May 26, 2007

Fire

Freedom of speech an absolute? Right. No ifs and buts and wherefores and hereinunders? None whatsoever. No need to consider that with freedoms might come responsibilities? Exactly.

So let's look, all over again, at the classic case (thank you Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr): can you falsely shout "Fire" in a movie theatre? "Falsely" -- meaning when there's no fire.

If you do so, are you protected by free speech statutes, example the US First Amendment?

If you won't do it, are we talking responsibility?

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

all Communists and Chinese-Mao-boot-lickers should stop using American and Western invented capitalistic stuff such as computers, internet, television, automobiles, aeroplanes, machinery, pharamceuticals, satellites, etc.......and go and sit in their mud-huts in Calcutta.

Sridhar Vanka said...

Good Point ! I knew someone would come up with this kind of argument sooner or later...
my take would be: free speech means expressing yourself and stating your view points with complete freedom. Shouting "Fire"..I dont know what I would be expressing by shouting like that...

But that is a good point...worth a debate...

Sridhar Vanka said...

Seems I spoke without wisdom..however, I found counter-arguments here

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sridhar, there's one important word in what Holmes wrote: "falsely".

Amrit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amrit said...

I think it is rhetorical. Freedom of expression bears a deeper meaning than simply shouting "fire" in a movie theater. Freedom of expression means calling truth, truth, lie, lie. Freedom of expression doesn't mean you start abusing someone merely for being a Dalit or a Muslim or a Hindu. I think deep down we all understand the real essence.

Amrit
Writing Cave

sweet sagar said...

A very nice research done by you.
It really helps peoples to get more close to the indian youth.
I must say " Awesome".

Dilip D'Souza said...

Amrit, I'm not so sure we all understand the essence, and that's why it's good to consider the boundary cases (that's my CS background speaking).

What if I stepped into a movie theatre, yelled FIRE even though there was none, watched the resultant stampede that killed let's say 25 people, was hauled off to court and there, claimed I had the freedom of speech to shout FIRE? Should the court listen to me? That's the point here.

And for me, the larger message is, there is therefore a need to think about freedoms. They don't drop out of the sky, they don't come unattached, and they need constant vigilance or they'll be taken away.

Vishnu said...

I am not so sure you can do it if you do not own the theatre. If the theatre's yours, you can do anything: it's your private property. And in this case, the 25 dead people did the wrong thing: They paid for watching a movie, and not for running around in the theatre. You can probably sue them for the damages caused to seats etc during the stampede.

Shreyas Sridhar said...

When we look at freedom of expression, I think it depends to a great extent on how the rights system in the country in question is built. For instance, in India - it's a top-down approach where the interests of the State were first carved out and individuals given rights within that framework.

It's the opposite in the US (bottom-up, if you must) - the system is founded on rights granted to individuals (usually absolute) and the supervening authority is placed over those rights with the ability to restrict their use in a specific manner.

In India certainly, the viewpoint seems to be - do what you want (or say what you want, in this case) unless it causes hurt/damage/loss to others. What falls within those categories is then defined more precisely.

The "fire" e.g. would fall (please forgive the legal reference - force of habit)within the exceptions under Art. 19(2).

Personally, I've never believed in absolute freedom of expression...and I honestly feel responsibility goes hand-in-hand with any right - never mind what the Yanks say!

amit varma said...

Dilip, good points.

Shreyas, you don't require 19 (2) to conclude that falsely shouting fire in a theatre is wrong if you evaluate the right to free speech as an extension of property rights. As David Boaz says about the theater instance:

"When we understand free speech this way [as an extension of property rights], we see what’s wrong with Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes’s famous statement that free speech rights cannot be absolute because there is no right to falsely shout ‘Fire!” in a crowded theater. Who would be shouting “Fire”? Possibly the owner, or one of his agents, in which case the owner has defrauded his customers: he sold them tickets to a play or a movie and then disrupted the show, not to mention endangered their lives. If not the owner, then one of his customers, who is violating the terms of his contract; his ticket entitles him to enjoy the show, not to disrupt it. The falsely-shouting-fire-in-a-crowded-theater argument is no reason to limit the right of free speech; it’s an illustration of the way that property rights solve problems and of the need to protect and enforce them."

The problem with 19 (2) is that it leaves too much to the interpretation of judges and bureaucrats, and makes the right to free speech too easy to violate, as we have seen so often. It isn't necessary to invoke that in a case like this.

Shreyas Sridhar said...

