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FIGHTING WORDS

"Fighting words" are written or spoken words which incite hatred or violence and place the targets of the words in danger of harm. They are words which when uttered create verbal or physical confrontation by their mere usage, i.e., they tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.

In Cohen v. California (1971), the court held that a man who wore a jacket into court with the words “Fuck the Draft” could not be convicted for disturbing the peace. The court determined the words were not likely to incite imminent lawless action. In Texas v. Johnson (1989) the court held that burning the U.S. flag to express displeasure with government policies was constitutional and could not be subjected to the fighting words doctrine.

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