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My main issue with discussions on topics like this is a sort of fundamentalism. It's very easy to take a particular right (e.g., speech, property) and defend it absolutely. But rights are inherently social, and must be balanced against other people's rights.

For example, I don't think my freedom of speech should trump Cloudflare's or Voxility's right to freedom of association. They should generally be able to decide who to do business with. However, that freedom also isn't absolute; it was used for decades as part of race and gender discrimination, which impinges upon other people's freedoms. Thus the US theory of protected classes. [1]

Or to pick another example, employers should generally be able to hire who they want. But that has been used for religious discrimination, so we protect those people. However, that also isn't absolute; if for religious reasons I won't handle pig products, I'm not entitled to a job at a pork BBQ restaurant. To get reasonable outcomes, we need to welcome nuance and compromise.

I encourage everybody to be suspicious of anybody who thinks there's a single clear answer in situations like this. Fundamentalist positions are both appealing and dangerous.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protected_group




> For example, I don't think my freedom of speech should trump Cloudflare's or Voxility's right to freedom of association.

Right, but those only produce a conflict in a very specific case and your right to free speech should be defended by your government/peers regardless of where you do the caching for your blog (or whatever).

I have a huge issue with this modern relativist approach, because it leads to the situation where - instead of acknowledging that there are in fact absolute rights - we constantly debate where _the line_ is.

I think the boldest example of why this is bad is the right to live. In my view, this is an absolute right. "But what if it's a mass murderer?" - "But what if they are terminally ill and are suffering?" - "But what if they are so heavily handicapped that... ?" Adding _ifs_ and _buts_ to a right that should be absolute leads down a very dark path, because _the line_ will be a constant subject of discussion.

I think we would do ourselves a favor to just outright declare some rights to be absolute (as we did before and seem to have forgotten).


Disagree. "Absolutely positively absolute rights" are taking decent heuristics and turning them into thought-terminating clichés.

Let's go with the "right to live". Consider questions such as:

- Who has that right? You, or your body? If you don't want to live, should you be forced to? What if you're suffering so badly it's debilitating, and this state won't improve until you eventually die? Is living in a state of endless torture better than not living?

- How do you trade lives for lives? Imagine you have a crazy shooter killing people left and right. There's no fast way to get to them except a drone strike, and each minute you hesitate, they kill another person. Do you pull the trigger and save innocent victims, or do you wait for the armoured police to arrive and safely incapacitate the shooter, honoring their right to live at the expense of many other people? What if it's you facing the shooter alone, and they intend to kill you? Will you shoot first, or give your life for their right to live?

- What if probabilities get involved? The shooter is cornered, and a police sniper has his head in their sights. You can either take the shooter down now, or have a team of officers incapacitate them. The latter has a X% of chance ending in a police officer dying. At X=100%, you're trading life for life. At what X do you decide to have the sniper take the shot? What if there's a risk of more than one police deaths involved? At what threshold in the probability density function is it worth to take that risk?

- What if money gets involved? The most complicated variant, an extension of trading lives with probabilities. You have me sitting in front of a button, pressing which will immediately wreck the economy of a small country. You can't get to me, but see my head through the scope of your sniper rifle. I'm about to press that button. Will you pull the trigger? And before you say, "obviously no!", keep in mind that wrecking the economy of a country is bound to result in many, many deaths.

"Absolute rights" are good as heuristics. But like all heuristics, they hit corner cases. These corner cases need to be thought about explicitly.


> "Absolutely positively absolute rights" are taking decent heuristics

You're assuming that moral propositions are heuristics or a utilitarian optimization problem, and not moral facts that are simply true or not true. This is still a contentious debate, and not the only possibilities either.

In this case, the answers to your questions depends entirely on what the moral facts are. For example, it may be morally impermissible to take a life under any circumstances, which answers many of your questions quite clearly.


Unless you can build some sort of moral truth detector, "simply true or not true" is still a subjective proposition, because it's you believing that. So whatever you imagine the absolute truth to be is mostly irrelevant, in that you need to persuade other people with different viewpoints to behave the way you want. That leads you back pretty to utilitarian optimization problems.

