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Academic Dishonesty

February 6, 2014

Thane Rosenbaum’s recent opinion piece in Daily Beast in which he joins the cheerleaders who wish America to adopt the principles espoused by France and Israel in order to protect us from hurtful words.  The overall article has been dissected by Ken White and Scott Greenfield  who have laid its idiocy bare. However, there is another point to be made, which is that the article is outright deceitful.

Dr. Rosenbaum makes the following statement:

 There is no freedom to shout “fire” in a crowded theater.

This is a dishonest paraphrasing of a statement from Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.  The full statement is the following:

 The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.

There are two points here.  First of all, notice that there is a two part test. The man must be falsely shouting fire and a panic must be caused by his actions. And yet the quote, with Dr. Rosenbaum must know of, was changed to the point where it’s entire meaning has been warped.  This is, to be blunt, an attempt to perpetrate a knowing falsehood upon the reader, to imply that Holmes took a far more restrictive view of the First Amendment than he actually did.

It is one thing to for someone to make a poor argument; it is quite another for an academic to pass such a misleading statement off as some form of proof.  It brings up the question of whether or not there is any other proof, save that France and Israel seem enamored of using the state’s power against those they find wanting.  But that is not an argument that should move any American.


Note: I erroneously posted this blog post to my writing blog, so here it is in the proper place.


From → Politics

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