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Extreme Speech and Democracy$
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Ivan Hare and James Weinstein

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199548781

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199548781.001.0001

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Extreme Speech, Public Order, and Democracy: Lessons from The Masses

Extreme Speech, Public Order, and Democracy: Lessons from The Masses

(p.23) 2 Extreme Speech, Public Order, and Democracy: Lessons from The Masses
Extreme Speech and Democracy

James Weinstein

Oxford University Press

This chapter attempts to identify a core free speech principle that must be respected in any democratic society and against which the free speech restrictions can be measured. It argues that two essential components of democracy — popular sovereignty and the individual right of political participation — generate a right of every citizen to participate in the discussion by which public opinion is formed. It concludes that this core norm was breached in Hammond v. DPP, and arguably violated in Norwood v. DPP. These two decisions and the precedent that they follow render insecure the right of British citizens to voice views that offend dominant opinion. The chapter suggests several reasons for this state of affairs, including the British judiciary's view that free speech is instrumental to, rather than constitutive of, democracy, and the excessive deference afforded lower court findings in free speech cases. These mistakes are remarkably similar to those made by the U.S. Supreme Court when it first started to develop free speech doctrine in the early 20th century.

Keywords:   core free speech principle, democracy, popular sovereignty, political participation, public opinion, Hammond v. DPP, Norwood v. DPP

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