I get that this doesn't have the thrilling clarity of some sort of moral fundamentalism. But that's my point. When two groups with different absolute moral beliefs conflict, our options are negotiation or murder. People like the El Paso killer clearly favor the latter. To me that's a sign that however much people hold absolute moral beliefs (and I hope it's relatively little), they should talk about it in utilitarian, relative terms.


> Unless you can build some sort of moral truth detector, "simply true or not true" is still a subjective proposition

See the Categorical Imperative, and also a Proof of the Objectivity of Morals: https://www.reddit.com/r/philosophy/comments/3etl9b/a_proof_...

There are very good reasons why most philosophers are moral realists.


I'll take your word for it that most human philosophers are moral realists. Even if true, I think that says more about human brains and the social structures that bless people as professional philosophers than it does about any deep nature of reality.


An invaluable observation, since practically all lizard philosophers are relativistic existentialists.


May be. My point was more that those questions need to be answered one way or another; I understood GP as saying they're unnecessary and are just muddying the waters.


> Who has that right? You, or your body?

You are your body, they are the same thing unless you can stop being in your body this is a moot point.

> If you don't want to live, should you be forced to?

Rights are freedoms in order to have the right to do something you must also have the right to not do it, or it's not a right.

> How do you trade lives for lives?

Well you don't thats the point. If you don't respect some one else's rights then there is no reason for them to respect yours.

> Do you pull the trigger and save innocent victims

The whole good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns is a myth according to FBI statistics.[1]

The point saintPirelli made is that people focus too much on hypotheticals (what if we can stop shooters by shooting them) rather than accepting the right and focusing on the reality(how do we prevent shooters from killing people), your argument demonstrates this.

[1] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/fbi-report-active-shooters_b_...


"If you don't respect some one else's rights then there is no reason for them to respect yours."

Thats why a terrorist/psychotic killer/.. can get shot.

And it is not a myth, that there are daily people trying to shoot other people on this world. And some of them get stopped by a bullet.

The problem is, that usually both sides claim to only react, but that is a different story.

When there is someone mass killing "innocents" and the fastest way to stop it, is a bullet, then what would you propose instead?


>Thats why a terrorist/psychotic killer/.. can get shot.

Yes thats the argument I was making.

>When there is someone mass killing "innocents" and the fastest way to stop it, is a bullet, then what would you propose instead?

In my comment I propose preventative measures rather than reactionary measures. I do this because reactionary measures are a reaction and measured by the thing they are reacting too. Rights are not reactionary they are fundamental and you cant base a fundamental right on a reaction, thats the point.


That answer avoids the question by suggesting it can be made irrelevant. But no matter how many preventative measures you put in place , there will still come situations when the fastest and safest way to save lives is by ending a life.

So again, what do you do? Respect the perpetrator's right to life and let him keep ending other lives? Or respect the victims' right to life and end the perpetrator's?


My issue with this whole argument is that, in the U.S. there is also a right in the 2nd amendment. Either that right needs to be abolished or we're left in the push-pull dynamic of the rights-against-rights.

I personally dislike the idea of whittling away a Constitutional right through piecemeal laws rather than an amendment to the Constitution. It a disingenuous workaround, like a poll-tax/literacy test erodes a specific class' right to vote without actually changing their Constitutional right.


The reason that a specific political bent in this country uses laws to curb the Second ("shall not be infringed", lol) is because any amendment altering or abolishing this right will never be ratified.

It's just much easier to sneak in legislation like the Hughes Amendment and hope a favorable Supreme Court and political climate allows it to stand.


> You are your body, they are the same thing unless you can stop being in your body this is a moot point.

No, you're not. You're the runtime state of the software that's running in your brain. Your body is just a peripheral, and can very well work against your will. More importantly, your body doesn't think.

I phrased it this way because in the case when someone wants to die, but the society won't let them, it's technically not them that have the right to live but their body (and the body can't voice its opinion).

> Well you don't thats the point.

Real world sometimes doesn't give you that option. Situations happen in which a choice between who lives and who dies needs to be made.

> The point saintPirelli made is that people focus too much on hypotheticals (what if we can stop shooters by shooting them) rather than accepting the right and focusing on the reality(how do we prevent shooters from killing people), your argument demonstrates this.

If you keep avoiding a problem, you'll be unprepared when you're suddenly forced to confront it head-on.


