Should bullying be met with capital punishment?
Debate Rounds (5)
In this argument we shall try to define to what extent verbal abuse should be punished in society.
As Con, I will be leaning towards freedom of speech and argue that that speech has more weight towards the person-who-is-speaking-it's happiness than that of the offended. I will also be arguing that what the 'bullied' decides to do with their own life should have no legal bearing over another person if it imparts physical punishment to that person for verbal crimes they may have committed.
Pro can accept and clarify their stance in this first round.
The first thing that should be noted is that verbal bullying is not a socially accepted behavior - from either children or adults. For one thing is considered disrespectful and for another it is considered actively harmful. Another way of referring to verbal abuse is to label it as "psychological" or "emotional" abuse. It is especially dangerous for the development of children, but it is still considered problematic for adult psyches.
While elusive in nature there are several things that are known about verbal abuse: it isolates individuals preventing normal social interactions, it is constant and can include anything from belittlement and shaming to verbally threatening an individual. Most importantly it is not a single event or experience - it tends to be a continuous series of stress and negativity. Which means that it is in fact a form of harassment - and harassment is most certainly illegal and thus punishable by law.
The legal definition of harassment is ". the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands." Purposes can range from racial prejudice to personal malice to a simple need to gain sadistic pleasure from the suffering of others. And the law allows one to retaliate with things like restraining orders and civil suits against people who engage in this. There are also different government levels - some harassment laws are federal and some are confined to state. Generally criminal harassment is a state issue and civil is a federal one.
Either way it's clear that the behavior of verbal abuse is not a free action. And of course it would not be - freedom of speech really only means that the government can't stop you saying something. It does not mean your actions lack consequences. If you persistently attack someone verbally that is a form of abuse and harassment and you can and should be charged for that. If the emotional trauma of this causes the victim to enact physical harm to themselves (such as suicide) the law should come down on the offender like a ton of bricks.
And once again I apologize for waiting so long to reply.
FreedomBeforeEquality forfeited this round.
"... freedom of speech really only means that the government can't stop you saying something."
which you immediately followed up by saying:
"... you can and should be charged for that.", "... the law should come down on the offender like a ton of bricks."
To that I say, the power to imprison someone for saying something *is* the power to stop them from saying it. Similar to the concept of "The power to tax is the power to destroy." Granting the government the power to prosecute individuals solely on the words that come from their mouth is a dangerous precedent. It is also something that is not supported by any of our founding ideals. It should be treated as a "free action".
I wont refute the points you've made about the current legal treatment of harassment. I do know that forms of it are punishable by law. I will however point to the fact that previous charges must be brought up to prove the 'systematic' nature of the particular verbal abuse you're talking about. Restraining orders must be broken in order for these verbal comments to become criminal.
Regarding your point on the emotional toll it takes on a person, I'm including this article (which sides mostly with your side of the argument) to pull a train of thought from that I think is roughly in line with where you're going with this.
Paragraphs 4 and 7, in particular, refer to an argument that can be made that 1) People's dignity -> freedom to live their life as they see it is in danger, and 2) People's right to peaceably is in danger. The problem with both of these points is that restricting speech in any manner is effectively doing the very same thing to everyone else out there. The troll no longer gets to troll, the other people no longer get to assemble without the fear of what punishments their words might bring from the offended. I think it is precisely why we have made it a constitutional imperative that free speech be upheld, "free" as in containing all the good, bad, and ugly. Because simply put, there is no other right way to go about restricting it. It's a problem best left untouched and worked out on its own by people.
I'd also like to point out how significant it is that we both recognize the many different forms it can take. I don't believe there is any safe way to assume the damages that fair comment and criticism might make. Doing so at all seems like a damaging prospect to me. There are just too many angles restriction could take that would infringe on other protected speech, and just far to many participants in it. Literally everyone is a victim and a perpetrator in this to some degree. It is the cost of having to live side by side with another human being.
In short, I would say that we should only draw the line at the physical, and only that physical where the interaction is made directly.
Even on the Internet in comment sections and forums for everything under the sun - there are moderators. If you say something they consider beyond the pale (even if you don't think it is) they have the right and ability to censure you. They can ban you, they can edit your posts, and they can suspend you for a time. Because you see... your rights end where the rights of others begin. No person has the right to threaten or harass any other person - that's why we have laws against that. No person has the right drag someone else's name through the mud - we have laws against that.
And honestly it's not like the first Amendment hasn't been tossed aside to protect the life and safety of others. Specifically if the words coming out of your mouth present a "clear and present danger... [that can be prevented]" Further defamation (including slander and libel) are not protected forms of speech. This particularly true of private citizens who do not have to provide the same sort of evidence as a corporation or public figure would in seeking damages.
That said I should make a clarification of my points: that "street harassment" thing has little of anything to do with my stance. I honestly feel like such a project devalues what I'm arguing for here. This isn't about "dignity" so much as this is about getting through a day comfortably. For instance, when I was a child I hated going to school because I was bullied. On some days it was so bad I would begin to vomit from nervousness and the stress would trigger my then frequent migraines. And I would beg to stay home, because going to school meant being trapped with my bullies for hours and hours.
Unlike "street harassment" I couldn't just walk away or take a different route - I had to sit there and effectively allow being called out of my name and taunted and threatened with what would happen on the bus after school. Because words "don't count" especially if they're being used by someone popular. And that takes it's toll,especially when compounded by social isolation and actual (serious) violence. I still have panic attacks when I recollect those times.
But I would never endorse "no tolerance" policies, and I don't want "blind idiot" rulings regarding what someone can or can't say. I do however want there to be a legal recourse for victims and their families.
