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Free speech as related to the crime "Incitement to Riot" and free will

  1. Jeff Berndt profile image86
    Jeff Berndtposted 5 years ago

    So we have freedom of speech in the US, but we also have a crime called "incitement to riot."

    If you want to commit that crime, what you need to do is get up in front of a group of people, and say some words. If the words you say make the crowd angry enough to run around assaulting other citizens and destroying property for a while (that is, if they riot), then you've succeeded.

    Bear in mind, though, that you don't have to actually assault anyone or destroy anyone's property to be guilty of a crime. You just have to say things that inspire others to do those things. But you've still committed a crime. The idea is that the folks who rioted would never have done so if you hadn't got them all riled up.

    Remember, too, that we also arrest and prosecute rioters for destruction of property, etc.

    So this raises some questions.

    1) What does this say about freedom of speech?

    2) What does it say about personal responsibility?
    2a) If other people decide to riot based on something I said, am I culpable for the destruction?
    2b) Are they?
    2c) If I am culpable, can the crowd be held responsible for the destruction?
    2d) If the crowd are culpable, can I be held responsible for the destruction?

    3) What does it say about free will?
    3a) Assuming I am held culpable, doesn't that assume that the crowd has no choice--that they are somehow compelled to riot after hearing my words?
    3b) If the crowd are held severally culpable, doesn't that assume that the crowd does have a choice--that they could have each chosen not to riot, but did so anyway.

    Thoughts?

    1. Billy Hicks profile image85
      Billy Hicksposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      Inciting a riot and causing a riot are two totally different things. For your questions, I'll go with Inciting.

      What does this say about freedom of speech: That you have the right to say anything you like. What you don't have the right to do is compel people to break the law.

      2) What does it say about personal responsibility: It says people need to take some.

      2a) If other people decide to riot based on something I said, am I culpable for the destruction: Yes; your actions led to the damage.

      2b) Are they: Of course; they caused the damage.

      2c) If I am culpable, can the crowd be held responsible for the destruction: Of course; it's two separate crimes.

      2d) If the crowd are culpable, can I be held responsible for the destruction: See answer for 2c.

      3) What does it say about free will: Nothing really.

      3a) Assuming I am held culpable, doesn't that assume that the crowd has no choice--that they are somehow compelled to riot after hearing my words: No, that means that the crowd heard what you said and chose to act "of their own free will". Unless there is some other form of coercion going on, then they're responsible for their actions.

      3b) If the crowd are held severally culpable, doesn't that assume that the crowd does have a choice--that they could have each chosen not to riot, but did so anyway: See answer for 3a.

      1. Jeff Berndt profile image86
        Jeff Berndtposted 5 years agoin reply to this

        What you don't have the right to do is compel people to break the law.

        But, how am I compelling anyone to break the law merely by speaking? Don't I need to credibly threaten them to compel them?

        For example, I can say to someone, "Throw a rock and break that window." Is that compulsion? I don't think so.

        I can even say, "Throw this rock and break that window, or else I'll tell everyone you're a wimp." Is that compulsion? Again, I don't think so.

        But if I have a gun, and say "Throw this rock and break that window, or else I'll shoot you," that counts as compulsion.

        Is there some way I can compel a crowd to break the law without threatening them?

        Of course [both the inciter and the crowd can be held responsible]; it's two separate crimes.
        Really? If no destruction of property had occurred, no crime would have been committed, correct? Or is the speaker guilty because of what he said, and not of the actual destruction?

        And finally, if, in the absence of coercion, the crowd is responsible for its actions, how is the 'inciter' responsible for the crowd's actions?

        1. Billy Hicks profile image85
          Billy Hicksposted 5 years agoin reply to this

          What you don't have the right to do is compel people to break the law.

          But, how am I compelling anyone to break the law merely by speaking? Don't I need to credibly threaten them to compel them?: No, you need a threat to coerce them. Compelling and coercing are different.

          For example, I can say to someone, "Throw a rock and break that window." Is that compulsion? I don't think so: No, it's also not a crime. You're talking about telling one person to do something illegal. I'm talking about inciting a riot. A better example would be the KKK member who gives a speech compelling members to attack minorities, or the Al-Qaeda leader who compels his followers to attack embassies and kill US personnel.

          I can even say, "Throw this rock and break that window, or else I'll tell everyone you're a wimp." Is that compulsion? Again, I don't think so: You're right, it's not. See the previous answer above.

          But if I have a gun, and say "Throw this rock and break that window, or else I'll shoot you," that counts as compulsion: No, that counts as coercion.

