Thursday, October 21, 2010

Be careful what you wish for.

This columnist argues for "sane restrictions on freedom of speech" in order to "mute extremist cacophony." Such restrictions would prove disastrous for his own freedom of speech.

He points out that the American media do not always deal in rational discourse, and on that point, he will get no argument from me. Nonetheless, he then draws the following conclusion:
So, I’m OK if the Supreme Court says that the First Amendment does not protect harassing military funerals. And I wouldn’t lose sleep if it had said that bans on burning the American flags are fine. That’s not because I hate some abstract notion of liberty, it’s because not one of these sensible restrictions would hinder our democracy. Instead, they would promote a less hysterical, more rational national discourse.
The author evidently loses sight of the issue raised by his own topic, which is not whether rational discourse is a good thing or a bad thing, but whether we can trust government to be the gatekeeper.

Would a rule that any positive mention of homosexuality is per se obscene be “sane” and “sensible”? Would it “hinder our democracy”? Until 1958, the United States Government would have answered the former question in the affirmative and the latter question in the negative. Therefore, the publication in which he rails against free speech would never have seen the light of day.

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