This is a complete contradiction. People make comment and criticize specifically to exact consequence on people for their actions. When you ban that, you are freeing people from the consequences of their actions. You're allowing them to live in this protective bubble where they can choose to be offended and deflect consequences from coming onto them for something they might be doing. Physical harm may be something we'd want a jury to look at first before deciding whether it's justified, verbal exchanges are not.
As far as the internet goes, the talk happens under the control of an owner of some sort. They do have the right to modify whatever they like on their websites. This I only see as doable because the speech there is actually something tangible, stored on tangible things, etc all owned by the corp. or privately.
Blackmail/extortion is a very good example and i'm glad you brought it up. I think there too, is a very fine line and it should be a protected form of speech. It is so broad in scope really, that it should not be punished. As you leave in a huff from a business that just screwed you over, and you say, "I'm going to report this to the BBB." That could easily be construed as blackmail/extortion, even though it is just a means for you to comment or criticize the companies bad practices. If you had intent to threaten to report, but would have pulled said report if the company pulled a 180 and resolved your grievance, you effectively just extorted something from them.
The company should not be safe from such criticisms. People should not be protected from criticisms either.
On that thought, I think its worth noting what transaction is really taking place when you restrict speech like this. You protect people only by letting what is deemed by a government entity to be part of their narrative through. This basically takes the people aspect out of constructing what we criticize and don't criticize and places that responsibility in the hands of a government with an agenda.
I don't think that responsibility should be taken from us. I think there is something to leaving people to their social interactions. Forced 'general decency' means no one is truly decent. They were never given the choice themselves to be decent toward one another. They are doing it out of fear at that point. Fear that they might offend ... fear that they will be prosecuted. Though a few might get to live their life free of any harassment, I don't see that building a better society in the long run. I mean, look at the opposite end of the spectrum. Why do you think its more rare today than it was 20-30 years ago to get a "good morning" out of someone in passing? People don't just start being decent to each other when they no longer have to.
Attacking an effeminate boy because you stereotype homosexuals as effeminate may be considered valid criticism from your part, but the government and a significant portion of America considers that a hate crime. Attacking a fat person because they weigh more then you think they should is a criticism, but more than likely it's also hypocritical and none of your business. Attacking someone because you believe black people are lazy welfare-sucking stereotypes or because you think white people are racist red neck lunatics or because you think straight middle-class people are free targets... is not a form of criticism or you being the political hero the world needs.
It's being a jerk and no one has a right to be a jerk to other people. There are multiple ways to effect consequence, but bullying people, harassing people, viciously and sadistically attacking people day in and day out is not an acceptable one. Reporting a business for shoddy business practices is an acceptable one - and if they choose to deflect that by giving you something then it has proven a successful method. It is not extortion or blackmail unless you specifically state that they must give you something of value or you will contact the BBB. Intention matters and is a major component of criminal law.
On top of that you are quite simply moving the goal posts - no one is saying companies should be protected from the consequences of their actions. I am saying that people should be protected from the malice of other individuals. That's why we have cops and courts and lots of laws - because people do act against each other and rather than let people play vengeance games until everyone is dead society enforces something like decency.
As for your question - people don't feel the need to be decent because of the mentality you espouse. They feel that freedom of speech means freedom to behave like self-centered boors. However, humans can be decent - one society's behavior does not encompass all of humanity's behavior. Society's can be polite, they can be impolite, and they can be hellholes - the point of law is to guide a society away from the hellhole and towards the polite.
They are the same thing! In the same way the first amendment guarantees that government shall not dictate right or wrong morality in religion, so it is the same in speech or anything else! Yes, people do have the right to be jerks to other people. If there is a consequence for such a thing, it is not the governments place to make laws for or against any of that and it is not their place to exact punishment. A religion could be coaxing its members out of tithes and whatnot, everyone in the country could find it wrong, as the constitution stands now, the government has no place to tell that religion that it can or cant do that. It has no place saying they have to be accepting of certain individuals into their coven. It has no say in whether they perform services for certain people who don't follow their brand of morality. The government is not in the business of morality! It is only in the business of exacting fair and equal justice. Justice is blind in that regard. Where there is no infringement there cannot be a punishment, and since both parties have the right to free speech and neither is taking that away from the other through physical means, they can continue on about their business without having stepped on one another. The government is not being impartial when it takes the rights away from someone who has taken no rights from another.
"bullying is not about constructive anything" This. This is an opinion. You're entitled to it, the government is not entitled to opinions. They don't get to choose what is or isn't constructive based on speech, religion, or assembly. If they were allowed an opinion they wouldn't allow assembly against them! They'd support a state religion that backed ideals of the nation and push out religions that they saw had no productive purpose. It really matters not what they or you think is productive about any of that. Speech is their right. It's everyone's right.
"the point of law is to guide a society away from the hellhole and towards the polite."
I disagree. I might believe that would come about naturally, it might not. It's not the job of Law to make people they way you want them to be. People will be the way they want to be. Their ideas will change over time. Justice should never change. It should be timeless. It should be there to allow those people to wax and wane in ideology freely without some entity molding them. Its why we traded in dictators. No ones been happy with what plan those guys have had for peoples lives. Letting a person feel offended and take something from you that you never took from them is no different than dictatorship really. Government shouldn't be pushing morality on anyone ... people do that. That's their job.
Espera forfeited this round.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by PatriotPerson 1 year ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Conduct goes to Con, because though he/she forfeited, they still made up for it with a good, full argument. Pro too forfeited, but did not seem to have enough statements to make up for it. S&G was even for both sides; as were arguments (both were equally well-constructed), and sources go to Pro because more were used by them and and they were in fact reliable, seeing as the better part of them were from anti-bullying websites (to emphasize Pro's POV).
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