Amit - you're quite right about not needing to resort to 19(2). My point really was that whether you look at the 'fire' situation through the legal looking glass or not - it seems in India that there are inherent restrictions that were meant to be placed on rights like the freedom of expression.

What I cannot agree with you on (and I fear this is a fallout of my profession) is lack of faith in the judiciary. I agree that there is a high level of uncertainty in the wording under 19 - but that is intentional.

Whether you look at the Liberatarianism approach (Boaz) or even if you go further back to the rights system under more classical theories like Utilitarianism (which is the theory I have always felt the rights system in modern India was based on), there has to be some sort of manifestation of the thought process - ala 19(2).

As far as Boaz's property rights approach to the 'fire' situation goes - I fear it runs into trouble when you alter the facts a bit and yet not digress from the cores issue; 'Fire' or 'Bomb' is screamed out in a random public congreagation on a public street with a similar risk of a stampede. There is no ostensible relation between one person and any other...what then?

Anil said...

HI Dilip,

I wouldnt say that the person who shouted FIRE caused the stampede..What is he slept off and shouted FIRE in his nightmare..Arent the people who started running to be blamed here? Would we run like mad if anyone shouted FIRE or BOMB?

I guess i have a hardline view here that whether it is person who runs over children, women in a stampede is in the wrong as is the voter, or TV viewer who takes up arms against Gere or Shetty.. I dont think they are innocent victims. Maybe the people who get trampled are ..

Coming to your point, i guess one should have the freedom to express, because all others have the freedom to choose to REACT as well.

- Anil

amit varma said...

Shreyas, you wrote: "As far as Boaz's property rights approach to the 'fire' situation goes - I fear it runs into trouble when you alter the facts a bit and yet not digress from the cores issue; 'Fire' or 'Bomb' is screamed out in a random public congreagation on a public street with a similar risk of a stampede. There is no ostensible relation between one person and any other...what then?"

Sure, but the stampede would be bad because it would cause damage to someone's property, right? (I mean the term property in a broad sense, of course, including one's life and person.) What damage could it do that does not involve property?

As for faith in the judiciary, what do you make of this report: http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/may/26hc.htm .

To quote the first line:

"The Delhi high court on Friday issued notice to a cartoonist of a tabloid for allegedly making caricature of the former Chief Justice of India Y K Sabharwal."

So much for the free speech, and so much for the judiciary!

Sridhar Vanka said...

Amit, Shreyas: I disagree with you both.
There is something wrong about all this debate...its way too complicated. Perhaps, it is the price we have to pay for living in (and breeding) an intolerant society.
Right to free speech is just that. If you shout "Fire" in a theater, you are not expressing urself. You are endangering (knowingly) several lives and you ought to be punished for that. Like they say, its the intention that counts.
If ppl are offended by a painting or a movie, and they destroy property, these destroyers should be punished for a violent crime. Ought to be that simple...no ?

Anonymous said...

Dilip,

I suggest you leave the thinking to others. You are too dumb to understand what free-speech is about.

According to you The Da Vinci Code should be banned, the Satanic Verses should be banned, but Hindus should be tolerant of others.

What happened in Vadodra was not Hindus opposing artistic expression, but Hindus opposing DISPARITY in treatment. If the Satanic Verses was not banned, it would not have happened.

As I said, you have a small brain and cannot understand this point. You have consistently opposed the freeing up of temples, EQUAL laws for everyone (uniform civil code), and removal of special status for Jammu and Kashmir. Your pea-sized brain does not understand concepts like equality.

You also do not understand looking for scientific evidence and handing over the Ayodhya land to whichever side wins based on scientific evidence.

All your points are made in order to bring them in line with what Whites write in their publications about India. If the Whites say tomorrow that it is okay to have sex in public, you will write that freedom demands that it should be okay to have sex in public. If the Whites draw a line somewhere, you write that line should be respected.

The point here is that there are different laws for different people in India. Christians and Muslims live on doles and get a free ride. As a Christian, I appreciate why you call anyone who calls for equality as a "Hindu fundamentalist."

amit varma said...

Sridhar, what have I said that you disagree with? Of course shouting fire in a theater falsely is wrong. And of course people should be punished for violent acts.

It should be mainly on the basis of their actions, though. Intention is important, but it's also nebulous, and involves speculation. When I consider the case of the Danish cartoonists and MF Hussain and Chandra Mohan, it is irrelevant to me what they intended when they made their cartoons/paintings. All that matters to me is whether they were infringing someone else's rights or property by doing so. It is clear to me that they weren't, and thus I stand by and support their freedom of expression.

