Updated from the original blog entry
The Anti-Candidate's Position on FREE SPEECH
Freedom of Speech is one of the greatest principles this country has ever espoused, no matter how much it may be abused. As unfortunate as it seems for sheer prurient titillation to claim the same protections as political discourse -- and as unfortunate as it is that political discourse has in places sunk to new lows, especially in the vile innuendoes and near-slanders that are shouted (virtually) from the keyboards of haters on the left and the right -- protecting the freedom of discourse is worth putting up with the other excesses.
As with so many things, we should go back from time to time to the source, and see if we can figure out what it really means. What does the First Amendment say on the subject of free speech?
Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.
That's it. The rest of the First Amendment deals with other freedoms.
Read it again: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech or of the press."
Paraphrase it any way you like -- especially, substitute any synonym for "abridging" -- and think about what it says. And what it doesn't say.
It says that Congress is prohibited from making laws that limit freedom of speech. It doesn't say that Congress or the President or the Legislature has to protect you or me when we say (or write) things that other people find demeaning or disgusting. We are free to speak, and Congress cannot stop us; but others are free to react to our speech with speech of their own, and even to try to silence us. We are neither a lawyer nor a Constitutional expert, but we see nothing that guarantees anyone a platform for their speech; in other words, if they so choose, the owners of venues can deny us access based on the content of our speech.
(At least, when we were moderating our old web forum, we were happy to demand that any user we decide to ban find another venue for their speech.)
Going a little further, nowhere in the Constitution does it guarantee that free speech will be easy speech -- and recent speech-related violence has proved that it is not. The Danes found that out with respect to the controversial cartoons of Mohammed, yet they (and the Brits) recently agreed to publish a book about the third of the Prophet's nine wives -- after a U.S. publisher dropped it out of fear of Islamist reprisals. The U.S. publisher was within their rights to drop the book (though it would seem to constitute a breach of contract), but their choice will never be held up as courageous. We like the Danes even more than we did before.
You can read more about the whole Mohammed book thing in "Jewel of Medina: Anatomy of a Ruckus," a recent article by by Carlin Romano. But long before that case erupted Representative Peter Hoekstra, Ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a terrific op-ed entitled "Islam and Free Speech." In it, he wrote:
... free speech is a fundamental right that is the foundation of modern society. Western governments and media outlets cannot allow themselves to be bullied into giving up this precious right due to threats of violence. We must not fool ourselves into believing that we can appease the radical jihadist movement by allowing them to set up parallel societies and separate legal systems, or by granting them special protection from criticism.
A central premise of the American experiment are these words from the Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." There are similar statements in the U.S. Constitution, British Common Law, the Napoleonic Code and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. As a result, hundreds of millions in the U.S. and around the world enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and many other rights.
These liberties have been won through centuries of debate, conflict and bloodshed. Radical jihadists want to sacrifice all we have learned by returning to a primitive and intolerant world. While modern society invites such radicals to peacefully exercise their faith, we cannot and will not sacrifice our fundamental freedoms.
Amen to that.