- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2014

Democrat Sen. Edward Markey from Massachusetts says the government should crack down on broadcast messages that promote what he calls hate crimes, by regulating content on television, radio and the Internet.

He’s proposed commissioning a government study to find ways to stop the broadcast outlets from “encouraging hate crimes” through their various communications, Breitbart reported.

But First Amendment supporters say it can’t be done.

“This proposed legislation is worse than merely silly,” said civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate, in Breitbart. “It is dangerous. It is not up to Sen. Markey, nor to the federal government, to define for a free people what speech is and is not acceptable.”

Mr. Markey’s bill would not only commission a study, it would also call on the researchers to identify hate speech and recommend how to stop it. Mr. Markey defended his bill by saying that it makes “crystal clear that any recommendations must be consistent with the First Amendment’s free speech protections,” Breitbart reported.

That claim has other First Amendment legal minds howling.

“He’s not going to be able to come up with legislation that sufficiently protects the First Amendment,” said Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, Breitbart reported.

And from Gene Policinski of the First Amendment Center: “Anytime government in any form or level looks to study our speech — even something that we might all consider detestable speech — we need to pay attention.”

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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