Anon 8:28, where has Dilip said that the Da Vinci Code or the satanic Verses should be banned? Just curious...

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sorry, away from the web for a couple of days, I missed this small discussion! Some reax:

Vishnu: I get the feeling you're pulling our legs. But in case you are not ... owning the theatre is immaterial. Let's say the owner of a theatre suddenly decides to (falsely) shout "Fire" during a show, which causes a stampede that kills 25 people, and then he is hauled off to court, where he says "I own the theatre and I can yell any damn thing in it at any damn time I want." I believe the courts will pay no attention to him, as they should not.

Amit: I don't believe the property rights angle explains everything. For example, if a customer in a crowded theatre yells "Fire" and causes a bloody stampede, violating the terms of his contract is the least of his crimes. Or what about this: a hundred of my friends come to my home for a party. In the middle of it, one of them suddenly decides to shout "Fire", and that causes a stampede leaving 25 of them dead. What terms of what contract has he violated?

This is, of course, essentially the point Shreyas has already made more succinctly.

Anil: I don't know about you, but if I was in a crowded theatre and I heard someone shouting "Fire", my first instinct would be to run. If that's going to subject me to prosecution, well, my instinct would still be to run.

Shreyas: I do agree with your view on 19(2), i.e. the "manifestation of the thought process." Yes, there are idiotic judges (I know of plenty), but even so, there is a place for the judicial system. Because however detailed laws get, they have to be interpreted and applied.

Sridhar: I see nothing wrong with having complicated debates. In any case, this is perhaps simpler than you might think. Any time you say (or paint, etc) something you are expressing yourself. My belief is that you have the freedom to do that, though you need to know that sometimes there are consequences -- which may or may not change your mind.

amit varma said...

Dilip, you wrote: "Or what about this: a hundred of my friends come to my home for a party. In the middle of it, one of them suddenly decides to shout 'Fire', and that causes a stampede leaving 25 of them dead."

Actually, this can be easily understood from a property rights perspective as well, in two ways.

One, the most fundamental property right is the right to one's own life and person. If 25 people die, or are even hurt, the person who shouted fire has clearly infringed on their rights. (It may seem insensitive to refer to "property rights" in this case, but the "right to life" is an extension of that, for it arises from the belief that we own our own lives.)

Two, and this is secondary, even if no one is hurt in the event, the person shouting fire has done it on your property. You therefore have a right to define the limits of his behaviour, and ask him to leave if he doesn't conform. (He has the right to leave if he doesn't agree with your limits.) But this point is secondary if he has actually harmed someone, as long as the harm is defined in concrete terms such as one's life, one's body and other such tangible things that a person can be said to own. (Not sentiments, for example!)

The usefulness of looking at rights as extension of property rights is that it defines the limits of the harm principle precisely, and doesn't punish victimless crimes, like consuming marijuana or having consensual anal sex. But that's an entirely different topic!

Dilip D'Souza said...

I don't know. Seems to me that recognizing that freedoms have certain limits -- like this "Fire" situation -- is less of a stretch than prosecuting a guy who causes a stampede for infringing on property rights.

amit varma said...

Sure, but what are those limits, and who defines them?

Also, if someone caused a stampede, you'd be prosecuting him for the harm he caused. Property rights are just useful in defining that harm, and the rights they infringe upon, in a philosophical sense.

Corporate Serf said...

Amit,

I think it is a stretch trying to defend the "falsely crying fire exception" to free speech using property rights as others have pointed out. (I know it is the standard libertarian explanation, to the extent libertarians have anything standard; but it is pretty weak). I consider myself a libertarian and I don't honestly understand why we don't tackle the fundamental issue head on: it is not "freedom of expression", but "freedom of action" that we should be defending, with the caveat not to trample others' freedom of action in a non-voluntary / exclusive fashion (I am trying to get at the concept of non-compulsion here, but I don't think it has been defined in a satisfactory fashion yet; clearly some sort of trade-off is involved, but I bet we need some sort pareto optimality like concept to cleanly define it). No matter how you define the non-compulsion concept; any practical definition is sure to point out that the person who falsely shouts "fire" in a theatre and causes mayhem as a result of the stampede clearly trampled over the freedom of action rights of a significant number of the crowd and hence can be punished according to the degree of harm caused.

