Oliver Wendell Holmes' Free Speech Jurisprudence

I found this history from Ken at Popehat to be incredibly useful background on free speech jurisprudence from OW Holmes, particularly of the oft-abused "yelling fire in a crowded movie house."

Perhaps the worst modern threat to free speech is this notion that "hate speech" is somehow a class of speech that should be banned.  Well, I would ask advocates of this position to remember that nearly every bit of political speech is hate speech to someone.  Those who advocate for such a restriction generally imagine themselves defining what is hateful.  Which leads me back to my #1 legal test:  if one supports some sort of government-rule-making legislation, imagine the politician you like the least making the rules.  If that makes you queasy, you shouldn't be supporting that legislation.


  1. Herman:

    There must be some special law school course that magically changes the First Amendment no into some times.

  2. Ted Rado:

    I have frequently made the point to those who favor government forcing their views on the rest of us that one day the worm will turn. Are they then willing to have views that are inimical to their interests forced on themselves? Isn't it better to avoid all this and have the government stay out of this sort of thing entirely?

  3. obloodyhell:

    If Ken and Patrick actually lived by the "free speech" they claim to advocate for, and only suppressed those who were directly, personally insulting to them and their position, (or spammers, of course), then they'd be a lot less hypocrites than they are.

    They are, in fact, typical liberals, not hesitating to suppress the speech of people whose opinions THEY don't like. They just aren't as bad as some liberals in terms of the opinions THEY don't like. They're still censorious.