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Free Speech versus Slander - What do you think?

 
 
Reply Thu 2 Dec, 2004 10:02 am
Free Speech versus Slander - What do you think?

Q1. Where do you think the line should be drawn between Free Speech and Slander (or Libel)? Give some examples.

Q2. What is the criteria that differentiates between Free Speech and slander?

Q3. Is the difference simply down to "He who has the greatest legal team"?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 4,330 • Replies: 30
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jpinMilwaukee
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Dec, 2004 10:44 am
This has been a hot topic in Milwaukee lately.

A conservative radio host used the term "wetbacks" to describe illegal immigrants who were coming to the US and voting in elections. There was a huge uproar. He admitted his mistake and apologized to the hispanic community and all others who were offended and served a week suspension.

People are calling for his firing. Sponsors are pulling their ads. Others are saying it was a mistake and he apologized and should be forgiven. Others are saying it is his right to say it. Some are claiming it is only becasue he is conservative because a liberal talk radio host called Condi Rice an "Aunt Jamima (sp?)" and nobody said anything.

I don't think the term was appropriate but he does have the right to say it. He didn't threaten or harm anybody (although some are claiming emotional distress). He just used a word that people don't agree with.
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timberlandko
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Dec, 2004 11:03 am
A perjorative uttered by a Liberal is protected free speech. A perjorative uttered by a conservative is a vile, reprehensible, mean-spirited, libelous, slandering outrage indicative of total lack of ethics or compassion, and merits the soonest practical implementation of all possible sanction and the passing of even sterner laws with which to keep those miscreants and their evil ways from doing harm to enlightened, civilized society.
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jpinMilwaukee
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Dec, 2004 11:05 am
Do you get Belling up in NW WI?
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Dec, 2004 11:09 am
Even if it's unpopular and causes advertisers to revoke their funding, it's still free - the government isn't doing anything about it, the ad agencies are independant private businesses, and they can do what they like with their ads. Similarly, the radio station can do what they like with who they choose to hire. The government really has no say in this matter as long as everything is private. So it's not really a question of free speech after all. If it were, it would be an issue of the guy getting arrested, not just falling out of favor. It just sounds like now it's an issue of popularity. So there are more liberals in Milwaukee than there are conservatives. This isn't a violation of any of our rights or a double-standard on the part of the government. Radio shows have a right to say what they want, and people have a right to do what they want in reaction to that.
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jpinMilwaukee
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Dec, 2004 11:13 am
rufio wrote:
Even if it's unpopular and causes advertisers to revoke their funding, it's still free - the government isn't doing anything about it, the ad agencies are independant private businesses, and they can do what they like with their ads. Similarly, the radio station can do what they like with who they choose to hire. The government really has no say in this matter as long as everything is private. So it's not really a question of free speech after all. If it were, it would be an issue of the guy getting arrested, not just falling out of favor. It just sounds like now it's an issue of popularity. So there are more liberals in Milwaukee than there are conservatives. This isn't a violation of any of our rights or a double-standard on the part of the government. Radio shows have a right to say what they want, and people have a right to do what they want in reaction to that.


Actually the government is getting involved. They haven't ordered him off the air but they have written letters to the radio station stating that they feel he should be off of the air.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Dec, 2004 03:29 pm
timberlandko wrote:
A perjorative uttered by a Liberal is protected free speech. A perjorative uttered by a conservative is a vile, reprehensible, mean-spirited, libelous, slandering outrage indicative of total lack of ethics or compassion, and merits the soonest practical implementation of all possible sanction and the passing of even sterner laws with which to keep those miscreants and their evil ways from doing harm to enlightened, civilized society.

Commie!
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timberlandko
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Dec, 2004 08:51 pm
Laughing
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Dec, 2004 10:15 pm
Who is the "government" who is writing the letters though? If it were really the "government," I think they would probably be ordering him, not just asking him. If they're asking him nicely, I'd guess it was just some sort of loosely monetarily affilliated interest.
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Bibliophile the BibleGuru
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Dec, 2004 10:46 am
Q2. What is the criteria that differentiates between Free Speech and slander?
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BoGoWo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Dec, 2004 10:55 am
all 'freedoms' are supported on a platform of 'responsibility';
as the responsible use of a freedom erodes, so does the 'reach' of the freedom, and its viability.

[all prohibitions are born of abuse of the freedoms of others]
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Bibliophile the BibleGuru
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Dec, 2004 11:24 am
BoGoWo: any thoughts on Q3?
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timberlandko
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Dec, 2004 11:41 am
Bibliophile the BibleGuru wrote:
Q2. What is the criteria that differentiates between Free Speech and slander?


Well, first you have to differentiate between "Libel" and "Slander" - both of which concepts, under US law, are contained within the tort of malicious or recklessly negligent, false and injurious statement. Should the alleged offense be written, it is termed "Libel"; "Slander" strictly is the act of spoken false and injurious statement. In either event, both the qualifiers of "false" and "injurious" must coexist simultaneously with the attribute either of maliciousness or reckless negligence - conscious, premeditated, voluntary injurious intent or wanton disregard of due diligence and accepted practice - for there to be actionable cause.

