They Were For Free Speech Before They Were Against It

Last week I wrote here and here about free speech and the defeat of the bill to protect such speech online.  Matt Welch has more, and wonders as I did why Democrats, who applaud themselves for their staunch support of free speech, have suddenly abandoned the cause:

I was reminded of that neat bit of self-delusion yesterday when reading news
that House Democrats had followed The New York Times' odious
to kill
the Online
Freedom of Speech Act
, which would have exempted weblogs from Federal
Election Commission campaign finance rules. Once again, the party supported by
people who truly do believe they and they alone care deeply about free speech
has casually stomped on the freedom to speak.

The bill itself would have placed an extra layer of statutory protection over
what should already be (but isn't) protected by the First Amendment"”the right to
buy political advertisements online. As the mess of appalling FEC rules
currently stand, nobody can
legally purchase a broadcast, satellite, or cable advertisement that even
mentions a candidate for federal office within 60 days of a general election (30
days for a primary), unless he or she sets up or joins a political action
committee (PAC) and agrees to abide by the heavy regulations that govern PACs'
funding and disclosure....

I am a friend of free speech, they assure us at every turn, but we
need to draw lines
, because when yucky people spend money to communicate a
political message through the news media, it's just like child pornography,
reckless endangerment, and intellectual property theft. Combine this attitude
with a general cluelessness about the unintended speech-impairing
of FEC rule-making, and you get the obscene sight of the New
York Times
editorial board, which bathed itself and Judith Miller in the holy
waters of the First Amendment in 15
different editorials
, arguing with a straight face that "The bill uses
freedom of speech as a fig leaf."

While I took some shots at the NY Times myself, observing that they seem to be just like every other business facing a new source of competition:  They are running to the government to get the state to quash the upstarts.  However, I missed the wonderful irony that Welch found.  Consider the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

It is indeed amazing that the NY Times believes that these words protect them from cooperating with a criminal investigation and allow them to ignore subpoenas, but believes that these same words do NOT protect political speech on the Internet. 

Extra credit work for those who support campaign finance limitations:  Find the clause in the First Amendment language above the differentiates between speech that was paid for and speech that was not paid for.


  1. Max Lybbert:

    I truly was suprised that this came down to party lines. Given the Democratic Party's reliance on, I can't see why they would like to continue to hobble online speech.

    Unless, of course, some Democrats think Moveon is a bad thing.

  2. Matt: could comply with the FEC regs, if they found they needed to. They're huge, as online presences go, have tons of money coming in, and the folks who donate to them have few viable alternatives, so the supply is never going to completely dry up until and unless the supply of moonbat loons dries up first.

    It's the little guy running a personal blog that's at risk here. And when Democrats say they're for the little guy, what they mean is that they're for bullying people around and saying it's in the little guy's name.

  3. earl:

    I don't see anything in there that outlaws yelling fire in a theatre either. Ask a stupid question...