Jump to content

Bullying and Freedom of Speech


Duelix
 Share

Recommended Posts

Why is bullying illegal in Massachusetts if people are supposed to have freedom of speech. You have a right to insult other people if your statements are generic and not clearly lies. Just because someone committed suicide doesn't make bullying a crime.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All rights of the Federal and state constitutions can be limited for reasonable purposes, according to levels of scrutiny of the rationality and neutrality of those purposes which have been developed from the 14th Amendment. Thus with respect to freedom of speech, you can't shout 'fire' in a crowded theater, you cannot libel people, you can't reveal state secrets, you can't incite crimes, and you can't counsel people to commit suicide.

 

To judge whether the Massachusetts anti-bullying law is a constitutional free speech limit, we would have to see the statute. Could you provide a link?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To begin with, it's harassment, and nowadays even more seriously so because, "being connected" with electronic communications (especially the Internet) means that there's fewer places to hide from the perpetrators. It used to be that kids could get away from bullies by simply going home. But now bullies invade domestic space with texts, Internet posts, etc. Also, without domestic space acting as a buffer zone between bullying and sleep, I think the bullying interrupts their sleep more than anyone realizes.

 

Without really realizing the implications, parents have provided their children a quantum leap in connectivity. It can benefit them if healthy, but it can harm them if unhealthy.

 

Parents have also abandoned their supervision of their children's social interactions. It was different when the kids were on the back porch or backyard, talking, laughing or even arguing and mom was cooking in the kitchen or dad was tinkering in the garage and either could get a general flavor of the situation.

 

We just don't have that anymore. I'm not a strict disciplinarian, but I think a lot of childhood can be lost when domestic time is invaded. A generation ago, there was a big hoopla about "latchkey kids". I just don't hear a peep about them anymore.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

I was bullied throughout my entire childhood. I actually never got a break, because when I got home my older bother did the bullying. On one hand it does develop strength and conviction of personal belief. At least it did in me. No, it wasn't fair. But it happened and we all have to move on eventually. Whether or not a law is made against bullying may not be relevant, anyway. Most often the bully picks a time and place where nothing can interfere with it with no observers. So, you can make a law against it, but you won't be able to enforce that law, because there will always be reasonable doubt in favour of the bully.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is ironic that free speech is the means of bullying people into self-censorship. What will be interesting is how it will be regulated once the realization starts to surface that people will abuse the right to anti-bullying protection to bully others into self-censorship. Imagine someone is simply expressing a certain political view and someone else who doesn't like that view accuses them of harassment/bullying as a means of silencing their politics. Of course, the reverse has been happening for years, for example when hate-groups insist that they are just expressing neutral political views in order to protect their ability to (attempt) to intimidate others. Generally, I would call this all the politics of passive-aggression, which is definitive for the post-aggression age, which was initiated I would say by the influx of nuclear holocaust as a war-deterrent.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can you provide any examples of non-governmental bullying occurring without the exercise of free-speech?

 

with respect, standard rules of debate dictate that the onus is not on me to do so, but on you to support the claim. If you cannot support the claim, then the claim is invalidated on those grounds.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

with respect, standard rules of debate dictate that the onus is not on me to do so, but on you to support the claim. If you cannot support the claim, then the claim is invalidated on those grounds.

 

My response wasn't a debate strategy. My point was that there's no way to bully/harass people without using (free) speech. Hence I asked you if you could think of any methods of (non-governmental) bullying/harassment that didn't involve free-speech? I mention "non-governmental" because clearly a repressive government uses speech to perpetuate bullying while prohibiting speech for non-governmental purposes. So to clarify my response, I meant that I don't think bullying ever occurs in a way that doesn't involve free-expression unless the expression is government-generated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My response wasn't a debate strategy. My point was that there's no way to bully/harass people without using (free) speech. Hence I asked you if you could think of any methods of (non-governmental) bullying/harassment that didn't involve free-speech? I mention "non-governmental" because clearly a repressive government uses speech to perpetuate bullying while prohibiting speech for non-governmental purposes. So to clarify my response, I meant that I don't think bullying ever occurs in a way that doesn't involve free-expression unless the expression is government-generated.

