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Old 02-23-2010, 05:56 PM
 
Location: Hades
2,126 posts, read 2,046,403 times
Reputation: 672

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Globally, you have the absolute right to have your opinions on certain groups and people. No matter where you are, as far as I know, you have the right to your opinion.

But when it comes to public expression of opinions and beliefs, laws differ everywhere. Hate speech may be permissable in some places while it is a punishable offense in others.

Taking cues from history, Germany has the “Agitation of the People” concept (Volksverhetzung) which seems to largely apply to Holocaust denial but also:
-calling for violent or arbitrary measures against segments of the population
-insulting or defaming segments of the population

Obviously a many layered concept in criminal law there and differing dramatically case by case, but still seen as a potentially punishable offense.

Sweden has a similar (yet less strict it seems) “Incitement to racial hatred” offence, which in partial definition includes: The threat or expression of disrespect for any group of people with allusion to race, color, national or ethnic origin, creed or sexual orientation

Just a couple of examples and I, admittedly, have just began looking into this. We all are aware of vast censorship in some countries, but even Germany and Sweden strictly prohibit, for example, certain sites that are permitted here. I bring in these two countries because they are societally more similar to the US.

As far as I know, the only expression-related punishable offense in this country may be the threat of violence. Otherwise, is Freedom of Speech absolute in the USA?
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Old 02-23-2010, 08:09 PM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,668 posts, read 71,538,289 times
Reputation: 35864
Quote:
Originally Posted by NomadScribe View Post

As far as I know, the only expression-related punishable offense in this country may be the threat of violence. Otherwise, is Freedom of Speech absolute in the USA?
No freedom is absolute anywhere. Society has not just the right, but the obligation to protect itself from those would abuse their desires to behave as they might wish.

"Fire" in the movie theater is the oft-repeated example of a freedom of speech that is not absolute. There is not a single right specified nor implied in the US Constitution that is absolute, and that has not been infringed with the blessings of the Supreme Court where such activity is deemed a threat to public safety or public order or a license to the sociopathic.
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Old 02-23-2010, 08:16 PM
 
Location: Washington DC
79 posts, read 53,662 times
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I think there's a big difference between freedom of speech and inciting hatred. I don't blame many European countries for having laws to protect their citizens against hatemongers. It's fine to have freedom of speech, but a line has to be drawn somewhere, especially when it comes to inciting hatred. People assume that words cannot hurt, but they do. Words can cause untold damage and can lead to chaos. Freedom of speech is often abused and in many cases, inciting hatred and hurting people goes without any form of consequences. As for Germany, do you blame them for having laws in place to punish those who deny the Holocaust? The United States simply has not been through the horrors that Germany, or the rest of Europe has been through in the last decade. Who are we to pass judgment on the way they choose to do things?
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Old 02-23-2010, 08:39 PM
 
Location: Hades
2,126 posts, read 2,046,403 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by celtic109 View Post
I think there's a big difference between freedom of speech and inciting hatred. I don't blame many European countries for having laws to protect their citizens against hatemongers. It's fine to have freedom of speech, but a line has to be drawn somewhere, especially when it comes to inciting hatred. People assume that words cannot hurt, but they do. Words can cause untold damage and can lead to chaos. Freedom of speech is often abused and in many cases, inciting hatred and hurting people goes without any form of consequences. As for Germany, do you blame them for having laws in place to punish those who deny the Holocaust? The United States simply has not been through the horrors that Germany, or the rest of Europe has been through in the last decade. Who are we to pass judgment on the way they choose to do things?
I agree. Was just curious if people had examples from elsewhere and just perspectives on the issue in general.
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Old 02-23-2010, 08:51 PM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,668 posts, read 71,538,289 times
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I strongly object, though, when the authorities (whether established or otherwise) take it upon themselves to obstruct academic inquiry into the official orthodoxy. Examples are the question of the scope of the Holocaust and the existence of Race and the science of Intelligent Design.
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Old 02-23-2010, 08:56 PM
 
