Incitement in an Era of Populism: Updating Brandenburg After Charlottesville

University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law & Public Affairs, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp. 56-121, 2020.

66 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2019 Last revised: 20 Feb 2020

See all articles by Richard Ashby Wilson

Richard Ashby Wilson

University of Connecticut School of Law; Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut

Jordan Kiper

University of California, Los Angeles

Date Written: September 30, 2019

Abstract

We live in an era of populism, characterized by political polarization, inciting speech on social media, and an escalation in hate crimes. The regulatory framework for direct incitement to imminent lawless action established fifty years ago in Brandenburg is showing signs of severe strain. One of the central frailties of Brandenburg’s three-part test is the lack of guidance on how courts should evaluate the probability that an inciting speech act will cause an imminent offense. In the absence of clear direction on analyzing risk, judges often rely on outdated heuristics and misleading metaphors. This article is the first to draw on behavioral research to construct a systematic evidence-based framework for assessing the likelihood that inciting speech will result in imminent lawless action. This matrix is then applied to the fact pattern in Sines v. Kessler, a civil suit arising from the events in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

Keywords: incitement, threat, hate speech, Brandenburg, First Amendment, Charlottesville, risk, law and social science

Suggested Citation

Wilson, Richard Ashby and Kiper, Jordan, Incitement in an Era of Populism: Updating Brandenburg After Charlottesville (September 30, 2019). University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law & Public Affairs, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp. 56-121, 2020., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3330195 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3330195

Richard Ashby Wilson (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uconn.edu/faculty/profiles/richard-wilson

Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut ( email )

354 Mansfield Road
Storrs, CT 06269-1176
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://anthropology.uconn.edu/person/richard-ashby-wilson/

Jordan Kiper

University of California, Los Angeles ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

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