Wednesday, July 04, 2018

There's A Reason It's the First Amendment

The 1st Amendment is a birthright of all Americans:
Should all of our fellow Americans enjoy the right to free speech?

Tomorrow, we as a nation will have 242 years under our belt, and I’m happy to report that after nearly a quarter of a millennium, most of us continue to answer “yes” to this important question. But this outcome was hardly inevitable. For much of the last century, political forces in our nation, most of them on the political right, fought to make sure they didn’t.

They repeatedly lost. Could Americans be forced to salute the flag? Kept from joining the Communist Party? Prohibited from protesting the Vietnam war in school? Denied the ability to use swear words, or to look at “indecent” publications? No, no, no, and no.

Yet despite this record of losses, an increasing number of thought leaders on today’s political left now appear to be talking themselves into launching their own long war against the very First Amendment principles that enabled them to argue for the societal changes they so value.

For example, a front-page article in Sunday’s New York Times was titled “How Conservatives Weaponized the First Amendment.” The story quotes a number of left-leaning figures, including feminist scholar Catharine MacKinnon and consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who signal their frustration with recent court cases protecting conservative speech.

Another academic cited in the article, Georgetown Law professor Louis Seidman, recently made waves in legal circles with a forthcoming law review article whose title asks, “Can free speech be progressive?” He asserts, “The answer is no,” lamenting that progressives “just can’t shake their mindless attraction to the bright flame of our free speech tradition.”

FIRE protects free speech on campus. The ACLU used to protect free speech in public, but no longer does.  Back to the article above:
The underlying assumption of the new First Amendment critics is that it is self-evident that progressive positions (whatever those may be) are correct. Therefore, if the application of free speech principles makes accomplishing their aims more difficult, it’s freedom of speech that is the problem. There can be little doubt that Anthony Comstock, Joseph McCarthy, and the myriad other right-leaning censors of the past felt the very same way when the ideals of free speech got in the way of their own plans to “improve” American society.

Censors of all stripes worry that without proper guidance and regulation, our society might make the “wrong” choices, as determined by, well, them.
I refuse to be silenced.  Have a great Independence Day.

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