Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

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Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby jakovasaur » Wed Mar 28, 2012 2:10 pm UTC

Liam Stacey, a 21 year old student, was jailed for making racist tweets about a soccer player who nearly died on the field.

Here is a video that captured all of his uncensored tweets. Obviously, it is some pretty hateful stuff, but I was shocked to find that this is the kind of thing that could lead to jail time in a Western nation. I can understand "inciting racial hatred" being a criminal offense if it were along the lines of "We ought to kill all of the Jews", but this guy was just saying mean, dumb things. I'm interested to hear other opinions, though.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Роберт » Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:01 pm UTC

I'm not sure what the UK laws are on stuff like that, but it certainly seemed like a good way to incite racial hatred (w*g, which I had to look up, is not offensive or racially oriented in the US, but in the UK it's both.

Seriously, his comments have stirred up racial animosity... of course his arrest is stirring it up as well. What do you do about people being d*cks in public? Would it be fair to say "he can say whatever he likes, free speech, what ho" and then prosecute someone for assault if they retaliated?

Maybe leave it as "fighting words" let him say what he wants and let people literally attack him?

Say to the everyone who is angry about it it "suck it up, at least he didn't enslave you, sticks and stones, mate"?

In the U.S., I think, he wouldn't have been jailed for it, but the UK laws are different and to my understanding this is a valid response.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby DavidH » Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:04 pm UTC

It's definitely a strict sentence. We should point that judge to the comments on YouTube :D

However, a lot of countries (Read: Most besides the US) have some law against hate speech. I'm amazed you can get jail time for it though. I would've assumed just a fine..
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Jessica » Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:01 pm UTC

If it was just a fine, then hate speech legislation would have no teeth, and wouldn't be as enforced. In Canada, it's part of our charter, that the right to free speech has a hate clause.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby jakovasaur » Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:13 pm UTC

So this punishment could happen in Canada, too?
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby mike-l » Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:21 pm UTC

Yep, people have occasionally been jailed here for hate speech. People have also been fined, and non-citizens have been deported. Though in most cases, charges are brought after prolonged acts, writing a book, teaching a course, distributing pamphlets, etc. A couple of tweets while drunk probably wouldn't come with jail time.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Angua » Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:58 pm UTC

Here's more examples of UK twitter cases:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17530450

There's libel, contempt, menacing communications, encouraging riots, and abusive messages.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Triangle_Man » Wed Mar 28, 2012 6:38 pm UTC

Wait, you can get jail time for 'hate speech' in Canada.

...I'm honestly not sure I like that kind of legislation. Then again, I've been caught in this internal debate about the limits of free speech for a while now, and I may have been assuming that there are enough decent people in the world that people who engage in 'hate speech' would be shouted down for their stupidity without having to through them in prison.

Maybe I'm in one of my 'optimistic' phases in regards to humanity and there are actually a lot more 'idiots' out there than I'm assuming there are...
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby DavidH » Wed Mar 28, 2012 7:02 pm UTC

Jessica wrote:If it was just a fine, then hate speech legislation would have no teeth, and wouldn't be as enforced. In Canada, it's part of our charter, that the right to free speech has a hate clause.


What's worse, using words to emotionally hurt someone or depriving someone of their liberty for 56 days? I honestly don't know.

If the hate speech was used to incite violence or harass a specific person (note the harass), that's different. Otherwise, a large fine seems like a more fitting punishment.

And don't dismiss fines out of hand, especially proper fines that are scaled to income.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:26 pm UTC

Jessica wrote:If it was just a fine, then hate speech legislation would have no teeth, and wouldn't be as enforced. In Canada, it's part of our charter, that the right to free speech has a hate clause.



Are you kidding? If it was a fine, there'd be local governments encouraging hate speech just to collect the extra tax.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Heisenberg » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:32 pm UTC

Роберт wrote: What do you do about people being d*cks in public? Would it be fair to say "he can say whatever he likes, free speech, what ho" and then prosecute someone for assault if they retaliated?

