Author Topic: Fighting words  (Read 1899 times)

TheDrake

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Fighting words
« on: March 23, 2016, 11:30:44 AM »
There is a limitation of free speech - fighting words. Over time, this has become more and more narrow, including Snyder v. Phelps where Westboro Baptist Church was ruled to have protected speech despite their words being pointedly designed to provoke a reaction from the people they are yelling at.

In light of some of the reports from Trump rallies, at least some of the protestors (or disruptors, to head of the semantic discussion) are clearly near this line if not over it.

I'm not really sure what I think about that. I don't think there is anything anyone could shout verbally that would induce me to take a swing at them. But I do have some sympathy for the concept, especially when those words trigger deep-seated emotional reactions.

"What did you say about my Momma?"

I've never appreciated or supported this kind of angry, provocative yelling, especially getting into the personal realm. Like the folks who would (and still do) scream at people entering Planned Parenthood clinics.

I don't think I'm willing to make it illegal to do that, but man I think there are much more effective ways to make your point and try to bring people to your side.

Pyrtolin

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Re: Fighting words
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2016, 11:38:44 AM »
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In light of some of the reports from Trump rallies, at least some of the protestors (or disruptors, to head of the semantic discussion) are clearly near this line if not over it.
What I'm waiting to see is how Trump manages to change the way he's currently provoking protesters to try to cross the line without actually being able to be called into fighting words into a trap to recruit them once he's up in the general and not in the primary. He knows he can push their buttons and even stage rally cancellations in order to frustrate and manipulate them into even more aggressive action, but it's like watching a stage magician and trying to catch exactly when he sets up and pulls the bit of subterfuge that makes the trick work.

D.W.

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Re: Fighting words
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2016, 12:15:51 PM »
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I've never appreciated or supported this kind of angry, provocative yelling, especially getting into the personal realm. Like the folks who would (and still do) scream at people entering Planned Parenthood clinics.
This is somewhat related to what I was talking about when I said the delivery method IS the message.

The people conveying this message are not addressing the person being screamed at.  They are addressing another audience.  It is a call for others to join them.  It is a way to convey that it is OK to do this.  That the person being yelled at deserves this treatment and nothing will happen to you if you give them what they deserve. 

That is decidedly NOT a point you can get across by calmly removing the message from the context and manner it was delivered.

As to the free speech issue, I come down hard on the people who act out physically.  I think it is a good thing that we have in effect criminalized acting like an animal and being provoked to violence by words.  Sure it would be momentarily satisfying to take it out on someone "mouthing off" but we should focus on our ability to ignore and resist verbal barbs rather than on how to eliminate hurtful words.

It's too bad our lust for media makes everything look like a childhood playground where someone issues an insult and all those watching Oooh's and Ahhh's in hopes that things escalate for their own entertainment.