For some days now, so-called discussions have been occurring throughout the intertubes concerning “free speech.” Built upon years of confusion produced largely by the popular press, these discussions are almost all completely worthless, except from the standpoint of giving some people good (even self-righteous) feelz, and other people headaches. Attempts to explain by those who do have the legal background—law degrees, special training, courtroom experience—have been met with anything from disagreement to outright scorn. People think, “Who needs lawyers? I know how to read legal stuff.”

Interestingly, some of this comes even from people who consider themselves experts in their own fields, such as anthropologists, and the Twitterati (who consider themselves experts on everything). Not that the two groups are necessarily identical: I’m just singling out two groups.

Key to the beliefs espoused by non-lawyers that they are as capable of evaluating statements about the legal aspects of “free speech” as are lawyers seems to (at least partly) rest upon a misunderstanding of the so-called fallacious “appeal to authority.” Philosophers can perhaps take almost as large a portion of blame for this sad state of affairs as can the rhetoricians. In the Western philosophical tradition, which is largely eschewed by modern Social Justice Warriors (SJWs), except when it comes to using Western philosophico-rhetorical tools like the so-called “appeal to authority fallacy” to shut down experts who oppose them, the argumentum ad verecundiam has been taught (at least) for centuries.

It has been misunderstood for just as long.

More Back Story for This Article

My decision to write this article arose out of a Facebook exchange. A friend, who is an anthropologist, had posted a thoroughly confused article by Katherine Cross, who may be a sociologist. 1)Scott Greenfield (aha!) addresses the article in “A Sociologist’s View of Free Speech,” so I won’t.

My friend posted the article to Facebook along with this comment:

What free speech is and is not. Let’s not get this confused.

After reading the article, I said,

You mean the way this article writer is?

A little back-and-forth ensued with my friend saying, “No. The writer has it correct,” and me offering to shred my law degree and my (totally worthless for anything but showing that I am not thought stupid on First Amendment issues by at least one group of law professors) Witkin Award for a First Amendment course I took in law school. I had intended at that point to write a blog article on “free speech,” but Scott Greenfield and I began a short email correspondence about this conversation, after which he beat me to the punch. 2)I really do think that one reason I don’t write as much anymore is that I almost always find that the things I want to say have already been said by Scott. Call it a lack of imagination on my part. We both have similar interests; we both follow current events; and I just don’t feel driven to repeat what he’s already said.

In any event, this resulted in a response of “Appeal to Authority?” to which I responded:

[T]he law is based on the appeal to authority. We call it precedent. Learning the acceptable ways to do it is why we go to law school. Some of us learn better than others, and pass the test to become lawyers.

I could have said that better; indeed, this article is meant to do so.

Finally, I said,

Arguments about humanity are a little different than arguments about law. Arguments about humanity aren’t prescribed, like law is.

And I could have said that much better: in fact, my point was perhaps so poorly made as to be almost wrong. I was challenged to explain that statement, and ultimately decided to write this blog post.

The “Argument from Authority Fallacy” Fallacy

The idea that anything that smacks of an “argument from authority” is a fallacy is itself frequently fallacious. Especially when it comes to the law, which actually depends on arguments from authority.

John Locke, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, in the Chapter on “Reason,” identified four degrees of reason, and said,

The first is, to allege the opinions of men, whose parts, learning, eminency, power, or some other cause has gained a name, and settled their reputation in the common esteem with some kind of authority. When men are established in any kind of dignity, it is thought a breach of modesty for others to derogate any way from it, and question the authority of men who are in possession of it. This is apt to be censured, as carrying with it too much pride, when a man does not readily yield to the determination of approved authors, which is wont to be received with respect and submission by others: and it is looked upon as insolence, for a man to set up and adhere to his own opinion against the current stream of antiquity; or to put it in the balance against that of some learned doctor, or otherwise approved writer. Whoever backs his tenets with such authorities, thinks he ought thereby to carry the cause, and is ready to style it impudence in any one who shall stand out against them.

As Locke notes, this method of “reasoning” is considered by some inappropriate, insolent, wrong. From this—and the apparently derogatory phrase “thinks he ought thereby”—it seems, we have developed the idea that appealing to authorities (that is, experts) is fallacious.