It's considered fair when he says the local football team sucks, or insults someone's mother. Then the blame is on the person who assaults him. Why does the blame shift to him when race is involved?
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Ptolom » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:07 pm UTC

I am not sure whether to be more disgusted by the racism or the censorship. The former is less worrying though because it's just from some idiot, while the latter is from the legal system I'm supposed to be living under. I don't think there's any value at all in anything he said but it shouldn't be down to a court to decide that on other people's behalf.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Роберт » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:12 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:It's considered fair when he says the local football team sucks, or insults someone's mother. Then the blame is on the person who assaults him. Why does the blame shift to him when race is involved?

I'm not sure that's the case.

I don't know how it works in the UK, but
The fighting words doctrine, in United States constitutional law, is a limitation to freedom of speech as protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In its 9-0 decision, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), the U.S. Supreme Court established the doctrine and held that "insulting or 'fighting words,' those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace" are among the "well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech the prevention and punishment of [which] ... have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem."


Edit: to be clear, I'm not saying assault is an appropriate response, I'm saying that if "fighting words" fall under protected speech, that means that law enforcement would be unable to do anything against the person saying them, and obligated to punish an assault in response to them, which is undesirable. Better is penalizing fighting words AND assault.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Ptolom » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:21 pm UTC

How exactly would one start an immediate breach of the peace on Twitter? Knuckle sandwich over IP?
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Kulantan » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:27 pm UTC

Here a relevant English law, which also neatly sidesteps the issue of "an immediate breach of the peace".
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Роберт » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:31 pm UTC

Kulantan wrote:Here a relevant English law, which also neatly sidesteps the issue of "an immediate breach of the peace".

Thanks. I looked briefly for it but couldn't find it.

Basically, it sounds like what he did totes broke that law.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Kulantan » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:38 pm UTC

True, but that is not what they charged him with. This is what I think they charged him with (which he also totes did broke). The other one was the first thing I could find in UK law that resembled "fighting words".

Edit: futher reading indicates that he was not charged with inciting racial hatred, but rather a racially aggravated public order offence.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Diadem » Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:38 pm UTC

Kulantan wrote:True, but that is not what they charged him with. This is what I think they charged him with (which he also totes did broke).

Did he break that? He can easily claim 1a does not apply to him, because he was just bitter and angry and venting steam at that moment, and quickly apologized. I'd buy that. So the question becomes if 1b applies. I'd say it doesn't. Because context matters, and the context here is that this was said on the internet. If every racial slur said on the internet caused actual racial hatred, the world would long ago have ended in ice. Most people have long ago learned not to take this kind of stuff seriously.

The ruling seems a very typical example of judges completely failing to understand the modern world. These judges probably live in analog age, and mentally compare saying such things on twitter with writing such things in a book, or distributing posters with such speech. But it's completely different.

56 days of jail for saying something stupid online (and apologizing within hours, let's not forget that) is hugely excessive.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Kulantan » Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:49 pm UTC

Two things: First is that, as my edit notes, this was not the thing he was charged with. I was in error. The likelihood of it stirring up racial hatred is irrelevant to the charges brought against him. Secondly, racial hatred is defined thusly in the Act:
Public Order Act 1986 wrote:In this Part “racial hatred” means hatred against a group of persons . . . defined by reference to colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins.

It is likely one twitter post like those he wrote could give rise to similar posts, which would meet the requirements of racial hatred.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Lucrece » Thu Mar 29, 2012 1:09 am UTC

Oh, this kid is going to love jail. I wish somebody would film it all.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 29, 2012 1:20 am UTC

How is 56 days in prison not a disproportionate punishment for what amounts to a case of internet trolling?
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Djehutynakht » Thu Mar 29, 2012 1:32 am UTC

I have to say, I vehemently disagree with punishment for almost any speech (outside of inherently harmful speech. And by that I mean yelling "fire" in a crowded building harmful). This guy's... not nice. I think we can all agree. But... he does have the right to his opinion, no matter how vehemently annoying and offensive we may all find it. Even if I think his opinion's repulsive, I even more abhor the fact of restricting his right to have it.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Diadem » Thu Mar 29, 2012 2:25 am UTC

There're not restricting his right to have his opinion. They are restricting his right to advertise it.

