Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In The Cross Hairs: The First Amendment

While I absolutely despise some of the things the far-left has to say about Republicans and conservatives in general, I firmly believe in their right to say them. This is a free country and the First Amendment to the Constitution affords them that right. Jon Stewart and Bill Maher are free to make stupid comments on their shows and Al Franken has the right to call Rush Limbaugh a "big fat idiot". (This is especially humorous to me since Rush is neither fat nor an idiot. If Rush is an "idiot" making millions of dollars a year from his radio program and Al Franken has gone in the hole $400,000 from his radio program, what does that make Franken?)

Recently, liberals have tried to quietly move toward restricting free speech when that free speech is detrimental to them. Look at talk radio. Can anyone in their right mind say that Air America is equivalent to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, etc.? The last time I checked, Rush had not filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Since the liberals have been unable to compete in the arena of talk radio, they want to regulate it. The term "fairness doctrine" has been thrown around lately. This means that on any issue that is deemed "political", those on each side of the issue must be given equal access to radio time, television time, or whatever medium it might be.

Liberals also want radio time given to a particular issue or candidate to be quantified in terms of dollars. Since there are limits on how much money can be contributed to any candidate, speech regarding that candidate would be restricted to the monetary limit or fines would be assessed if the limit was exceeded.

Look at a case that happened in Seattle. The state government of Washington imposed a 9.5 cent per gallon tax on gasoline. Two radio show hosts supported a repeal of that tax. Public support for the appeal was overwhelming.

The pair of radio show hosts were taken to court and the judge ruled that they were agents of the repeal campaign. Therefore, their on-air support was considered a political contribution which is limited to $5,000 in the final three weeks prior to an election. They were forced to talk only 15 minutes per week or face substantial fines.

With the talk show hosts unable to get the word out on the air, the repeal campaign could not garner enough support and failed 54.6 to 45.4 percent. A law firm is taking their case to the Supreme Court.

If you read George Will's article on this subject, he cites three additional cases where free speech was silenced by the opposition. With radio and print media in the cross hairs, can bloggers be far behind?

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