But Locke did not say it was a fallacy to appeal to authority. His statement is cautionary. In fact, appeals to authority, when there is reason to believe those authorities know what they are talking about are not only completely appropriate, but unless one is going to somehow become an expert on every possible area of knowledge all by one’s lonesome, they are necessary. What’s important to remember, as this Introduction to Logic says, is that it is not fallacious to rely on authorities; only to rely on improper authorities. In fact,

Ad verecundiam arguments are not necessarily fallacious even if the appropriate authorities are found to be mistaken. 3)Underlined words were italicized in original. Since this blog’s style of blockquoting uses italics, I have underlined them.

For example, while (appellate) courts overturn opinions that they deem to have been wrong, until they do so, those opinions must be followed by lower courts, or courts that aren’t overruling them, or attorneys who cannot overrule anything, as if they were right. The opinion itself might be wrong, but the appeal to authority that says, “we have to do it this way because the opinion says so,” is right; it is clearly not fallacious to do what the opinion says must be done “because it’s the law.”

The Framework of Authority

What makes someone an “authority”? The short answer is “anyone who knows more than you do on a particular subject.”

Courts follow this rule to a ridiculous degree. They step on the slope that says “anyone who knows more than jurors do on a particular subject” and slip all the way down to “whoever is deemed by a judge to know more than jurors do on a particular subject.” 4)And sometimes it’s not even that. Sometimes it’s “whoever is proposed as an expert by the prosecution (this is very one-sided, as things frequently are in the so-called “justice” system; defense experts don’t usually get the same pass) when there is no objection.”

They aren’t necessarily—or even often—the same thing, at least when it comes to criminal law. The court rule leads to such idiotic atrocities as cops being deemed experts on gangs, including the history, sociology, habits, primary activities, etc., of gangs. In fact, so enamored are judges (and jurors) to this particular brand of an appeal to an improper authority that when defense attorneys hire people who really are experts on gangs, the cops’ uninformed opinions are usually taken over those of the real experts.

This makes sense only to those who have either not really thought about things, or who have so little education themselves that they don’t understand how people get to know the things they know to become experts.

Ignoring that real experts are ignored, at best this court rule endorses a view that anyone who is exposed to something you haven’t been exposed to is an expert on the matter. That, quite frankly, is just bullshit. It’s akin to saying that if you watch a lot of race cars, and someone else who also watches car races tells you what he (or she, but gang cops are usually males) has seen, you’re an expert on how race cars work. Or, as I once pointed out after voir dire of a cop proffered as a so-called “gang expert”:

In his job, he practices shooting his gun, engages in “vehicle” pursuits, tackles fleeing bad guys, arrests a lot of people, writes tons of police reports. Does that make him an expert on ballistics? physics? bad guys? spelling and grammar? 5)Anyone who reads police reports knows that cops may be a lot of things: experts on spelling and grammar, they are not even remotely.

By the way, the prosecutor proposed that under the law pertaining to experts, it did. Arguably, he was right in that the law is frequently deemed to say that an expert is “anyone who knows more than jurors do on a particular subject.” That shows you just how fucked up the law is.

But true expertise is not based on simply having watched a lot of cars, or firing a lot of guns, or writing a lot of reports. Would you trust a doctor whose training consisted of nothing but watching a lot of sick people die?

No. You want someone who has learned a discipline, like medicine. Not someone whose degree comes from Wikipedia, but someone who has learned from real and reputable sources. 6)Which, incidentally, frequently involves another way of appealing to authority: teachers. Such persons are properly deemed experts because they don’t just know what a race car looks like going around the track, but they understand some of the things like aerodynamics, air-fuel ratios, torque—I’m not a race car expert, so I can’t be more detailed than this. Medical experts don’t just watch people, or learn from other “health experts” on Twitter. They spend years studying the framework upon which medical knowledge is built: biology, chemistry, calculus, and other sciences. And then they start to study “medicine,” or specific things pertaining to what is known about what makes people healthy or sick. Some specialize, and begin to focus on a particular thing, like “everything you always wanted to know about kidneys, but were afraid to ask.”

Each discipline has its own framework of knowledge that must be mastered. Different types of disciplines require different levels—and types—of study in order to master those frameworks. And, finally, some disciplines can be pursued in different ways, for different purposes. You can become a pretty damn good cook by cooking a lot. But if you want to become a chef, you’re almost certainly going to have years worth of focused, specialized training to learn the framework. You can be a fairly decent photographer without studying the rule of thirds, understanding the inverse-square law of light, or other even more sophisticated issues relating to photography and photographic equipment.

