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Monday, November 28, 2005

One Heck Of An Anti-Speech Precedent

PittsburghLIVE.com is carrying the story about a political-speech case in Washington State:
Two Seattle radio talk hosts had the nerve to say how they felt about an issue and then to offer more than lip service.

Their rants against a gas tax increase, as well as their efforts to raise money and circulate petitions, were determined to be in-kind contributions by a local judge, who recently reaffirmed his earlier ruling.

That meant the radio station had to put a dollar value on what the hosts had said. The estimate of that in-kind contribution of $100,000 of airtime was reported as a campaign donation under state law.
This is the sort of nonsense we can't afford. This does affect bloggers, or newspaper columnists, or radio hosts. In one way or another, most speech on issues of the day can be deemed political. In-kind contributions go against the maximum allowable contributions. In fact, in Texas no corporations are supposed to donate to campaigns. Probably in Texas the radio station could now be charged with a criminal violation.

This sort of thing is an utter perversion of the meaning of the First Amendment, and it's got to be stopped. Limiting speech is unconstitutional, and allowing judges to evaluate speech to decide if it is political enough to be a contribution is ridiculous.

This gores everyone's ox, and everyone should be raising cain about this and McCain-Feingold.


Comments:
Just shoot me now.

This will result in more legislation,. more grief and more court intervention, that in the end, will only result in an assault on the first amendment.

Can hate speech legislation be far behind?
 
"Just shoot me now" was my reaction. I felt like screaming.

No, hate speech legislation is on the books in several states.
 
I kinda have to agree with the judge on this one. The case is NOT about them expressing their opinion. It is about their fund raising without having equal time to the opposition that got them in hot water. There is a big difference between stating an opinion and campaigning. I think it would be a bigger blow to democracy to allow stuff like this. Can you foresee democracy flourishing where the public airwaves can be controlled by one side or the other with no allowance for equal opportunity?

You have to remember, the public owns the airwaves. Not special interests.
 
Oh, pfooey. Look, the moment a judge gets the right to decide whether you are "campaigning" or not, your right to say what you want is gone. I imagine the thing took off. Agitating about an issue is precisely the type of speech that the First Amendment was written to protect.

The same could be said about Air America, which makes no pretense about its agenda. Or Rush Limbaugh. Or a number of other people. Or Dan Rather. But I don't. If people want to listen to it, more power to 'em. Dan Rather deserved to go down because he assisted in putting a fraud across on the public, not because he was a political hack for the Dems.

The "public" may own the airwaves, but that doesn't mean we have the right to solemnly get together and decide what speech is permitted or not. Newspapers have agendas.

Almost all of the people who back laws like this are either stupid or want to suppress the voices of the with whom they don't agree. And most of them are so far left they make Teddy Kennedy look like a moderate Republican. The communists in this country have been trying to get rid of that pesky First Amendment for 50 years now, and they are making progress. Anyone (on the right or the left) who isn't concerned with this is really demented.

When you don't defend other people's freedoms you don't defend your own. Leave your freedoms in the hands of a judge and they are gone forever.
 
I agree that there should be no limit on opinion. I think it is great for democracy, even the opinion I don't agree with.

From what I have read about the case, the issue in this case is not about the opinion. It was about the fundraising

but I think it is bad precedent to start campaigning on the radio. The only thing the law says is that if you support one campaign, you have to give equal time to the opposing position. I don't think that hinders democracy. I think that promotes it. Especially in areas where that are only 1 or 2 radio stations. The last thing I want is either GOP or DNC broadcast radio (which is where we would be headed if we didn't insist on equal opportunity)
 
GOP or RNC radio would be so boring no one would listen to it.

A campaign on a particular issue is different from a campaign for one person. Inevitably those campaigns will overlap with individual campaigns (whether in support or against).

I don't want to be a bitch, but you know very well that most of our politicians (once in power), would love to suppress voices in opposition. The last thing they want to do is have someone agitating against them, or against a particular vote or stance.

And some politician will leap on any popular bandwagon in the attempt to get elected or reelected.

As for fundraising, let's look at the First Amendment again:
"Congress shall make no law ... 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."

What they were doing was very much an assembly and petition type of thing.
 
I would never think you are a bitch, MoM :) We just see this from two very different perspectives.

As for the right to assemble and peacefully redress the government - Would it be ok for one party to use the town square for campaigning at the exclusion of all opposition parties? I think we can both agree that the use of public property for the use of one party without giving the opposing party equal opportunity to state their opinion would be wrong and undemocratic. In fact, that would go against the first amendment because it is limiting free speech by allowing only one side to speak and excluding others from assembling.

The air waves are public property and thus, no different. The law is not saying that a person or group of persons cannot express their opinion. Nor is it saying that a person, nor a group of persons cannot use public space to campaign. The law only says that if one person or group of persons uses public space to campaign, the opposing group must be afforded the same opportunity. I fail to see how that hinders democracy in any form.

The vast majority of radio stations in the US are owned by 3 companies. Do you think it is wise to give the green light for them to exclude political speech at their discretion?
 
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