          Is there some way I can compel a crowd to break the law without threatening them: Hitler did it, the Klan did it, Al-Qaeda still does it all the time.

          Of course [both the inciter and the crowd can be held responsible]; it's two separate crimes.
          Really? If no destruction of property had occurred, no crime would have been committed, correct? Or is the speaker guilty because of what he said, and not of the actual destruction
          : Hiring a hitman is not murder, but it's still a crime, whether the murder is committed or not. If it is committed, the murder doesn't get a free pass just because he was hired to do it.

          And finally, if, in the absence of coercion, the crowd is responsible for its actions, how is the 'inciter' responsible for the crowd's actions: Again, it's two separate actions: Inciting and committing.

          1. Jeff Berndt profile image86
            Jeff Berndtposted 5 years agoin reply to this

            No, you need a threat to coerce them. Compelling and coercing are different.
            In what way can someone compel another person to do something, then?
            I'm not sure we're using the word "compel" in the same way. The way I understand "compel," if you compel someone to do something, the person is unable to resist doing it: he must do the thing he is compelled to do; there's no choice.
            Does your definition of "compel" allow for the person being compelled to decide not to do the thing he's being compelled to do?

            ...if I have a gun, and say "Throw this rock and break that window, or else I'll shoot you," that counts as compulsion: No, that counts as coercion.
            Yes, that's right: coercion not compulsion.

            Hiring a hitman is not murder, but it's still a crime,
            Very true, but it's only partly analogous to inciting  riot. When someone hires a hitman, he's making a contract; he gets someone to agree to commit a crime on his behalf. It's very clear that the crime would not have been committed without the contract.

    2. Ratihegde profile image59
      Ratihegdeposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      We face this question repeatedly in India too ... i always wonder which party is more guilty - the one who exercises the freedom of speech indiscriminately or the one who reacts to it. Invariably we find that the one who has exercised his freedom to an action ends up being protected by law and the human rights authorities but the people who react to their sentiments being hurt are held culpable. I agree that reacting to any situation is stupid and that people seem to have a short fuse these days but the person responsible for such indirect incitement should be held responsible too. This is my view. Since i am new to HubPages, i do not know if it is alright to do so, but i am putting up the link to my blog on the same point ...  http://ratihegde.hubpages.com/hub/Why-R … layed-with ...  i had put this up a couple of days back because i really felt bad for the innocent US diplomat and his family who faced the brunt for such freedom.

      1. Jeff Berndt profile image86
        Jeff Berndtposted 5 years agoin reply to this

        Hi, Ratihegde, welcome to hubpages.

        Linking to one's own hubs in the forums is not allowed. The staff will probably remove your link and give you a friendly reminder.

        But back on the subject, to clarify, are you saying that under Indian law, there is no crime called "incitement to riot?"

        1. Ratihegde profile image59
          Ratihegdeposted 5 years agoin reply to this

          Thanks Jeff for gently telling me not to link my own hubs to another hub smile How do i edit my comment & remove it? If possible i would like to do it immediately.

          Of course Incitement to riot is a crime under the IPC (Indian Penal Code) ... but it is difficult to place the blame on anybody in particular & then prove it in a court of law. Very often the perpetrators of the crime are let off especially if they belong to any Political party. In the case of individuals whose actions lead to a riot, they often plead not guilty and say that they have the freedom of speech and expression. For eg. when a famous painter (who was a follower of Islam) drew nude pictures of Hindu Goddessess, expectedly a riot did take place in some parts of the country & again expectedly he said that he had the right to freedom of expression as an artist. The people rioting were called fanatics and the artist escaped any indictment. But here i must tell you that those who supported his freedom of expression were mainly people of the same religion as those who were rioting. In such cases it is difficult to say who is wrong and who is right ... that is why i said that it is up to us to be more empathetic before we choose to express our views and then expect the law to protect us. The law will do so but at what cost? Innocent lives are lost in the process & that does not do humanity any good.

    3. prettydarkhorse profile image63
      prettydarkhorseposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      International law - none about this.

      That man who made the film has a purpose and he knows it, he hid his identity in that youtube film.

