New York Times: Time To Get Rid of Free Speech

The Left is saying the quiet part out loud more and more.

The First Amendment in the age of disinformation - New York Times

The framing of the headline highlights the agenda. The term "disinformation" has become a catchall in the media for anything it dislikes. But it has always existed. The Founding Fathers dealt with it. But now the former proponents of free speech would like to bring back the Alien and Sedition Act. The same folks who lectured us on the importance of keeping flag burning legal want to rethink the First Amendment.

I'll pare down the 99% of rants about Trump, FOX News, Republicans, and all the other things that the Times and Bazelon loathe and get to the agenda items.

The rest is not only disinformation, it's a distraction. Waving the bloody sheet to distraction attention. 

It’s an article of faith in the United States that more speech is better and that the government should regulate it as little as possible. But increasingly, scholars of constitutional law, as well as social scientists, are beginning to question the way we have come to think about the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.

Here's the part where the ground is cleared with a "rethinking" of "free speech absolutism".

Censorship of external critics by the government remains a serious threat under authoritarian regimes. But in the United States and other democracies, there is a different kind of threat, which may be doing more damage to the discourse about politics, news and science. It encompasses the mass distortion of truth and overwhelming waves of speech from extremists that smear and distract.

Whew. Good thing we're not an authoritarian country and so there's no problem if the government censors speech. But don't worry. Only speech by extremists will be censored. And who will define what an extremist is? The entirely non-authoritarian government and its partners and stakeholders.

And if you think that sounds authoritarian, you're probably an extremist. So get ready to report to your local monitoring office.

These scholars argue something that may seem unsettling to Americans: that perhaps our way of thinking about free speech is not the best way. At the very least, we should understand that it isn’t the only way. Other democracies, in Europe and elsewhere, have taken a different approach.

Yes. The approach of criminalizing speech.

Despite more regulations on speech, these countries remain democratic; in fact, they have created better conditions for their citizenry to sort what’s true from what’s not and to make informed decisions about what they want their societies to be.

Better conditions. Such as, say state propaganda outlets and criminalizing political dissent.

North Korea is democrat too. It's right there in the name. And if you disagree, well the government will help you and three generations of your family make more  informed decisions about what they want their societies to be.

Some would say that in a free society, people make those decisions, rather than having entirely non-authoritarian governments make those decisions for them.

Here in the United States, meanwhile, we’re drowning in lies.

They're drowning them in Europe too.

Facts and transparency are the intended pillars of the modern First Amendment.

Fact check: False.

"Facts" are a current media anti-Trump buzzword. The First Amendment protected political and religious dissent. It's still meant to.

“Once a defense of the powerless, the First Amendment over the last hundred years has mainly become a weapon of the powerful,” MacKinnon, now a law professor at the University of Michigan, wrote in “The Free Speech Century,” a 2018 essay collection. Instead of “radicals, artists and activists, socialists and pacifists, the excluded and the dispossessed,” she wrote, the First Amendment now serves “authoritarians, racists and misogynists, Nazis and Klansmen, pornographers and corporations buying elections.”

The New York Times is quoting a radical feminist who argued that all heterosexual sex is rape. Sure, let's adopt her position on free speech. Maybe Biden can put her on the Supreme Court.

Somewhere along the way, the conservative majority has lost sight of an essential point: The purpose of free speech is to further democratic participation.

Not to "further".

This is typically of lefty-liberal distortions. The First Amendment is not a means of achieving proggy goals that they can then argue would be better served by forcing everyone to listen to NPR at gunpoint.

It protects participation as a fundamental right. It doesn't "further" it.

Fact-checking and labeling are First Amendment-friendly responses. They counter false speech with more speech, at the initiative of a private company, not the direction of the government

They choke off free speech by integrating illegal Big Tech monopolies with media cartels to silence the political opposition.

They're First Amendment-friendly responses like gangsters stealing ballots is friendly in that it doesn't involve government action.

There is still plenty of reason to believe that moving away from the American free-speech tradition could make us too quick to dismiss apparently false ideas that turn out to have merit — and that airing them is the only way to find out. 

Whether ideas are false or have merit is not something that some authoritative body or consensus can determine. Nor is that why we have free speech, which is not merely a traditional, but a fundamental founding premise of a free society. 

The principle of free speech has a different shape and meaning in Europe. For the European Union, as well as democracies like Canada and New Zealand, free speech is not an absolute right from which all other freedoms flow. 

In short, they don't have free speech.

Free speech is either free. Or it's not.

When the government determines what speech is legal, it's not free.

Whatever the Supreme Court does, there’s no legal barrier to increasing the delivery of reliable information. The government, federal or state, could invest in efforts to do exactly that. It could stop the decline of local reporting by funding nonprofit journalism. It could create new publicly funded TV or radio to create more alternatives for media that appeals across the ideological spectrum. The only obstacles to such cures for America’s disinformation ills are political.

The cure is political. It doesn't fix disinformation, as the media has repeatedly demonstrated, it just offers indoctrination.

it’s time to ask whether the American way of protecting free speech is actually keeping us free.

It depends on whether you define "free" as not being subject to government compulsion or free in some Orwellian sense via some Ministry of Information.


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