Clarence Thomas speaks up against cross burning
. I've thought for some time that we are overplaying the First Amendment. I don't think it is reasonable to say that burning a cross is protected as free speech, nor is burning the American flag, allowing Neo-nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois, or shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Speech is also behavior, and when it is calculated to threaten others and poses a severe risk of public disorder, with nothing good to justify it, I think the speaker should be accountable.
The freedom of speech clause was intended to prevent stifling of political dissent, and promote open debate. But I fail to see where either of those aims are served by telling people that they have to be civil in their protests and debates. Protesters are after publicity and will deliberately find outrageous ways to dramatize their points in order to get it, even to the point of breaking the law and getting arrested. Fine. But if they use methods that create public nuisances or breach the peace, they should be subject to the same laws as anyone else.
Civl disobedience is not a constitutional doctrine. It involves breaking an unjust law AND living with the consequences. That's what Martin Luther King did. And we all saw films on TV of peaceful demonstrators being attacked by police dogs, beaten by thugs in police uniforms and knocked down by firehoses. Those images and the hate and violence they portrayed brought about changes in the law, not the fact that the protesters spend some time in jail. If the cops had rounded these people up peacefully, I don't know if the Civil Rights movement would have been nearly as successful as it was.
I think that unjust laws will fall without giving every hatemonger and crackpot a public platform for his own nuttiness. It's like spam. We made the internet open and free and now we have spam, which most people want to ban by law. If spammers have something legitimate to say, let them break the law and suffer the punishment to dramatize their point. That should separate them from those who just want to pester people.