Archive for April 5th, 2016

April 5, 2016

Fighting Words

trump by hanksy

Fighting words are written or spoken words, generally expressed to incite hatred or violence from their target. Specific definitions, freedoms, and limitations of fighting words vary by jurisdiction. It is also used in a general sense of words that when uttered tend to create (deliberately or not) a verbal or physical confrontation by their mere usage.

In 1942, the Supreme Court established the doctrine by a 9–0 decision in ‘Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire.’ It held that ‘insulting or ‘fighting words,’ those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace’ are among the ‘well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech the prevention and punishment of [which] … have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem.’ Chaplinsky, a Jehovah’s Witness, had purportedly told a New Hampshire town marshal who was attempting to prevent him from preaching that he was ‘a God-damned racketeer’ and ‘a damned fascist’ and was arrested. The court upheld the arrest.

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