Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Free speech limits

   Today's blog is a letter that I just wrote to the editors of The Nation, a news magazine that is firmly in the liberal camp, a magazine to which I subscribe (Shocker !). It is my response to something that was written in their "Noted" section in the July 12 issue. The author was attempting to paint the recent Supreme Court ruling in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project as something that will result in people being locked up simply for advocating peace. I wish I could post the whole thing here, but I think that doing so would go beyond what is considered "fair use". I also don't think I can post a link to the piece online since it is only supposed to be available to subscribers. I think the quotes from the piece that I included in my letter should make it pretty clear where this guy is coming from, though.
   You may ask, why am I posting this letter in my blog (besides allowing me to post a blog that requires minimal effort) ? I do it for two reasons.
   1) It's the kind of thing that would normally get my dander up enough to blog about. Certainly, it bothered me enough to write a letter to the editors of a magazine, only the second time I've done so. The first time was a few weeks back. I wrote a letter to the editors of The Hockey News letting them know of my disappointment at them for not just including the owner of the San Jose Sharks (an evolution denier) in their "Genius" issue, but presenting a comment from him in support of creationism in a way that seemed to me to suggest the author's support for his views.
   2) I think it offers some evidence that despite what some people may think, and as I have said before, I am not a "bleeding heart" liberal who automatically skews way to the left on any issue.
   So here it is :

   While I share David Cole's desire to uphold the First Amendment and his outrage at the Citizens United decision, I have to take issue with his obvious attempt to distort the meaning of the ruling in this case. ("Noted", July 12)

Over and over, he implies that people are no longer allowed to advocate for peace, "Human rights activists can be sent to jail.....merely for advocating for peace and human rights", "Six justices ruled......that Congress can make it a crime to advocate for wholly lawful, nonviolent ends", "(The Court) reasoned that the mere possibility....that human rights advocacy might somehow advance a designated group's illegal ends was enough to justify prosecuting human rights advocates as "terrorists" for their speech", ".....a human rights activist can be sent to jail for pursuing peace".

Sounds pretty scary, right ? That is, as long as you ignore the fact that the ruling makes it clear that you can't advocate for a designated terrorist group or write or publish anything in support of them if you are doing so in conjunction with them or under their direction. In other words, Mr. Cole and others are still perfectly free to advocate for peace. They can still write articles, place ads on TV or the radio, hold rallies, have parades, etc, etc, promoting peace and advocating on behalf of any designated terrorist group they like. They simply can't do it in concert with or at the behest of those groups.

The First Amendment is arguably our most tenuous right. It needs to be constantly defended from those who attempt to chip away at it, but mounting that defense using a distortion of the facts is not the way to go about it.

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