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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

February 08, 2006

Shouting Fire

Among the many justifications I've heard over the past few days for curtailing the freedom of speech and freedom of the press is the old one that goes, "You can't be allowed to shout, 'Fire!' in a crowded room."

This is, of course, complete crap.

The idea originally comes from a US Supreme Court decision, which rubber-stamped the oppression of anti-war protesters during the 1914-18 war. The case was Schenck v. U.S. (1919). Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote: "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic."

Except, these were anti-war protesters, and there was a war on.

In other words, they were shouting. 'Fire!' because there was, in fact, a fire.

So, when religionists attack our liberty - when we want to put on an opera, or a play, or print a cartoon - we should fight back. Stamp out the fire, before it gets out of control.


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