>You're the runtime state of the software that's running in your brain

That is not independent of the state of the underlying neural network, it seems no more reasonable to dissociate the two than it does to conflate them.


That's nitpicking, but I suppose I deserved it.

The point still stands: your mind and your body can be seen as separate things, and from this point of view you're your mind, not your body.


> You're the runtime state of the software that's running in your brain.

Unless you can stop being in your body this is a moot point.

> If you keep avoiding a problem, you'll be unprepared when you're suddenly forced to confront it head-on.

I argued for preventative measures not reactionary measures.

You keep talking about reactionary things but rights are not reactionary thats the point you are missing.


If good guys with guns don't stop bad guys with guns then why do we keep arming our peace officers?


Keeping the peace is about keeping the status quo not keeping the peace.


So, then, when the status quo is murdering minorities with impunity that's the entire reason for the police department to exist?


We can talk about edge cases when we agree on the base principles. A principle isn't automatically invalid because it has hard-to-answer edge cases. This is faulty logic.


I think we agree on the basic principle, or at least we seem to be talking about the same principle.

My point is that any principle is going to hit edge cases when applied in real life, and so "instead of acknowledging that there are in fact absolute rights - we constantly debate where _the line_ is" is actually the right thing to do, because principles are not absolute rights, and edge cases in fact need to be solved.


The principle needs to remain unchanged though. A principle can and should not be designed to cover it's own edge cases. It's in it's application where we can apply tolerance. Aristotle calls this principle Epikeia: "epikeia is a restrictive interpretation of positive law based on the benign will of the legislator who would not want to bind his subjects in certain circumstances"

Source: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs...


But the application of law should be explicitly defined in order to be applied equally by law enforcement and courts. If you define the law to be "all people have the right to live as decided by local law enforcement and courts" then by not having explicit definitions of legality you're introducing the potential for abuse. Or even confusion as to what is actually allowed (and thus litigation as to whether certain behavior was within the spirit of the enforced law).

It sounds as though what you want is the The Constitution / Bill of Right. A basic set of simply worded principles that influence the definition of law, but aren't themselves "the law".


You seem to be contradicting yourself, unless I'm misreading things.

There are absolute rights, and debating where the line falls is pointless. But when applying it to the real world, you need flexibility (i.e. debate where the line falls).

Anyway, isn't that basically what we already have, with free speech? It's legally protected in even extreme cases where it arguably causes more damage than value, but per event it tends to go through courts (or there is enough court precedence to make that wasted effort).

Court precedence applying flexibility to an absolute intent/right is the debating of the line. Isn't it?


> edge cases in fact need to be solved

Most edge cases, in fact, can just be managed—they don't need to be solved.

With people, I would argue that not solving edge cases and just managing them when they arise should be the norm. People are messy, and our system should have enough slack in it to act humanely in the vast majority of cases. We really don't need hard and fast rules to cover everything, just "normal" things.


This is what I meant, but you phrased it much better. "Managed" is a better word.


I sympathize with this argument, but it has several problems: Rights and wrongs are inherently social constructs. The is no (currently) discovered moral potential in the laws of the universe, nor is there a well defined, clearly bounded, definition of life.

I would argue that relativism is in fact the fundamental construct, and that societies only arise in the unstable balances between extremes.

That's not to say that fundamental rights cannot be instrumental in strengthening society, but since they arise from within society, they will need to be updated as society inevitably changes in time.


> I would argue that relativism is in fact the fundamental construct

Then you pretty much agree with any practice that is currently-bad-but-wasn't-in-the-past? After all, it was relatively ok at the time, and can be again.

Minorities, women and children beware!


> Rights and wrongs are inherently social constructs.

This is an assumption, and not on supported by debates in ethics. Once you start questioning everything, you'll see that some moral propositions appear to be unassailable, in that, no argument can simultaneously question the truth of the proposition without also descending into logical incoherency. The categorical imperative would be one such approach, although not the only one.

There are good reasons why most philosophers are moral realists.


> I think the boldest example of why this is bad is the right to live. In my view, this is an absolute right. "But what if it's a mass murderer?" - "But what if they are terminally ill and are suffering?" - "But what if they are so heavily handicapped that... ?" Adding _ifs_ and _buts_ to a right that should be absolute leads down a very dark path, because _the line_ will be a constant subject of discussion.

