Neil McEwan wrote:
> Bringing this back to Northern Ireland, if the leader of a paramilitary
> group (or of its "political wing") counsels his followers on the need for armed
> resistance, and if that group subsequently commits a murder, there is no doubt
> that there is a link between the speech and the act. What is less clear is if
> this is "incitement" in any direct sense.
Well, maybe it is not, but what in cases where it most definitly is?
Like, say, I tell somebody who's stupid enough to do it to kill my
grandfather because then I inherit a lot of money? Was it just a use of
my "freedom of speech" if I just talk him into doing it? Or should such
an act rather be considered a crime? Or, to stay with NI, what if an IRA
member told a rather dumb Catholic boy in his hometown that a UDF member
living somewhere in the next city had raped his sister and should be
punished for it, and tell him where I hid a gun in front of a pub door?
Just freedom of speech? Or is it rather a crime? Or if an UDF member
told a dumb protestant that a member of the IRA just shot his brother
through the head, tell him where the guy is currently and tell him were
I saw some grenades shortly before coming into the pub? Just freedom of
> I'm not a huge fan of libel laws either. If I tell the truth about you
> but your lawyers and bank account are more impressive than mine, I can be
> punished for it. But even as far as lying accusations or slanderous statements
> are concerned, if every one of them were ideally to be actionable by law then
> "who shall 'scape whipping"?
Well, again I'd say it depends on the circumstances. If you call me a
psychopathic killer in private, well, you're welcome. But if you do it
in a way that many people see or hear it, that's something very
different. I'm not especially a friend of libel laws either, but
nonetheless such defamatory accusations can cause the one that's accused
serious problems. It can cost such a person the job, the family, a lot
of money or other things. And that's definitly something where, in my
opinion, the freedom of speech ends, and be it only because here human
rights of the "victim" are violated.
Freedom of speech can, if it is accepted as an excuse for every
statement one can make regardless what results come from this
statements, be seriously misused. Thus, certain limitations are
sometimes necessary, as the ban on the freedom to cry "fire" in a
crowded theatre or to shout "He's drawing a gun, shoot!" to a police
officer in NI that's just arresting a suspect that might be a member of
a terrorist group.
> >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?
> Don't be silly, of course I understand the metaphor, and that is why I
> also understand how inadequate and trite it is when it is used as an attempt
> to justify limits on free speech. There are very few situations in which
> opening your mouth and saying one thing will cause people to trample each
> other to death like zombies.
Well, but nonetheless there are, and they happen. Just yesterday, for
instance, in Innsbruck. 5 girls dead. 3 more and one boy still in koma.
Such panics have happened more than once. One can even consciously
create such circumstances and repeat these panics in an experimental
manner. This indicates that there is a causal connection between crowded
rooms, shouting "fire" (or "run", or similar alarm words or sentences)
and a panic resulting from this. This causal connection, however, very
well justifies a limit on free speech under circumstances where such a
result is likely, and be it only to forbid shouting "fire" without good
cause in such crowded places. Thus, at least this limit on free speech
> >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 -
> A synagogue is private property, but a public road is not.
Well, I don't know how this is in Canada or NI, but in Austria, most
synagogues, churches and other religious sites are open to the public.
But if you like another example, I also wouldn't let a group of
organised Nazis assemble in the museum part of the former Concentration
Camp Mauthausen in Upper Austria, which is as much public property as
the next public road in front of your door, and is, at least in parts,
even intended for assemblies of various kinds of groups. Nonetheless, I
would bet that such an assembly will result in massive violence and
damage, against the staff of the museum as well as against the objects
in the museum. It is, as always, a matter of the circumstances to decide
if it's in the better interest of all or at least most involved parties
to prevent something from happening by forbiding in the first place.
Mag.phil. Raimund KARL <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Universität Wien, Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte
A-1190 Wien, Franz Klein Gasse 1
Privat: A-1120 Wien, Hasenhutgasse 7-11/9/4
Tel/AB/Fax: (+43 1) 8103629 oder mobil: (+43 676) 3048830
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