the most sustained attack on free political speech … since the … Alien and Sedition Acts

Thursday, January 12, 2006
I tend not to panic and run, hair on fire, when a conservative publication says to, but I've got to admit I've worried about the same issue presented here: City Journal Winter 2006 | The Plot to Shush Rush and O’Reilly by Brian C. Anderson

In his powerful McConnell dissent, Clarence Thomas spelled out “the chilling endpoint” of the Court’s reasoning: “outright regulation of the press”—exactly what the campaign-reform theorists ultimately seek. “Media companies can run pro-candidate editorials as easily as nonmedia corporations can pay for advertisements,” Thomas explained. “Media corporations are influential. There is little doubt that the editorials and commentary they run can affect elections.” The Supreme Court has found little to distinguish media and non-media corporations. Asked Thomas: “What is to stop a future Congress from determining that the press is ‘too influential,’ and that the ‘appearance of corruption’ is significant when media organizations endorse candidates or run ‘slanted’ or ‘biased’ news stories in favor of candidates or parties?” Answer: Nothing. “Although today’s opinion does not expressly strip the press of First Amendment protection,” Thomas warned, “there is no principle of law or logic that would prevent the application of the Court’s reasoning in that setting. The press now operates at the whim of Congress.”


terrye said...

This would also apply to the NYT editorial page would it not?

Yes, it is spooky.

Seneca the Younger said...

Would it? My guess is that the legacy media would get an automatic pass — it's clearly "press".

terrye said...

So, this is just about Fox and talk radio?

flenser said...

This is why it's so important to replace O'Connor with Alito. He is generally described as a free speech absolutist.

O'Connor cast the deciding vote in upholding BCRA.

Rick Ballard said...


And blogs. How big a fine are you willing to pay to write a political column?

The Grand Canyon Gasbag deserves every unkind word said about him. Feingold rolled him like a kindergartner - although a good argument can be made that Mad John doesn't care much for bad press and is willing to do something about it. Like trash the First Amendment.

Flenser is correct about Alito's importance in this. It's a shame that O'Connor didn't retire in '01. It would have spared us having to listen to the worldwide jurisprudence crap.

So far, signing McJerk-Feingold is Bush's biggest mistake - and weakest moment.

chuck said...

Watching the degradation of free speech in England and Canada makes me worried too. Loss of free speech strikes me as the biggest ongoing threat to liberty and liberalism in this country. I hope that the statute will be tested and overturned or that congress gets up the gumption to repeal it.

terrye said...

Yes, I see what you mean.

I think Bush signed it because it was supposed to clean things up, of course it did the opposite, but if he had not done it people would have used it against him.

Sometimes there is just no winning in politics.

I think the anti torture bill is the same thing.

On one hand they claim there is no torture, it is already illegal and yet if it is not signed then it looks like you do support torture.

There is something so oppurtunistic about this kind of legislation.

But yes, free speech has to protected.

Buddy Larsen said...

yeh, Terrye--it's like the hate-crime issue, you hadda be 'for' it, even tho all the crimes were already crimes, and the federal law just opened a new profit-center for interest-groups. I mean, maybe a hundred years ago, but, now?

Jamie Irons said...


Bad as it is here, it is far worse in Jolly Olde Englande:

All over the United Kingdom, right now, real crimes are being committed: mobiles are being nicked, front doors are being kicked in, bollards are being lobbed through bus shelters - just to name some of the lighter activities that add so much to the gaiety of the nation. None of these is a "priority crime", as you'll know if you've ever endured the bureaucratic time-waster of reporting a burglary.

So what is a "priority crime"? Well, the other day, the author Lynette Burrows went on a BBC Five Live show to talk about the government's new "civil partnerships" and expressed her opinion - politely, no intemperate words - that the adoption of children by homosexuals was "a risk". The following day, Fulham police contacted her to discuss the "homophobic incident".

A Scotland Yard spokesperson told the Telegraph's Sally Pook that it's "standard policy" for "community safety units" to investigate "homophobic, racist and domestic incidents" because these are all "priority crimes" - even though, in the case of Mrs Burrows, there is (to be boringly legalistic about these things) no crime, as even the zealots of the Yard concede. "It is all about reassuring the community," said the very p.c. Plod to the Telegraph. "All parties have been spoken to by the police. No allegation of crime has been made. A report has been taken but is now closed."

So no crime was committed. Yet Mrs Burrows was "investigated" and a report about the "incident" and her involvement in it is now on a government computer somewhere. Oh, to be sure, the vicious homophobe wasn't dragged off to re-education camp - or more likely, given budgetary constraints, an overcrowded women's prison to be tossed in a cell with a predatory bull-dyke who could teach her the error of her homophobic ways.

