What we read while Joseph Kony stood up to his cyberbullies…
I should start this off by saying that I like Matt Taibbi. His coverage of the financial crisis and other political corruption often delves into issues ignored by most media outlets, and his acerbic wit makes for fun reading. Nevertheless, he often fixates on the wrong aspect of the scandal he’s uncovering, and that usually involves focusing on campaign contributions.
In his blog post about the Iowa caucuses, Taibbi yammers on about how contributions corrupt the campaigning process:
“[T]he ugly reality, as Dylan Ratigan continually points out, is that the candidate who raises the most money wins an astonishing 94% of the time in America.
“That damning statistic just confirms what everyone who spends any time on the campaign trail knows, which is that the presidential race is not at all about ideas, but entirely about raising money.”
This is so logically porous that it hardly needs explaining (but that won’t stop me). Continue reading
What we read on our 48-hour sabbatical from MSNBC…
Exhibit A for why there should be abridgements on some speech: To prevent people like Josh from quoting himself in his own epigraph.
As for the substance of Josh’s arguments, there seem to be three core premises that form the basis of his attack: 1) Government suppression of speech is uniquely coercive and widespread; 2) as a result of its unique ability to coerce, government suppression of speech is categorically bad; 3) certain words in the text of the First Amendment, like “speech” and “abridging,” have no consensus definition, granting certain leeway when it comes to dealing with many issues surrounding the First Amendment.
Let’s start with #1: The effects of government suppression of speech are uniquely coercive and widespread. Josh defends this premise by contrasting government suppression with much more benign forms of “suppression”: “Social norms and reputation matter a lot in affecting what people say and don’t say; the government is just one factor that affects speech, but the difference with the government is that its restrictions’ effects are more widespread.” The other factors that Josh names—social norms and reputations—are hardly elements of “suppression” at all; they basically amount to peer pressure. Of course government regulation is going to appear more coercive and significant than these opponents—it usually is more coercive and significant. Continue reading
So, Josh exercised his right to free speech by responding to my critique of rights with his own defense of rights. His defense was valiant, yes, but doomed.
Let’s start right at the beginning, with Josh’s attempt to define the ineffable concept of a “right”: “If X has a right to do something, he is legally protected from interference by Y. In other words Y has a correlative duty not to interfere with X’s right. So, if X has a right to speak freely, then Y has a correlative duty not to interfere with X’s speaking freely.” This doesn’t really help us much, does it? A right means that Y—Y, as defined by Josh himself, “being any other individual or the government”—has a duty not to interfere with that entitlement. So, technically, every single time you interrupt someone you have violated someone’s right to free speech, since you’ve interfered with that person’s speaking freely. Apparently, that person now has legal recourse against you. By this standard, public school teachers who force students to raise their hand before speaking have collectively committed the gravest assault on our free speech rights that the U.S. has ever known.
Of course, this is ridiculous because Josh’s standard is ridiculous. A right protects you from any interference? That’s simply not true empirically. Continue reading
What we read while fumbling the football…
- One of us is from Staten Island and now lives close to the Jersey Shore. In other words, he’s just living the dream.
- We’ve been really enjoying Charles P. Pierce’s blog at Boston.com, and this post’s title, which is almost as long as the post itself, is perfect in taking a shot at fellow Bostonian, Bill Simmons.