The Unintended Consequences of Allowing Suppression of Free Speech


In this brouhaha over the recent Supreme Court decision as discussed in my previous post John Roberts Didn’t ‘Eviscerate’ Campaign Finance Law, But He Should Have, the people who decry the removal of campaign finance restrictions aren’t remembering recent history.  In that previous post, I didn’t think to raise the issue.

To get the background you may be missing because you are too young to have lived through it, read the WikiPedia articles on Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism.

People’s lives were ruined by what McCarthy did in vilifying them publicly with false accusations and with tying people to the Communist Party in any part of their life’s history.  McCarthy is one of the reasons Pete Seeger was banned from television until the Smothers brothers had the courage to fight the ban after many years of its enforcement.  Many of the best authors and playwrights could only get published if they used pen names to disguise the name of the author.

If the First Amendment had been strictly enforced or highly regarded at the time, much of what McCarthy did and much of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings would have been avoided or at least cut short.

If we allow our side to run rough shod over the First Amendment because of political activities we do not like, we could eventually suffer the unintended consequences of losing that protection for ourselves.

So, hard as it might be, now is the time to stand on principle lest the tables be turned on us at some future time.  We may rue the day we fought to have the First Amendment be ignored for what we thought was a good cause.

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