      1. Ratihegde profile image59
        Ratihegdeposted 5 years agoin reply to this

        oh all these incitements have a purpose behind them, as i see it. It could be anything as diverse as oil control, political control, control over other resources of nations, as a marketing tool and religious war & God knows what else ... sad that innocent people get caught in the cross-fire sad

    4. rhamson profile image77
      rhamsonposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      The funny thing about the middle east conroversy and its militaristic reactions to western culture is the lack of unsettled issues that are never settled and reasoned by western minds as "Deal With It" on a single item basis. The western mindset is that once the foe is vanquished with whatever outcome the issue should be vanquished as well. For instance the establishment of Israel and the ensueing wars which resulted in obtained territory in Israels possession is assumed a done deal and the Palestinians should just move on is about as settled as the fight against cancer. It continues to fester and spring forth more and more strife even as the Israelies continue to move more and more settlements into the areas in question. Add to it a religious as well as cultural bent in the mix and the whole thing is a melting pot in a caldron of hate and revenge. So with all this going on someone steps up and says that the leader of the only pure thing you hold dear is a piece of s#!t what do you think the reaction will be?. And on the other end are the forces that will use anything to promote anti zionist fervor going to let a good opportunity go by without some sort of exploitation of the situation? I think not. 911 did not happen overnight and the terrorists were not directed by handlers that were pure muslims in any sense of the word. But between the circumstances and situation they were able to strike us on our home turf while we all sat back and wondered why us?

    5. JSChams profile image60
      JSChamsposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      So maybe I missed it in the new but did they arrest the union leaders in Wisconsin after the unions rioted and did millions of dollars damage to the capital? They should have.

  2. Reality Bytes profile image85
    Reality Bytesposted 5 years ago

    Rodney King decision?  Should charges have been brought against the individual reading the verdict to the public?

    1. Jeff Berndt profile image86
      Jeff Berndtposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      Or the various news agencies that repeatedly broadcast the video?

      I could be wrong, but I think the crime requires certain sentiments to be expressed--mainly the idea that it would be good to go wreck some stuff right about now. Just saying "A thing just happened," or even "a terrible miscarriage of justice just happened," isn't enough.

  3. psycheskinner profile image85
    psycheskinnerposted 5 years ago

    Under that law you have to actually urge others to riot, it has to be an immediate danger (same time and specified place) and it has to be intentional.

    Two of these clearly don't apply and the other would be hard to prove if it does apply.

    Just "pissing people off" is not illegal.

  4. Reality Bytes profile image85
    Reality Bytesposted 5 years ago

    An image, a video, a spoken or written word, in itself cannot cause violence.

    It is ridiculous to believe otherwise!

    http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT1oU-uZb-M6vms1l_uEMSXIhjhc4OEI6nqSBIuXbYbhK37FJMC4g

    lol

  5. psycheskinner profile image85
    psycheskinnerposted 5 years ago

    There is no compulsion or even suggestions to break the law. 

    As I already said, just annoying people is legal.  if it wasn't, I'd be in trouble.

  6. IdeaMan1 profile image59
    IdeaMan1posted 5 years ago

    To my mind, you're "inciting a riot" when you're deliberately making an effort to encourage mass-mind and mob mentality into a violent mode.  Based on what I seen, that generally means making a group of people angry, giving those people as a group a target, and then encouraging them to strike. 

    For an example of somewhat-less-violent mass-mind that might prove instructive in many ways, I want to direct you to an experiment that Derren Brown did related to disinviduation of this sort:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxsVOa1lgLs

    In his case, it wasn't about incitement to riot--however, it does show what people can do when they are anonymous and not held accountable.  (Yes, it's a tangent from the topic, but I thought it might inform it somewhat.)

    1. Jeff Berndt profile image86
      Jeff Berndtposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      Alas, the link no longer works, IM.
      "This video is no longer available because the uploader has closed their YouTube account."

      1. IdeaMan1 profile image59
        IdeaMan1posted 5 years agoin reply to this

        That figures.  Fortunately, YouTube is the home of redundancy:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scOJqyiYVtk

  7. Hollie Thomas profile image60
    Hollie Thomasposted 5 years ago

    Perhaps considering intent to incite a riot may be a good place to begin. For example, the much talked about video which may or may not have caused the protests in the Mid East. Did the person who posted that video intend to create outrage amongst Muslims, or was he *just* exercising his right to freedom of speech and expressing his opinions? To be honest, I find it difficult to believe that he was unaware that such a video might create a lot of tension, but that's irrelevant.

    Although I'm all for freedom of speech, I think it needs to be balanced with other factors. Should an individuals right to freedom of speech trump the safety of those who may come into harms way because that person expressed his opinions? Or, does one's right to freedom of speech trump everything else, including the safety of another.

