30 September 2009 Proximity and Degree
Last night’s shift again got me wondering whether or not accurate reportage of an event can irresponsibly challenge a sincere freedom of speech. Two hours before today’s shift, a 1919 Supreme Court decision by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes reveals that it can:
“the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done … The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force … The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.”
Is a decision better made when the question of proximity and degree quantified? Qualified? etc.