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What does 'shouting fire in a crowded theater' mean?


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Answered 2009-11-26 01:13:22

The phrase refers to a quote from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s opinion in the case Schenck v. United States, 249 US 47 (1919), a Supreme Court case that explored the limits of First Amendment protection of free speech.

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

Holmes point was that there is no absolute right of free speech, because there are always circumstances in which unregulated expression can create problematic or dangerous situations. The need for safeguarding the public (or, in the case of Schenck, the government) against certain forms of speech creates exceptions that are not protected by the First Amendment. "Falsely shouting fire in a theatre" is an example illustrating Holmes' point.

Another quote from Schenck that further clarifies the Court's position: "Words which, ordinarily and in many places, would be within the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment may become subject to prohibition when of such a nature and used in such circumstances a to create a clear and present dangerthat they will bring about the substantive evils which Congress has a right to prevent. The character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done."

The "clear and present danger" test became the standard against which exercise of certain First Amendment rights were measured. The Court later relaxed these restrictions in a series of cases that culminated in the current restriction, defined in Bradenburg v. Ohio, 395 US 444 (1969). In Bradenburg, the Court held a person could not be punished for using offensive or infammatory language, but only by inciting "imminent lawless action," with "lawlessness" being a likely outcome of the speech.

In the Per Curiam opinion for Bradenburg, the Court wrote: "These later decisions have fashioned the principle that the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."

Justice William O. Douglas concurred, repeating another quote from Justice Holmes: "The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree."

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Gáir, béiceach, glaoch all mean 'shouting".


well it depends when you are....i mean in rural communities shouting might be used. It more developed places, we use radios.


A democracy is broadly defined as system of government in which power is vested in the people, governed by the will of the majority. A democracy does not mean 'anything goes'.If a majority of Israelis want something banned, they can do so.Answer 2Even a democracy will prohibit yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. It's just a question of where to draw the line.


If it's is to crowded don't freak out. I mean don't be scared of people in the hallway. Especially when it's crowded.


it means there is a lot of people in an area like maybe on black Friday the stores where crowded


When he/she is being mean or shouting


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i never do because capitals mean shouting but you can if you like


when someone cries out what they have and people should buy it for the price!


No. It may mean that you have a weak argument or point to make so you need to boost it by shouting. It could also mean you are in the company of rude people who are not listening. Shouting brings everyone down to a lower level. It is better to arrange an environment where you can speak softly and be heard..


Physical plant in terms of theater means the actual building the theater is housed in, or in other words, the architectural home that the theater space is a part of.


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It better mean the elevator's too crowded, or somebody's getting decked.


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The first amendment of the United State's Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."Regrettably this was later interpreted by a variety of Supreme Court decisions in which "make no law" was held to mean "make a variety of laws for a variety of reasons".("Hate speech", "Clear and present danger", "SLAPS test", "Shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater", "Classified Information", "Free Speech Zones", "Insider Trading", "FCC regulations", "Truth in Advertising", "Electioneering Laws", "Community Standards", etc.)


I don't know what it means...



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