Could you clarify what exactly you're arguing here? This part is not entirely clear to me.


I'm basically saying that the answer to the question of "Is murder wrong" should be a boolean value, not a float. Once it's a float, you open the door to all kinds of nasty thoughts arguing about where to draw the line.

Are handicapped people worthy of killing? What about long-term unemployed? What about the opressors - like rich people? Homosexuals? There have literally been people arguing and executing all of these appalling thoughts in the last century and I would argue beneath it all lies a deadly relativism that says "Of course there is a universal right to live, well, unless you are a ... of course."


I feel like that depends entirely on how you define murder. If you define murder to exclude things like assisted suicide then, yes sure it's always bad. If you define it to include things like assisted suicide it stops being quite that black and white.

EDIT: I guess my point is that people have a right to live, not a duty to do so.


In this context, would you oppose the idea of a country having a military?


I'm not sure what you are getting at, in my country the main areas of operation for the military are helping flood victims and providing drinking water after natural disasters ... so no, those are good things.

If you are asking me, if I think there is such a thing as a "just war": I don't know. I have read Saint Augustine[0] on this topic and am not convinced. I have not personally reached a conclusion on this matter.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo#Just_war


You don't need guns to hand out drinking water, so if that's what your conception of "military" is, maybe you need to look outside your country a bit.


...so why is the right to live an absolute right? What does it mean for a right to be absolute? (e.g. if someone kills other people to save himself, was he entitled to do so on the basis of his right to live?) Who gets to decide what rights are absolute and what rights aren't? Whose responsibility is it to enforce these absolute rights (and thereby to impose corresponding obligations on other people)?

The logic of "absolute" rights requires an over-simplification that doesn't reflect how rights work in practice.


If I declare a right an "absolute" right I do not aim to answer any of the questions you posed, those are all good questions that need to be carefully considered, but none of them render the "over-simplified" right to live any less morally justified or desirable.


That 'consideration' is drawing a line though. Where when two 'absolute' rights come into conflict does the decision to break one way or another get made? Choosing one over the other draws a limitation around the one that's less important in this context.

We have all sorts of restrictions on the right of free speech. I can't libel someone, I can't make a product and say it's the product of another company, I can't open a random burger place and call it Wendy's. These are all restrictions on my speech and (as far as I've ever seen) even the most ardent free speech activist isn't saying abolish trademarks.


In your statement above you bemoan that without absolute rights we must "constantly debate where _the line_ is"

Here you concede "those are all good questions that need to be carefully considered".

...so we're right back to debating where the line is.

I'm not seeing a coherent argument here.


I'm saying that knowing a right should be absolute and - for example - not knowing how to enforce this right for everyone, are not mutually exclusive.


Declaring them absolute also don't solve these problems, because sometimes you can end up with conflicts between absolute rights, where you are not able to protect both rights at once.


   It's very easy to take a particular right (e.g., speech,
   property) and defend it absolutely. But rights are 
   inherently social, and must be balanced against other 
   people's rights.
Would you find it acceptable if we societally agreed to do away with the privacy that surrounds the dispensation of healthcare - all the costly protocols (like Sarbanes-Oxley compliance and others), the costly mandated use of privacy compliant software, the costly mandated use of approved healthcare vendors and sub-vendors, the costly management, storing and archival of your records - all of that - say in the name of cheaper, higher quality and more widely accessible healthcare with more rich array of options offered to the citizenry as a whole - the likes of which that are unimaginable in our bloated, archaic and fault-prone system?

Doesn't that sound like a good societal trade off? Your paramount right to privacy can't be defended absolutely at the cost of people's basic access to quality healthcare.

Now can it?


I think you must be talking about HIPPA compliance, not SOX?

Anyhow, I think the right to privacy is also not absolute. If I'm in public and someone takes a photo, I can't stop that. I also can't force people not to look at me when I'm out in public, or stop them from saying they saw me on the street. Their rights to go about their business in public and their right to free speech are not trumped by my right to privacy.