I have no problem with restricting particularly heinous hate speech. But 56 days for some minor internet trolling is very excessive.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Thesh » Thu Mar 29, 2012 2:45 am UTC

Diadem wrote:There're not restricting his right to have his opinion. They are restricting his right to advertise it.


That's just as worrying to me.

Diadem wrote:I have no problem with restricting particularly heinous hate speech. But 56 days for some minor internet trolling is very excessive.


There is a line between someone saying they hate [insert slur here] and calling for people to kill all the [insert slur here]. I think that line should be drawn much closer to the latter than the former. The comments he posted I do not believe should warrant any legal action.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Gelsamel » Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:07 am UTC

This result is incredibly fucked up and makes me angry as all hell. To say anymore would result in a rant better left to someone much more eloquent than myself; namely, the late Christopher Hitchens.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Djehutynakht » Thu Mar 29, 2012 6:29 am UTC

Diadem wrote:There're not restricting his right to have his opinion. They are restricting his right to advertise it.



That itself is worrying to me. If one falls the other isn't far behind. And personally, it's extremely oppressive to have to shelter oneself from a government who will persecute you for saying what we think.

Plus, we often establish our views (and alter them) based on advertisement and exchange. Just because we don't think his message is right doesn't mean that he doesn't have a right to submit it. Even if it is "Kill everyone I'm speaking at by death-by-a-thousand-cuts", its still not our place to say that his view is inappropriate and should not be allowed. Now, if he actually started cutting people, or disturbed the public (physically, not annoying or offending them) via his speech ("fire" in a crowded theater) that's something else entirely...

No government should be allowed to dictate what is and what isn't allowed to be expressed under "free" speech... because then it's not free at all, is it? Its of nobodys place to decide what is right and what is wrong in terms of beliefs (actions, once again, are different). What if the world governments decided that it was detrimental to advocate for gay marriage, or civil rights, or freedom of religion, because they thought it was a heinous idea to their beliefs. To you, that's entirely wrong (because your opionion is against it). But to someone supporting that, your advocation for gay marriage might be just as, if not more heinous, then that man's speech, according to his own beliefs. Let's say a government allowed you to think gay marriage was ok, but forbid you from saying such a thing. How then, is that idea to grow, morph and spread? You might say that his idea is bad and therefore shouldn't be allowed to spread, but it's no more your choice to decide that than the other governments choice to restrict you talking about gay marriage.

Governments do have a right to decide on actions... they'd be entirely useless without that power. But one's own ideas and beliefs, and one's own personal expression of them, should be something that nobody has a right to infringe upon.

______

Sheesh... I need to sleep. I ramble when I'm tired. I hope that didn't seem combattive or anything. Tired. Meh.

But yeah. Hate his speech, but have to protect his right to say it. Hopefully far from me, but....
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby psyck0 » Thu Mar 29, 2012 6:39 am UTC

No right is absolute. Speech, just like any other right, has limits. Hell, free speech is only a right because the government says it is, so it is entirely appropriate for them to place limits on it. If those limits were unreasonable we should do something about them, but they're not.

You can speak your mind, up until the point where you a) are untruthfully causing harm to some else, or b) are directly and measurably contributing to a culture which cause harm to be committed to that person. The former includes slander. The latter is where racial hate speech comes in. Calling for violence against a person or a group of people isn't directly harming them, but there is a reasonable chance it will cause harm to be committed to them. Similarly, using racist language to attack another human being contributes to a culture of racism which may cause direct physical harm to them, and definitely will cause social harm (discrimination, reduced educational and employment opportunities, etc). Obviously it needs to be carefully applied, but allowing overt hate speech has direct consequences on the population the government is supposed to protect, and so it should be regulated.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Gelsamel » Thu Mar 29, 2012 7:45 am UTC

I don't think you know what the words "directly" and "measurably" mean...
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Ptolom » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:07 am UTC

psyck0 wrote:No right is absolute. Speech, just like any other right, has limits. Hell, free speech is only a right because the government says it is, so it is entirely appropriate for them to place limits on it. If those limits were unreasonable we should do something about them, but they're not.

