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Who Needs Free Speech, Anyway?

Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2006 12:28 PM

Newt Gingrich spoke at a banquet honoring free speech advocates and floated this trial balloon: that in order to fight terrorism, we might need a different set of rules, and might have to 'rethink' freedom of speech.

And we need to do it, "� before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade."

The above horror made possible by the internet, of course. And We All Know that if we suppress bad ideas, they go away. Has anyone noticed that terrorism flourishes quite nicely in the absence of democracy and freedom of speech?

Apparently, Mr. Gingrich has not.

And if we are still at risk of losing a city, what the hell have we been doing for the past five years? What new idiocy will America be asked to swallow in the name of protecting us from the enemy?

Gingrich would have you believe that sacrificing freedom of speech is penultimate wisdom. Forget the slippery slope, let's just 'rethink' it. Clearly, we'd have to defend ourselves from ecoterrorists, so sites propagating everything from PETA's anti-fur agenda to advocating global warming would have to be monitored, restricted, or censored. Next, let's add those pesky left-leaning bloggers; reality is so much more convivial when it conforms to your views.

And since freedom of speech is the crux of the First Amendment, there will doubtless be an impact on the other freedoms guaranteed therein ��of religion, the press, the right to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for redress (which has already been curtailed by the Military Commissions Act). Then there's mission creep � since we're going to monitor and restrict the internet, we might as well go after the online pornographers, child molesters, and copyright violators.

Frankly, I want the wannabe nutjobs to be able to post their rantings on the net. I want them to be noticeable, so their idiocy can be exposed and their numbers counted. Terrorism is already a crime and can be prosecuted as one.

Doubtless, there will be conservative trolls lining up to sing Gingrich's praises and insist that my musings are nothing more than liberal whining, because no one has taken anything away from me. I've not been thrown in a prison, tortured, or had my public voice taken away.

It's the old, 'if you're doing nothing wrong, you don't need to worry' argument. (If you're doing nothing wrong, why do you have curtains on your windows? Why do you use envelopes and not postcards? Why do you have locks on your doors?)

The definition of wrong lay in the hands of people in power, and is subject to change. If you're willing to gamble that your freedom of speech won't be impacted, that's your choice.

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