more. Spreading hate, encouraging crime, all of those things are debatable, and ultimately the listeners decision is his own.

The big no-no is threats. Try threatening the president and see how far you get.

Well, let’s that the clasic “Fire” in a crowded theater. Suppose someone yells it and people are injured or killed in the stampede to get out. Does the yeller face no charges, since it’s free speech?

The speaker should face no charges for shouting fire. The speaker should face charges for causing a riot, or whatever charge is applicable.

How is that different?

Umm…cigarette ads aren’t banned. Quite the contrary, I’d say there are an average of 10 ads for cigarettes in the various magazines that I page through every week.

And cigarettes are advertised, albeit indirectly on Tv every time the phrase Winston Cup is uttered by a commentator/announcer.

In other words, your point is pointless.

Mr. Evil:

From the CDC web site:

So, by your logic the government could ban TV ads for Howard Dean, but as long as NASCAR had a “Dean’s Cup”, it wouldn’t be a freedom of speech issue.

A ban on TV adds is government censorship, no ifs ands or butts about it.

What is your point?:rolleyes:

I think his point is that since your first post didn’t specifically say broadcast ads, he was allowed to pretend that he thought you were claiming print ads to have been banned as well.

His secondary point seems to be that a broadcast ban that can be worked around by sponsoring nationally-broadcast sporting events that allows the name of the [broadcast-ad] banned product to be displayed and uttered is not a very efffective broadcast ban.

Technicality here, but cigarette ads on TV are not “illegal”

They are against the FCC regulations meaning that if a station manager were to do it, he and/or the company could be fined. If they don’t pay the fine, they can have their license revoked.

No one would go to jail at this point.

If they continue to broadcast without their license, then they are breaking the law and could go to jail.

So, what % of broadcast time is taken up by cigarette company sponsored sporting events? I get about 150 channels of which maybe 5 broadcast those types of events perhaps 10 hours per week (and that’s being generous). That works out to 50hrs out of 25,200 or about .2% of broadcast time. A regulation that keeps certain ads out of 99.8% of all broadcast hours seems pretty effective to me. Unless one defines effective to only mean 100% effective.

If you found a cure for cancer that was 99.8% effective, would you call that “not very effective”?

Jesse Helms got away with it. Not even a slap on the wrist from the FBI…

Only if it directly causes infringment on the rights of another. “Directly causes” meaning its results are not dependent on the presence of other factors–otherwise one could imagine that breathing air causes rape, or guns cause murder!

What are some examples? Oh, a public concert with a volume of 80dB or so, an incredibly graphic image (, aborted fetuses), or a hit order (where you have a pre-established code word to have someone murdered). The first two are pretty obvious cases of “speech” which leads directly to visceral illness, and thus can be seen as assault. Moreover, loud music tends to cross into people’s private property, and so often qualifies as trespassing. The third case meets the criterion as well, since in that context (judgments about speech must be made in context!) it causes death in a direct manner. Rousing speeches are more dubious, since their seemingly direct orders are often made for emotional effect, and their influence on the crowd’s actions depends entirely on the nature of the crowd itself. On the other hand, telling a bunch of your gathered minions to go out and pillage does not qualify as protected speech. Sorry. :stuck_out_tongue:

Free speech is an issue on which I am just about as bright-line as I get. Electric!sheep gets close to the basis for restricting.

Time, place, and manner restrictions can be okay when narrowly drawn and applied for specific compelling reasons.

Criminal activity ought not be protected. Therefore, IMO, the creation of child pornography should be illegal, but the sale and possession not.