Medical privacy is different, of course, but that's just another example of my point. In narrow circumstances, certain people (e.g., doctors, hospital staff) can be punished for violating your privacy about certain topics. But there are plenty of exceptions to that. The first hit on my search for "HIPPA exceptions" lists at least 10 reasonable exceptions, including public health and law enforcement: https://www.healthcarecompliancepros.com/blog/exceptions-to-...

In case it isn't clear, I think this is a fine example of balancing societal trade-offs.


Yes HIPAA.

Data protection is a huge latent cost in the dispensation of healthcare that goes unnoticed in discussions. And HIPAA can get expensive for the providers.

  If you are a small covered entity, HIPAA should cost:
    Risk Analysis and Management Plan ~$2,000
    Remediation ~ $1,000 - $8,000
    Training and policy development ~ $1,000-2,000
    Total: $4,000 - $12,000


  If you are a medium/large covered entity, HIPAA should cost:
    Onsite audit ~ $40,000+
    Risk Analysis and Management Plan ~ $20,000+
    Vulnerability scans ~ $800
    Penetration testing ~ $5,000+
    Remediation ~ Varies based on where entity stands in compliance 
    and security
    Training and policy development ~ $5,000+
    Total: $50,000+, depending on the entity’s current environment


> But rights are inherently social

No, the founding fathers specifically said that freedom of speech is a God given right and not something which the government gives to a person, instead the government simply recognizes that right. They specifically said freedom of speech is a "Natural" right.

Right to clean water is not a right, right to education is not a natural right in their terms. Right to speech, right to self defense are natural rights.


- founding fathers are not gods

- they can be wrong

- there most likely is no god

The absolutist nature of these discussions and the near deification of a bunch of well-meaning but ultimately fallible humans has me puzzled. There is no way that the people that wrote up the constitutions of the various still functioning (to greater or lesser extent) democracies had the foresight to deal with 100's of years of technological progress.


You seem to be arguing with some point I don't make. I'm saying rights only matter in a social context. If Elon Musk launches himself to Mars and lives alone there forever as a hermit, the concept of "rights" isn't useful there.

That said, I think rooting rights in somebody's mythological figures isn't a good idea. And "natural" in this case isn't much more meaningful. It's fine rhetoric, but it's not a very strong conceptual model.


Speech is a God given right. Nobody can stop you from saying anything you like, but that doesn't extend to inviting you to share that belief with the student body of your local school. The school are absolutely free to refuse to allow you to use their podium if they don't like what you have to say.

Equally, you have every right to set up a website to say whatever you want. That doesn't mean the people who provide the infrastructure behind that website have to continue to host your platform, it doesn't mean other peoples internet providers have to allow access to your website, and it doesn't mean search providers have to list your website in their results.

Freedom of speech worked really well when the largest audience you could get was the people in your local tavern, but it doesn't scale to a global internet without some adjustment. Just like your other example of the right to self defence - the idea of taking arms against a tyrannical government made perfect sense when everybody had muskets, but it doesn't really scale when the tyrannical government has drones and nukes.


    Freedom of speech worked really well when the largest
    audience you could get was the people in your local tavern
Even then, even before printing presses or the written word itself there were major, major limitations.

- You were never allowed to "say whatever you like" in the name of committing fraud

- You were never allowed to "say whatever you like" in terms of threats; I don't know any society that would tolerate a person standing outside his neighbor's home and screaming death threats

- etc.

I make this somewhat pedantic point because the idea of "free speech with limits" is not some kind of modern idea that represents a watering-down of the lofty ideals upon which modern nations were founded, which is why many people seem to object to it. There were always necessary limits to free speech; the right to free speech has never trumped other peoples' rights not to be threatened, killed, defrauded, etc.


> I don't know any society that would tolerate a person standing outside his neighbor's home and screaming death threats

Such societies did and do exist, but usually they are good examples of why we limit hate speech. Nazi Germany and the US South during the KKK’s peak are a couple easy ones to reference. Both of those are examples of societies without free speech that still allowed speech that most societies do not.


And, even then (at least in the US in the late 1800s) it was never legal to scream death threats at people or take other terroristic actions. The laws, unfortunately, were simply well enforced and a lot of people suffered as a result.


The freedom of speech actually means that you can say what you want and not be persecuted for it.

Except for enticing violence, fraud or etc.

