free speech v banned speech--where to draw the line

The danger of speech is a tricky thing to pin down. What kind of speech leads to what kind of danger? And how directly? And with how much certainty? If you incite an angry mob to pillage and burn down businesses, a mob that’s right on the cusp of relinquishing their anger in violent and destructive ways, and they go ahead and do as you say, you’re probably guilty of incitement. But you encourage a crowd of people who are passionate about a cause, but not seething with anger ready to burst, to “fight like hell,” but “peacefully” and “patriotically”, staying within the rule of law, and a violent outburst occurs from within that crowd, is it your fault? The fact is, if you say yes to the latter, you have just prohibited not just a huge swath of different kinds of speech, but probably the most important kind, the kind that motivates people to make changes for the better.

You guys in the US, and frankly all of us around the world, are balls deep in a great dilemma over free speech. The right to it hangs in the balance, and we are in a time when we have to make decisions on what speech should be allowed and what shouldn’t. We have to decide where the line is drawn.

The founding fathers of your great nation seemed to believe (though I don’t have sources to back this up) that the line should be drawn, not between different forms of speech at all, but between speech and action. So long as you don’t commit harm or destruction, so long as you remain within the bounds of the law, you can say whatever you damn well please. I like this philosophy, but I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with it, as I do think there is some weight to the argument that one can incite violence and destruction, knowingly and on purpose, with speech, and therefore ought to bear some of the responsibility for the consequences of such speech. After all, we don’t only want to punish criminal and immoral behavior but prevent it. I think Trump is faaar from that–not only because of his careful choice of words (“peacefully” and “patriotically” ← whatever that means)–but for a whole number of reasons (his calling off of the violence once he saw it was happening, the fact that they showed the storming of the Capitol to be premeditated long before Trump’s speech, and the fact that Trump urged–TWICE!!!–for the military to protect the Capitol but was denied both times), but one can easily imagine a scenario where one can take advantage of an already angry and violence-prone mob who is ready to go on a destructive rampage just by saying something that pushes them right over the edge. In other words, there are certain scenarios (imagined or real) in which triggering an angry mob to do violence and destruction is as easy and can be done as deliberately as pulling the trigger on a gun. If you know what you’re doing, and you have influence, I think you should bear some responsibility for inciting riots, harm, and destruction. I agree with the founding fathers that those who directly commit the acts of harm and destruction ought to bear the full brunt of their responsibility and the consequences of their actions, but I don’t think that in all circumstances, it is only them who bear such burden. Those who trigger them–knowingly and deliberately–also bear a burden.

But the question is: where do you draw the line? Who am I to say where the line is drawn? Who is anyone?

Who is… Jordan Peterson?

Well, I don’t think Jordan possesses any more of a god’s eye view than anyone else. He certainly isn’t any less biased or subjective in his views than the next guy (well… there might be a gradient there between people, but he certainly isn’t without bias or subjectivity). But he does have an excellent quote which I think captures the perfect place to draw the line:

“There’s a difference between saying that there’s something you can’t say and saying that there are things that you have to say.”

We’ve lived with laws against hate speech for a while now, and though many still protest against it and want to go back to a time before speech of any kind was prohibited, I don’t think society has broken down because of this. But the minute you force people to say certain things (like, in Jordan’s case, being forced by law to address a person by their preferred pronoun despite that they are not their preferred pronoun), you are living under a tyranny, for now they can make you say whatever they want, thereby killing free speech.

One might argue that banning certain speech acts (Searle’s term) and forcing certain speech acts are two sides of the same coin. To ban a speech act just is to force the opposite speech act. If I am banned from saying “The holocaust never happened” then I am forced to say “The holocaust did happen.” Well, not so fast. If you’re not allowed to say X, you can always stay silent. Furthermore, you can always think of clever ways of saying the same thing in different, perhaps obscure, words–perhaps words with a double meaning so that there is deniability. Or maybe think of a completely different thing to say that achieves the same ends (ex. if your point is to show how the media and historians are corrupt liars, you might want to propose that the holocaust never happened, but you wouldn’t be limited to that example… you could bring up a different example that isn’t banned). The point is, when you ban certain speech, you are usually left with several alternative options. But when you are forced to say certain speech, you are effectively forced towards that one speech–no options, no alternative things to say–no “you can go anywhere but there” and instead “you must go here”.

