Fire in a Crowded Theater
July 22, 2010 Leave a comment
Censorship advocates say “you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater”, to prove that there are limits to free speech.
But the way they mean it, is not true.
You cannot actually be banned from yelling fire in a crowded theater.
In fact, you are completely free to yell fire in a crowded theater, and as long as there’s an actual fire, you probably be treated as a hero.
If there is NOT a fire, but everyone believes that you honestly thought there was, you shouldn’t be penalized, either.
But if you LIED about it, and it turns out that people were hurt, money lost, et cetera, then you can pay civil and (dubiously) criminal penalties.
But that’s not a restriction of free speech: It’s justice for others, who have been violated by fraud, which is a kind of coercion as evil as any other.
In other words, it’s hurting people with lies that brings penalties, not that your speech can rightfully be censored.