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Society has always drawn a fine line between what is legally acceptable and what is not. These lines are intended to divide the view of the majority in any society from the minority. But the line can be shifted, by both the election of different legislators, and in how public opinion can affect judicial arguments, and thus a change in precedents.

These fine lines will often seem arbitary to some: why alcohol may be legal in a society where cannabis is not. But if we have laws at all, it is the positioning of these fine lines that is just as important as adherence to broad principles. Providing that the argument on the positioning of the fine lines is based upon science, and that this scientific evaluation is communicated to, and discussed by, everyone, we will get as good a positioning as is needed for the moment.

But no argument is ever squashed forever. We, as societies, revisit old decisions all the time - and quite rightly.

Broad principles - like freedom of speech - do not exist in a vacuum. They must always be evaluated in the context of other broad, and possibly conflicting, principles, and the context in which the principles are applied. That's where the fine lines come in.

This Daily Kos case is surely one in which the fine lines have been obscured by in vacuo principles. The fine line of free speech is clearly drawn to protect individuals from personal threat. It doesn't matter if that speech is virtual or face to face. The fact that some of us macho males couldn't care less if we are threatened, does not create a precedent for a threat against any other person. Our chauvinistic failure to do anything about these threats is no excuse. They remain illegal - whoever they are aimed at.

To recap: such threats as this woman has experienced are against the law. The fact that many people who are threatened, fail to take action, does not change that law.

All broad principles can be summed up in the term 'human rights', and these rights are individual, as well as collective.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 15th, 2007 at 03:43:56 PM EST

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