The Limits of Free Speech

Apparentlu Charles Murray, Co-author of “The Bell Curve” and noted White Supremacist and Eugenicist, had to cancel a speech at Middlebury College after protests turned violent.

This comes on the heels of Milo’s Meltdown, which seemed to start after a planned event at Berkeley turned violent.

These events have led to much hand-wringing on the left, as “Our Side” seems to be giving up on allowing dissenting opinions. Lots of talk on “I find X Offensive, But respect their right to say it.”

Well no.

Provocateurs Like Milo and Murray are not arguing in good faith. They are not offering discourse. They are saying outrageous, disproven and unsupported things in order to provoke outrage. And then are surprised people are outraged.

Free speech and First amendment rights (And there is a difference) are not absolute. There are restrictions on them. You cannot libel or slander someone. Obscenities are not protected. Hate speech is not protected. And you cannot promote violence or incitement to riot.

And the provocateurs operate just on just this side of the line: giving themselves just this much deniability when espousing pedophilia, or white supremacy, of violence.

But there is another kind of speech that isn’t protected, the concept of “Fighting words”. The supreme Court has ruled that there is a class of speech which, “Those that by their very utterance” promote violence or inflict injury.

It doesn’t surprise me that provocateurs who purposefully use fighting words to argue in bad faith for disproven, obscene and violent policies are seeing their events disrupted. It doesn’t surprise me that protesters, whose voices are being ignored by their institutions and are not being amplified by a media that relies on promoting a “Discussion” based on false equivalence are getting frustrated.

Maybe the “Liberal” institutions that are finding out that promoting these provocateurs in the interest of open discussion will realize that they do not have to give a platform to speech that’s not protected. Until then, they should expect that those they are supposed to be serving will continue to be frustrated and will make themselves heard one way or another.

Originally published at Byzantine Roads.

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