American Politics COMPLETE NOTES [Part 3] - I got a 4.0 in the course!

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University of Massachusetts - Boston
Political Science

February 19, 2014 Today’s Questions - Civil Liberties How have civil liberties developed over time? (Speech, religion) Are our civil liberties under attack? What are we talking about? The 1st Amendment “The Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech…” Development of Freedom of Speech: John Stuart Mill ● Purpose of Free Speech ○ No absolute truth ■ No individual is infallible ○ Best decisions are made with the most information ○ Curtailing Speech - two consequences: ■ If opinion is correct, we are less certain of the closest information to the absolute truth ■ If opinion is incorrect, we may miss the opportunity to reaffirm absolute truth ○ Purpose is to create a Marketplace of ideas ○ Speech can be curtailed when harm to another individual can be caused by one’s speech ■ When there is potential for someone to be harmed by freedom of speech, that is when speech should be regulated ● Cases: Restrictions of Free Speech ○ Key Question: When can speech by curtailed? ■ Balance between individuals who embrace and believe in self expression and government interest in order, stability, and cohesion ■ Schenck v. US (1919) ● Schenck distributed pamphlets supporting “Draft Dodging” ○ Socialistic view of economy ● He was arrested and convicted under the 1917 Espionage Act (which was established it is illegal to obstruct military recruitment) ● Supreme Court said that the Espionage Act is, in fact, Constitutional ○ If speech presents a “Clear and Present Danger”, then it can be curtailed ○ First restriction on free speech ○ Think about: What type of speech poses a clear and present danger to the US? ○ “Clear and Present Danger” can be applied to various circumstances - purposely vague, elastic, subjectivity, no clarity in what is a “clear and present danger” ■ Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942) ● Fighting words - words that by their very nature lead people to act in a violent manner ● People are not supposed to say bad things about any other people in public places ● Chaplinsky was convicted under this law because his words were known as “fighting words” ● Problems with understand of “fighting words” ○ Completely arbitrary ○ Very subjective ○ There is no central list of these words, again very vague ● Other restrictions: libel (written statements that are made in reckless disregard for the truth and are damaging to the victim), slander (oral statements that are made in reckless disregard for the truth and are damaging to the victim), pornography and obscenity ● Pornography: -lacks any social value ○ -deemed offensive by a community’s standard and ○ -depicts sexual conduct in an offensive manner Fundamental Freedoms Doctrine as it relates to the freedom of speech ● Overview ● Speech is fundamental to the correct functioning of a democracy ○ Any law passed in regard to the freedom of speech would be subject to “Strict Scrutiny” ○ Burden of proof is on the government to show that the law which restricts your freedom of speech is constitutional ○ The government must make a case that the restriction of freedom of speech supports some kind of gove
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