Headlines of Yore

One century ago, Philadelphia was ground zero in the battle to define free speech

As World War I raged, the local Socialist Party came under fire — and sparked a challenge to the Espionage Act.

Everett Collection

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In 1917, a Philly police officer who’d infiltrated a Socialist Party meeting set off a string of events that would bring about a landmark civil liberties decision.

The famous metaphor about the potential danger posed by shouting “fire” in a crowded theater came from a case stemming from those events, in the opinion written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes — who eventually became an unlikely champion of free speech.

Here’s the thread explaining how it all went down.

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