Anyone who said that a father who cooked all the family meals for 20 or 30 years knew more than a certified chef would rightly be deemed ignorant. Most of us would prefer to hire the professional photographer who studied his craft rather than having Uncle Joe shoot our wedding. And you can read all the books on home health, vitamins, exercise; take care of as many sick family members as you like, but only an idiot would come to you for diagnosis and treatment after a rapid 40-pound loss of weight accompanied by anal bleeding.

How Law Is Different

I mentioned that I said,

Arguments about humanity are a little different than arguments about law. Arguments about humanity aren’t prescribed, like law is.

What I meant by that is that when someone (who may be an expert on “humanity,” whatever that may mean) says something about humanity, they are at best talking about something that has been “proven” to be true; i.e., is generally accepted by the relevant experts as not currently refutable. Or they may be hypothesizing, which will require investigation to prove the “truth” thereof. It’s not as if an anthropologist says, “This is how things are going to be with humanity” because the anthropologist deems that it will be.

Law is different. Laws state specifically that certain things will be, or not. Sometimes, they say why.

Basic legal principles like those under the rubric of “rule of law,” and stare decisis, require adherence to what the laws have stated, or to what courts have said those laws mean. In some cases, based primarily on the imprecision of language, there may be arguments over what those laws say, or what they mean, but there are rules for how that gets decided, too.

Nothing about the law in this sense is “discovered,” or hypothesized; it is prescribed. 7)That’s why on some simpler legal issues, computer programs and pre-printed forms can satisfy legal needs. Someone may come up with a new and persuasive argument for why the law should change, or be interpreted differently in different situations. But they aren’t discovering something in the sense that an anthropologist (specifically an archaeologist) discovers a new bone, or finds evidence of a lost culture, or even hypothesizes about (say) power structures in an already-known culture. The anthropologist may invent a new theory, but the anthropologist isn’t inventing some other thing that did not previously exist; the anthropologist is coming up with a new way to explain or describe something that already exists.

Lawyers are not archaeologists unearthing previously unknown laws, which numbers of other lawyers then can use. They may be said to “unearth” a new argument, which if persuasive enough changes some portion of the legal framework resulting in a new prescription, in the sense of “the action of laying down authoritative rules or directions.” But they aren’t “finding” some legal thing that no one knew existed.

This isn’t changed just because more complex legal issues, with a richer textual history, require involvement of those who have not just the ability to read a specific legal text (statute, court opinion, treatise), and not just a knowledge of the context (predecessor texts, position within conceptual framework of both past and current related texts, and other related laws), but an understanding of the system of law itself.

As to that last point, I’m talking about things like standards of review, legal procedures, and presumptions, (among other things) which are themselves also based on previously prescribed rules. So another thing that makes law different from some other discipline (like anthropology) is that law actually prescribes how you get to think about, and “do,” law. But while there is some foundational knowledge involved in “doing anthropology,” I’m not aware that there is anything that says “your theory, which appears to have very high explanatory value, is incorrect because you didn’t follow the proper procedure.”

Again, law is not “discovered.” It is not something that happened on its own by means we have to figure out, like Darwin did with On the Origin of Species. Learning these things is a matter of studying “law” generally, and “the laws” of a particular jurisdiction in which one plans to practice; studying things that exist because we made them exist.

How Law is the Same

Here we circle back both to what I said in the section on frameworks, as well as to my comment that my original statement about how law is different was poorly stated, and “almost wrong.” The lines I implied between making “arguments about humanity” and “arguments about law” aren’t quite as well-demarcated as I’ve implied.

There are ways in which the study of law, the making of pronouncements about the law, and arguing about the law with people who are not trained as lawyers is the same as studying humanity, making pronouncements related to humanity, and arguing about humanity with people who are not trained in…whatever being trained in “humanity” might mean. Let’s just say “anthropology” to delineate things a little better.

There is a body of knowledge, starting (as I mentioned above) with some very basic foundational knowledge, that people must have to intelligently argue about anthropology. If you haven’t learned it, you might as well concoct your anthropological theories the way astrology “experts” do: just make shit up, and convince people to buy into it. And the more you move beyond the foundations of anthropology, the more your expertise is going to matter, relative to the non-expert. Law is the same.

Similarly—again showing the implied lines aren’t as sharp as initially implied—there are different schools of thought in anthropology: diffusionism, evolutionism, Marxist anthropology, cultural relativism, etc. Law is the same: there are different schools of thought in law: textualism, originalism, the “living Constitution,” and so on.

