Terry Jones' Right to Be Terry Jones

More

There were some questions yesterday about whether Jones yelled "fire" in a crowded theater. Not really. Emily Chertoff talked to Yale Professor Jack Balkin:


The relevant question is whether or not speech is an incitement to riot, or to produce any other imminent lawless action. Whether it incites violence is the central question -- and that means not just that the speech produces violence, but that the speaker intends it to. 

Generally speaking, the rule is you can't be held liable for speech that moves other people to violence unless your speech is intended to producing violence and is likely to almost immediately produce it. That's the point of the familiar example of shouting "fire" in a crowded theater -- you're trying to cause a ruckus. But you can also see why this is not the best example. Sometimes there actually is a fire.

The standard for "intent" is really high, as well it should be. From Emily:

Ultimately, as Balkin explains, it is very difficult to prove incitement, which requires proving that 1) the speech in question intended to cause an illegal violent act, and 2) that the speech did directly cause the illegal violent act at issue. In no way does what either Jones or "Bacile" did qualify as incitement.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. More

Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Saving Central: One High School's Struggle After Resegregation

Meet the students and staff at Tuscaloosa’s all-black Central High School in a short documentary film by Maisie Crow. 


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

From This Author

Just In