In Europe, you can get in jail if you say hateful or discriminatory things. We want to keep our society more decent (although cracks are forming).

The freedom of speech indeed doesn't mean that others must facilitate you or listen to you.


You banned some undefined terms. They mean whatever you want.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olefVguutfo

We should designate a copy of archive.org as critical infrastructure.


The founding fathers enumerated rights like "free speech" because those were novel (not entirely new, but fairly novel) notions at the time.

What many folks (often, seemingly willingly) fail to understand is that those rights were never intended to be parsed in a naive, simplistic way that supersedes the rights of others.

The most obvious example would be speech that causes others to be killed: you have a right to free speech, but other people also have a right not to be killed.

That's why you can't yell "FIRE!" in a crowded movie theater and cause a stampede that kills people, etc.

There are many other examples of free speech that infringe on others' rights.

Call free speech a "natural" right if you wish, whatever that means to you, but only a fool would think that either the Founding Fathers or basic human decency and sense dictate that free speech is meant to exist in some sort of vacuum independent from any and all other rights.


> The founding fathers enumerated rights like "free speech" because those were novel (not entirely new, but fairly novel) notions at the time.

Uh, your history classes have really failed you. These rights weren't novel, they were explicitly enshrined in the English Bill of Rights in 1689. Some of the other rights (particularly debtors' rights) date back to the Magna Carta in 1215.

> That's why you can't yell "FIRE!" in a crowded movie theater and cause a stampede that kills people, etc.

For the record, you're citing a 1919 US Supreme Court case that has been overturned. The current standard for free speech in the US is Brandenburg v Ohio [1], which holds that it is constitutionally-protected free speech to advocate violent overthrow of the government. Only speech that amounts to incitement of "imminent lawless action" is prohibited. Note, of course, that the freedom of speech only applies to the government's ability to restrict speech for its content (which, in the US, is extremely limited); the ability of private parties to choose whether or not to provide a platform for speech is considered freedom of association and does not rely at all on any of these decisions.

[1] For what it's worth, the actual speech given by Brandenburg is basically the same sort of speech you'll find in these manifestos.


The English Bill of rights is not what you think it is.

It wasn't about giving freedom to the people, but shifting power from the monarchy to parliment.

The freedom of speech enshrined in the English bill of rights also isn't remotely comparable to the USA idea. It was about parlimentary priviledge - the ability for MPs to have freedom of speech while within parliment. It was about the freedom of parliment to debate and vote without interference from the monarchy. (Parliment can and does impose its own limits on freedom of speech within the chamber and MPs have been literally removed from the chamber for things they've said).

The UK has never had freedom of speech. We even had an official censor (Lord Chamberlain's Office) until 1968. Blasphemy was illegal until 2008, and wasn't just a legacy law which had been forgotten, but there were convictions for it right the way through to the 1990s at least.


Wow, that's a rude and (more importantly) factually incorrect remark. Is HN becoming Reddit?

    Uh, your history classes have really failed you. These rights 
    weren't novel, they were explicitly enshrined in the English 
    Bill of Rights in 1689. Some of the other rights (particularly 
    debtors' rights) date back to the Magna Carta in 1215.
Sure. That's why I qualified my statement: "not entirely new" and "fairly novel" rather than "entirely novel" because I'm aware that the U.S. Constitution is not the first time these notions have appeared in law. It was specifically an attempt to head off a pedantic reply such as yours.

    For the record, you're citing a 1919 US Supreme Court case 
    that has been overturned. The current standard for free speech 
    in the US is Brandenburg v Ohio [1], which holds that it is
    constitutionally-protected free speech to advocate violent 
    overthrow of the government
You're simply incorrect. The justices' opinions in this case specifically agreed with this particular instance of prohibited speech, even referring to it directly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg_v._Ohio#Concurrenc...

    Finally, Douglas dealt with the classic example of a man 
    "falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic". 
    In order to explain why someone could be legitimately prosecuted 
    for this, Douglas called it an example in which "speech is 
    brigaded with action". In the view of Douglas and Black, this 
    was probably the only sort of case in which a person could be 
    prosecuted for speech. 
More to the point, please understand: this ruling specifically addressed inflammatory (no pun presumably intended) speech.

