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Causation, Incitement, and the Holocaust Museum Shooter

Teegeegeepea has some insightful comments here:

“If too much of “this stuff” takes away our empathy and understanding that this is a tragedy – albeit not worse than someone being shot anywhere else, then that perhaps is a problem of revisionism.”

That was the sentence from Bradley Smith’s reaction to the shooting at D.C’s Holocaust Museum I found most interesting. It reminds me of the debate over desensitizing violent video games some years back. I believe the same arguments were made about pornography before my time. From what I’ve heard evidence (compiled by liberal academics who hate America, families and children in particular) does not support those theories. My own opinion is that weirdos are more likely to be drawn to holocaust denial in the first place, and Von Brunn in particular was a producer rather than a mere consumer of such literature.

Does one have a responsibility to watch what one says based on the reactions of the audience? In the main I agree with Stephan Kinsella’s take on the instigator of a riot in Causation and Aggression. I would say that goes beyond explicitly ordering people to go riot and would (if this actually happened) cover Jim Morrison’s use of crowd psychology to provoke concert-goers. That covers people who deliberately seek to create such a reaction, what about a result that is not sought but was foreseeable as a likely cause of one’s actions? The law provides manslaughter and other crimes of recklessness which do not require mens rea. I think a similar idea applies here and is a reason to include disclaimers if you think listeners might get the wrong idea. All of us speak considering the consequences on our audience. Otherwise we wouldn’t even need to bother speaking the same language or explaining when a bit of technical jargon does not mean what they might assume it does. Given the difficulty of establishing a causal link between the actions of a single person (out of an unknown number of people who may have heard the message) and what has been said, I don’t propose that we introduce anything to criminal or even tort law to cover dangerous publications. All the same, a legal fiction should not delude us into believing a phenomenon is fictitious.

Love the last point.

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