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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Trigger Warning began by identifying two phenomena of the modern age. One is the free-speech fraud, whereby every politician and public figure makes ritualistic displays of support for free speech ‘in principle’, before adding the ‘buts’ that allow them to attack and undermine that priceless freedom in practice. These double standards were on graphic display across the Western world after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015.

The other is what the book calls ‘the silent war on free speech’. It is silent not because its proponents are quiet – they are anything but. This is a silent war because few people (outside the online IS supporters’ club) will openly admit that they are against free speech. Instead, the silent war is posed not as an attack on freedom of speech at all, but as a worthy assault on the evils of hate speech and incitement. It is presented not as a blow against liberty, but as a defence of rights. For example, the right of students to feel comfortable in a campus Safe Space. And, most importantly, everywhere from the internet to the universities, the right to be protected from offensive words and images.

Mick Hume

15 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Ferox

    When you find speech that mortally offends you, then you have an opportunity to determine whether or not you are actually for free speech.

    Because you cannot know until then. Everybody is for free speech that they like: Kim Jong Il, Robert Mugabe, Stalin, Hitler, Obama … everybody.

    It is only speech that sickens you, speech that makes you break teeth in rage, speech that appalls you with its stupidity and sheer foulness, that lets you show your commitment to the principle of free speech … which you do by NOT banning it, trying to silence it, or trying to prevent others from hearing it.

  • Quig

    @ Ferox: Yes.

  • john malpas

    1. Don’t shout “Fire’ in a crowded theatre .
    2. Don’t libel rich people.
    3. Don’t be rude to bikies.

  • Phil B

    We have “permitted” speech, not free speech. Provided that it is allowed by the SJW’s, the arbiters of what is and is not politically correct and “good taste” (defined and controlled by the various media, politicians and others), you are perfectly free to parrot the party line.

    Otherwise, not.

  • Fraser Orr

    @john malpas
    > 1. Don’t shout “Fire’ in a crowded theatre

    Whenever someone cits this “fire in a crowded theater” I like to point out its provenance.

    it is a quote from a supreme court decision, Schenck v. United States, spoken in the opinion of Oliver Wendell Holmes. It is often used, as Judge Holmes did, to give an example of speech that is on its face dangerous and can legitimately be banned.

    However, the irony is that the defendant in the case, Charles Schenck et al, had been distributing leaflets protesting the draft (for World War I). Due to widespread opposition to the United States’ entry into the war, the Wilson administration had engaged in an aggressive campaign prosecuting those who opposed the ward with brutal penalties for the most trivial of actions (such as distributing leaflets.)

    It is consequently ironic that this oft quoted justification for censoring some types of speech in fact came from a time in the United States when free speech, and the most important type of free speech — political free speech — and the most important type of political speech — speech against a war that killed millions of people — was under the most brutal attack perhaps in our history.

  • Laird

    Fraser’s comment is correct. But I would add that this famous “quote” is actually a famous misquote, because (as is all too common) it omits the crucial word “falsely”. The correct quote is: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” Indeed, one could argue that there is a moral obligation to shout “fire” in a crowded theater if there is, in fact, a fire.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Fraser, thanks for the title of the case. I thought I would see if Holmes wrote what I thought he had; the quote below is taken from his opinion, as posted at

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/249/47 .

    The word I stressed with boldface is almost always left out.

    “But 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.”


    Folks like me who have no life 🙁 might be interested in reading the entire paragraph containing the quote. Subsequent para. in the same vein. So for your entertainment, which may run to the masochistic (or not, of course)….


    “…[I]t is said, suppose that that was the tendency of this circular, it is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Two of the strongest expressions are said to be quoted respectively from well known public men. It well may be that the prohibition of laws abridging the freedom of speech is not confined to previous restraints, although to prevent them may have been the [p52] main purpose, as intimated in Patterson v. Colorado, 205 U.S. 454, 462. We admit that, in many places and in ordinary times, the defendants, in saying all that was said in the circular, would have been within their constitutional rights. But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done. Aikens v. Wisconsin, 195 U.S. 194, 205, 206. 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. Gompers v. Bucks Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418, 439. 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. When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right. It seems to be admitted that, if an actual obstruction of the recruiting service were proved, liability for words that produced that effect might be enforced. The statute of 1917, in § 4, punishes conspiracies to obstruct, as well as actual obstruction. If the act (speaking, or circulating a paper), its tendency, and the intent with which it is done are the same, we perceive no ground for saying that success alone warrants making the act a crime. Goldman v. United States, 245 U.S. 474, 477. Indeed, that case might be said to dispose of the present contention if the precedent covers all media concludendi. But, as the right to free speech was not referred to specially, we have thought fit to add a few words.”