This was not a comprehensive ruling on speech in general. It was an influential ruling on speech specifically meant to rouse others to action.

There are innumerable other types of speech this ruling did not address. Libel, threats, etc.

Forget about folks' educations failing them; your misconceptions could have been avoided with a simple Wikipedia visit. On the bright side, this experience reminded me to make my annual donation to Wikipedia. Obviously it's a sorely-needed resource.


> Sure. That's why I qualified my statement: "not entirely new" and "fairly novel" rather than "entirely novel" because I'm aware that the U.S. Constitution is not the first time these notions have appeared in law. It was specifically an attempt to head off a pedantic reply such as yours.

I have no idea what you're trying to argue anymore here, because you seem to be both arguing that the concept of free speech was a radical invention of the American Revolution and that the fact that it predates the American Revolution is "pedantic."

(If you really want to be pedantic, the modern concept of expansive First Amendment rights is actually novel, but dates to the mid-20th century, when SCOTUS started interpreting these rights very expansively and setting up series of very stringent tests. I rather assume that the founding fathers would have been horrified at the depths that Brandenburg v Ohio went to protect offensive speech; it's certainly more radical than is the case in most countries even today).

> You're simply incorrect.

The statement "shouting fire in a crowded theater" is a reference to Schenck, where the justices used that as the example of why advocating against the draft was not constitutionally-protected speech, motivating the "clear and present danger" test that was explicitly overturned by Brandenburg's "imminent lawless action" test.

In other words, Brandenburg v Ohio was quite explicitly saying that the bar for what speech is considered so dangerous as to lose its constitutional protection should not be set at a level that is merely upsetting to people but rather at the level where it is at the literal cusp of violence.

> There are innumerable other types of speech this ruling did not address. Libel, threats, etc.

Of course not. But for the kind of speech that is in question, namely these white supremacist manifestos, it is exactly the case that rules.


In this reply I corrected your misunderstandings of a number of things: my post, history, etc.

As they say, I can explain it to you but I can't comprehend it for you. You're on your own now.


They were novel because they just came out of fighting for freedom against an oppressive empire who used all those things against them and they wanted to make sure that couldn’t happen again.

Any argument otherwise should be met with harsh skepticism because you could be actively trying to oppress us again or accidentally enable some future people in power to be able to.


    Any argument otherwise should be met with harsh
    skepticism because you could be actively trying to 
    oppress us again or accidentally enable some future
    people in power to be able to
It works both ways.

Russia's social media operations utilized (and is surely still aiming to utilize) our relatively permissive climate of free speech to sow discord within America and deepen our divisions.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/17/us/politics/takeaways-rus...

So, there you go - there's "people in power" using free speech to weaken/oppress us.


Just because someone uses the word 'rights' doesn't mean they're referring only to the US bill of rights understood in a Thomas Paine-esque 'Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants' manner. Actually, even Thomas Paine considered a right to welfare (including education), so even founding fathers can reasonably disagree.


Not sure they said that... also “founding fathers” are not the be all end all of of what are “rights”. OP is talking about what is called the “social contract”.


Freedom of speech is really important but every person has a moral responsibility to use this right responsible. it is a bit akin to: the right to bare arms doesn't give you the right to shoot anyone you like.

So you should be able to criticize the king/ president but does it mean you should say anything that pops in to your mind? Defending racist and other hate speech with the first amendment is a banalisation of the first amendment.


You may want to look into the Magna Carta before discussing the Founding Fathers as the arbiters of rights.


That's a very US-centric view. Most democratic countries with constitutions less than 230 years old have broad exceptions for certain kinds of impermissible speech. (Germany takes it to an extreme, but even that seems to be compatible with a liberal democratic basic order.)


The US has always had those limitations as well.

It's just that many of my fellow Americans choose to interpret our constitution in a simplistic, childish, and frankly incorrect way.

Our constitutional rights (including free speech) were never meant to be interpreted in a vacuum, irrespective of all other rights.

Our courts have certainly never interpreted things that way. Our courts have always weighed each individual, constitutionally-mandated right against other rights.


They have, but the absolute language of the constitution has led courts to interpret freedom of speech in the US much more broadly than in countries with more modern constitutions.


Germany has learned some pretty hard lessons with regards to what too much free speech can lead to.




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