Such a formulation would not imply any restriction of individuals right to depict purported angelic/messiahnic beings in any manner he or she feels like. They might need to hire private guards if they "offend the sensibilities" of members of certain fiery and muscular faiths, however; but surely, everyone, even otherwise robust defenders of individual rights understand that? Huh!!! (The last para not directed at Mr Varma)

amit varma said...

Corporate serf, I think you misunderstand my point. My point is that all the rights that I am willing to acknowledge, including the right to life and to free speech and to action, arise out of one single right: the right to self-ownership. At its heart, that is a property right.

If we understand all rights as arising out of that one fundamental right -- to self-ownership -- then it's obvious that you don't need further restrictions on free speech in the case of a man shouting "fire" falsely in a crowded theater. But I've already explained that in previous comments...

Corporate Serf said...

Amit, I suspect when you talk of "self-ownership" rights and I am talking of "freedom of action" we are talking of the same thing (passive versus active voice). Just to clarify, a self-ownership right implies the right to unbundle these rights and sell parts of it for money/in kind, correct?

amit varma said...

"Amit, I suspect when you talk of 'self-ownership' rights and I am talking of 'freedom of action' we are talking of the same thing (passive versus active voice)."

That's right. My point is that regardless of what we call it, it is at heart a property right, and all other rights emerge out of it.

"Just to clarify, a self-ownership right implies the right to unbundle these rights and sell parts of it for money/in kind, correct?"

If you have a job, that's exactly what you're doing. But that issue can get rather complicated and nuanced, so perhaps we'd best leave it for another day!

zen babu said...

CS, Dilip, Amit

This is something I wrote to Amit the other day too. Once you've defined the right to life as a propery right, obviously every crime becomes one of violating a property right. That is not what is really being discussed here.

The main problem I have with Boaz's formulation is that I think that the 'breach of contract by disruption of show' part is quite secondary and superfluous, while 'endangering lives' is primary and fundamental. In the case that there is no actual harm caused (like there is no stampede because the crowd calls the bluff, etc.), either the 'intent to endanger lives' or 'disruption of show' clauses can work. The first seems more fundamental to me, but is quite difficult to prove. The second is clear to prove, and it applies not just to someone shouting fire, but also to those idiots who kick your chair in the movies Amit. ;)

Lastly, what if there was actually a fire, and someone shouted fire? In a contract that was not perfectly written, this may still constitute a breach of contract, but it possibly saves lives. Such an action should clearly not be open to criminal prosecution. Due to all these reasons, I feel that the breach of contract angle is quite secondary.

Lastly, freedom comes with exactly one responsibility - do not trample upon the basic freedoms of others. Life and limb are part of these basic freedoms. 'Sensitivities' are hard to define and cannot be accepted as part of them.

amit varma said...

Zen Babu, the reason Boaz brought up the issue of the contract between the theater owner and the customers is that in Holmes's phrasing, there is no mention of if any harm is actually caused is his hypothetical example. So Boaz, without making any assumption in that regard, points out that regardless of that, shouting "fire" falsely in a theater is still wrong. If any harm is caused, then that is obviously an additional ground to prosecute.

If there actually was a fire, I don't think anyone would complain if someone shouted "fire" as it would have the effect of enabling them to protect or save themselves. The implicit contract of the ticket is obviously for the normal course of things. No theater owner would argue otherwise, surely.

Agree with the last para of your comment, as you'd surely know!

Anonymous said...

Excellent discussion here.

I have only one point: if the crowd does not stampede and no property rights are affected, as our joker tries his stunt in various places (public to get around ownership issues):

my reading of Amit's position is that no action can be taken against him without reading "intent" of the act.

So we have to wait until he succeeds with his 'prank' and kills/injures people to move against him.

regards,
Jai

Dilip D'Souza said...

what are those limits, and who defines them?

A good question. One simple limit: when my exercise of my freedom causes harm to you (or indeed, causes a stampede), I have crossed a limit. (A limit you earlier defined when you wrote: If 25 people die, or are even hurt, the person who shouted fire has clearly infringed on their rights).

("Harm" can also mean intent to harm, see final para below).

As I think CSerf is saying, I'm not sure why this has to be couched in terms of property rights to address the issue of what happened in Baroda. Baroda guy drew pictures, he didn't cause harm to anyone by doing so, end of story. Same with Danish cartoonist. Yes, they can and should expect reactions from guys who think they are offended, but that does not have any bearing on their freedoms. (Offending "sensibility" does not equate to harm). Besides, if and when those reactions cause harm, they must be punished.

