Yelling Fire in a crowded Theater
What is free speech and how does it apply in this community? Free speech is of course a protected right by the First Amendment of the Constitution of United States of America. The First Amendment reads as follows:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” (First Amendment to the United States Constitution, 1791).
This simply written amendment has been extended to almost every part of American life. Yet it was not included in the constitution until the ratification process begun. I often wonder what the constitution would be without the inclusion of the first amendment. Today, this amendment is responsible for the protection of a free press, separation of church and state, a number of protests ranging from those about the Vietnam War to those who protest the existence of vampires in Government, yeah really vampires. By the way as diabetics I bet most of us would agree that public office is not a good place for vampires. LOL
So we American have the right to express ourselves even if the community thinks you are wrong. But there are limits. Justice Holmes wrote one of the most recognized opinions when discussing the right of free speech.
The case was Schenck v. United States and for the most part Schenk was not a very popular fellow. The case involved Schenck telling American men to avoid the draft that was created by World War I. It was argued that Mr. Schneck’s action ran counter to a recently enacted law called the Espionage act which made it illegal to “cause, or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or . . . [to] willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States” (Shmoop Editorial Team, 2008).
The mood of the country was decidedly pro war at the time of the Schneck ruling. (Especially since the United States had intercepted a cable expressing the ridiculous idea that following German Victory in WWI, and provided that Mexico entered the war on the side of Germany, then Mexico could have Texas, New Mexico and Arizona back)
This intercepted cable along with Mr. Schneck’s ideas to avoid the draft made him a most unpopular fellow which led to his arrest. Despite his unpopularity Mr. Schenck asked that his conviction of violating the Espionage Act be overturned because in his mind he was practicing his protected free speech right as a United states Citizen. This decision in this case brought about one of the most cited references to a Justice’s opinion. The opinion for the majority was written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. A paraphrase of his writing along with some explanation was taken from an instructive article on the matter
"the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic." He followed this pragmatic observation by recommending the test that should be used to separate protected from unprotected speech. If "the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about . . . substantive evils" they were not subject to constitutional protection. In other words, it was less the words than the circumstances surrounding their utterance that rendered some speech unprotected” (Shmoop Editorial Team, 2008).
As I often say it is a fascinating line to draw for many reasons including Holmes background and his later discussions on free speech issues? In other words for Holmes this was not an easy subject.
And that brings me our little corner of the internet. It seems that occasionally we receive these community calls for renaming type 1 and type 2 Diabetes, to designate them as different diseases. I have been a member here for over 8 years and at first I was unsure of what to make of these calls. In pretty short order though I made up my mind and frankly like yelling fire in a crowded theater, I find such pronouncements reprehensible and destructive. For me we are talking about one disease with two causes, not two diseases. In fact there are at least 6 agreed upon causes of diabetes. No one ever seems to come into our site and ask that we rename diabetes caused by trauma to the pancreas as some separate disease. My point is that if we have to rename one type we better rename them all.
But the truth is simple, this is one disease. Diabetes has different causes these different causes do not mean it is different diseases. Our statement of values says the following:
“A note about the different types of diabetes: We believe that no one with diabetes is responsible for having this condition, and we do not support debates about "which type is worse" or comments which place blame on anyone for their condition. The different types of diabetes have more similarities than differences, and within this community we focus on our commonalities and the ways in which we can all support one another as a unified group” (Hernandez, 2009).
For me at least it is pretty clear when anyone wants to rename diabetes, I do not mind them speaking their opinion. I do mind that opinion being spoken here. To that end I will always be available to state what I think is obvious. We have been through this and your comments about a separate name for type 1 and type 2 are not welcome here. In fact these comments are similar to yelling fire in a crowded theater. No good can come of it.
First Amendment to the United States Constitution. (1791). Archives of the United States of America.
Hernandez, M. (2009). The values of TuDiabetes. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://www.tudiabetes.org/profiles/blogs/the-values-of-tudiabetes
Shmoop Editorial Team. (2008). Constitutional Protection for Dangerous Speech? Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://www.shmoop.com/free-speech/dangerous-speech.html