- Country singer Tim McGraw not sorry for slapping female fan: ‘Things happen’
- Iraq vet cited for owning 14 therapeutic pet ducks
- White House takes credit for drop in unaccompanied children at border
- International crises be damned, Obama’s fundraising trip must go on
- Friend of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev found guilty of impeding probe
- Train with MH17 plane crash bodies leaves rebel town in Ukraine
- Half of Colorado voters are OK with Hobby Lobby decision, poll shows
- HIV-killing condom to soon hit shelves in Australia
- Estonia pulls plug on Steven Seagal over praise for Putin
- Lawyer: Pelvic exam pics cost Hopkins $190 million
EDITORIAL: Free-speech scapegoat
Arizona rampage was not caused by political discourse
Question of the Day
Many politicians can be counted on to to do the wrong thing in response to tragedy. The weekend’s Arizona shooting was no exception. For Exhibit A, consider Rep. Robert A. Brady, Pennsylvania Democrat, who wants to outlaw any language or symbols that could be perceived to threaten violence against congressmen or other federal officials.
In numerous television interviews, Mr. Brady made clear his proposed bill would ban such images as those in which a bull’s-eye or other target is placed over the photo of a member of Congress or a congressional district. Set aside the fact that martial, hunting and pugilistic imagery - even the word “campaign” itself, which derives directly from military affairs - always has been part of American political debate. Then ask: If a mere image, or spoken language using the same sorts of imagery or analogies, can be treated as a criminal offense, what does that mean for free-speech rights protected by the First Amendment, which was read aloud on the House floor just last week?
The subjectivity involved in determining whether ideas are offensive enough to merit prosecution wades into a dangerous gray area. Americans don’t want or trust bureaucrats to decide if speech never intended as a threat can nevertheless be perceived to be a threat.
It’s already illegal to make threats against federal officials. Various sections of Title 18 of the United States Code protect “any officer or employee of the United States or of any agency in any branch of the United States Government (including any member of the uniformed services) while such officer or employee is engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties.” This sort of law is allowable because a direct, intentional threat is treated not as speech but as an action. On the other hand, the use of fighting words by analogy or metaphor, in context, is part and parcel of the English tongue.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, used Saturday’s shooting as an excuse to promote the so-called Fairness Doctrine, the main attribute of which is to use government to force equal time for liberal views on talk radio, where there’s not much demand for leftism. It’s a wildly overreactive assault on our liberty to manipulate a tragedy to control speech.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- EDITORIAL: Snipers from the left target Hillary
- EDITORIAL: The food police trying to arrest soda, again
- EDITORIAL: Failing dead veterans, too
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Illegals aren't immigrants; they're thieves
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The danger of cowardice on world stage
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
U.S. appetite for drugs begets violence migrants are fleeing
Get Breaking Alerts
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
- Jewish woman booted from JetBlue flight over fight with Palestinian
- Edward Snowden to work with Russia on anti-spy technology
- Rihanna, Dwight Howard delete #FreePalestine tweets
- YOUNG: A sinking presidency, deeper after November?
- PRUDEN: A deadly enemy within exacerbating immigration crisis
- MERRY: Handicaps in Hillary's way
- Driver who killed teen on bike sues family for $1.3 million
- Bill Maher blames Hamas for Gaza violence: 'Do you really expect the Israelis not to retaliate?'
- HUMPHRIES: 'Hes the Worst President in 70 Years'