You can speak your mind, up until the point where you a) are untruthfully causing harm to some else, or b) are directly and measurably contributing to a culture which cause harm to be committed to that person. The former includes slander. The latter is where racial hate speech comes in. Calling for violence against a person or a group of people isn't directly harming them, but there is a reasonable chance it will cause harm to be committed to them. Similarly, using racist language to attack another human being contributes to a culture of racism which may cause direct physical harm to them, and definitely will cause social harm (discrimination, reduced educational and employment opportunities, etc). Obviously it needs to be carefully applied, but allowing overt hate speech has direct consequences on the population the government is supposed to protect, and so it should be regulated.

It's a right because the government says it's a right because the government is elected and the majority of people think it should be a right. All "right" means is that there is some authority which promises not to violate your right and to protect you from other violating it. The whole point of rights is that nobody gets to decide when they apply and when they don't. If they're selective, they cease to be rights and become privileges granted by those in power to those they think are deserving.
Personally, I think free speech should be protected pretty much absolutely. When speech causes harm because an immediate action is required and there's no time for a measured reply there is a grey area where speech crosses over into action, but an unnecessary rush for the fire exits in a the crowded theatre is better than the audience sitting tight and burning to death because nobody dares to mention the wisp of smoke they smell for fear of reprisal.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Jesse » Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:03 pm UTC

Note that the UK does not have a right to free speech, although we do have 'free speech' zones in places like Universities.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Ptolom » Thu Mar 29, 2012 7:11 pm UTC

Jesse wrote:Note that the UK does not have a right to free speech, although we do have 'free speech' zones in places like Universities.

I thought that was America?
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Jonesthe Spy » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:05 pm UTC

It seems worth pointing out that Europe has a very recent history of hate speech escalating into genocide - not just WW2, but as recently as the Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian war, and Rwanda is not all that far away either. When these things seem less abstract than they do to most folks in the U.S., it probably changes their perspective vis-a-vis the hazards of censorship vs the hazards of letting hate speech spread unchecked.

Also, I noticed this bit in the article:

Stacey tried to "distance himself" from the tweets by claiming his account had been hacked, the court was told.

He later tried to delete his page but was arrested the following day at his student house in Swansea.



I do wonder if the attempted cover up was related to the length of the sentence.

Edit: Also, he was arrested not just for his initial posts but for attacking people who criticized his first post, also with racist epithets. The charge 'racially aggravated harassment' seems an appropriate description of his acts.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Arrian » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:06 pm UTC

Ptolom wrote:It's a right because the government says it's a right because the government is elected and the majority of people think it should be a right.


I find that argument unpersuasive: There is an infinite set of policy positions an elected representative could have. It's impossible for every representative to be elected by people who share every policy position, therefore, it's entirely possible for a majority of representatives to have a preferred policy that is contrary to what the majority of the populace prefers. Think of a situation where the majority elects a Republican president who ran on a deficit reduction platform, but that president also has an anti-abortion platform that the majority disagrees with, but enough pro-choicers thought the economy was more important than abortion rights for him to win.

This is why the whole "we have a mandate from the people (therefore we have a moral imperative to do WHATEVER we want)" is unconvincing to me.

And that doesn't even touch on the fact that you don't want the whim of the populace defining rights. Jim Crow, anyone? Socrates? That's pretty much the entire reason the US has the Senate and the UK has the House of Lords.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby clickclack » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:33 pm UTC

Arrian wrote:This is why the whole "we have a mandate from the people (therefore we have a moral imperative to do WHATEVER we want)" is unconvincing to me.


If a survey was conducted among the whole British populace, and it turns out that a substantial majority does indeed think that racial hate speech should be forbidden, would that change your view?

