It’s a very troubling thing when our supposed leaders don’t understand the First Amendment, one of the cornerstones of our Constitution and our society.
Joe Biden is constantly getting it wrong. I don’t know how many times he has given his “You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater” speech. But it’s a lot. He uses it to justify curbing speech and/or curbing Second Amendment rights.
.@JoeBiden introduces his gun plan:
“No amendment to the Constitution is absolute. You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater and call it freedom of speech. From the beginning, you couldn’t own any weapon you wanted to own.” pic.twitter.com/shOkaXmLqH
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) April 8, 2021
As I previously have said on the subject:
This is what the government politicians say, right before they are about to impinge on your rights. The phrase about yelling fire in a crowded theater is often used by people trying to curb speech without really understanding the context in which it was used. It was in non-binding dicta in a case that was then later overturned so it was never a binding thought on anything. So when people use it, it reveals they’re not aware of the law.
As Rottman wrote, for this reason, it’s “worse than useless in defining the boundaries of constitutional speech. When used metaphorically, it can be deployed against any unpopular speech.” Worse, its advocates are tacitly endorsing one of the broadest censorship decisions ever brought down by the Court. It is quite simply, as Ken White calls it, “the most famous and pervasive lazy cheat in American dialogue about free speech.”
In the wake of the Buffalo shooting, Gov. Kathy Hochul also went there, talking in the press conference not so much about the shooting itself but about how they needed to pressure social media to go after “hate speech.” Then she went on “Meet the Press” and doubled down on her lack of understanding of the First Amendment.
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) May 16, 2022
“So let’s just be real honest about the role of elected leaders,” Hochul declared. “Yeah, I’ll protect the First Amendment any day of the week. But you don’t protect hate speech. You don’t protect incendiary speech. You’re not allowed to scream “fire” in a crowded theater. There are limitations on speech.”
Both Biden and Hochul have law degrees and don’t seem to have that basic understanding of the law. That should concern us all when their first response to so many issues seems to be how can we curtail speech or rights. The First Amendment was specifically created to protect incendiary speech, speech people may not have liked or might find wrong. That’s the very purpose of the Amendment.
Now, yes, the government should be looking at direct threats or imminent lawless action. So many times they seem to miss the clues or the opportunity to stop killers. But there’s a difference between criminal threats and speech that may be detestable but not criminal, which is protected by the First Amendment however we might condemn it or dislike it. Who gets to define what is “hate speech” and what happens when social media starts trying to police speech? Now we get into questions about private companies being able to make their own rules which they certainly can do. But when it involves government dictates and pressure, we start getting into dangerous areas. We’ve already seen how that doesn’t end well on Twitter and seems to have become “Go after the speech that doesn’t fit the political narrative we want to push” and that results in interference in the election, with things like the Hunter Biden laptop story being suppressed. This slippery slope has already led to things like the Disinformation Governance Board.
But it’s incredibly concerning when we have leaders in power that don’t seem to have a basic understanding of the rights that they’ve supposedly sworn to uphold.
Bit ominious how nearly evry crisis/controvsersy—covid, the vaccine, climate change, election results certain people don’t like, the wrong guy buying Twitter, mass shootings—now quickly involves some kind of argument for the necessity of speech restriction https://t.co/I9tzlCTqjL
— Armin Rosen (@ArminRosen) May 16, 2022