Sunday, September 21, 2008

Like shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

Did you know that that precedent wasn't actually derived from someone shouting fire in a crowded theater or anything near it? Instead, the precedent set started out in a case during World War I where a guy was handing out anti war pamphlets. This, the authorities reckoned, was like shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded theater and therefore justified arrest and censoring.

It's sort of like a reverse incitement to riot, only instead of inciting people to riot you're essentially inciting people to kick your ass and getting arrested for doing so. And they say free speech lives here.

Having a theater full of people catch on fire, possibly trapping and killing them, is a typical over the top 'example' designed to stop people from actually thinking about the principle itself and instead revert to basic survival instincts, therefore obscuring just what this principle does to free speech.

A comparable example would be the one justifying torture through the hypothetical situation of a nuclear bomb about to go off in a city in an hour and the one person who had the code to stop it being held in custody. Would you torture (or WOULD YOU LET MILLIONS OF PEOPLE DIE YOU COMMIE SCUMBAG!!!!!!!1!!!1!). It's not a very good argument, sort of like saying "Think of the Kittens".

Appeals to emotion aren't logic.

The reason that they're not is actually interesting, it's because the particular emotional appeals have nothing to do specifically with the case in question. You can write an emotional appeal for anything, without it actually justifying anything. Real arguments say 'because of x, y is, for reason z'. Murder is wrong......because ending someone's life is wrong. Murder is wrong ....because ending someone's life for no reason is wrong. Murder is wrong because ending someone's life when they aren't threatening your life is wrong. All of these are examples of actual arguments, some relatively general others more specific. Something that's not an argument, or that would be false argument, would be Murder is wrong because because if you commit murder it'll lead to hordes of mindless murdering zombies running the streets killing anything in their path and breaking into army bases and firing missiles at American cities then detonating an H-Bomb over New York City.

That isn't an argument because although no one wants any of those things to happen you haven't said why that would happen.

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