Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Tennessean Again Assaults Individual Rights

Yesterday, Bill Hobbs, writing about a Tennessean editorial advocating the banning of all state specialty license plates, noted that it is "odd" for a newspaper to advocate restrictions on free speech. In fact, that editorial continued an assault by the Tennessean on the individual rights, including speech rights, of people who the newspaper does not find agreeable.

Today, in discussing the recent Supreme Court case that struck down a Vermont law that placed severe limits on campaign spending, the newspaper made several arguments against individual rights, reaching its nadir with this distinction between campaign spending by a politician (which cannot be restricted given present case law) and contributions by a donor (which can be restricted) :

And even on constitutional grounds, an individual espousing her own beliefs in an attempt to win an elective office deserves more consideration than a donor who could be giving to a dozen candidates.

Exactly what constitutional grounds exist for saying that a politician running for office has first amendment rights to free speech that are not held by an ordinary citizen? The very notion is putrid.

The Tennessean has made other arguments in opposition to individual rights in recent weeks:
  1. In advocating a ban on smoking in all public buildings, the newspaper opined that legislators should "look beyond ... arguments about individual rights." I don't disagree with the concept of banning smoking in public buildings, but I found the paper's acknowledgement of a willingness to forego the rights of others to be shocking. Instead of arguing for the rights of non-smokers, they went straight to the jugular and told legislators to forget about the rights of others.
  2. On June 27, the newspaper advocated restricting the rights of 527 groups, claiming that the lack of restrictions allowed "fat cats" to pursue "specific political agendas." This language constitutes a blatant attack on the free speech rights of individuals. There was no argument that the "fat cats" were corrupt. The argument was that the "fat cats" should not be allowed to advocate a "political agenda." Of course, the newspaper did not advocate spending limits on fat cat media conglomerates such as Gannett.


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