There might be one loop hole in the compelled speech that allows you to get away with expressing your actual views–and again it comes out of Searle–the utterance: “X is the case, but I don’t believe X.” ← Searle considered this an absurd statement to make and questioned its utility. But here, I think, we find utility. If you are compelled by law to say X, then in that utterance, you are saying X. You’re just following that up with an additional statement about the state of your beliefs. Note that you aren’t exactly stating that X isn’t true. You’re making a statement about the state of your mind, of your beliefs, which is no different than making a statement about anyone’s beliefs–it states a fact about their state of mind regardless of the truth of that state, that belief. If anti-free-speech advocates want to silence statements about the state of your beliefs, they are treading a very thin line dividing the suppression of speech and the suppress of thought itself–another very significant line that can be drawn but not between different types of speech but between speech and thought–a place we should–never–go.

I know there’s gonna be opinions all over the map on this one. Some are gonna say all speech should be allowed. There are some who are gonna say not only should certain speech acts be condemned, but certain thought acts as well. I propose Jordan’s line as a reasonable compromise. It seems right there in the middle. It seems it divides the kinds of speech limits we’ve lived with for a while without experiencing too much of a deterioration in daily life and the kinds we most likely will not be able to live with. Not everybody will be happy with this, of course, but when you’ve got a nation torn amongst itself, indeed a world, on the issue of what speech should be allowed and what speech shouldn’t–with plenty on the fringes of each side–I think we’re gonna have to compromise.

If Biden is serious about “uniting” the nation, I want to propose to him that he start with Peterson’s quote.

Isn’t it the governments job to force you to do their bidding for the greater good? As a sane person, your sanity doesn’t count; only the insanity of the greater good counts. :evilfun: :-"

ALl good questions.

Absolutely. You indirectly caused harm. And those who were harmed would do well to consider the probability of you attacking them in the future, and if that probability turns out to be high enough, to consider finding a way to make it difficult for you to do something similar in the future.

Well, you indirectly caused harm. It was an accident – it wasn’t intentional – but it was still you who indirectly inflicted harm. Thus, those who were harmed would do well to consider the probability of you repeating the deed in the future (intentionally or unintentionally) and what to do (if anything) to make sure you don’t.

But what about people who say certain kind of things (e.g. “Black people are less intelligent than white people”) in certain kind of situations (e.g. on YouTube, in front of a massive audience) regardless of what kind of consequences follow in their individual cases? That’s a different question.

By saying “Yes” to the latter question, I am merely proposing to limit what things should be said in what situations. You can still talk about whatever you want provided you are at the right place at the right time (and being there shouldn’t be too difficult.)

In essence, I am saying “Be aware of who you’re speaking to.”


Speech is an act too. Why should it be excluded? Of course, speech can hardly cause any damage directly, but it can nonetheless do harm indirectly. If I tell someone to kill you, my words won’t be directly responsible for your death, but they would be indirectly so. Moreover, without me saying it, the person who killed you would have never killed you in the first place. You might as well blame the gun instead of the one who used the gun. The gun killed you, not the one who fired it. And it’s not even the gun, but the bullet. And it doesn’t even end there (:

Inciting? Is that like hypnotizing someone? Adults who make their own decisions? Indirect harm? I call libtarded bullshit of blame shifting like little kids who blame their siblings for giving them a bad idea which they then enact. The ones who riot and injure people chose this, no one fooled or coerced them to perform their actions. Why can’t people, adult people, solely assume responsibility for themselves? Why is it always someone else’s fault?

gib says;

"The danger of speech is a tricky thing to pin down. What kind of speech leads to what kind of danger? And how directly? And with how much certainty? "

Just a passing thought here. At this critical juncture, correctness of political optics can not anymore correspond , either by logic or similitude these nuanced differences. They flow over without awareness, and the previously guaranteed freedoms have ceased seriously to be self evident.

