The Tension in Free Expression

Friday, April 08, 2011


When the going gets tough, Americans have a tendency to treat the Bill of Rights like a luxury we cannot always afford. Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, says polls consistently reveal the public’s misgivings about the very principles that define our democracy, including, for example, the freedom to burn flags and holy books. Kohut explains.

Comments [15]

Kaleisha Moore

America treats the bill of rights like gold. They use the bill of rights to look back at for other problems. They basically use the bill of rights as a "rubric". The liberal circle has plenty of hospitality. The liberials are very flexiable.

Apr. 29 2011 10:49 AM
Demesha Peebles

In the court system, they have tried to use the first amendment and other amendment so that they could get people off of crimes but in reality, they do not incorporate these amendments to everyday people. As a people we are not completely free. The tension will never go away unless they come to one solution.

Apr. 29 2011 10:45 AM
anna from New York

"It's not about whether a person is 'right' or 'left'"
I meant to say that if "It's not about whether a person is 'right" or 'left'" why select only right examples?

Apr. 21 2011 12:41 AM
anna from New York

"It's not about whether a person is 'right' or 'left'"#11
Well, but your both examples represent the right.

Apr. 21 2011 12:39 AM
Sarah Matott MC101 from Pueblo, Colorado

It's not about whether a person is 'right' or 'left', the 1st Ammendment states that all Americans have the right to free speech, press, religion, and the right to assemble. Although what the Florida pastor did could be considered as a form of hate crime; punishing him would go against the 1st Ammendent. Yes, what he did was wrong, but what about the people at Westboro Baptist Church, who disrepected in the families of fallen soldiers; is not what they did also a hate crime?

Apr. 20 2011 10:49 PM
anna from New York

"There's actually very little call for censorship in liberal circles. The ACLU, generally considered a liberal organization, has steadfastly opposed censorship, even when such opposition was very unpopular."#5
Well, Mort, apparently the ACLU opposes censorship not so steadfastly as you say. There is no trace of Molly Norris on their website either. Unlike the neo-Nazis and al-Quada, American (some American?) artists don't have the right to free speech. And this is ... why?

Apr. 17 2011 07:21 AM
Philip Prindeville from Portland, OR

GARFIELD: [...] This was South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation.

That's an error of omission to fail to mention that he's also a full-bird colonel in the Air Force Reserves and a practicing JAG corps lawyer, which is far from irrelevant to this point: he's a legal scholar and acutely aware of how the responsibilities associated with Free Speech change during war-time, in particular the potential to increase the risk posed to our troops in harm's way.

Apr. 12 2011 02:43 PM
anna from New York

Liberals are "flexible"
Yes, they are all in such a pain when Helen Thomas is criticized. Poor, poor, poor Helen - she will die from hunger, in the street, because evil forces (Jewish of course - read your Protocols) silence her - the voice of truth and courage (again read your Protocols). But, but, but they will ignore (I mean IGNORE) Molly Norris.

Apr. 12 2011 06:03 AM
anna from New York

European laws were introduced after WWII when millions of Europeans paid with their lives for among other things, American free speech There is huge literature on the American-"European"(Nazi) connections/influences and I don't have to expand here.
You can't discuss the issue "first amendment and liberals" without mentioning antisemitism. American liberals (and similarly many on the European left) are for free antisemitic speech and are against any expression of Jewish pride and knowledge.
They are all for the freedom of speech of Farakhan, Thomas and Sheen, but they against my freedom to say that Farakhan, Thomas and Sheen are antisemites, even though Jewish history and antisemitism are my area of expertise and I talk facts, facts, facts only.
It looks like they are hypocrites and prostitutes. If you have a different explanation of obvious facts, please offer.

