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Friday, November 20, 2009

Progressives Against Free Speech?

I have no desire to take Glenn Beck's side, but there's something noteworthy here nonetheless. Last night on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post suggested that Glenn Beck might properly be silenced by the State. She claimed that an exception to the free-speech doctrine is yelling "fire" in a crowded theater and that Beck every day commits the political equivalent of yelling "fire." A few minutes later she sort of backed off, saying that while he may not be legally liable if his viewers commit violence, he would be morally liable. Olbermann ate this stuff up.

Of course, Huffington got it wrong. The "fire in the crowded theater" matter is not an exception to free speech but a recognition of property rights, of which free speech is but a derivative. There's no right to "free speech" on someone else's property. If you buy a theater ticket and then endanger the audience by falsely yelling "fire," you have (among other things) violated the terms of your being in the theater. There's no need to claim an exception to the free-speech doctrine. Properly conceived, free speech is ultimately a property right.

What's with the progressives? Now that their guy is in power, are they ready to throw out civil liberties so flagrantly?


Anonymous said...

The progressives movement is the fascist movement.

Here’s quite a good take on it (not by me):

american roots of fascism (John Ray)

Sheldon Richman said...

The right's hands aren't clean either.

D. Saul Weiner said...

Moreover, there IS indeed a fire raging out of control in Washington

Anonymous said...

Actually Sheldon, I agree completly. The right's hands are far from clean.

Andrea Shepard said...

Any time someone trots out that grotesque "fire in a crowded theater" quote, all you have to do is remind them that it was from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in Schenck v. United States, upholding a prison sentence for distributing anti-draft pamphlets during the first world war.

littlehorn said...

How is it even a free speech case? A man yells something freely and is removed from somewhere. Yet at no point he is stopped from speaking and saying whatever he wants. Once again, there is no need to say that free speech is a derivative of property rights; what I say and where I stay are entirely different things.

By the nature of the case, all persons are irremediably free to speak, each of them being the only one in control of his own body, vocals and mouth included.

Tristan Band said...

It's merely a question of power; when out of power, they champion freedom. In power, they deliver oppression.