  • In other words, Holmes was describing the case of provably false speech leading immediately and wholly foreseeably to the deaths of deceived persons.

    It is worth noting that Holmes rapidly walked back, to a degree, even such qualifications on free speech as the judgement containing this quote gave. (From my imperfect memory) there were six free-speech-related cases in the year after WWI ended. Holmes began with some sympathy for the government position in the first three but the second three he very much limited the effect of the first three. There is, IIUC, ongoing debate whether he actually changed his opinion over the year or was merely dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to guard against dangerous extensions of his earlier rulings.

  • Thailover

    I’ve started calling these people what they are, people offended by freedom, or “those offended by freedom…”.
    They don’t want “safe spaces”, they want your freedoms revoked, just as feminists don’t want their space at the Amazing Meetings (atheist conventions) or Comic Con, rather they want these venues invaded, undermined and destroyed by SJW’s.
    What distinguished these venues from their SJW counterparts were that they celebrated individual freedom of expression and thought, whereas the SJW “events” are all about their own brand of social fascism and their hijacking of the legal system to enforce their tyranny. They wish to destroy joy and replace it with subjugation.

    This is what I see the entire SJW movement is about, subjugation and control, the destruction of freedom.

  • pete

    I always felt comfortable and safe on my 70s university campus and I was surrounded by all sorts of lunatics ranting and raving about socialist revolution and the overthrow of western society.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    Q. How many Uni students would it take to change a light bulb?

    A. None, because they don’t want to change light bulbs, they want to change the world!

  • Fraser Orr

    Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray
    > Q. How many Uni students would it take to change a light bulb?
    > A. None, because they don’t want to change light bulbs, they want to change the world!


    A. None, you fucker. The lightbulb is born that way and you are fascist pig to try to make it change.


    A. Typical micro aggression. The lightbulb is black and you just assume it is better when it white.


    A. Lightbulb? You a planet destroying scumbag. Don’t you know that these inefficient devices are causing global warming and destroying the world?

    Or, my favorite….

    A. Just stop right now, we are University students and so we much prefer to be kept in the dark… you know the light might expose us to information and facts that make us feel uncomfortable.

    Anyone else?

  • gongcult

    Cant find or copy the exact link but I believe it’s the 5/25/15 Washington Times where Volokh refers to hate speech as protected under the first Amendment except for the case of “fighting words” linked to the concept of “imminent harm”.pretty much explains that most hate speech is ACTUALLY protected with the few obvious exceptions. We see the planned actual diminution of free speech based on those who can’t stomach contrasting, extreme or intellectually threatening opinions and ideas… so goes liberty and I am not so optimistic. ..

  • Paul Marks

    As Julie B. (the libertarian video blogger – although are own Julie Near Chicago could make the same point) DONALD TRUMP is the creation of the “Social Justice Warriors”.

    Living in modern Western society is like living in a Pressure Cooker – one is constantly in fear that a anything one says may be used by the left as an excuse for persecution.

    I have been interviewed under caution (with every word recorded) whilst sitting in this very chair – to see if I was a Thought Criminal, a Heretic.

    So I know what it is like – the constant pressure, living under threat.

    Then along comes someone, DONALD TRUMP, who says anything he likes – no matter how offensive.

    And the millions of frightened and cowed people clutch at him.

    Like a drowning person will clutch at anything – even a SNAKE.

  • Paul Marks

    As for education system – the schools and universities.

    The education system is beyond saving.

    All one can do is “defund” it (no more “student loans” and so on) and end government backed “qualifications” (not all qualifications have to be government backed).

    The idea of J.S. Mill that government standards were needed for private schools is the opposite of the truth – they actually corrupt private schools.

    As does “teacher training” – of the approved sort.