Buy a dog!

Hey, why don’t you buy a dog?


No one would dream of calling this post incitement.

Dogs are super special!


That's because it's legal to buy a dog.

They’re real fun, too!


They'd just call it a suggestion.

Dogs need a lot of love – but they give even more in return!


If your new dog bit someone, no one would say that I was responsible for that.

Dogs are always faithful!


Nor would anyone say that I owe you money for dog food, vet's bills, etc.

Dogs love going for walks, and walking is a great way to stay in shape!


You are the one who decided to buy a dog.

Dogs come in lots of different colours!


You do believe in personal responsiblity, don't you?

Dogs are man’s best friend, and everyone needs a best friend!


How is it that a change in terminology can turn you into a robot?


  15 comments for “Buy a dog!

  1. simongibbs
    Aug 17, 2015 at 7:04 am

    No. You’ve lost me.

    • Aug 17, 2015 at 11:43 am

      The captions underneath the dog pictures:

      “No one would dream of calling this post incitement. That’s because it’s legal to buy a dog. They would just call it a suggestion. If your new dog bit someone, no one would say that I was responsible for that. Nor would anyone say that I owe you money for dog food, vet’s bills, etc. You are the one who decided to buy a dog. You do believe in “personal responsiblity”, don’t you? How is it that a change in terminology can turn you into a robot?”

      Between the dog pictures there’s some nonsense about how great dogs are. The post is tagged ‘Free Speech’.

      The argument – ie, the stuff in captions – is that “suggestions” and “incitement” are identical in themselves; the alleged difference between them is actually a difference between the legal status of the acts “suggested/incited”. (If buying a dog actually was illegal, the post would be incitement, although that wouldn’t change anything about the post itself.)

      If this is true, then free speech absolutists whose position depends on “personal responsibility”, but whose absolutism comes to a halt at “incitement”, have a problem. If there really is a distinction between suggestions and incitement such that inciting speech must be prohibited, then what becomes of “personal responsibility”? And if we no longer have “personal responsibility” to fall back on, what then is our case for “free speech”?

      I hope this clears things up.

  2. Julie near Chicago
    Aug 18, 2015 at 7:12 am

    Never mind all the philosophico-political jabber, Rocco, I LOVE the dogs! πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

    PS. The p-p jabber ain’t that bad neither. Very creative. :>)

    • Aug 18, 2015 at 10:14 am

      Thank you, Julie.

  3. Julie near Chicago
    Aug 18, 2015 at 7:47 am

    Although, I will have to give some thought to your argument.

    It’s a variant of the ongoing discussion of whether it’s appropriate to hold Marx responsible for the horrors of the Gulag and the Killing Fields and so forth.

    It’s a question of how far we ought (according to our individual lights) to consider ourselves responsible for the unforeseen consequences of our acts. And among those consequences, inevitably, some will be good and some not–even varying according to who is experiencing a given consequence.

    I suppose that at this point my thinking “aloud” is not directly to your point, but your argument above does raise the issue, at least to my mind.

    Perhaps what you’re really trying to say, obliquely, is along the lines of, “How the heck can anybody who believes in free speech believe in the legal concept of ‘incitement’!”

    If so, I’ll offer the well-established fact that it’s perfectly possible to get crowds lathered up, which means the adrenaline surge in each person is felt by the next person and more and more the individuals are overtaken by emotion. And as a result, sometimes, you get real mob violence…many, many examples…because many people in the crowd don’t notice what is happening to them, or if they do they are already past the point where they can control themselves with their own reason.

    It can work the other way too, of course. You can whip up a crowd into a joyous frame of mind. This might be channelled, for instance, into working together toward some genuinely desirable political goal. Or to get the crowd to go caroling at Christmas!

    And there I’ll leave it for now, as my bed is calling to me sweetly. :>)

    • Aug 18, 2015 at 10:54 am

      “Personal responsibility” is the thing, Julie.

      Over here (and I’m sure this is true of America, too) whenever the gov talks about cracking down on some form of extremism or other, the knee-jerk response of free speech zealots is to come out against it because “people are responsible for their own decisions; they must be trusted to make their own decisions in a modern liberal society; they’re not machines mechanically carrying out the last thing they heard, etc, etc”. And so we must let racists give public speeches, because JS Mill once said something about that being the way to deal with racists.

