Saturdays I tend to use for soapboxing on things which may or may not be related to physics. Today I think it will be free speech. There’s a Supreme Court case involving Hillary: The Movie in the context of McCain-Fiengold campaign finance law. Suffice it to say that free speech is non-negotiable in my opinion, political speech most of all. SCOTUS really screwed the pooch by not overturning the law with prejudice the first time it came up, and here’s hoping they get it right this time.
“It’s not a musical comedy”, sniffed Souter and Breyer. No, it’s not. It is obviously partisan political speech, probably prohibited under the law by virtue of its funding. And that’s what makes it so important to protect. Political speech is the most important kind of speech, no matter where the money comes from. Whether it’s George Soros or Mitt Romney, I don’t care. Free speech is free speech is free speech. “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech” is not negotiable. Period.
I regret that it’s a film that supports my side of the aisle. I prefer to defend free speech of people who disagree with me, so that it’s clear that I think free speech is far more important than whatever may benefit my side of the aisle at the moment. There’s nothing in the political world more important than the fundamental freedoms in the bill of rights.
“Matt you fascist pig,” you might be saying, “your side had Bush tearing up the constitution for years. You have a lot of nerve complaining.” While I think some of the abuse his administration took was unwarranted, I was more than happy to vehemently oppose many of his initiatives in that regard, from McCain-Feingold to the very existence of DHS and many other issues. Freedom is far more important than party.
One of the things I was really looking forward to about Obama despite by disagreement with him on most issues was his commitment to undoing a lot of these civil rights changes.
It’s hardly just the US. The UN recently urged passage of laws designed to insulate religion from criticism. While I disagree with many of the principles and methods of (say) many atheist ScienceBloggers, I am more than happy to fight for their rights to say what they say. And I will be more than happy to do the same for whomever else finds their free speech rights suppressed. Even if it’s for a “good” reason – say, prohibiting some neo-Nazi organization from speaking – remember that whatever you consider good may not be the majority opinion tomorrow, and in that case it will be only be the consensus that free speech is sacred that stands between you and the slammer.
So long as your speech doesn’t directly interfere with someone else’s constitutional rights, We the People must be vigilant to keep it protected regardless of how wrong we may find it. Now go tell some politician something offensive. It’s your right.