Arrian wrote:And that doesn't even touch on the fact that you don't want the whim of the populace defining rights. Jim Crow, anyone? Socrates? That's pretty much the entire reason the US has the Senate and the UK has the House of Lords.


But somebody does need to define what is a right and what is not. If the populace cannot, then who, in your opinion, should?
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Telchar » Thu Mar 29, 2012 9:20 pm UTC

The irony in this conversation is that the only kind of speech that needs a "right to free speech" is the kind that ~everyone agrees should be punished. That's exactly the point. I get that Europe has a very real history of recent genocide and racial tensions run high in many parts of the EU. That's precisely why you this ruling is so absurd, as evidenced by the outpouring of criticism this man is taking. Persecuting racists only makes them feel like martyrs, it doesn't make them less racist, just like mocking young earth creationists only cements their beliefs.

Another way: If this kid legitimately believed what he said, and I'm not sure he did, do you think he believes differently now that you are going to subject him to jail for 50+ days? And if you don't, then why are you throwing him in jail?
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Jonesthe Spy » Thu Mar 29, 2012 9:36 pm UTC

Telchar wrote:The irony in this conversation is that the only kind of speech that needs a "right to free speech" is the kind that ~everyone agrees should be punished. That's exactly the point.


That's not true at all. In the U.S. people have been prosecuted for publishing James Joyce and Henry Miller (it was 'pornographic'), for handing out anti-war leaflets in WW1, for political protests that aren't held in "free speech zones", etc. Yes, things have gotten a lot better thanks to the Free Speech movement of the 60's, but the idea that hate speech that everyone who's not a nazi finds objectionable is the only kind of expression that needs legal protection is completely inaccurate.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:00 pm UTC

Jonesthe Spy wrote:
Telchar wrote:The irony in this conversation is that the only kind of speech that needs a "right to free speech" is the kind that ~everyone agrees should be punished. That's exactly the point.


That's not true at all. In the U.S. people have been prosecuted for publishing James Joyce and Henry Miller (it was 'pornographic'), for handing out anti-war leaflets in WW1, for political protests that aren't held in "free speech zones", etc. Yes, things have gotten a lot better thanks to the Free Speech movement of the 60's, but the idea that hate speech that everyone who's not a nazi finds objectionable is the only kind of expression that needs legal protection is completely inaccurate.


Don't forget the infamous Pentagon Papers, or the Abu Grahb photos for something much more recent. Or even more recent, most of Wikileaks.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby induction » Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:22 pm UTC

Jonesthe Spy wrote:
Telchar wrote:The irony in this conversation is that the only kind of speech that needs a "right to free speech" is the kind that ~everyone agrees should be punished. That's exactly the point.


That's not true at all. In the U.S. people have been prosecuted for publishing James Joyce and Henry Miller (it was 'pornographic'), for handing out anti-war leaflets in WW1, for political protests that aren't held in "free speech zones", etc. Yes, things have gotten a lot better thanks to the Free Speech movement of the 60's, but the idea that hate speech that everyone who's not a nazi finds objectionable is the only kind of expression that needs legal protection is completely inaccurate.


Substitutions:
Try '~everyone' -> 'lots of people', instead of '~everyone' -> 'everyone who's not a nazi', and I think Telchar's point stands.

edit: fixed the attribution
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby Jonesthe Spy » Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:55 pm UTC

induction wrote:
Substitutions:
Try '~everyone' -> 'lots of people', instead of '~everyone' -> 'everyone who's not a nazi', and I think Telchar's point stands.

edit: fixed the attribution


I have no idea what you're trying to say, nor how it justifies Telchar's incorrect assertion.
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Re: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days

Postby induction » Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:43 pm UTC

Telchar did not say
hate speech that everyone who's not a nazi finds objectionable is the only kind of expression that needs legal protection.


He said,
the only kind of speech that needs a "right to free speech" is the kind that ~everyone agrees should be punished.


Leaving a little wiggle room for what '~everyone' means, that kind of speech includes all of your examples.
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