      Well, fine. But if that is true then free speech zealots must also oppose incitement. In my example: if buying dogs was suddenly outlawed then I am inciting people. Very bad. But what has changed? Not what I have said, not my act, but the gov’s opinion of it – something wholly accidental. But if people are personally responsible for their decisions, why should the gov’s opinion of an act change that? How can it change that? And yet somehow it must if the suggestion/incitement distinction is a real one. But then how can we defend free speech (or any other “right” for that matter) on the grounds of “personal responsibility” if saying bad things turns people into golems? Perhaps we should ban racists from speaking in public after all.

      • Julie near Chicago
        Aug 18, 2015 at 9:56 pm

        Probably we’re somewhat at cross-purposes here, Rocco. As a strong free-speech advocate myself, I certainly would not want to ban “racist” (quotes because by now, wotthe’ell does “racist” even mean?) speech just because it’s “racist.” On the other hand, as just one example, crowds really can be whipped up to violence by the right speech given by the right orator at the right time: examples abound. It’s all very well to say the individual crowd members are responsible for their reactions and their ensuing actions; this is perfectly true. At the same time, it’s fairly predictable in some cases that there will be violence and in other cases not, humans being humans.

        Incitement–successful incitement–is therefore a real phenomenon, and to say that it is mere “suggestion” under a different name is to miss an important distinction.

        There’s not a bright line, so those writing laws, and ultimately we citizens ourselves, have to find (or devise) a clear, if somewhat arbitrary, definition of “incitement” as a legal term that will exclude speech or other expression that could even conceivably not function as an incitement to equally well-defined and narrow crimes.

        (Even if this were Saudi Arabia and dogs were illegal, I don’t think your dog-buying pitch would rise to the level of incitement, although it might inspire a few young hotheads to go get one just to stick it to Authority. I hope. Any more than the Marlboro Man ads could be said to “incite” people to smoke, though admittedly (1) smoking wasn’t and still isn’t illegal per se, and (2) Marlboros reek. πŸ™‚ )

  4. Julie near Chicago
    Aug 18, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    Further, Rocco, I just realized I’m not sure of your meaning when you write “…free speech zealots must also oppose incitement. In my example….” I took you to mean that we must oppose the very idea of making “incitement” a crime. But perhaps you meant we must oppose the act known as “incitement,” though not necessarily by making it a crime to engage in that act.

    Hm. Let’s consider “Falsely crying FIRE! in a crowded theatre.” Well, the record shows that whether or not the cry is false, people can be trampled to death in response to it. Yet they are after all individuals and have good stuff like Free Will, they are NOT golem, so if any of them choose to panic or shove or trample others in a rush to escape, it’s not the fault of the cryer; it’s the fault (or at least the doing) of those individuals. Theirs is the responsibility. No?

    Which brings us, ineluctably, to Aristotle’s Four Causes. Is the explosion because of the match, the gasoline-air mixture, the lighter of the match, or whatever one might say the End or Final Cause is in this case? Actual, the usual legal “But for –” argument doesn’t work; if any of those factors had been absent, the explosion wouldn’t have occurred. It took their confluence to cause it.

    In the same way, it takes the confluence of a rousing speech (the proof being that it does rouse), a rousing orator giving it, and a crowd containing some critical mass of susceptible individuals.

    The result is the fault of all of them.

    Suggestion, enticement, incitement … related concepts, but not the same concept. As a matter of fact, the Marlboro Man is really an example of enticement.

    Meanwhile, if the Muslims want to make dog-buying illegal, we Westerners should be “inciting” them to do the crime for all we’re worth. Dogs are soothing and usually cool the fiery temperament.

    • Aug 19, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      Yeah, to be perfectly clear, Julie, I mean that “….free speech zealots must also oppose the criminalisation of ‘incitement’.”

      And in the continued interest of clarity:

      The purpose of the piece is merely to highlight the tension between the typical defence of “free speech” and the usual view of “incitement”; to draw attention to the tension between saying the government must not prevent us from hearing this or reading that because men are not golems and saying that of course the government must prevent us from hearing this and reading that because men are golems.

