What was the fighting words doctrine?


The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects people from profanity addressed to a specific person. Fighting words doctrine was about words expressly intended to cause a quarrel and is insignificant in terms of the communication content.


Speech is a powerful and suggestive communicative means of communication and information transfer. It should not be used in such a way as to cause harm and create danger. The concept of immediate danger hides the desire to protect an innocent and unsuspecting person from the influence of powerful words and thoughts. Initially, the meaning of “fighting words” was applied to the presentation of provocative political views. The opinion that words can be dangerous began to extend to inappropriate behavior and words that provoke violent acts.

Judicial decisions on slander are made in civil courts, unlike laws and resolutions regarding violation of agreements. In this case, a person claims damages (usually a certain amount of money) from another person being accused of violating contracts. Defamation lawsuits are said to be when a prominent person or public figure is slandered in a newspaper or magazine. The process must compensate for the damage to the plaintiff’s reputation and vigorous health.

The concept of “fighting words” has arisen since the legal trial of “Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire.” In 1942, Chaplinsky distributed the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Rochester, New Hampshire. The residents of the city complained that he offended religion, calling it a racket. Later, after the unrest over this occasion, the police forbade him to distribute the relevant leaflets. Chaplinsky refused, was arrested, and found guilty in concordance with New Hampshire law. Subsequently, the court interpreted the words and expressions of Chaplinsky as provoking violent acts. Afterward, this understanding of the situation was used in the arrest of protesters against the Vietnam War, who called police officers “pigs.” Thus, after the famous court case of the Chaplinsky, the fighting words doctrine entered legal practice.

Since the Chaplinsky trial defined fighting words that provoke violent acts, the Supreme Court has identified the terms. They are to be taken into account before it can be argued that any free speech or words provoke violent acts and therefore are not protected by the First Amendment. The concept of “fighting words” must meet the following requirements. First, the spoken word is meant to contain a personal insult that has exceptional provocative power. Secondly, the provoking words should be able to cause immediate anger at the ordinary addressee. Thirdly, these words must be precisely directed to the present addressee. Fourthly, this expression is to be referred to a specific person, and not to a group of people.

Many court decisions regarding obscenity and taboo phrases regarding words that provoke violent acts take into account the context in which they are pronounced. The court should examine the circumstances in which the words are spoken. If any of the above factors is missing, the analyzed statement can be considered as being protected by the Constitution. The decisions regarding the influence of context on the utterance are both legal and psychological. However, so far, the courts have not yet thoroughly analyzed the requirement that the relevant words constitute an insult being highly provocative.

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