Specifically exempted would be commentary clearly intended as satire, lampoon, or parody, particularly concerning persons or entities of significant cultural stature, "Public Figures", such as politicians, celebrities, and/or major commercial entities, and likewise specifically exempted would be any such publication or utterance of allegations in fact legitimately determined and demonstrated to be not false. Included among the prerequisites for action in either case, it must be proven that, along with malicious intent or reckless negligence, one or more of the following conditions be met:

1) The injured party be alleged, absent confession, proof or evidence, to have committed a crime punishable under law by imprisonment and/or forfeiture

2) The injured party be alleged, absent confession, proof or evidence, to have or be the bearer of some dread disease

3) The injured party be alleged, absent confession, proof or evidence, of grave moral turpitude, such as but not limited to wanton promiscuity, rape or other coercion with sexual intent, paedophilia, or homosexuality

4) The injured party be alleged, absent confession, proof or evidence, of incompetence or intentional malfeasance in the practice of trade, profession, or other business

In general, the injured party must be a living individual or existing entity, not that person's or entity's heirs, assigns, or successors, and be proven to have suffered or been exposed to actual harm or injury attributable directly to the alleged slander or libel. Apart from the foregoing, there exist tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pages of nitpicky details relevant to specific jurisdictions and/or specific instances, but that's pretty much the Cliffs Notes version.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Dec, 2004 01:14 pm
timberlandko wrote:
Included among the prerequisites for action in either case, it must be proven that, along with malicious intent or reckless negligence, one or more of the following conditions be met:

1) The injured party be alleged, absent confession, proof or evidence, to have committed a crime punishable under law by imprisonment and/or forfeiture

2) The injured party be alleged, absent confession, proof or evidence, to have or be the bearer of some dread disease

3) The injured party be alleged, absent confession, proof or evidence, of grave moral turpitude, such as but not limited to wanton promiscuity, rape or other coercion with sexual intent, paedophilia, or homosexuality

4) The injured party be alleged, absent confession, proof or evidence, of incompetence or intentional malfeasance in the practice of trade, profession, or other business

These elements are not required to prove slander or libel (most states now lump the two together as "defamation"). Rather, they are required only if one has no proof of actual damages arising out of the defamation. The categories above are deemed by the law to be so injurious that a plaintiff need not prove actual damages in order to received presumed damages ("defamation per se"). Any statement that does not fall within those categories may still be defamatory, but the plaintiff would have to prove actual damages in order to obtain a judgment ("defamation per quod").
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timberlandko
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Dec, 2004 01:55 pm
Well, like I said, joe - that was the Cliffs Notes version - and there are lotsa nitpicky details. I did fail to note and differentiate between per se and per quod and between actual or realized, and potential or implied damages - thanks for the correction there.

Still, I think I did pretty good "off the top of my head" for somebody who ain't a lawyer and who hasn't seen the inside of a law book in aboiut a generation and a half Laughing


This damned public law stuff - why'd they ever hafta start tinkerin' with The Magna Carta? Its gotten so a body just can't keep up Twisted Evil
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Dec, 2004 09:38 am
timberlandko wrote:
Well, like I said, joe - that was the Cliffs Notes version - and there are lotsa nitpicky details. I did fail to note and differentiate between per se and per quod and between actual or realized, and potential or implied damages - thanks for the correction there.

Still, I think I did pretty good "off the top of my head" for somebody who ain't a lawyer and who hasn't seen the inside of a law book in aboiut a generation and a half Laughing

For an informed amateur, you did a very good job. The difference between per se and per quod defamation eludes many lawyers and not a few judges.

timberlandko wrote:
This damned public law stuff - why'd they ever hafta start tinkerin' with The Magna Carta? Its gotten so a body just can't keep up Twisted Evil

Like the old joke about the student who said he wished he had been born a hundred years earlier. "Why?" asks his friend. "So I wouldn't have to learn so much history," replies the student.
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Dec, 2004 01:03 am
You can't differentiate free speech and slander. Slander is a type of free speech. There is nothing in the definition of "free speech" that says that it has to be either correct or inoffensive.
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timberlandko
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Dec, 2004 02:00 am
rufio wrote:
You can't differentiate free speech and slander. Slander is a type of free speech. There is nothing in the definition of "free speech" that says that it has to be either correct or inoffensive.

There is an old, old saying that goes "Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose". All rights entail responsibilities. One is liable for harm brought through one's actions, whether those actions in and of themselves be legal or otherwise. False defamation - the concept embodying slander and libel - specifically is an abuse of the right of free speech, constituting a prosecutable offense.
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Dec, 2004 08:04 pm
That's rather selectivly enforced though. I can say "so-and-so is an idiot" an no one's coming to arrest me. Bush can say "Kerry is bad for America" and no one's going to arrest him. Let's face it, there's no constitutional right that can be impeded by words alone. Who had actually gotten arrested for slander? Oh right, no one.
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SCoates
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Dec, 2004 08:17 pm
It is an error to assume that something is right if it breaks no laws, and wrong if it does.

I beleive that follows Kohlberg's levels of moral reaosning.

The fact is, it doesn't matter what is and is not legal in this case. Some issues are complex enough to make objective reasoing/judgement difficult, but most of the time we know when we're being good little girls and boys, and we know when we're bad, even if we get away with it.
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