48,519 posts, read 81,013,914 times
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I really thiunk that just as a example germany and the USA have taken a very different lesson form the german RAF experience than the USA of teh 60 revoltuinary experince. I some ways the destrustio to US cities where far worse. But its very difficult with our constitution to limit speech as we leraned just with the last supreme court decision.Which I found right i line with many from privious supreme courts in earlier case on free speech and government limiting it.We have a very different view and history than even europe on this.Governamnt limiting free speech is a very slippery slope indeed.
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Old 02-23-2010, 09:03 PM
 
Location: Blankity-blank!
11,449 posts, read 13,913,395 times
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I lived in Germany for many years.
The possession and distribution of Nazi literature is illegal in Germany, not in the US.
In the US it's not a violation of law to slander (or even say kill) certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups. This does not happen in the media, but in casual daily conversations, it's not unusual. I've heard plenty.
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Old 02-24-2010, 05:37 AM
 
5,767 posts, read 10,025,848 times
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The US has tended to place fewer legal restrictions on speech, but there are many exceptions, limits, and areas where you have to tread carefully to avoid getting hit by a (potentially frivolous) civil lawsuit.

Look into various state laws against disparaging local agricultural products (one such law was the basis of the famous beef lawsuit against Oprah in the 1990's).

Also, if you rebroadcast the Lebanese television channel al-Manar inside the US, you can be arrested and thrown in prison on some vague charge of "providing material support to a terrorist organization."

There are also thorny areas in the law of pornography and obscenity.

For example, why was "Max Hardcore" sent to a Florida prison for producing pornographic videos which featured only consenting adults?

Why have people in the US been jailed for ordering certain racy comic books (containing only illustrations - no photographs) from Japan?

When it comes to speech/expression laws, there are areas where the US has broad rights and protections, but there are also areas where you can end up in prison for conduct that would be entirely legal in various other countries.
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Old 02-24-2010, 05:47 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,668 posts, read 71,538,289 times
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The government is not the only institution that has the power to punish you for saying the wrong thing. In America, the government is somewhat restricted in the sanctions it can take against a person speaking outside the orthodox, but the remainder of society can and will hold you accountable for what you say, and has a broad right to do so.

It is our society that agrees to make you free or not.
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Old 02-24-2010, 07:44 AM
 
7,901 posts, read 8,619,136 times
Reputation: 3185
Quote:
Originally Posted by NomadScribe View Post
Globally, you have the absolute right to have your opinions on certain groups and people. No matter where you are, as far as I know, you have the right to your opinion.

But when it comes to public expression of opinions and beliefs, laws differ everywhere. Hate speech may be permissable in some places while it is a punishable offense in others.

Taking cues from history, Germany has the “Agitation of the People” concept (Volksverhetzung) which seems to largely apply to Holocaust denial but also:
-calling for violent or arbitrary measures against segments of the population
-insulting or defaming segments of the population

Obviously a many layered concept in criminal law there and differing dramatically case by case, but still seen as a potentially punishable offense.

Sweden has a similar (yet less strict it seems) “Incitement to racial hatred” offence, which in partial definition includes: The threat or expression of disrespect for any group of people with allusion to race, color, national or ethnic origin, creed or sexual orientation

Just a couple of examples and I, admittedly, have just began looking into this. We all are aware of vast censorship in some countries, but even Germany and Sweden strictly prohibit, for example, certain sites that are permitted here. I bring in these two countries because they are societally more similar to the US.

As far as I know, the only expression-related punishable offense in this country may be the threat of violence. Otherwise, is Freedom of Speech absolute in the USA?
No right is absolute, anywhere, ever. Ever.

Free speech can be limited in the US but as you suspect, the bar is set pretty high - higher than anywhere else in the world. To pull it off, there has to be a compelling state interest in play.

How that is defined really depends on so many circumstances that every case turns on its particular facts. But to make a long story short, courts in the US are very reluctant to find such an interest in most cases, and tend to err on the side of permitting speech without prior restraint.

That doesn't mean that the state cannot put reasonable time and place restrictions on certain kinds of speech. You can't put porn movies on regular broadcast TV on Saturday mornings, for example, for the sake of the kids.

Google FCC v. Pacifica for a really good explanation of how that works.
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