6 thoughts on “Glad That’s Settled”

  1. Seems like a “fire” in a crowded theater situation.

    You have a right to say anything but its no get out of jail free card if you break the law or harm others.

    In a crowded theater, if you yell “fire” when there isn’t one, you are on the hook if people are hurt in the panic you started..

  2. Ian, I think we might be on the same page. You have a right to yell “fire” BUT you are also responsible for the consequences.


    Short version:
    if people die in a panic
    YOU caused, you are on the hook for murder. You cannot hide behind the first amendment.

    However, The supremer court was wrong in in applying the “shouting fire” notion in the case Schenck v. United States, (in which a war protester told people not to sign for the draft. Schenck did not endanger anyone.)

  3. But you can’t a priori criminalize the act, only the result. The act of shouting “fire!” in the theater isn’t itself criminal, the result of a panicked stampede is. If it’s a modern theater with enough and large enough exits, you may only be liable for a misdemeanor breach of peace. If the exit crashbars are out of order, you (as well as the owner) may be liable for the mayhem that occurs. If everybody laughs their heads off, no harm, no foul.

    I realize that’s a thin line to draw – but I don’t care for outlawing actions because of potential consequences. There is almost always a line you can draw at which point the action becomes harmful – but unless it’s GROSS negligence, that line should be at the point actual harm is caused.

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