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Is Donald Trump Guilty of ‘Dangerous’ Speech?

November 2, 2016
Plain English Version
Poor South Africans riot against immigrants.

Poor South Africans riot against immigrants.

What is not free speech? It is speech that incites dangerous behavior. A famous example is “You cannot yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” It might start a panic and people could get hurt. The Constitution does not protect it.

And what is ‘hate’ speech? Hate speech is ugly speech about people. People who use it often direct it at minorities. Most people do not like it. But if it is non-violent, it falls under the definition of free speech. The Constitution protects it.

Then there is ‘dangerous’ speech. Dangerous speech is speech that often takes place in foreign countries. It can lead to riots and mass killings. What are some of the parts of dangerous speech?

  • A powerful speaker who has influence over a crowd.
  • Listeners who believe the speaker and who are already angry.
  • A speech that urges people to violence.
  • A moment in history when feelings are running high.

There is an expert who studies dangerous speech. She went to places such as Kenya, Yugoslavia, and Rwanda. These are countries where mass killings took place. The expert looked at actions leading up to the killings. She asks questions. Can we predict mass killings? Can we prevent them from taking place?

The United States is a safe country. It has no history of mass killings. But, some of Donald Trump’s speeches come close to the edges of dangerous speech.

Trump said his supporters should use the Second Amendment against Hillary Clinton. Some may hear that as a call to violence. He said Obama and Clinton founded the Islamic State. That implies that there are people among us who are trying to destroy this nation. He says unknown forces are rigging the election. Some people may believe they should take action to overturn the results if he loses the election.

It is not clear if Trump’s statements are dangerous speech. They can lead to people losing confidence in our system. The expert says that this is the kind of speech that may trigger the start of bad events. People in the nation should be watchful that things do not get out of control.

 

Source: The Washington Post October 24, 2016

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