In anthropology, there are thinkers with whom you should be familiar: Benedict, Boas, Geertz, Levi-Strauss, Mead, Radcliff-Brown, and so on; in law, Black, Marshall, Brandeis, Brennan, Holmes, Black (again).

Conclusion

This article is so damned long now that I’m fighting with myself over whether I should split it into parts. But, to be frank, I don’t like doing that, so I hope you’re still here. (Or maybe you skipped to here, which would be a bummer, because I think you missed some good shit.)

Whether you agree with me that law is different than other disciplines, like anthropology, or you disagree, and think they’re the same, I think my ultimate point still stands. If an actual lawyer, and especially one whose work focuses on constitutional issues, says that a non-lawyer’s article about a constitutionally-enshrined principle like “free speech”—and I could easily do a whole ‘nuther article on what that phrase even means—is confused, there’s a better-than-pretty-damn-good chance that it’s confused.

Why? Because being educated in a particular field matters. Because law—as opposed to the text of a particular law—isn’t just something you can Google. And because not only should you not hire an anthropologist to defend your right to free speech in a court of law, even if you did, it wouldn’t be allowed, and that law came into being for reasons very much like what I’ve written above.

So who needs lawyers? I guess it depends on what you really want. But if what you want is an informed commentary on law, you probably need a lawyer. If you’re in a situation where you need to (legally, as opposed to just arguing with someone) defend your right to free speech, you need a lawyer. And if you go to court for any other reason? You can try to defend yourself because you know oh so much better than a lawyer, but doing that would be like asking an anthropologist how to treat your sudden 40-pound weight loss and anal bleeding.

At that point, somebody is going to be pulling things out of their ass.

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References   [ + ]

1. Scott Greenfield (aha!) addresses the article in “A Sociologist’s View of Free Speech,” so I won’t.
2. I really do think that one reason I don’t write as much anymore is that I almost always find that the things I want to say have already been said by Scott. Call it a lack of imagination on my part. We both have similar interests; we both follow current events; and I just don’t feel driven to repeat what he’s already said.
3. Underlined words were italicized in original. Since this blog’s style of blockquoting uses italics, I have underlined them.
4. And sometimes it’s not even that. Sometimes it’s “whoever is proposed as an expert by the prosecution (this is very one-sided, as things frequently are in the so-called “justice” system; defense experts don’t usually get the same pass) when there is no objection.”
5. Anyone who reads police reports knows that cops may be a lot of things: experts on spelling and grammar, they are not even remotely.
6. Which, incidentally, frequently involves another way of appealing to authority: teachers.
7. That’s why on some simpler legal issues, computer programs and pre-printed forms can satisfy legal needs.

7 comments

  1. Sorry, I meant to also say this…

    You have not actually explained how and why the author of the piece is wrong. And the other blog posting you linked to was pretty inadequate. So I’d like to hear more from you on this. After all, you won an award in First Amendment Law. 😉 To be fair, you started down that road in your reply to Phil, but not yet in a very systematic way. Before you write another 3000+ word piece, just remember that the author’s central point was to call out the hand-wringing that ensues when a white man is denied a platform to speak. On that point, I think she is right: such cases draw an extraordinary amount of attention, probably because white people simply hate to be shut up. We could debate the law on this topic, but the dynamics of the public drama that ensues with such cases, and the white supremacy behind that, is sociological fact, as far as I’m concerned.

    1. That’s not what she said. She said (and I’m paraphrasing because I’m not going back to dig up the article tonight), “here is what free speech is, and is not.”

      And then she said nothing about what free speech is, and is not. Instead, she spouted a bunch of social justice warrior crap.

      I get that the soup du jour is to throw in something about white people, and think that means you win the argument. And I agree that our institutions, as well as our individuals, are shot through with racism. But as to freedom of speech, you folk don’t have a clue what lawyers do; not even a small one. Most of us are jumping up and down about free speech issues regardless of who is targeted. It doesn’t matter if they’re Nazis, people of color, LGBT, or whatever. The legal issues surrounding freedom of speech remain the same.

      She said nothing that had anything to do with the legal concept of free speech, but then she said, “this is what it is, and what it isn’t.”

      That is, to the extent she said anything that wasn’t just propaganda, and muddled.

  2. For those who don’t know, I am the aforementioned anthropologist.

    First, thank you for writing this. The whole thing about appeal to authority comes down to this. I posted an article and said,

    HDD: What free speech is and is not. Let’s not get this confused.
    RH: You mean the way this article writer is?
    HDD: No. The writer has it correct.
    RH: Ok. Guess I’ll shred my law degree. Oh, and for good measure, I’ll throw in the Witkin Award I won in law school for First Amendment Law.
    HDD: Appeal to authority?

