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 »
“What he [John S.] says may be irrational, incoherent, unfounded, and foolish, but I defend to the death his right to say it.”
*I have as much claim to this phrase as Voltaire.
This response will proceed in three steps. First, I will respond to misguided presumptions that underlie John’s critique of the First Amendment: 1) that the goal of the First Amendment is not to suppress any speech and 2) that free speech absolutism is the only interpretive option for the First Amendment. Second, I will refute John’s two main claims: 1) The First Amendment is only aimed towards preventing government suppression of speech, but the coercive non-governmental forces and differential access to forums are problems just as serious that the First Amendment promotes or, at least, does nothing to prevent. 2) There is nothing inherent about the First Amendment that promotes the Millian benefits that flow from free speech. Third, I will discuss the Citizens United issue separately since it’s sufficiently distinct from the other issues in this response.
Citing Mill, John fallaciously argues that “the general principles that underlie actual liberty of thought and discussion” are primarily grounded in opposition to the “suppression of opinion, whether it be by government or any entity….” [emphasis added].
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