Fetch on Fridays #11 – Shouting Fire in a Crowded Theater
The Fetch joined Andrew Carrington Hitchcock for another episode of “Fetch on Fridays”. This latest effort was titled “Shouting Fire in a Crowded Theater”, a phrase often used as a means to silence free speech by proclaiming some moral high ground and imposing censorship on the targeted individual who is being reminded that one cannot “yell fire in a crowded theater”.
The phrase is oft trotted out by totalitarians, many of them of a Talmudic Jewish bent, as a way to forcefully censor or otherwise intimidate others into self-censoring one’s own speech. Never mind that the phrase and its use would find itself being discredited and eventually overturned for the phrase was used by the Supreme Court to try to justify a clamping down of lawful speech during a time of war (WWI).
First, it’s important to note U.S. v. Schenck had nothing to do with fires or theaters or false statements. Instead, the Court was deciding whether Charles Schenck, the Secretary of the Socialist Party of America, could be convicted under the Espionage Act for writing and distributing a pamphlet that expressed his opposition to the draft during World War I. As the ACLU’s Gabe Rottman explains, “It did not call for violence. It did not even call for civil disobedience.”
It said, “Do not submit to intimidation,” but in form, at least, confined itself to peaceful measures such as a petition for the repeal of the act. The other and later printed side of the sheet was headed “Assert Your Rights.”
The crowded theater remark that everyone remembers was an analogy Holmes made before issuing the court’s holding. He was explaining that the First Amendment is not absolute. It is what lawyers call dictum, a justice’s ancillary opinion that doesn’t directly involve the facts of the case and has no binding authority. The actual ruling, that the pamphlet posed a “clear and present danger” to a nation at war, landed Schenk in prison and continued to haunt the court for years to come. – source
In other words, the Supreme Court used a metaphor, a non-binding analogy, as a means to justify an onerous decision that would later be overturned.
Clearly, there are flaws in the statement “One cannot shout fire in a crowded theater.” This statement presumes that the theater is, indeed, not on fire, for if the theater is, indeed, on fire, and all the buildings warning systems failed, then it would soon become a moral imperative to yell “fire” in a crowded theater.
Today, the Talmudists are out again seeking to eliminate freedom of expression in the United States. Supreme Court Justice Holmes, the original coiner of the shouting fire in a crowded theater quotation, would later recant, knowing full well his onerous decision against the people of the United States.
In what would become his second most famous phrase, Holmes wrote in Abrams that the marketplace of ideas offered the best solution for tamping down offensive speech: “The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.” – source
Truth will nearly always prevail in a marketplace of ideas that is healthy and open. Overwhelming facts and well argued opinions tends to drown falsehoods and deception and thus, those who push for censorship are themselves peddlers of lies, falsehoods, and deception.
One wonders if the peddlers of censorship in the name of “anti-Semitism” are listening? Or do they know they are peddlers of lies, falsehoods, and deception and that their views cannot survive in the free market of ideas?
Fetch on Fridays #11 – Yelling Fire in a Crowded Theater
with Andrew Carrington Hitchcock
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