Wednesday, March 01, 2006

In Your Face, George Will

Jonah Goldberg shows how to write a column on free speech:

The biggest source of confusion stems from the Left's success in turning personal and "lifestyle" rebellion into political rebellion. We now have in this country a widespread conviction, upheld by law, that smut is protected speech. Strippers have a constitutional right, many believe, to "express" themselves. Indeed, so ingrained is this conviction that every few years or so we have a big culture-war fight over state-sponsored "art" — crucifixes in urine, bullwhip enemas, Virgin Marys in dung, etc. — and the defenders say that the revocation of a subsidy is indistinguishable from "censorship."

And this is what makes the debates about campaign-finance "reform" so infuriating. The Founding Fathers would have seen absolutely nothing wrong with authorities censoring pornography. But they would be horrified by regulation of political speech. That is the whole point of the First Amendment — to protect political speech. Normally, when we debate civil liberty, we say that the extreme examples need to be allowed so that our core freedoms remain intact. From the pro-choice defense of partial-birth abortion to the NRA's advocacy for the right to own assault weapons, the argument is normally that we have to guard the fringe so that our most cherished liberties remain free.

But campaign finance "reform" turns this on its head. Anonymous political speech — today called "stealth ads" — is often censored precisely when it would have an effect: during a campaign. The Federalist Papers, you might recall, were written anonymously.
(I think it is really funny the way we are having a half-arsed debate on how much we like George Will. Not whether we like him. How much. Stupid George Will.)

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