    This is what was actually said. Now let me tell you how, based solely on this exchange, I think you would have preferred this to go down:

    HDD: What free speech is and is not. Let’s not get this confused.
    RH: You mean the way this article writer is?
    HDD: No. The writer has it correct.
    RH: I have a law degree and won an award for First Amendment Law. She’s wrong and I’m right.
    HDD: I’m sorry, you do have a law degree and an award, so I fold. She is wrong and you are right. Have a great day, Rick!

    All I am asking on this point is for you to admit that the actual exchange that occurred at that point was utterly unsatisfactory on your part. Rick, you know that I respect expertise, including yours. Heaven knows I am confronted daily by all kinds of wild and ignorant statements about human society and culture by people who would benefit greatly by listening to someone with a little sociological or anthropological expertise. That said, I simply won’t fold at the first flash of any credential, including a law degree. As Phil said, “saying “a lawyer disagrees” in lieu of an actual explanation is fallacious in the formal sense.” But perhaps you’ve acquitted yourself (ha ha) by writing this blog posting. [Or am I using “acquitted” in an improper sense? Pray tell. ;)]

    Again, I agree with the basic premise of this post: expertise matters and we need lawyers. YES!

    But I also agree with Phil’s last three paragraphs in his comment and I won’t try to add too much.

    From my lay position, I find the law to be as open to interpretation bordering on discovery as any other field. The Supreme Court found the right to abortion in the 14th Amendment. I think it also held for many years that the 2nd Amendment did not protect the individual right to keep and bear arms, and then in the last decade or so it began to hold the opposite. Sure, no one “discovered” a new clause that had previously been buried, but words are very productive of meaning, especially as the society around them changes and new powers and interests rise up and as the old ones struggle to stay on top (anthropology! sociology!).

    Lastly, your description of how anthropology (or even, “science”) gets done has some problems. One problem is that we do have the equivalent of procedural battles. It’s called, “methodology,” and yes, it can absolutely sink something that otherwise has explanatory value.

    1. You’ve completely missed the distinction I’ve made between something that is descriptive, and prescriptive.

      Our procedural laws aren’t subject to change because someone wants to propose a different perspective, or alter a methodology. Changing the procedures in law require changes in the law. You don’t get to come along and change the procedures based on whether you’re following an ethnographic method, historical, or participatory method in law. Nor do you get to follow different procedural rules because you’re a Marxist instead of a Structuralist instead of a Historical Particularist.

      As for the discoverability, you’re playing with the word. A decision to change the law is not the discovery of some new thing, like the Leidi-Geraru jaw. The Supreme Court didn’t “find” any right to abortion; they made a decision that legislation passed by a state was unconstitutional, based on an analysis of related case law. One can argue that the Supreme Court (and all courts) sometimes makes shit up. That’s not the same as “discovering” something.

    2. Henry,

      I’m the guy who wrote the other post Rick mentioned. So it’s clear, my post wasn’t directed to explaining law to or persuading anthropologists. My post was directed to lawyers so that they can see how non-lawyers have so bizarrely contorted law to rationalize their conduct. It’s to alert lawyers to the stupid crap being spread amongst people to validate their ignorance and explain why otherwise smart people have become so dangerously and aggressively wrong about law.

      Thus, my post assumed a lawyer level of understanding of law. The problem for you is that you begin not only without that level of understanding, but with a Dunning-Kruger level of gross misunderstanding that’s so deeply embedded that you are incapable of grasping legal concepts. This isn’t a new problem for lawyers. We’ve been faced with clients who believe they understand law, and act upon their beliefs, forever. That doesn’t keep them out of prison, much to their shock. No matter how passionately you believe the gibberish rhetoric, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re completely wrong.

      What is problematic for well-educated people is that they’re capable of constructing full blown fantasy paradigms that seem to make sense and yet are utter nonsense. They simply bear no connection to reality. And undoing this belief takes a magnitude of effort beyond what anyone is willing, or cares, to put in. Sentence by sentence reveals fundamental errors.

      Take, for example, your belief that the Supreme Court held under the 14th Amendment a right to an abortion. That’s completely wrong. In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court held that a criminal prohibition of abortion violated the equal protection clause of the 14th A (because that clause, as opposed to the 5th A’s equal protection clause, applies to state action), It may seem the same to you, because you lack that base level of knowledge to comprehend the distinction, but it’s not the same to lawyers.

