Redish and Fisher on “Terrorizing Advocacy and the First Amendment: Free Expression and the Fallacy of Mutual Exclusivity”

Martin H. Redish and Matthew Fisher (Northwestern University – Pritzker School of Law) published this interesting article proposing a new category they call terrorizing advocacy: “Terrorizing advocacy is a type of traditionally protected public advocacy of unlawful conduct that simultaneously exhibits the unprotected pathologies of a true threat. Terrorizing advocacy contains both a protected persuasive, expressive element and an unprotected intimidating, coercive element. Based on this insight, First Amendment doctrines dealing with criminal speech must be reshaped to take into account the hybrid nature of terrorizing advocacy.”


Recent concern about modern terrorists’ attempts to induce ideologically-driven violence has given rise to a First Amendment dilemma. Some conclude that to preserve our free speech tradition, unlawful advocacy must be protected absent the imminent danger of harm. Others argue that traditional First Amendment protection must be suspended in the specific context of terrorist speech to prevent potentially violent catastrophes. We seek to resolve this dilemma by recognizing a new hybrid category called “terrorizing advocacy.” This is a type of traditionally protected public unlawful advocacy that simultaneously exhibits the unprotected pathologies of true threats. When a speaker urges a willing listener to commit violence against an intended victim who is an intended recipient of the speaker’s advocacy, the speech constitutes a blend of protected persuasive and unprotected coercive speech. We propose a new multi-factor test designed to balance these competing elements in a manner that protects unlawful advocacy when appropriate but suppresses inherently coercive threats where they dominate the expression. In this manner we have recognized an inherent duality of two types of criminal speech when to date courts and scholars have implicitly assumed the mutual exclusivity of unlawful advocacy and true threats doctrine.

Download the paper here:

Latest hate speech ECHR decision (Belkacem v. Belgium)

The case concerned the conviction of Mr Belkacem, the leader and spokesperson of the organisation “Sharia4Belgium”, which was dissolved in 2012, for incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence on account of remarks he made in YouTube videos concerning non-Muslim groups and Sharia. (. . . ) In the Court’s view, such a general and vehement attack was incompatible with the values of tolerance, social peace and non-discrimination underlying the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Press release here

Full decision here (in French)