Short Take: Them’s Fighting Words

Following Vermont’s governor for life’s pronouncement on the twitters that hate speech isn’t free speech, a rain of lawyers and scholars poured down on his head. But Howard Dean was not to be silenced.


So what if Eugene Volokh, and every other lawyer with even minimal knowledge of First Amendment law, banged their head on their desk?

I’m pleased to say that I have read Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), which is usually cited as recognizing a “fighting words” exception to the First Amendment — personally addressed face-to-face insults that are likely to start an imminent fight are not constitutionally protected. But that has little to do with “hate speech” as most people tend to use the phrase….

But who reads Eugene except us pointy-headed lawyers? Of course, Politifact said so too, but still too nerdy. These sources require the interest and knowledge to understand law, and everybody knows that real law is learned on the twitters (which is why Howard Dean twitted in the first place). After all, if it’s in a twit and makes you feel validated, it must be the law.

With faux “twitter lawyers”* running around the internet telling people that Dean was right, they sought to create the myth of law that would prove that hate speech wasn’t free speech. How many people will believe what confirms their feelz and repeat the same nonsense, absolutely certain that Chaplinksy proves their point because, well, IT DOES!!!

The expectation was that the internet would bring law to the ignorant masses, if only they could have access to the source of information. They have access. Not only do they not understand law any better now than they did before, but they’re far deeper into Dunning-Kruger than ever, certain they know when they are utterly clueless. It’s just like shouting fire in a crowded theater.

People aren’t getting any more knowledgeable about the law, but they’re surely getting what they want out of social media: confirmation of their ignorance. And really, isn’t that good enough?

*Just because someone on the twitters claims to be a lawyer does not mean he is. On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

11 thoughts on “Short Take: Them’s Fighting Words

  1. B. McLeod

    But, the constitution is still “living,” right? So if the SJWs ever manage to get enough representation on the Court, Chaplinsky will be extended to any words that might cause a flame war on the Interwebs, plus any words that might make anyone feel sad. Then the LGBT “Day of Silence” can be extended from April 21 to the entire calendar, and our country will be a far less wordier place.

    1. SHG Post author

      Flame wars would be just the start. Oh, the interwebs would be a wondrous place if only they controlled it.

  2. Scott Jacobs

    What the hell do you know about hate speech, man? You’re a Jew-hater. A guy online said so…

    1. SHG Post author

      That was pretty classic, from his initial screw up in misunderstanding the joke to his spiral out of control to his efforts to dig himself out of the hole. And, as I recall, I was a “fucking nazi bigot.”

      Edit: And he’s still at it today. There is no sanity test for using twitter.

  3. Anon

    Oh the irony, given that his daughter is a real lawyer with a degree that didn’t come from Google U. Maybe she could have given him some tips on how to Shepardize?

  4. losingtrader

    Given your level of disdain for Howard Dean’s remarks –and Twitter in general– I wonder why you spend the time.
    Are you trying to build a “fighting words” defense for yourself ? INGENIOUS!

    BTW I noticed on the Twitter link that poster is following 5000 other Tweeters. There’s got to be some mental issue there.
    See, I can practice medicine without a license. Psychology isn’t real medicine anyway.

  5. John Barleycorn


    Well, strange shit happens to your brain after you go to work for global law firm with over 12 Billion in annual revenue, flowing through 136 brick and mortar offices, employing 7,500 lawyers, in 57 countries even if doing so is constitutionally protected activity.

    Why does working for a global law firm cause strange shit happen to your brain?

    I have a few theories, but I bet Fubar know the theorem.

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