      And among intellectual honest lawyers, Roe v. Wade was one of the worst reasoned decisions ever written, a flagrantly political decision to achieve a policy goal. It’s rationale is irrational, but since we like the outcome, we pretend otherwise and fight for it to remain intact. There are very few decisions that end up that way, but this one outlier feeds the misunderstanding the law is magic left to anyone to create rhetorical fantasy version of rights that, inexplicably, become real.

      While I’m certain none of this will help you, as you remain too far below the base level of knowledge to make sense of it, and too certain of your fantasy to be capable of understanding why lawyers aren’t inclined to dump law in favor of non-lawyer fantasy gibberish, but as a courtesy to Rick, thought I would give it a go. Regardless, you don’t get to reinvent law from a place of ignorance, no matter how certain you are that the gibberish in which you so dearly believe is true.

      I can’t put you through law school, train you for a decade, so we can have a discussion at a sophisticated level. This is as much time and effort as I’m willing to give you, and I appreciate that it’s woefully inadequate to undo the damage in your head.

  3. I think Rick that we’ve talked past each other some in this thread. You’re absolutely correct in how you describe the appeal to authority; saying “it is true because a lawyer said so” is not in itself fallacious, just as saying “That’s how Einstein described it” would not be fallacious for a statement about physics. However, saying “a lawyer disagrees” in lieu of an actual explanation is fallacious in the formal sense.

    That being said, what you understate here is that the very nature of law being prescriptive rather than objective makes it vulnerable to fallacious appeals to authority. Lawyers do not all universally agree on all matters of law, how to interpret past rulings or whether a textualist or “living document” philosophy ought to be applied to understandings of the constitution, for example.

    That being said, I think the issue here isn’t whether law or anthropology or some other discipline is better suited to making arguments about free speech or some other right. The freedom of speech is not created by laws, specifically the first amendment, it is ratified by it. Even the wording of the amendment “shall not abridge” implies its a priori existence.

    Accordingly, the ‘right’ to free speech is very much on the table as a matter that can be discussed, debated, interrogated, and ideally from multiple perspectives. Law, as you describe it above, plays an important role here, in confirming the current state of protections for that right; anthropology, on the other hand, or other disciplines, can on the other hand identify ways that law might still not being doing service to this right that we all hold so dear.

    1. The article in question—the one that started this—appeared to be making a statement about the way things are, not about the way things should be, or about the ways that the law wasn’t doing service. It was a confused article, which confusion (as I noted in my post) was addressed by another lawyer. And due to the fact my post was already over 3200 words, I didn’t go into it.

      As for lawyers disagreeing, that’s true. Just as anthropologists disagree. But there’s another difference between law and anthropology that I didn’t address, and probably should have mentioned. When someone who knows little or nothing about anthropology starts arguing with anthropologists about whether another non-anthropologist got it right about an anthropological argument, whereas the anthropologist who read it said, “totally confused,” not a lot of bad things happen.

      But as we spread confusion about what the legal concept “free speech” means, then we get a lot of people unable to think for themselves, who absorb the misinformation, and act on it. My concern is that this leads to a further breakdown in the way our society functions.

      We’re already seeing a move in the direction of mob rule. Sadly, this seems to be encouraged by our leadership.

      By the way, since we no longer elect people with backgrounds in law, but who come from the same group that is corrupting the law by incorrectly telling people what it means, our laws become more problematic. And, particularly because we have too damn many laws, and governments that are no longer properly limited, it’s only going to get worse if we don’t actually make the effort to really understand the law(s), and fix things.

      Law is a rich and complex system. It’s not just laws that say things like “no jaywalking,” or “no murdering people,” but there are also laws about how we do things like fair trials, what counts as proper evidence, etc. These laws have evolved over centuries, as we learned from our mistakes (like the Star Chamber). But they can be destroyed by ignorance in short order.

      All it takes is people who don’t know what they’re talking about “teaching” others what certain legal concepts are, and are not.

      That article, by the way, starts off on the wrong foot from sentence one: “Nothing proliferates speech quite like a debate about a white man’s inalienable right to it.” Nothing limits the constitutional protection of free speech to white people. It’s a beautiful way to sell papers to SJWs, but that is the only thing it added to the discussion. Among lawyers, the fight isn’t limited to white men. See “The Senate’s Insidious Hypocritical Rebuke (Update)” for one example. Follow a bunch of lawyers on Twitter for more.

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