[ExI] intolerant minds, a different flavor

John K Clark jonkc at bellsouth.net
Mon Apr 27 15:40:23 UTC 2009

<painlord2k at libero.it> Wrote:

> Untruthfully screaming "Fire!" or "Bomb!" in a crowded theatre is not free
> speech:

I don't literally disagree with that, in fact I think anyone who screamed
"theatre" in a crowded theatre should be booted out of the building, but
it's interesting that I have never in my life seen that cliché used in
support of any position I agreed with, not even the first time it was used.

It was coined by Supreme Court Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes in his Schenck v.
United States decision. It involved prosecuting a man who wrote against the
draft during World War 1. This is what Justice Holmes wrote in his decision
to put the man in prison:

"the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in
falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic."

And this is what Justice Holmes thought would cause a panic and justified
the imprisonment of Mr. Schenck the author:

"Do not submit to intimidation, assert your rights. If you do not assert and
support your rights, you are helping to deny or disparage rights which it is
the solemn duty of all citizens and residents of the United States to
retain. To draw this country into the horrors of the present war in Europe,
to force the youth of our land into the shambles and bloody trenches of
war-crazy nations, would be a crime the magnitude of which defies
description. Words could not express the condemnation such cold-blooded
ruthlessness deserves."

> Is it really free speech?

It's irrelevant today. In the age of the Internet, law or no law you're
not going to have much luck restricting the flow of information.

 John K Clark

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list