I have the same problem with Boaz as ZBabu does. Breach of contract and violating property rights are secondary to causing harm and endangering lives. Besides, I don't see how Holmes's phrasing is invalid, or hard to understand, because he has not mentioned harm caused.

Finally, there's this: we have to wait until he succeeds with his 'prank' and kills/injures people to move against him.

I don't think so. For just one example: Let's say Mr CDEF, a man with a large following, stands before a gathering of his followers and says to them, "Go kill Ms LMNO!". The law need not wait until one of those followers acts on this call and kills Ms LMNO to act against CDEF, because CDEF clearly intended to cause harm. (And of course this has happened of late and is the subject of something I've written and will soon put up here).

amit varma said...

Jai, you wrote: "my reading of Amit's position is that no action can be taken against him without reading 'intent' of the act."

Jai, that's emphatically not what I'm saying. (I think some other commenter made a point similar to that.) Intent is secondary.

You also wrote: "So we have to wait until he succeeds with his 'prank' and kills/injures people to move against him."

Of course not. Even if no one is harmed, he is infringing on the property rights of whoever's property he falsely shouts "fire" on, as well as the rights of all the people he endangers, even if no harm is caused.

Dilip, agree with you about the limit. (John Stuart Mill called it The Harm Principle.) It doesn't have to be couched in property terms at all, you can couch it in harm terms as well, but any way you couch it, it originates out of the right to self-ownership (as all rights do), and that's a property right at its heart. This is not just a question of semantics -- I bring it up because it makes clear the fact that the limits one needs for free speech are inherent in it's definition, and no further limits are required. Not the ones in 19 (2) of the constitution, not the ones in 295 (a) of the Penal Code.

Also, you write, "Breach of contract and violating property rights are secondary to causing harm and endangering lives."

Well, my point is that "causing harm and endangering lives" are violations of property rights in the first place, because the right to life (and to one's person) arise out of the right to self-ownership. The only reason Boaz brought up "breach of contract" is because he did not assume that any harm had taken place.

And I'm not saying that Holmes's phrasing is invalid or hard to understand. I'm simply saying that Boaz stuck to the letter of Holmes's statement, and did not make any assumptions that Holmes did not specify.

And I agree with your response to Jai. CDEF -- and there are many CDEFs in this country, sadly -- should instantly be prosecuted, even if LMNO is unharmed.

amit varma said...

If anyone's interested, I've elaborated on this subject in my latest column, "Keep the 'Free' in 'Free Speech'".

Anonymous said...

1. My point is that you are reading intent into the shout of Fire! as Dilip has clearly enunciated with:

...CDEF clearly *intended* to cause harm....

Am agreeing with Dilip here and pointing out that this is at variance with Amit's position.

2. ...property owners rights ...
Already stated public property, can move the scene to the middle of some forest, unclaimed land, anywhere if required, as long as there is something there that can catch fire and burn and endanger the ppl there.

3. ...property owners rights ...

Can stipulate that its private property that the owner has explicitly allowed falsehoods on and waived away any rights he/she has over expressing anything including shouts of Fire!

4. locking up the CDEFs

Lets get the CDEFs locked up certainly yes, all on the same page here.

As others have pointed out here, the harm principle is better, the link to property rights is not clear.

Thanks though for the attempt to clarify.

regards,
Jai

amit varma said...

Jai, I don't understanding where you think I'm reading intent into anything. I'm looking purely into actions. Shouting "fire" falsely in a theater is wrong regardless of intent.

Even "public property", in legal terms, belongs to the government, who are entitled to prosecute you if you cause damage to it, such as starting a fire in a forest. And if it endangers other people, that is wrong by itself.

And the harm principle is meaningless without the most basic of property rights, the right to self-ownership.

I suspect some of the commenters here imagine that by "property rights" I'm referring to the right to own a house or land and suchlike. I'm not. The most basic property right is self-ownership, and I'm arguing that all rights originate from that, and if those rights are upheld, no further restrictions on free speech are required.

In any case, we all seem to agree that shouting "fire" falsely is wrong and CDEF should be punished, and that no limits beyond the harm principle need to applied to free speech. Phew.

Vineet Khunger said...

What if a politician holds a rally and instigates people into killing a political opponent? He clearly has no intent of doing so himself, and property rights can't really solve anything much here (suppose the rally is in a rented stadium). Would you grant him the freedom of speech to do so?

amit varma said...