Apr. 12 2011 05:50 AM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

To Mort, well, obviously, universities are both liberal bastions and have been sites of the most intense efforts to ban 'hate speech'. The latter term has a left-wing provenance, I believe, and is unmistakably hostile to the traditional arguments in favor of the First Amendment. A few months ago, the NY Times, the primary organ of middle-class liberalism, did an analytical piece on free speech rights in the US vs. those in western Europe, where speech is more circumscribed by libel laws, 'hate speech' rules, and hostility to transparency in government. The tone of the article was that the US was an outlier, and eminent law professors were cited who clearly regarded speech rights in the US as rather extreme by enlightened European standards. Cass Sunstein, now with the Obama Administration, has urged a 'New Deal' in the realm of free speech - a rethinking of the idea of free speech as simply the absence of restraints on one's expression, vs. the concept of political control of 'speech' in order (he sez) to assure a greater diversity of voices. Something like the Fairness Doctrine. Not blatant, just subtly manipulative.

Liberals (the ACLU honorably excepted) have been almost unanimous in denouncing the 'Citizens United' case, which, like it or not, was a free speech issue - the product at hand was a documentary about Hillary Clinton.

That's just off the top of my head. A few years ago, everyone knew the name of Salmon Rushdie, but the name Molly Norris (now in hiding on the advice of police) is not known to NPR listeners and others - which I take as a signal of the erosion of support for free expression among the people who should be loudest in its support.

Apr. 11 2011 04:58 PM
Mort Moore from The Great Blogosphere

Mark Richard: There's actually very little call for censorship in liberal circles. The ACLU, generally considered a liberal organization, has steadfastly opposed censorship, even when such opposition was very unpopular.
Where have you seen prominent liberals arguing that acts such as Terry Jones' burning of the Koran should be banned? I don't think you have.
Jones' activities were the unfortunate acts of an extremist who craved attention. But they were unquestionably within his constitutional rights.

Apr. 11 2011 11:10 AM
Laura Desrochers

I was taken by your notion that the press collaborated in refusing coverage to Pastor Jones. There is a term well-known to anyone who frequents message boards: "Don't feed the trolls." Don't, in other words, continue to engage people who are simply out to cause upset: the attention you give them is exactly what they desire most. Ignore them, and they'll go away.

On a broader point, the question of whether the local & US press should have reported this show trial requires a definition of the term: what is "news"? I saw Jon-Benet Ramsay on the cover of Newsweek with the title, "Who Killed Jon-Benet?" and thought, "Who IS Jon-Benet?" At what point does local crime cross the border into national "news," meaning something that the nation should pay attention to and give thought to? At what point is Pastor Jones someone to whom we, as a nation, should give our attention and thought?

Well, he's news NOW.

Apr. 10 2011 10:59 AM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

I'm amazed at the hostility to freedom of expression that now exists in 'liberal' circles. Of course flag burning and Koran burning and Bible burning are examples of free expression. Freedom includes the freedom to offend people. Any freedom taken to the extremes cited by Robert Moore can be made to look ridiculous, but that's an 'in for a dime, in for a dollar' type of argument. You can't write a law prohibiting the burning of a privately-owned copy of the Koran on private property that won't end up censoring Amy and Robert and a lot of their friends.

A few years ago, Mayor Giuliani was ridiculed in media circles for trying to withdraw funding from an art exhibit that included a crucifix dunked into a jar of urine. Liberals at that time went beyond defending this image - they argued that to withdraw taxpayer support for it would constitute 'censorship'. I guess it just depends on whose ox is being gored.

Apr. 09 2011 11:40 AM
Robert Moore from Manhattan, NY

I agree that there should be a distinction between ACTIONS and SPEECH. It is still a mystery to me how contributing to political campaigns constitutes free speech any more than burning Korans or flags can be interpreted as free speech. To take this to its inane conclusion, is urinating in the street also free speech? Extrapolating from the former examples, it might seem that it is. Is this what the Founders really intended?

Apr. 09 2011 07:35 AM
Amy from Melville

Don't believe there's cognitive dissonance in making a distinction between expressing opinions, speaking freely, and a hate crime in the form of arson whether it's burning a religious holy book or a cross on a lawn.

Apr. 09 2011 07:28 AM

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