    I think it's important to try to balance those two aspects. I think everyone should have the right, at least within their own country, to express their opinions freely, but, where that particular freedom may place others in grave danger when shared, those freedoms should perhaps remain within the individuals close circle, or where no one is going to be put in harms way because of said opinions.

  8. Ralph Deeds profile image64
    Ralph Deedsposted 5 years ago

    Seems to me the scurrilous anti-muslim video should not be protected by the First Amendment. It's comparable to crying FIRE! in a crowded theater. Because of its Holocaust history Germany prohibits this kind of stuff.

    1. Reality Bytes profile image85
      Reality Bytesposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      Almost the same exact scenario, except for the fact that it is completely different! 

      lol

      1. Hollie Thomas profile image60
        Hollie Thomasposted 5 years agoin reply to this

        How is it different, Hitler began with taunts, not threats of the gas chamber?

    2. IdeaMan1 profile image59
      IdeaMan1posted 5 years agoin reply to this

      Are we going to start silencing ourselves for the sake of people who are easily outraged and/or incited to violence?  If so, that puts us on a slippery slope because it means that all any group has to do in order to silence free speech has to do is gather a mob... and even I can do that on Craigslist.

      1. Hollie Thomas profile image60
        Hollie Thomasposted 5 years agoin reply to this

        But who was trying to silence freedom of speech?

        1. IdeaMan1 profile image59
          IdeaMan1posted 5 years agoin reply to this

          Ralph was, two quote-levels back.  Why should speech satirical of Islam be different from speech satirical of any other religion, philosophy, or cause?

          1. Hollie Thomas profile image60
            Hollie Thomasposted 5 years agoin reply to this

            Well, there's that whole mid east tension for starters. Ask yourself this question, if some from the Muslim faith did not feel that they're already being demonised and dehumanised, in addition to being displaced, invaded and occupied, would they react  quite so strongly? Are they reacting to the video in isolation to other events, or, is it more complicated than that?

            I'm not condoning violence by the way, or their reaction, but I do think in a situation like this freedom of speech should not trump the efforts made by so many for peaceful solutions. And, as Muslims rarely get the opportunity to show the positive sides of their religious and family life, shouldn't we be thinking about their rights to freedom of expression, too? Not just our own.

            1. IdeaMan1 profile image59
              IdeaMan1posted 5 years agoin reply to this

              That's the thing, though--it's not the *whole* of the followers of Islam that are reacting that way.  American Islamists?  Not a single violent reaction.  European Islam?  Again, condemnation, but no violence.  No, this is people taking to riot out of opportunism.  If this is *really* about Islam, why were ATMs and businesses being looted by rioteers (this from reports I heard on NPR)--that's *certainly* not condoned behavior by a religion, especially when they're taking it out on businesses owned by OTHER MUSLIMS.

              Meanwhile, in Libya, the Muslim population there is demonstrating *against* these other rioters, pointing out that they seem to be plenty activist when it comes to some YouTube video, but when it comes to helping *them*--you know, where REAL damage has been done to REAL Muslims and REAL mosques--not a peep.

              It sure looks like opportunism, pure and simple.

              1. Mighty Mom profile image85
                Mighty Momposted 5 years agoin reply to this

                It sure looks like opportunism on the provocation side as well.
                Will be interesting to trace the money trail on this "film" and see who really is behind it and why.

                1. Ratihegde profile image59
                  Ratihegdeposted 5 years agoin reply to this

                  Yes .. even i feel that all these acts have some other bigger game plan and the innocents are the ones who are finally affected.

          2. Ralph Deeds profile image64
            Ralph Deedsposted 5 years agoin reply to this

            Freedom of hate speech. I recognize that this would be a tricky business, and I'm a strong believer in the First Amendment, except for its gross misapplication in the Citizens United Decision.

            1. IdeaMan1 profile image59
              IdeaMan1posted 5 years agoin reply to this

              First, satire is different from "hate speech."  Second, if you're going to target "hate speech," you'll wind up having to silence people ACROSS THE BOARD, which then becomes a slippery slope, particularly when you have all these corrupt Catholic preachers getting away with sexual assault on minors.  Further, once the line between "hate speech" and "reasoned criticism" gets blurred, all manner of debate can be silenced.  At that point, what does "freedom of speech" mean?

              There *are* legitimate ways to move against practicing hate-speech, from counter-demonstration to satire to civil trial to many other methods of discussing issues in the public media.  Do you think this would even be an issue if nobody reacted violently to it?  Nobody seems to react to any of the White Power hate-speech and hate-music, and as an advocate against the various neo-Nazi groups out there, I've collected many, many CDs that show that as a group, they're still plenty loud and proud.

