Days of Change

Fighting Words | May 7, 2015

Among all the hate and criticism directed at Pamela Geller for defying the wishes of a death cult, Chris Cuomo of CNN still managed to cross the line where even Salon.com decided to school him. Cuomo cited what he called the “Chaplinsky test,” based on a court case in 1942. Walter Chaplinsky was handing out pamphlets on a Saturday afternoon, criticizing religion and calling believers “racketeers.” Even though a crowd gathered and started to become unruly, he claimed that his calling a police official a fascist was what go him arrested.

Applying the Chaplinsky test to the atheists and socialists on the left, who frequently call everyone who disagrees with them a fascist, would ironically get them all arrested. Still, it seems that the “fighting words” concept of non-protected speech is something to hang their hats on. First of all, anyone who calls what Pamela Geller says “hate speech” should be aware that speech is not a crime. A hate crime is still a criminal act without the “hate,” so suing the inflammatory term “hate speech” only makes one sound like a fascist.

More importantly, fighting words are a direct provocation. Chaplinsky said his words directly, to a person directly in front of him. Geller did no such thing. The fighting words came from cowardly Imams on the internet who said that death was the punishment for drawing a graven image of a guy who wrote a book about revenge. Geller responded, not by fighting, but by drawing a line against intimidation and asking other people to draw Muhammad.

If the “fighting words” test means anything, it is that there are verbal provocations that a reasonable person cannot be expected to ignore. For decades, Christians have been told to ignore many blasphemies. Should we, for example, fault Lou Costello for saying “Niagara Falls” because a crazy man considers them fighting words?

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2 Comments

  1. You betcha! 😉

    Comment by insanitybytes22 — May 7, 2015 @ 9:50 pm

  2. A one-time commenter at Mcnorman’s blog, “Uncle Baruch,” noted that Muslims are the new blacks, an astute observation about the pc crowd. To that I’ll add that Geller critics like Gasbag O’Reilly and Greta van S. are probably jealous because though they criticize jihadists and murderers of Christians, they don’t have Geller’s moxie.

    Comment by Mary — May 8, 2015 @ 3:33 am


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