Opinion by Dr Tim Ball
Free speech is essential to freedom, but with it comes a level of personal responsibility. Supposedly, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes recognized this in his observations about shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre. People assume this meant you can’t do it, but his original comment included the critical word, “falsely”. In the US, your right to shout fire is part of free speech, but Holmes argued that you couldn’t shout fire, if it is false. The trouble is, who decides it is false and once it is said, the damage is done. The question then becomes accountability. Both the need for personal responsibility in confirming there is a fire, and being held accountable, when it is determined there was no fire, and you did not check with a modicum of due diligence. What if you shout fire in a supposedly crowded world?
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