              Even still, I've got to advocate for their freedom to stupid speech much as any other person.  If we silenced every other whacko with a violent agenda, we'd have to do something about those pesky Republicans... and we all know that's not happening any time soon.

              1. Ralph Deeds profile image64
                Ralph Deedsposted 5 years agoin reply to this

                You make good points. I'm on the fence. We're not far apart.

    3. Jeff Berndt profile image86
      Jeff Berndtposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      I'm not sure it's the same thing at all, Ralph.

      The yelling Fire! in a crowded theater thing is different because it's reasonable to expect people to flee a fire, and it's reasonable to believe that there is a fire when someone shouts Fire!

      It's very rude to make fun of someone's religion, true, but it's not the same as telling someone that a real, immediate danger to his life exists when it doesn't.

      The Fire! shouter is lying, knowing that reasonable people will behave a certain way to a perceived danger. The guy who made that video is just a jerk.

      He may have expected Muslims to riot, but he didn't trick them into rioting.

      1. Ralph Deeds profile image64
        Ralph Deedsposted 5 years agoin reply to this

        Good points.

      2. A Troubled Man profile image61
        A Troubled Manposted 5 years agoin reply to this

        I tried to explain that the Shadesbreath in another thread, but got called a troll for my troubles. He sees absolutely no difference whatsoever in drawing a picture of Muhammad and yelling Fire! in a theater.

        1. Love virus profile image60
          Love virusposted 5 years agoin reply to this

          You have no hubs, dude! You aren't a troll!

  9. bubbawayne profile image59
    bubbawayneposted 5 years ago

    I never understood people thinking they can say whatever they want, wherever they want, then fall back on the Constitution.

    Websites aren't states, or the government. Most reputable sites have terms that prohibit certain content.

    Facebook terms includes: "You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence."

    Youtube Community Guidelines: We encourage free speech and defend everyone's right to express unpopular points of view. But we don't permit hate speech (speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity).

    It's not a free speech issue.. It's policy.

    1. Jeff Berndt profile image86
      Jeff Berndtposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      "Most reputable sites have terms that prohibit certain content. "

      Yes, that's true, but it's also true that you can start your own website that allows whatever crazy-talk you want. If the ISP has a problem with that, you can (if you can afford it) set up your own web server in your home, and nobody can stop you from putting up any kind of crazy-talk at all.

      Further, you can host other web sites on your personal server, and because it's your server, you can set the rules to allow or disallow whatever you want.

      The government, on the other hand, may not limit your speech on your own or on someone else's server. ISPs and websites are not subject to the First Amendment; that limits the government, not corporations.

  10. Wayne Brown profile image83
    Wayne Brownposted 5 years ago

    One can also get in some deep trouble screaming "fire" in a theater which is not burning...is that such a bad thing?  Who gains anything by "inciting a crowd to riot"?  Nothing comes from it but chaos, looting, destruction, injury or death.  Peaceful demonstrations are one thing....rloting is far beyond that pale and should be outside the intent of "free speech."  ~WB

    1. Josak profile image60
      Josakposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      Well actually I disagree, as I wholeheartedly disagree with the context that quote was used in to convict pacifists for asking people not to go to war.

      The point of freedom of speech is it allows the individual to express views that can harm the government, as such it serves as a way to keep our government honest, if our government was doing something wrong then exhorting a crown to riot (intentionally or not) would be a good thing.

      It's also incredibly abusable, if you give a rousing speech and a few planted protestors start rioting then bang we can imprison the speaker.

      1. Jeff Berndt profile image86
        Jeff Berndtposted 5 years agoin reply to this

        It's also easy to place agents provocateur in the crowd, ready to start shouting and and throwing things, and bang, a heretofore peaceful protest becomes a riot. Do we still imprison the speaker?

        1. Josak profile image60
          Josakposted 5 years agoin reply to this

          Precisely what I meant, poorly explained on my part.

          1. Jeff Berndt profile image86
            Jeff Berndtposted 5 years agoin reply to this

            Ah, gotcha.

            But the point I thought you made is also a good one: a speaker could deliver a rousing speech with no calls for violence (but that makes people plenty mad) and some people allied with the speaker could be in the crowd and start things rolling, as it were. The speaker didn't say anything that counts as incitement, but his cronies in the crowd manage to get a riot going anyway. Who gets arrested? And for what crime?

 
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