by Reginald Welkin
A few years ago, when another president was in office, someone yelled out a threat during one of this president's speeches. I remember being surprised that the Secret Service not only arrested this person, but they immediately said this individual was going to spend years behind bars. My first thought was, But what about Freedom of Speech?
In another article, I wrote about people losing their rights when they were suicidal. An individual can be held for a period of 72 hours if they are determined to be a threat to themselves or others. This hold, or 5150, can be written by a police officer, doctor, or qualified mental health worker, but can only be maintained if that person continues to be considered suicidal or homicidal. One important factor in determining this, is finding out if they have a plan.
You can shout out that you want to kill yourself or that you want to kill another person and be put on a hold. People sometimes are rash and say things they don't really mean when they are angry or distraught. To maintain the hold, the individual must show physical signs of or have a detailed plan.
It doesn't have to be extremely detailed, just mentioning a specific weapon or method is sufficient. Saying you plan to kill yourself by jumping in front of a train or slitting your wrists would be sufficient, so would saying that you plan on shooting someone, if you have access to a gun. I don't know all the ins and outs of the law, but know, in practice, many are determined to have acted rashly or be trying to game the system after being questioned by a professional.
While some people are of the opinion that 'you have the right to swing your fist, as long as it stops short of my nose', in reality, if someone swings at someone, they aren't expected to stop and see if it actually lands before defending themselves. The same is true with Castle Laws. In certain states, if someone breaks into your home, you have the right to shoot them. You don't have to fear for your life like you would outside your home, because their breaking into your home is proof enough that they weren't up to any good. This also goes for making threats of physical harm to another person or people they know, but often to a lesser degree. People are often forced to get a restraining order as opposed to being able to physically defend themselves, because, while words are good enough to put someone on a 5150 if heard by the right professionals or put someone in jail or prison if they threaten the right politician, they are considered of much lesser degree if heard by a mere citizen.
Of course there is an obvious reason for this. There would probably be a much higher number of assaults and homicides declared to be self-defense or defense of others based solely on verbal threats, which are a hard thing to prove. It is also hard for someone to determine if this person not only threatened, but had a plan and the means to carry out that plan, and that it wasn't just words used in the heat of the moment.
Another area where our Freedom of Speech is not so free, is that of sharing secrets or strategic information with other citizens as well as other nations. During a war, the amount of information one can share becomes much smaller. If you are taking pictures of troops and weapons emplacements, you could be charged as a spy. If you are writing someone with troop counts, or even when and where you saw ships, planes, or soldiers, you could risk your freedom or even your life. The same goes with sharing state secrets or research. Even in times of peace, whistle blowers are often confused with spies and other targeted classes of people.
As an aside, have you ever considered why a death penalty is imposed on spies and traitors? Enemy combatants and surveillance personnel are excluded from the death penalty, when captured, as long as they were in uniform when acting against our country. If the combatants are not from a flagged nation, their uniform may not be recognized and they can be executed if considered expedient by our government. This includes anyone that takes up arms or is thought to be organizing to take up arms against our country. How dangerous is a spy when the war is over? How many people have been executed for doing what they thought was necessary or even right, would have been rendered neutral just by the war ending?
A couple years ago, there was a certain idea that was being spread by government types through the media. It was this: You have the right of free speech, but that doesn't make you free from consequences...which the government would mete out. This was extended to various people or groups that were considered anti-government or hate groups.
This goes into another area of speech that isn't as free anymore. There are select classes of people that the government protects even from words. Currently these include certain genders, sexual orientations, skin tones, mental ability, financial wealth, and religious groups, but only certain ones. You can say whatever you want to unprotected classes, but to say even some of the most minor things to someone in that protected class, could land you in hot water. It doesn't have to be a threat, or even that you hate everyone or even that specific individual.
In the UK, there has been a noted increase in people overtly hating those with red hair. There is purported to be a long history of people hating "gingers", supposedly even from Roman times. They are often said not to have souls. Those with red hair are even targeted with physical violence. Why? According to some, they are the only 'minority' with no government protections. People either are taking their aggression for other groups out on red heads or there is a perceived need to have aggression toward some group and those with red hair are the only ones that won't automatically have an added sentence if caught.
Freedom of speech doesn't cover fraud, unless this fraud is covered under a religious group. I am not arguing against religion or there being truth in religion, just that if anyone else guarantees you a mansion or protection from harm by selling you a candle, a medal, some incense, a prayer flag, or anything else with only perceived value, they could be charged with fraud unless they actually provided a mansion or some level of real protection.
A final area of free speech that is eroding, is that of proprietary information. This isn't just stuff like the recipe for a company's 'perfect' cola...which most people agree doesn't taste as good as their largest competitor's cola, but goes into the realm of plagiarism. Plagiarism used to be when one took someone else's words and stated they were their own. Many speeches and books were written that didn't give credit or even reference that something was being quoted from another source. Now, speakers and writers have to be careful even how well they source their material. Some Citation Nazis will call plagiarism, when a typo occurred in the citation. There is also no room for accidental copying, as when someone heard or read something but over time said it or wrote it down, thinking it was their own words. Some even label others as plagiarists for writing ideas that are well known and phrased a certain way in common speech, just because someone else might have coined that phrase or spun that line.
Freedom of Speech was primarily a protection of citizens to speak or write things typically termed dangerous to a government, its actions, or members. This has historically also protected people when they chose to verbally assault or offend others, at least from government reprisal. With the rise of government using private companies to censor information, propaganda, hate speech, and various other unwanted materials, we have to consider when the freedoms of speech and the press are being taken away and what is to be done about it.
Writes about politics from a Conservative Libertarian viewpoint. While pushing for a government that is Fiscally Conservative and Socially Liberal, he personally appreciates the Socially Conservative lifestyle.
Copyright R. A. Welkin