But, on balance, that has the merit of at least being more obviously outrageous than the weaselly "community reassurance" approach of the Met. As it is, Lynette Burrows has been investigated by police merely for expressing an opinion. Which is the sort of thing we used to associate with police states. Indeed, it's the defining act of a police state: the arbitrary criminalisation of dissent from state orthodoxy.

Jamie Irons

Seneca the Younger said...

WikiPedia has some interesting points: At Princeton, Alito led a student conference in 1971 called "The Boundaries of Privacy in American Society" which, among other things, supported curbs on domestic intelligence gathering, called for the legalization of sodomy, and urged for an end to discrimination against homosexuals in hiring by employers.[1] During said conference, Alito stated that "no private sexual act between consenting adults should be forbidden." Alito was also part of the conservative Concerned Alumni of Princeton which formed in 1972 to protest Princeton's position prohibiting recruitment by the ROTC, and which opposed admitting students to the Ivy League school under a race-based affirmative action program. [2] The executive committee of CAP published a statement in December 1973 that opposed "adoption of a sex-blind admission policy."

So far, it sounds like I'm happier and happier about Alito.

Peter UK said...

It is even more ludicrous than that

Syl said...

All brought to you by Islamic groups who brook no criticism of Islam or muslims. So afraid of offending muslims, so afraid of a backlash against muslims and Islam, the British state has gone dhimmi.

Combine this with the Left's social engineering and the West has already lost.

Rick Ballard said...


I think Bush signed it for the same reason he signed the very defective medicare drug bill. It's a politics of moving an issue off the table without argument. Very effective on the elective side but doubtful on the governance side.

The lack of the use of the veto also leads to budget bloat and the corruption that goes with it. If the Republicans don't exercise some real restraint in this years budget follies they are going to put themselves deservedly at risk. They also need to take another crack at the drug bill and work at better benefit delivery for the same or lower cost.

Knucklehead said...

McCain lost something in that Vietnamese POW prison. I'm reusing something from some old thread at Roger's Place, but he seems to believe that "free speech" should be akin to communicative tapping systems among prisoners.

The Left wants to crush those who disagree with them. It has always been so and it will always be so.

Buddy Larsen said...

the left is 'for' free speech, but against anyone but the left 'defining' it. the definitions of such things have 'penumbras' and are 'living documents' that ought to be 'adjusted' for new times. The left is the only thing that understands this 'liberal' attitude, so naturally, only the left can properly make these 'adjustments'.

terrye said...


As to whether or not the Medicare Bill is destructive, I will wait and see how it turns out.

But I know people who were making choices between food and medicine.

Maybe that is no big deal to you because you have money but not everyone is that lucky.

Buddy Larsen said...

Terrye, I spent June 2002 to August 2003 in my mom's home in Louisiana as her caregiver as she lay in a helpless due to an Ariel Sharon-type stroke. During that time I had a solid stream of vendors come to her door. These were private businesses with Medicare ties, seeing if mom needed this or that equipment or service.

So far, great. Helpful Uncle Sam!


The stuff--wheelchairs, beds, baths, lifts, harnesses, walkers, physical therapies, all of it was almost incredibly overpriced, like a $1000 wheelchair that the rental company would charge Medicare $100/day for--and that we could've kept--along with a dozen other +/- $50-$100/day devices, for a year and a half, without one blink of oversight or complaint, as far as I could tell, from a single soul anywhere. Same with PT.

But, point, I could've filled her house with "free" devices she'd never use, and never would I've been challenged, not once, in those 15 months.

Kill Medicare? Hell, no.

Try to fight fraud & abuse? Puhleeeze!!!

Buddy Larsen said...

Medicare could cut costs right off the bat by having all service 'sign-ups' done by federal employees, rather than the salesmen for small, hungry, private businesses. I know--wave a magic wand.

Buddy Larsen said...

Nobody cares much, tho, because these small businesses (and they're all small, in my experience, small, local, headed by very friendly, helpful people) are recycling the federal $ into the local economy.

Like, it's waste, but OUR waste, and "nobody gets hurt".

It's the well-known "problem of the Commons".

Buddy Larsen said...

All that said, mom, who needed no financial help, but COULD've, had scads of it available. This is a good thing for those who need it, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Seneca the Younger said...

My mother's apartment is full of O2 equipment, paid for by medicare. She doesn't use any of it because she refuses to quit smoking and (reasonably enough) they don't want to put the O2 in lest she blow up the building.