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September 03, 2002

Support for Free Speech

I really want to avoid turning this into a big lefty rant soapbox, but this is almost too scary to believe:

Support for the First Amendment has eroded significantly since Sept. 11 and nearly half of Americans now think the constitutional amendment on free speech goes too far in the rights it guarantees, according to a new poll.

What are these people thinking? Oh, wait, here's a partial explanation:

Seven in 10 respondents agreed newspapers should publish freely, a slight drop from 2001. Those less likely to support newspaper rights included people without a college education, Republicans, and evangelicals, the survey found.

During the Reagan years I remember bumper stickers that said "Vote Republican, it's easier than thinking." Apparently it's true.

Contrast the above article with Bob Herbert's editorial, Secrecy Is Our Enemy, which discusses a recent decision by udge Damon J. Keith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that said "it was unlawful for the Bush administration to conduct deportation hearings in secret whenever the government asserted that the people involved might be linked to terrorism." Herbert writes:

The opinion was a reflection of true patriotism, a 21st-century echo of a pair of comments made by John Adams nearly two centuries ago. "Liberty," said Adams, "cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people."

And in a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1816, Adams said, "Power must never be trusted without a check."

Herbert's position has been proven true by history time and again. Here again we see the American ignorance of history—an ignorance carefully cultivated by a culture of individualism and immediate gratification—sprouting the seeds of a very scary future.

Later: Jason Rylander offers a less freaked out take on the news that people are becoming less supportive of the First Amendment. Very good point. Still, it's pretty sobering that people who are dissatisfied with how the media work in our country would even consider restricting the first amendment rather than simply demanding media reform. The two are very different things.

Posted September 3, 2002 09:24 AM | general politics

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