      For instance, I must not be prevented from publishing, say, an article on the joys of gay-bashing, because the idea that you would read it and immediately go out hunting for gays is ridiculous, an example of the discredited “media effects” theory and so on. On the other hand I must not be allowed to whisper in your ear, or address you from a podium, or tweet, about how wonderful gaybashing is and how you really must give it a try, because that would be inciting you to commit a horrible crime. In the former case you are assumed to be able to make your own decisions and you should be allowed to do so, in the latter… not so much – and by “free speech absolutists” none the less! And what does the average free speech absolutist base this absolutism on? The belief that men are able to make their own decisions and they should be allowed to do so.

      Now, Julie, if crowds are just one of any number of examples of situations where men can be whipped up (or what-have-you) to commit this or that – and I’m not saying this isn’t true – how solid can our defence of free speech be? If men are sometimes golems, when are they not golems? Perhaps they are golems most of the time; and if the government suspects this and acts accordingly, who are we to argue?

  5. Julie near Chicago
    Aug 19, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Oh, dear. Let me be perfectly clear. I’m NOT saying that “incitement” should be illegal. What I’m saying is that we need to be aware of the facts of the matter, those that argue against it AND those that argue for it, in order to have a more solid basis first for our own opinions on the matter and then in order to make the strongest case possible to those who disagree with us.

    • Aug 19, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      I agree.

      • Julie near Chicago
        Aug 19, 2015 at 11:56 pm


        . . .

        However, if you or anyone really thinks that media presentations of whatever sort don’t influence some individuals to do bad and some to do good — I disagree, although the effect might be “statistically negligible.”

        In the first case, one might call the presentation “incitement,” I suppose. In the seccond case, we call it “inspiration.” “I was inspired to do this [admirable or heroic or helpful or self-improving or otherwise praiseworthy] thing by [ whomever’s story, after I saw the movie/read the book/noticed an article about him/her/them ].”

        In fact that’s what rallies are intended to do — enlist support for X, for better or worse depending on X (as well as generally helping with PR and/or propaganda, although I’ll concede that rallies as such aren’t media presentations. However, their organizers and funders generally do hope that the news media will show up and will show the public how strong the movement is, and how much it has The Good in mind. To the extent they are successful, others are inspired/incited to join up, or to emulate the rallying persons — and these are positive acts that often enough go beyond mere talk.

        I’m pretty sure also that there were reports that in fact violent attacks on persons, and/or riots, did occur after the movie New Jack City came out. And I’m equally sure I’ve read stories about people who were inspired to commit murder or sadism after seeing X The Movie or even reading Y The Book.

        In fact if you are aware of the brouhaha surrounding the braggart blowhard thief (cronyist) Donald Trump and his Presidential campaign over here, I will tell you that I had his number after surfing past a short segment of the TV show “The Apprentice,” in which he gave the impression that the way a successful businessman treats underlings is to be unconscionably dictatorial, rude, and nasty to them. A society does grow less civil as the entertainments provided to it embrace civil behavior less and less, and glamourize incivility more and more.

        Ayn Rand pointed out long ago that the movies — the Westerns and the mysteries of the time — were in fact morality plays, which was part of what made them interesting and even perhaps valuable, as they showed heroism and promoted virtue. Remember, I’m talking about Miss R. here, so she did not have in mind some “vulgar” idea of virtue. She meant acting according to the highest principles of social behavior that the characters were capable of, chiefly the principle of justice (as opposed to “self-sacrifice”). This despite the fact that the “hero” might well have been more of an anti-hero (Rick Blaine), or that the situation might have amounted to a contest between rival bad guys. Sometimes there was NO saving grace, and everybody came to a bad end (Bogie again: Treasure of the Sierra Madre, unless my memory is as full of holes as I suspect. Terrific movie but way too depressing to watch twice, and I almost can’t believe I’m saying that).

        . . .
        The πŸ˜‰ remains. πŸ˜‰

        • Aug 20, 2015 at 3:06 pm

          Oh no, I don’t agree with that stuff either, Julie. I wouldn’t bother writing if I did!

          • Julie near Chicago
            Aug 20, 2015 at 8:34 pm

            πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

  6. Mr Ed
    Aug 20, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    To falsely cry ‘fire’ etc. may come under the common law tort of nuisance or even deceit at a stretch, and the crime of causing a public nuisance. Speech is merely the mechanism.

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