Then fulfill your promise to the master. Help rub the devil out. For we can no longer tolerate these dirty adulterous books. Meet me at the Jordan river, and let the fires of hell burn these sinners and their evil books” (Tubman). Jimmy Lee Tubman said these words at a revival back in 1978. While many will argue that Tubman had the right to criticize book publishers and writers, few could have anticipated that this speech would be a prelude to a riot in Bean Blossom Indiana which left one dead and thirty five injured. Jimmy Lee Tubman had in fact crossed the boundaries of free speech and entered nto the land of agitators.
Tubman was never tried for inciting the Bean Blossom Burnings. Tubman argued that he had simply exercised his freedom of speech. Freedom of speech. The first amendment. This is the right which separates America from so many other countries. I believe freedom of speech is a right which should be defended but also be more clearly defined. The boundaries of freedom of speech should be set. Freedom of speech may be exercised only until it interferes or infringes on the rights of others In the case of Paul Robert Cohen vs. e State of California, the United States Defined free speech as freedom of expression. (Barnet and Bedau 235).
This means that individual are at liberty to express thoughts clearly as long as conduct does not incite violence. The problem here lies in interpreting what incites violence. The state of California argued that Cohen’s jacket, which contained graphic anti-Vietnam sentiments, was designed to motivate people to riot. The dissenting opinion agreed, saying, “Cohen was little speech and mostly conduct”(Barnet and Bedau 238). How can conduct be directly connected to peech?
I believe that John Stuart Mills may provide a working definition here. Mills says that freedom ends when it impinges on the rights of another individual(Barnet and Bedau 211). So then if one read the epithet on Cohen’s jacket and then went out and participated in violent protest, then another’s individual rights have been violated. Perhaps this abstract concept can be better understood with more concrete and current examples. Research in communication analysis show that persuasive speeches can move an audience to action using emphatic ppeal (Powell 115).
This can result in violence. Consider the case of Father David Troacher. Troacher is an anti-abortion activist who lives in Pensacola Florida. Using the will of God and Troacher’s own gift for oratory, he preaches throughout the south and Midwest even able to hold his rallies on abortion clinic grounds. He urges his audience to do whatever they have to sop the murder of unborn children. Since Troacher began giving his speeches twenty four months ago, there have been three murders of abortion doctors and workers in Florida and Alabama alone.
Two more have been killed on the east coast(Sommes). I believe Troacher has overstepped the boundary of free speech. Mills would say he is no longer at liberty. Freedom of speech in this instance has denied freedom and even life to individuals. Paul Hill believed in Troacher’s message. In fact, he believed in it so strongly that he shot and murdered an abortion clinic doctor and his driver in 1994. Hill was tried and convicted of first degree murder and was sentenced to death. Hill is currently using his death sentence as a persuasive tool.
He tells anti abortion activists that his death will be a symbol of the thousands of “murders” which can be attributed to abortion each year. Florida law enforcement officials fear that Hill’s execution and rhetoric will lead to more anti-abortion violence(New York Times). Father Troacher has even told crowds in Alabama that Hill doesn’t need God’s forgiveness for the murders. Hill in fact is doing God’s will. Troacher is using his position as a religions medium to persuade an audience. An audience which may be motivated to follow the actions of Hill in the name of God.