Clear Thinking Blog
Americans’ right to express opinions is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. But what if someone shouts “Fire!” in a public place when in fact there is no fire? And what if people get injured and killed in the resulting stampede? In 1919′s Schenck v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”
Let’s emphasize the thrust of the ruling:
Someone who causes harm to others by knowingly expressing a falsehood is not protected by the First Amendment.
In this case, truthfulness determines whether speech is or isn’t protected by the First Amendment. In other words, stating provable facts and expressing pure opinions are protected as free speech under the Constitution, no ifs, ands, or buts.
So then, when last week Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer compared burning the Koran to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, the progressive crossed a line in the sand. If the man’s thinking were ever used to decide a court case, America as we have known her will have changed forever–for the worse.
Breyer’s logic suggests that since radical Islamists would riot and kill people after copies of the Koran were publicly burned, then we may want to outlaw Koran burning. The implications are staggering. Americans would be prohibited by federal law from expressing opinions against Islam.
Using Breyer’s “reasoning,” and I apply the term in the loosest sense, at precisely what points would expressing opinions against and stating facts about Islam become illegal? A typical anti-freedom “progressive,” Breyer doesn’t say. But with his rationale, since Islamists go crazy and kill people at the slightest provocation, must Americans be prohibited by law from writing anything that the zealots might take as offensive?
Now we come to a truly frightening aspect of Breyer’s thinking. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Breyer,
When you think about the Internet and when you think about the possibility that, you know, a pastor in Florida with a flock of 30 can threaten to burn the Quran, and that leads to riots and killings in Afghanistan, does that pose a challenge to the First Amendment—to how you interpret it? Does it change the nature of…what we can allow and protect?
After hemming and hawing, Breyer spilled his guts, stating that while America’s “core values remain… how they apply can change…” Who should decide how to “change” the way Americans “apply” core values? Why ruling class elites like the justice himself, of course.
Breyer essentially said that since the internet makes it possible for news to travel instantly across the planet, the world is made much more dangerous by people simply express themselves in ways to which others may react violently. Therefore, courts should reinterpret America’s core values in light of the “global” community. Breyer seems to argue for courts to redefine free speech by taking into account whom the courts think may be offended by the speech.
So then, if we go down the path Breyer suggests, how much of a leap will it be to the next level of speech suppression? How long until America arrives at the place where the U.K. and the Netherlands are now? How soon will we find ourselves forbidden by law from saying anything publicly against murderers who would take what we say as reason to commit more murders?
We see how dangerous Breyer’s rationale is by applying it to another area.
Suppose illegal immigrants residing in America go Islamic on us. If the illegals simply turn into murderous zealots, then will Breyer and other “progressives” who “think” as he thinks argue for outlawing public expression that might incite murderous illegals to kick up the murdering to the next level?
Isn’t it a lovely country that the enlightened progressives are fashioning for the rest of us unclean, gun-clinging, religion-clinging, bigoted masses?