Free speech has been a central point around a number of topics, but can free speech be a murder weapon? Where is the line drawn between free speech and bullying? Should someone be arrested for using their words to influence someone to commit suicide? Whichever way you lean, this does create a slippery slope.
First off, let’s look at two high-profile cases. During the Manson family murders that took place in 1969, Charles Manson never killed anyone. However, followers of his killed nine people. Manson, himself, was charged with conspiracy in seven of those murders, along with first-degree murder. Manson manipulated young women into killing other people.
Another more recent case was that of Michelle Carter. Carter held a long distance relationship with Roy Conrad III. Carter was verbally abusive. During one of the abusive spouts, she encouraged Conrad to commit suicide. After Conrad killed himself, Carter was tried for involuntary manslaughter.
These cases are not the same though. Manson helped detail a plan and orchestrated a method for carrying out the murders. Also the “family members” only targeted the people Manson had said, too. However, there were two people who were killed in the Tate murders that were not on Manson’s list. This would imply that they were working on their own free will.
With the Carter and Conrad case, there is not the same meticulous planning that we see in the Manson case. Still, by making both of these crimes, we are beginning to blur the lines between bullying and conspiracy. Now, they are not the exact same, and they did not carry a similar sentence. Manson was on death row, later converted to life, and Carter is scheduled to serve 15 months in prison. Nevertheless, where does the responsibility of one person end and the other begin?
Beyond what we might believe is morally acceptable surrounding suicide and self ownership, just think; how responsible should one person be for the actions of another? If I tell someone to break a window, and then they throw the rock, should I be legally liable for that window? Of course not, because the other person did not have to throw the rock. They made the choice to; I certainly didn’t force them.
I am not entirely on board with the idea that this is a free speech issue. While I do believe that we have a right to say virtually whatever we want, I do not think that the argument could be made on grounds of a first amendment violation. Instead, I believe that we have to look at the action and who is responsible for the actions that were taken.
If Manson had kidnapped two people and made them fight to the death, then I could see there being more of a crime. Still, the big crime here would be kidnapping. If Carter had Conrad kill himself at gunpoint, then I would believe that there would have been an actual crime here. However, now we have reached the fantasy world of Jigsaw from the Saw movies.
I am well aware that these people, Manson and Carter, did more than simply make a back-handed suggestion to act in a certain way, but at the same time there was no actual force being enacted. Today, it seems so much worse to even say anything negative to someone, especially online, as it could be perceived as bullying. Cyberbullying can even carry jail time now.
You are not responsible for the actions of another person. I say this is a slippery slope given the direction that the law has taken and how willing everyone has become to roll down the hill with it. In 1969, Manson planned murders, but didn’t commit them. In 2019, Cater tells her boyfriend to kill himself, but she doesn’t kill him. These two acts are tried in court and both carried jail time. Who knows what type of repercussion for speech is on the horizon, which is why I believe that we are heading in a dangerous direction.
We are shifting the focus away from where it needs to be. These are reactionary policies. People have been bullied, hazed, and teased for generations. Even before the rise of the Manson family and the spring of mass murders in the 1970s. Instead, today we have mass shootings. We are not teaching kids how to react and how to cope. We need to be focused on instructing the next generation on how to live through people that are going to be nasty to them, how to avoid negative influences, and how to find self-esteem.
These methods are merely a band-aid on a gunshot wound. People must be responsible for their own actions. It is about time that we come to the realization of what the problem really is, and address the real concerns surrounding these matters.
Read more from Rocky at Think Liberty here.