 

I understood your statement and I am asking for support.

 

I'm not asking for much.

Edited by QuantumEntangled
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I understood your statement and I am asking for support.

 

I'm not asking for much.

 

You must not have understood my statement because if you had you would recognize that bullying/harassment by definition is a speech act and thus occurs as "free speech." If you can't explain further what you're trying to get at, then I suggest you stop repeatedly asking for whatever "support" it is you are asking for. If you don't want to discuss the issue, why are you posting about it?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lemur - why is all bullying a speech act? A significant proportion of bullying is non-verbal. Additionally, not all speech acts are necessarily constitutionally/state protected actions under a freedom of speech provision. Freedom of speech laws tend to operate by removing barriers to expressing one's opinions - they very rarely act by allowing all speech (as Marat pointed out above). I do not know of any freedom of speech legislation that does not preclude intimidatory speech (either implicitly or explicitly) - but that does not render the legislation a dead letter.

 

The expression of a political opinion is normally the very object that is protected by freedom of speech legislation and I cannot see how anti-bullying legislation will affect this - you seem to be equating the expression of a differing viewpoint as potential bullying which will be trammelled by new legislation. To say that A disagrees with B is by no means equivalent to saying A is bullying B. Of course, at the limit this disagreement may transcend the debate and become oppressive; but for it to become bullying is possible to envisage but unlikely outside imagination. Anyhow, at that point the bullying legislation would come in and freedom of speech might be limited.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lemur - why is all bullying a speech act? A significant proportion of bullying is non-verbal. Additionally, not all speech acts are necessarily constitutionally/state protected actions under a freedom of speech provision. Freedom of speech laws tend to operate by removing barriers to expressing one's opinions - they very rarely act by allowing all speech (as Marat pointed out above). I do not know of any freedom of speech legislation that does not preclude intimidatory speech (either implicitly or explicitly) - but that does not render the legislation a dead letter.

 

The expression of a political opinion is normally the very object that is protected by freedom of speech legislation and I cannot see how anti-bullying legislation will affect this - you seem to be equating the expression of a differing viewpoint as potential bullying which will be trammelled by new legislation. To say that A disagrees with B is by no means equivalent to saying A is bullying B. Of course, at the limit this disagreement may transcend the debate and become oppressive; but for it to become bullying is possible to envisage but unlikely outside imagination. Anyhow, at that point the bullying legislation would come in and freedom of speech might be limited.

Good points. Only I can't think of any acts of bullying that don't involve some form of speech or expression. I guess it depends on what you define as outside expression, because it definitely involves some form of communication, no?

 

As for your point about political expression not necessarily involving bullying, you're right. My point was that people are going to use the anti-bullying rules to intimidate each other, the same way they use the threat of lawsuits now to intimidate each other into settling out-of-court, etc. People shouldn't let themselves be intimidated into helping the bully achieve their goals, but that is typically how victimization works.

 

Look at the current case of Geert Wilders in Dutch government. He has been crusading against Islam for some time on the basis that it is a totalizing lifestyle instead of just a religion. Yet, all the criticism of Islam comes with statements about it not "fitting with western culture/lifestyles." So the implication is that there IS a total western/European lifestyle that should dominate everyone who lives in western Europe and that if you want an Islamic lifestyle, you should go someplace other than Europe. Part of the strategy/tactic to attacking Islam and asserting secular living is to claim that Islam is attacking secular living. In other words, Wilders is promoting a bullying strategy toward Islam that accuses Islam of bullying secularism.