That is besides nominally interpreted theories about their rightness or wrongness of constitutional issues. That is the strength in the thrown about ideas of tweets.

I covered this, didn’t I? If you say something to someone that causes them to cause harm, you caused that harm indirectly even if it wasn’t your intention. (What those who were harmed should do about you is a different matter. Perhaps they should do nothing.)

If you make all of your decisions independently from what other people say, then what other people say can never be the cause of your actions.

But few (if any) people make decisions this way, correct?

At best, people check multiple sources, i.e. they listen to what many different people have to say, then they make up their mind. In this case, multiple people can be held responsible for their actions, but since people are listening to many different people rather than a single person, the responsibility of each source is diluted. The greater the number of sources you check (and use in your decision making process), the more diluted the responsibility of each source.

At worst, people rely on a single source – really only listening to a single person – in which case the responsibility of that one source they are relying on can be pretty high.

What kind of people do you think those rioters are?

Indirect harm is a crock of bullshit, a juvenile scapegoat. If indirect harm were the actual case, rather than poor personal judgement, people would not be accountable for any wrong doing since half of our experiences are via indirect sources on television, books, songs, etc on which we could easily pawn the blame for all our wrong think and resulting wrong doing.

Rioters are criminals who get off on breaking laws.

A source has a responsibility on how you are going to behave, rather than you having a responsibility on how you are going to behave? What are we, five years old and don’t know the difference between right and wrong?

Right. So if I shoot you with a gun, it’s not me who caused you pain but the bullet that hit you. I, myself, the puller of the trigger, I am totally innocent (:

Both parties are guilty – those who incited violence through speech and those who performed the acts of violence. (Though one party can be more guilty than the other.)

You expect me to take the bullet example seriously? I can’t. Sorry. Next.

No, the inciter is more guilty but who is more guilty than the first inciter? The parents of the first inciter. And who is more guilty than the parents of the first inciter, the grandparents. Let’s lock up all grandparent for wrong think and wrong speech, they contributed to violence of a flawed human with their genes, their memes, and everything in between.

Precisely. If you disagree with me, you disagree with the bullet example. Alternatively, you are simply failing to understand what is it that I’m saying (in effect committing a strawman fallacy.)

They are not necessarily more guilty (or guilty at all), but yes, they can be guilty.

Sorry for having to be simple on this issue but - like everything else contentious in society -
[list]either govern by democratically formed laws or by authoritarian laws.[/list:u]

And if it is to be democratic - it must be by separation of governing authority - representatives, administrators, and judges - and also by the Bill of Rights - innocent until proven guilty in a court of LAW.

Total justice and safety will never be served in that way but it will always be better than the alternative.

Everything else was being handled that way (until the recent socialist coup) - freedom of speech is no different. The lines get drawn by electoral decree.

That argument is flawed.

Guilt or innocence is determined not by the originating cause - because there is no origin of causation.

Guilt is determined by the first decision-making entity that was capable of choosing differently but failed to do so - “response-ability”.

And even that is tempered with sentencing that is restorative to social harmony - anywhere from a slap on the wrist to the death sentence.

But is it really?

Do you really believe that when you kill someone with a gun that you’re not an indirect cause of their death?

But did I say such a thing? I don’t think so.

It sounded like that to me - what else could you have meant?

I’m with obsrvr, responsibility can only fall on the shoulders of agency. The gun, the trigger, the bullet have to agency. I would even say the one who pulls the trigger kills the victim directly since there is no mediating acting agency between him and the victim.

