Neil McEwan wrote:
> >The right of free speech does not encompass that speech which is
> >calculated to incite riot or mayhem.
> Of course it does. If I tell you right now to go downtown and start
> burning federal buildings, will I be arrested for having said that? Or
> more relevantly, should I be? You still have the choice to tell me to piss
Well, it depends on if it does. If you tell it to me and I choose to
tell you to piss off, then of course you have the right to do so. But if
you tell this at a speech in front of 5000 radical government-haters and
they choose to burn the federal buildings, then the courts in most
countries will most probably jail you because you provoked the masses to
commit a crime.
Also, if you claim, in public, say, on TV, that I am a psychopathic
killer this may well be your opinion but still almost any court on this
planet will sentence you to pay me compensation unless you can proove
that I really am a psychopathic killer.
This is due to the fact that most countries on this planet interpret the
human right of free speech as to that you have the right to say anything
you want as long as your words don't cause harm to somebody else. Of
course that's not a very clear definition, but no legal definition can
ever be absolutely precise.
>Harassment is an (American) Model Penal Code offense and a form of
>may not have a counterpart in British law. The difference between harassing
>and confrontational speech is that harassment is *repeated* offensive
>communications intentionally calculated by the speaker to cause fear/alarm,
> >Of course it does not. The classic example is that one is not allowed to
> >yell "Fire" in a crowded theatre.
> Just let everybody burn to death? Seriously, the reason why you can't
> yell fire in a crowded theatre (assuming there's no actual fire) is because
> it's a private place and you'd be making a nuisance of yourself, impeding the
> enjoyment of others in turn. I have no idea how this example became the
> classic defence of the would-be censor, since it is so little applicable to
> the majority of words and ideas out there to be expressed, including those of
> the Orangemen.
Well, you're a little bit unimaginative here, Neil, aren't you? I
suppose you don't want to understand the metaphor, don't you?
In fact, there is a very good reason why you should't yell fire in a
crowded theatre (assuming there is no actual fire) other than impeding
the enjoyment of the others - the main reason why you shouldn't do it is
because your alarm could (and in the past has, in some cases) cause a
panic which costs several visitors of the theatre their lives because
they are trampled to death by others. Thus, by yelling fire in a crowded
theatre where it does not actually burn you potentially seriously
endanger others. And this is the reason why this example is used so
often: Even a single word, used under certain circumstances and at a
certain place and time, can cause great problems. Thus, saying such a
word under these circumstances can be a criminal offense, even though it
is not usually.
> >They have no right to march. No such right exists in British law.
> Do any rights exist in British law? One would assume that freedom of
> assembly was a given.
And again, this depends on the circumstances. Again, most governments on
this world interpret the human right of freedom of assembly as "only as
long as the potential risk for those who want to assemble or others
stays in certain limits".
Thus, most governments will forbid people to assemble in front of and
thereby block the emergency ambulance entry to a hospital - because this
causes a potential risk for the live of emergency patients. For the same
reasons, most governments will forbid 500 people to assemble on a bridge
that can carry only the load of 10 of them, or forbid people to assemble
in a house that is endangered of collapsing.
And the same applies, of course, for marches. It makes sense to not let
a group of organised Nazis assemble in a Jewish synagogue, because such
an assembly is most likely to result in violence and damage. And, in
fact, it equally makes sense not to let an organised group of people
march through an area where such a march can only create severe tensions
with the inhabitants of the area - regardless who is the cause for the
tension - and be it only because it is much easier to have the group
march elsewhere (as long as this is possible) than have the inhabitants
leave the area for the time of the march.
Mag.phil. Raimund KARL <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Universität Wien, Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte
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Privat: A-1120 Wien, Hasenhutgasse 7-11/9/4
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