 

Ultimately, what it comes down to is that the people who feel the most intimidated, for whatever reason, are the ones who are going to support the most repressive measures toward the "bullies" they blame for their feeling of intimidation. This is the cycle of bullying. Victims learn to behave passively so that they can claim righteousness in accusing others of bullying them. Institutionalized (state) bullying takes the position of dominance over non-governmental bullying and freedom of speech get subsequently used as a means of taunting or "drawing the teeth" of potential aggressors. In this way, we go down the road of behavioral-control culture where passive-aggression wars against active-aggression to dominate it completely.

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good points. Only I can't think of any acts of bullying that don't involve some form of speech or expression. I guess it depends on what you define as outside expression, because it definitely involves some form of communication, no?

Speech not necessarily - communication almost certainly.

 

As for your point about political expression not necessarily involving bullying, you're right. My point was that people are going to use the anti-bullying rules to intimidate each other, the same way they use the threat of lawsuits now to intimidate each other into settling out-of-court, etc. People shouldn't let themselves be intimidated into helping the bully achieve their goals, but that is typically how victimization works.
Only the most extreme form of political expression will be able to be cast in the light of bullying and I cannot see the legislation being a problem. If the law reverses the burden of proof on the respondent to prove he is not a bully - then I can see your point and agree, but I think this legal formation is unlikely.

 

Look at the current case of Geert Wilders in Dutch government. He has been crusading against Islam for some time on the basis that it is a totalizing lifestyle instead of just a religion. Yet, all the criticism of Islam comes with statements about it not "fitting with western culture/lifestyles." So the implication is that there IS a total western/European lifestyle that should dominate everyone who lives in western Europe and that if you want an Islamic lifestyle, you should go someplace other than Europe. Part of the strategy/tactic to attacking Islam and asserting secular living is to claim that Islam is attacking secular living. In other words, Wilders is promoting a bullying strategy toward Islam that accuses Islam of bullying secularism.
Hmm. Bullying is a personal offence with an individual victim - you can criticise a religion, you can rail against it, but I don't believe you can bully it. You can bully an certain member of a religion - but that is no longer a rational political point, it's ad hom and it adds nothing to an argument; therefore I do not see the problem with it being legislated against

 

Ultimately, what it comes down to is that the people who feel the most intimidated, for whatever reason, are the ones who are going to support the most repressive measures toward the "bullies" they blame for their feeling of intimidation. This is the cycle of bullying. Victims learn to behave passively so that they can claim righteousness in accusing others of bullying them.

I see no problem in institutionalizing the protection of the weak from the intimidatory and repressive. the almost-Nietzschean myth of the passive victim has been done to death in criminology and is not highly regarded.

 

Institutionalized (state) bullying takes the position of dominance over non-governmental bullying and freedom of speech get subsequently used as a means of taunting or "drawing the teeth" of potential aggressors. In this way, we go down the road of behavioral-control culture where passive-aggression wars against active-aggression to dominate it completely.
This seems to say that freedom of speech legislation and bullying regulation together give the pretence and possibility of an open society yet remove the practical reality - if you replace bullying with libel I could agree with you more, not much, but more.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lemur - why is all bullying a speech act? A significant proportion of bullying is non-verbal. Additionally, not all speech acts are necessarily constitutionally/state protected actions under a freedom of speech provision. Freedom of speech laws tend to operate by removing barriers to expressing one's opinions - they very rarely act by allowing all speech (as Marat pointed out above). I do not know of any freedom of speech legislation that does not preclude intimidatory speech (either implicitly or explicitly) - but that does not render the legislation a dead letter.

 

The expression of a political opinion is normally the very object that is protected by freedom of speech legislation and I cannot see how anti-bullying legislation will affect this - you seem to be equating the expression of a differing viewpoint as potential bullying which will be trammelled by new legislation. To say that A disagrees with B is by no means equivalent to saying A is bullying B. Of course, at the limit this disagreement may transcend the debate and become oppressive; but for it to become bullying is possible to envisage but unlikely outside imagination. Anyhow, at that point the bullying legislation would come in and freedom of speech might be limited.

