American Elephants


Standing in Defense of Free Speech—Even When It’s Hard. by The Elephant's Child

The Supreme Court heard arguments this week in a case aimed at overturning an Ohio law that makes it a crime to make false statements in a political campaign. Should you be able to make a commercial, write a column, put up a billboard, or make statements on the radio about a candidate that you know to be false, and are likely to affect the outcome of the election? Or is that a violation of free speech, and you should be able to say whatever you want, because they have the opportunity to deny it?

Rasmussen Reports took up the question.  “Should the government be allowed to review political ads and candidates’ campaign comments for their accuracy and punish those that it decided are making false statements about other candidates?”

Fifty-five percent (55%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe the government should be allowed to review political ads and candidates’ campaign comments for their accuracy and punish those who are making false statements. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 31% oppose such government oversight. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided. Here are the survey questions’ wording. So only 31% have an understanding of freedom.

Mark Steyn believes that free speech in America is under serious attack, and I think he’s right. The notion that we must not offend anyone is characteristic of the left—yet ignored when they want to take someone on. (See Harry Reid) Some believe that the fear is not warranted, but look to the appalling firing of Brendan Eich at Mozilla. That wasn’t even words, but a six year-old political donation to an issue with which most Americans agree. American colleges and universities now have speech codes, and some even have “free speech zones.” Two colleges recently banned students from handing out free copies of the Constitution.

Free speech is essential for our country, yet always poorly understood. Everybody is for free speech until it is their ox that is getting gored. Free speech means you can be mortally offended, and all you get to do is talk back. Harry Reid can say the most obnoxious things about Republicans, and we can only point out that he is an ill-mannered jerk who is unfit the be a member of Congress, let alone a “leader.”We can suggest that the people of Nevada fire him when he next faces election — and that is our free speech right back at him.

Putting government in charge of monitoring free speech in electoral campaigns goes directly to the heart of the First Amendment, and it seems inconceivable that 55% of the people understand the First Amendment so little and in spite of all evidence to the contrary believe “the government” is a good and benign guardian of such things.

If you are proud of this country and you care about its future, teach your children about the First Amendment and its meaning, and arm them against those who would take away their rights.




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