Justice Stevens on Distinguishing Protest from Incitement

Mark J. Fitzgibbons
The American Thinker
4/26/2010

Many liberals are making loaded, unsubstantiated claims that talk radio, the internet, peaceful Tea Party protests, and other conservative speech and associations run the risk of inciting violence. Indeed, in the past it was liberals who not merely came to the defense of such forms of protest, but who articulated the actual danger of suppressing such protest.

Liberals on the Supreme Court protected liberals engaging in the same forms of speech and protest we now see from conservatives. For example, in New York Times v. Sullivan, liberal Justice William Brennan cited the concurring opinion in Whitney v. California by the avowed progressive, Justice Louis Brandeis:

[O]rder cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, [our Founders] eschewed silence coerced by law – the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.

Retiring Justice John Paul Stevens is receiving heaping praise from the left. In 2007, the Supreme Court decided Morse v. Frederick, better-known as the “Bong Hits for Jesus” case. Justice Stevens wrote a dissent and was joined by Justices Souter and Ginsburg. His dissent helps delineate the view of what constitutes controversial, even patriotic, speech and protest from actual incitement of unlawful conduct…

The article continues at the American Thinker.

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