 

I'd have to agree with lemur, bullying is some form of communication (and the freedom of "Speech" is obviously not merely about verbal speech). That being said I think that there are bigger sociocultural trends at work here. Western culture used to be very community based, and there were a lot of social norms. Society regulated itself more. More and more each generation rejects social norms as irrational and want to make more of their own decisions (which isn't necessarily bad, just different). Maybe it's about adapting to a more diverse culture with more people and more connections and influxes of other cultures, or maybe it's just what societies do over time (or urbanization, etc who knows).

 

The culture is more and more based on rationalism and individualism and less and less traditionalism and community. As a result individuals have more and more extreme behavior. Flawed logic/rationalism can cause this as much as flawed traditionalism can cause the opposite, blindly doing whatever the rest of society does. Society has to enforce some sort of rule anyways because some of these extreme behaviors hurt others, unfortunately it's not just seen as "unacceptable" -- it has to be legislated. So we see more and more legislation to control what people do because there are no unwritten laws anymore (or rather not as many). Specifically, we see freedom of speech slightly hindered because legislation is needed to keep a society form hurting itself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Demosthenes - I think our posts crossed, I agree that not all communication acts are spoken. I use verbal to mean communication through language - not merely oral speech, and I am pretty certain that freedom of speech laws only really deal with that. Non-verbal interactions are hard to classify, let alone legislate for! Your point on societal norms is well taken - I am unsure that we have fewer norms but perhaps the flavour is different and "our norms" bear less heavily on us than the imagined weight of the norms of previous generations.

 

I wish our culture was based on rationalism - it seems to me that much of our culture is as irrational as the pre-enlightenment cultures were. The unwritten laws are still there and functioning - they may not be based on the opprobrium of the elders, or religious and moral strictures - but they are very much a part of modern society.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmm. Bullying is a personal offence with an individual victim - you can criticise a religion, you can rail against it, but I don't believe you can bully it. You can bully an certain member of a religion - but that is no longer a rational political point, it's ad hom and it adds nothing to an argument; therefore I do not see the problem with it being legislated against

This is a very good point and very true. It would be a little disturbing if there were "class-action" bullying suits against individuals. Hate-speech laws apply more to that. Personally, I find bullying a big injustice and I would be happy to see the law institutionalize the moral recognition of it as such. I just think that in practice, it could end up a lot like anti-discrimination, some people discriminate in covert ways and get away with it while other people use anti-discrimination suits and complaints as a means to leverage power without having any real intention to pursue justice. I guess it is just a question of waiting for the laws to be implemented and seeing how they are used in practice.

 

I see no problem in institutionalizing the protection of the weak from the intimidatory and repressive. the almost-Nietzschean myth of the passive victim has been done to death in criminology and is not highly regarded.

That's pretty loaded to say that victims ("targets" is actually a better word) are weak. Typically bullies are the weak ones, which is why they result to bullying to gain a sense of power. I don't say this to evoke sympathy or something; it's just a fact. Maybe anti-bullying laws will stimulate potential bullies to empower themselves to seek more constructive ways of expressing their opinion.

 

This seems to say that freedom of speech legislation and bullying regulation together give the pretence and possibility of an open society yet remove the practical reality - if you replace bullying with libel I could agree with you more, not much, but more.

Exactly. Anti-bullying laws could be used to subject people to libel, when they are not actually engaging in bullying. Of course, I don't know what would be special about bullying for this purpose other than the high emotional charge that comes with being labeled a bully. You could end up with a backlash similar to that which has occurred against almost any talk of discrimination, racism, sexism, etc. I suppose you really have to start somewhere with addressing any of these social-problems, so the backlash is just a hurdle to overcome in the pursuit of rationality in handling injustices.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 weeks later...

I don't think anyone did or should - but we must be careful when crafting legislation concerning matters such as this not to delegitimise speech protected by freedom of expression. I did not personally agree with the arguments put forward by other posters on this basis, but it is a valid exercise.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.