April 29, 2006
More than a theory?
At the risk of stating the obvious, this country wasn't founded as a land of submission, and the First Amendment wasn't intended as a theory never to be put into practice. (Unlike the Stalin Constitution [link from Patrick Crozier at Samizdata] which recited that "freedom of speech" is "guaranteed by law.")
I've often marveled, though, over the contrast between the theory and practice of free speech. As we all know, the right to sound off and criticize what we don't like is part of our birthright. When the target of the criticism is government conduct, why, the First Amendment is paramount.
That's the theory. Put it into practice and you might find that what we call "the government" consists not of an impartial and fair body of neutral parties steeped in the culture of the founding fathers, but people. Often powerful, politically motivated activists with biases and axes to grind. Like most people, they don't take kindly to criticism, but unlike most people, they have the power of the state behind them. (And the trusty but rusty First Amendment is the only restraint on their power.)
A blogger in Maine, one Lance Dutson is learning first hand about the difference between First Amendment theory and First Amendment practice. He's being sued for exercising his First Amendment rights:
MBA Member Lance Dutson who blogs at Maine Web Report was recently served with a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Maine. The lawsuit alleges copyright infringement and defamation for reporting and commentary written and published by Dutson on his blog.Here's Lance Dutson's account:
Warren Kremer Paino Advertising has filed a 3 count multi-million dollar federal lawsuit against me for the reporting Iíve done in this blog. They are claiming defamation, libel, and copyright infringement.The problem here is that the First Amendment notwithstanding, intimidation works as a tactic. The idea, I think, is that if bloggers are attacked and picked off piecemeal, each one who caves (or folds) will be an object lesson to the rest. Of course, that's traditional intimidation theory. Blogging seems to have changed that by adding a new defense strategy along the lines of "an attack on one is an attack on all":
....the days of traditional techniques of intimidation are numbered. That's because any attempt at intimidation will immediately be widely reported, and, as an attack on one becomes an attack on all, suddenly the attacker will not be a bully facing one lone victim, but hundreds, maybe thousands of victims -- all turning the tables and defending themselves at once. It would be as if a mugger selected a victim in a crowded city and everyone suddenly leaped into action to help.Of course, this is America. We aren't supposed to be living in a "fear society." Our founding principles are based not on submission, but on its exact opposite. That's why the founders fought a revolution.
posted by Eric on 04.29.06 at 07:16 AM
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