I want to know whether being Violent with speech too can be considered as violence - partially or fully?

  • Well, in most jurisdictions "sufficient verbal provocation" is recognized as a defense for battery, e.g., books.google.com/books?id=g9K5DQAAQBAJ&pg=PA288 Of course, your response to verbal provocation is your choice, since there's no physical threat. And if you do choose fists, then the verbal provoker has an absolute right to defend himself.
    – user19423
    Oct 1 '17 at 9:58
  • Please define how one is violent with speech. Oct 23 '17 at 17:50

John Stuart Mill in On liberty will say that what makes a violent speech violent (construed as 'legally violent', that is, a legally impermissible act to do onto others) depends on the context. What makes a violent speech legally violent is a matter relating how or when to legitimately exercise freedom of speech. Mill's answer to this question is the Harm Principle, which states, "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." Stated equivalently, individuals have the freedom to do everything which injures no one else.

To explain how the Harm Principle works, Mill applied it to the case of the Corn Laws which excited the minds of the 19th century British people. The laws imposed restrictions and tariffs on imported grain, which entailed the enrichment of the landowner class and the starvation of the British laborer class. Mill maintained that if you made a violent speech like, "Corn Laws are evil. They kill people!" in a Parliament session, your speech is an exercise of the freedom of speech. However, if you uttered the same speech in front of a landowner's house with an angry mob, your speech is counted as the legal violence since it could endanger the safety of the landowner's family.

Many legal scholars employ the harm principle to understand the limits of individual freedom and the limits of legitimate forceful interference of the government in the actions of individuals.

  • What if Violent speech, though doesn't cause physical pain to other but mental, emotional or psychological pain.
    – Mr. Sigma.
    Sep 30 '17 at 4:12
  • 3
    It sounds like we need to define "violent." If you define violence as physical harm only, then your question has nothing to do with psychological pain. The answer above includes the passage "Corn Laws are evil," which sounds like an attack on an idea or principle, not a physical blow. I'm therefore guessing that the poster, like me, considers mental harm violence. That's why some people emphasize PHYSICAL violence vs PSYCHOLOGICAL violence. Oct 1 '17 at 3:12

I up voted Nanhee Byrnes' answer, but I have a couple things to add.

First, I want to emphasize the obvious: If you literally direct people to do violence, then you are clearly linked to the resulting violence. For example, if you give a speech demonizing Muslims, then urge people to go out and beat up their Muslim neighbors, you are effectively engaging in violence.

In fact, people can be prosecuted for inciting violence. You can also be prosecuted for libel, which can be a very destructive and therefore violent thing.

However, speech doesn't have to be blatantly "violent" in order to contribute to violence. For example, some media rat (I prefer the more familiar but obscene term) could write a piece in which he calmly explains his contempt for war and racism, and his pity for North Koreans who are suffering under a brutal dictatorship. BUT...he then comes up with some seemingly logical/moral/patriotic excuse for nuking North Korea.

How many arguments did the media manufacture justifying the invasion of Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and on and on?

The media have a lot of blood on their hands. They are a major accomplice in all our major wars.

But I would also like to emphasize that not all "violent speech" is necessarily bad. There's certainly nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade, and there may be situations where you want to raise the ante. As a political activist who was tired of being smeared by the system, I began smearing them right back. I focused on corrupt individuals, making accusations and calling them names.

I discovered that words can be powerful weapons; as they say, the pen is mightier than the sword. "Violent speech" when used in defense of the defenseless is very different from non-violent editorials used to sell wars.


Speech by definition is not violence; nevertheless, non-violent speech can cause great harm.

Defamation, disparagement, verbal abuse are classic examples. A skilled abuser can unhinge the intended target by uttering just a few seemingly harmless words. Cousin Bette casually spoke a few words, as a consequence Adeline developed a nervous convulsion and quivered for the rest of her life.

Nevertheless, experience has shown that the harms caused by censorship is far more greater than those caused malignant speech. The Great Chinese Famine, which starved millions to death and stunted the growth of hundreds of millions more, was the direct result of silencing opposing views.

Snakes do not cause great harm to humans as they used to do, not because snakes have ascended to higher moral plane; it was human knowledge of snakes that mitigated this evil. Some humans are venomous snakes; most humans are snakes at various moments. Thanks to moralists, most of what we know about humans are what they should be, not what they really are, as a consequence of which malignant speech can still wreak havoc. If school children were taught the truth about human nature the same way animals and plants were introduced, it is possible that humans can tolerate absolute freedom of speech without letting the malignant part cause too much harm.

As this moment, I think using speech to counter speech is fair game.

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