Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review January 13, 2009 / 17 Teves 5769

Shut up, they explain

By Paul Greenberg


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Americans have faced threats to their freedom of speech before. How else did we get a First Amendment except in response to such threats — and in anticipation of more of them in the future?


But seldom have such attempts to limit freedom of expression been put forward in so superior, so condescending and oh-so-enlightened fashion. These days we're not so much gagged as politely muffled.


The various new ways to restrict our freedom of speech, it is explained, are being proposed only for our own good. And that of society as a whole. So say those who know best what we the mere people should be allowed to say and hear, read and write. It's a perfect example of the soft tyranny of the majority that Tocqueville foresaw in his classic study of "Democracy in America."


There are so many signs of the increasingly stifled times that they're beginning to add up to a whole new era of suppression — always for the most public-spirited of reasons. For example:


  • The McCain-Feingold campaign reform act that gags political advocacy just when it's most needed — 30 days before election day — lest we the people, unthinking cattle that we are, be stampeded by a rush of propaganda over the airwaves rather than the establishment's enlightened, approved-for-public-consumption line.

  • The return of the Unfairness Doctrine, which would make free and untrammeled speech impractical for broadcasters. Obliged to give equal (and free) time to all opinions, radio and television stations would soon learn to avoid broadcasting opinion at all, which is how they reacted when the original "Fairness Doctrine" was in foul bloom.

    But now this gag rule can be rationalized in the most high-flown language, like the president-elect's during his smooth campaign, when he subtly endorsed the idea. Some folks will go to any lengths to shut up the Rush Limbaughs among us, though always of course in the name of "fairness." They lack the candor to censor opinions they don't like outright; they'd much rather rig the system.

  • The kind of "net neutrality" that isn't neutral at all but would tell distributors of opinions (and everything else) over the Internet which ones they may distribute when and how and at what speeds — rather than leave such decisions to competing interests and new developments. This is to treat the internet as a common carrier delivering head of cattle or widgets rather than a wide-open frontier of ideas where competition, cooperation, innovation and all of the above should be allowed to develop largely on their own.

    Regulation that isn't working to everyone's benefit will soon enough invite the kind of competition that will. The way the stultified broadcast networks spawned wide-open talk radio. That's how Adam Smith's "invisible hand" is supposed to work — if we'll let it. The Internet, like all business, needs to be policed for the public's benefit and its own, but not choked. When a centralized government decides just how a frontier should look, operate and be governed, it's no longer a frontier but a planned development.

  • College speech codes, it seems, we will always have with us, no matter how clear it becomes that they restrict expression rather than encourage it. That they should flourish on some of the most prestigious campuses in the country is evidence of the sad state of real dialogue within the American university. There was a time when it was considered a truism that the best answer to a bad idea was a better one; now the arbiters of thought take it upon themselves to decide which ideas are good enough to be expressed and which must be suppressed. That's not debate; it's indoctrination.

  • Then there are those laws that deny Americans' right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," to use the First Amendment's phrase. Oklahoma's attorney general, Drew Edmondson, has been hounding Paul Jacob — a nationally known advocate of term limits — for daring to circulate petitions in that state.


Mr. Jacob's petitions seek to limit legislators' free-spending ways, but Oklahoma has a law barring nonresidents from gathering signatures for such petitions. Or at least it did have. The Tenth Circuit of Appeals, following the lead of the Sixth and Ninth Circuits, has struck down Oklahoma's law as a violation of "core political speech." Chalk one up for the First Amendment. And yet Oklahoma's attorney general continues to prosecute/persecute Paul Jacob; his office says General Edmondson may appeal the Tenth Circuit's ruling.


The moral of the story: The rights of Americans are never won once and for all. They must be defended again and again, for eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty. It takes only a cursory survey at the varied challenges to the First Amendment in our oh-so-enlightened time to reveal that, when it comes to being gagged, Paul Jacob has got a lot of company.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

Paul Greenberg Archives

© 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles