BOSTON (CBS) – 2019 will be the 100th anniversary of a landmark Supreme Court decision that established an important boundary for free speech.
In Schenck v. United States, the Court ruled unanimously that while the First Amendment protects freedom of expression, it does not protect dangerous speech – like falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.
I thought of that famous ruling the other day when I saw that talk-show infotainer Rush Limbaugh had decided to use his forum to ridicule the dire forecasts for Hurricane Irma.
“My theory,” he said, “is that because of the biases, because of the politicization of everything, because you have people in all of these government areas who believe man is causing climate change, they’re hell-bent on proving it.”
English translation – the hurricane warnings are “fake news,” designed to manipulate people for political purposes and having no integrity or public safety use.
No matter what political extreme hosts this kind of thing, it’s profoundly disturbing. Impeding the efforts of public safety officials to keep the public safe is about as low as it gets, and risky, too.
What if someone dies after ignoring evacuation orders and their decision is traced back to Limbaugh’s venality?
He seemed to sense he had gone too far, saying later that based on new information “it’s gonna be pretty close…. Not enough time to delve into it,” he added.
And not enough words in the English language to describe how irresponsible and sick this was.