The nineteenth century English philosopher John Stuart Mill was a fierce advocate of free speech. But Mill understood that not all speech should be protected. In his work On Liberty, Mill wrote, “No one pretends that actions should be as free as opinions. On the contrary, even opinions lose their immunity, when the circumstances in which they are expressed are such as to constitute their expression a positive instigation to some mischievous act.” JOHN STUART MILL, ON LIBERTY 100 (London, John W. Parker & Son, 2d ed. 1859). As an example Mill offered the following:
An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punishment when delivered
orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corndealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard. Id. at 100–01.
President Trump’s January 6 Rally Speech was akin to telling an excited mob that corn-dealers starve the poor in front of the corn-dealer’s home. He invited his supporters to Washington, D.C., after telling them for months that corrupt and spineless politicians were to blame for stealing an election from them; retold that narrative when thousands of them assembled on the Ellipse; and directed them to march on the Capitol building—the metaphorical corn-dealer’s house—where those very politicians were at work to certify an election that he had lost. The Speech plausibly was, as Mill put it, a “positive instigation of a mischievous act.” Dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims on First Amendment grounds is not warranted.