I also agree with Wendy and her example of blaming parents and grandparents. The issue isn’t only how indirect those players are but how diluted and untraceable the causal connection becomes. If you give a speech that entices violence how can you possibly prove that it was caused by your parents. If your daddy hit you when you were young, do you know that was a cause of you giving the speech? Are we saying that if daddy never hit me, I would never have given that speech? ← That’s a pretty bold claim. The truth is, the more indirect the cause, the more diluted it becomes with other causes that also contribute to the end result, and the more the end result can be anything. At a certain point, the removal of the original cause bears almost no consequence to changing the end result.

Let’s see.

If I shoot someone with a gun and they feel pain as a consequence, I am an indirect cause of their pain (which also means I am guilty of causing them to feel pain.)

In other words, I am part of the causal chain that led to them feeling pain. I might not be the last cause (the direct cause) nor the first cause (the original cause) but I am nonetheless a cause.

This does not mean I am the only part of the causal chain. The bullet, the gun and whoever (or whatever) motivated me to shoot at that person are also part of the chain.

Moreover, this does not mean I am the first cause in the chain. Finally, it does not mean that only the first cause in the chain matters (every influence in the direction of shooting that person with a gun is potentially relevant albeit not necessarily to the same degree.)

What Wendy is doing is precisely what she’s accusing me of doing: blame-shifting. She wants to shift all of the blame from those who inspire (using words and whatnot) to those who act.

Remember what Wendy originally said:

So if someone comes along and hypnotizes you into committing murder, it’s not their fault for hypnotizing you (indentionally or accidentally) merely yours for not being mentally strong enough to resist being hypnotized.

In reality, it goes both ways. Both the hypnotized and the hypnotist are responsible to a degree, albeit not necessarily to the same degree (the exact ratio can only be determined on case-by-case basis.)

It’s the usual “Never blame others, only blame yourself” mantra.

Resolution Debate time. One assertion at a time - :smiley:

I think you are missing the counter argument we are making.

Do you agree that it is pointless to blame an inanimate object for an offense? Agree/disagree?

Well, you can put it that way too. I prefer the broader perspective though – it opens up many potentially relevant options.

The entire point is to prevent harm. And in order to do that you have to identify people who can, or things that can, cause harm in the future so as to potentially devise means to counter-act them. This is why I don’t emphasize the concept of agency. A thing need not have any sort of agency in order to cause harm.

The bullet, the gun and the shooter are all part of the chain that leads to the harm and counter-acting any one of these things prevents the harm. We prefer to tackle the shooter because by making sure he never uses a firearm again in his life we defend ourselves from all of the bullets he would have otherwise shot (and we do so in one swoop as opposed to having to defend ourselves from each bullet individually.)

Wendy is missing the point.

That’s a valid concern.

If its contribution is weak then it is not much of a cause (:

Well, if your grandparents, who have strongly contributed to you making the decision to kill someone, are dead, there is no cause to remove because . . . the cause is no longer there. Nonetheless, such knowledge can be used to attack the root causes of crimes in general. If you know that family abuse causes crime then you can decrease crime by decreasing family abuse. But that’s very much beside the point of this thread.

That depends on how you define the word “blame”. I define it in a broader way. “I have a headache and I blame it on the alcohol.” That’s a perfectly legit statement given the definition that I am using and it’s most definitely the opposite of pointless even though alcohol is an inanimate thing. All I am saying is that alcohol is the cause of my headache. And this is useful, rather than pointless, because it helps me identify a threat that I should consider fighting. If you’re working with a different definition, you might be right.

Note that I am not limiting myself to the legal system, instead choosing to adopt a broader perspective, with the justification that the legal system is merely an evolved form of what every single person does in their everyday life.

Ok - I will accept that refutation and agree. And that is good.

Now we know that “blame” is a matter of particular intended definition.

The subject at hand is about people speaking and the influence it has - people - who is to blame - not what (we are not talking about the effects of having an Internet - but the use of it - by people).

So when it comes to who is to blame for the effects of speech from people -
we are talking about WHO to blame - if anyone.