The danger of senseless sloganeering.

Always check the source, a nice principle to live by even though we (OK, I ) don’t do it 100% of the times. For many years I also repeated this quasi-legal slogan till I got corrected. Last night, it was somebody else’s turn:

The case I mention at the bottom is Schenck v. United States (1919) and the misquoted passage is the opinion of the court written by Justice Holmes:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force.

Listen, we are not perfect so expect being corrected. Be open-minded to the corrections, but make sure you are not being led to the primrose patch. Trust but Verify to coin a phrase.

And… don’t be a dick till you have full confidence your opponent deserves it. Some people will actually appreciate the correction even if they will not share your view.

Chris @digitalbrain242 has not returned a comment, nor I expect one that would make sense or be anything else that “YOU ARE A NAZI!” which is the new “You are racist!” And there is a meme for that!


5 Replies to “The danger of senseless sloganeering.”

  1. I have to correct folks misusing the phase ALL THE DAMNED TIME! Falsely shouting fire was a serious problem at the time Holmes uttered this phrase.

    I have a well-written historian’s analysis of this at home on my desktop and will post a link this evening for folks to read through (or will email the file to you, Miguel).


  2. “In the future, everyone will be Hitler for 15 minutes.”
    “If everybody is Hitler, than nobody is Hitler.”
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created Hitler…”
    “…wouldn’t you like to be a Hitler too?”



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