Vineet, the last few comments have addressed exactly this. If he incites people to cause harm, obviously he should be punished for it on that basis alone. And property rights have everything to do with it, because he would be infringing on the right to life of his intended victim, which arises directly from the right to self-ownership, which is a property right at its heart.

That is the CDEF that Dilip refers to.

Corporate Serf said...

Amit,

I agree that the way you have formulated "self ownership" rights is isomorphic to "freedom of action". However, the recent posts should give you a clue that this is not immediately obvious to most people. You are using a "passive voice". Unless you can show that this formulation has a tangible benefit, you have to reject the formulation (not the right) in favour of something more direct and something that most lay people (not versed in the arcana of libertarian thought as they evolved in the American continent) understand immediately. The complexity considerations are important. Linear time beats P, which beats decidable every time.

This is not a fatuous objection. In any system on the ground, there are bound to be disagreements and I would rather have my right to life protected explicitly, rather than through an appeal to a right to property; which by convention is a weaker right.

(Actually this objection applies to my using "freedom of action" as fundamental as well)

amit varma said...

Corporate serf, good point. I am not saying that the right to life should be called anything else, or arguing for a change in terminology. My central argument, which I tried to make in my column as well, is that one does not need any more limits imposed on free speech than are already inherent in it if we understand it as part of a family of property rights that emerge from the right to self-ownership. I feel this an important point to make because currently there are, in our constitution and the IPC, limits on free speech that I feel are unjustifiable -- and understanding the philosophical basis of how rights originate makes that clearer.

Anonymous said...

Assuredly not flogging a dead horse here, this is academic.

Context and tone can lend different meanings to speech, it is possible to say

"Kill those *&^$%@# "

in a standup comedy routine and NOT be prosecuted for it wheres the guy who says this to a mob could be hauled up for incitement.

At some level arent we all reading intent or seriousness based on the setting.

Once again, appreciate this comment thread the best I have seen on dcubed in a lonnng time.

regards,
Jai

Dilip D'Souza said...

In passing, I noticed this with delight: Linear time beats P, which beats decidable every time.

Do we have a CS person here? (And that "CS" does not stand for "Corporate Serf").

Ravneet said...

reiThere are two points which I can succinctly derive from the above comments. Please correct me if I am wrong.

1. All of you seem to agree that sentiments being untangible don't quite count as property, so are excluded from the self-ownership rights.

2. As long as you are not violating somebody else's(anybody's) basic rights, there are no limits to your right to free speech (which originates from right to self-ownership/property right/right to free action/etc etc).

I beg to differ on both counts. I would like, to make a non-succinct attempt perhaps, to explain my pov.

Consider the oft-repeated 'fire-shouting' example above. When somebody shouts fire, albeit falsely in a theatre, there is clearly an intent. It might be secondary but it is definitely either malicious, or frivolous, both negative in my opinion. Also, before it leads to any stampede(if it at all does), the very first thing it does is create panic and instigate fear in the minds of the other theatre-goers which I would count as offending sentiments. Even if the commotion dies down within a few minutes and *no harm* is done, in the course of those few minutes, the offender has managed to scare the people and played with their inherent belief(in this case that a fire will cause harm). So while I agree too that it is clearly wrong to falsely shout fire, anybody would, I think the reason is more deep-seated, the harm was done or could have been done simply because a situation was created to which people would react. To exten this example, I was trying to think of a prankster who plays a prank on a group of friends. We don't count that as offensive because, one the prankster does not intend to cause harm and second his friends have implicitly given him the right to take their fears for granted. Extend this to mtv bakra, why would a bunch of unsuspecting strangers be ready to suspend all fear and apprehension and take the situation lightly. Is that not akin to the 'fire' situation? Maybe mtv bakra should be prosecuted. Some of those situations could actually cause harm, albeit unintentionally, but we choose to laugh those off because at the end of it no limits were crossed(and the limits are being understood to be implicitly decided here, and Hey! we are libratarians, anything goes). Are we saying come on, lets put things in perspective, but that is exactly my point, putting things in perspective is an extension of defining limits. And there can not possibly be a single fence which you can be on either side on. The boundaries shall overlap. We just have to be tolerant enough to peacefully act *and* react. So while we don't want to curb individual expression, let us also be responsible enough to know that our actions are genuinely all about something we passionately wanted to give expression to, and are not for a lark or for the sake of evoking public outcry.

p.s. Exactly reiterating Jai's take

Corporate Serf said...

Yeah I have a cs background


And no, trying to prosecute intentions is bad. The consequences of malicious / ignorant prosecutions outweighs the gains from prevention.