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Reality check on rights
Posted By Geoff Metcalf On 02/16/1998 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
Most of us revere the First Amendment to the Constitution. Freedom of speech is accepted as axiomatic. Still, despite very specific prohibitive language which states, “Congress shall make no law…”, Congress has, in fact, a whole bunch of times, passed laws supposedly, allegedly, “in the public interest” which do, in fact, restrict freedom of speech and the press.
In the wake of the recent Clinton travails, and the significant role the Internet has played in disseminating information the mainstream has conspired to hide, Hillary Clinton has expressed her concerns.
“I think that every time technology makes an advance … and now certainly as you move to the computer and increasing accessibility and instantaneous information on the computer, we are all going to have to rethink how we deal with this. …”
Is the first lady foreshadowing the next draconian restriction? Could or would the administration actually impose restrictions on the dissemination of free speech if or when views and opinions dare to offer opinions contrary to their vision?
I have often noted that “…some people don’t like to be confused with facts which contradict their preconceived opinions.” When those “some people” have the capacity to abuse their power under the color of authority — Katie bar the door. It has happened before, and we could in store for another Clinton lesson in abuse of power.
Some of the more famous abuses include the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1790, the Smith Act of 1940, and the McCarran Act of 1950. Add a gaggle of actions sparked by federal agencies and/or prosecutors that have resulted in various limitations in freedom of speech and the press.
I recall an interesting survey I found some time ago which listed countries that had free presses. The United States of America was tied for 8th place.
Knowledge/Information is power, and the power elite can and will restrict information however and whenever it can to further its specific agenda. We have several recent examples to point to for confirmation of this fact: Ruby Ridge, Waco, Oklahoma City, Filegate, Chinagate, Tailgate and the deaths of Vince Foster, Ron Brown, et al.
The Smith Act of 1940 was a result of concerns over Germany’s European aggression during WWII, and more specifically over alleged Communist-sparked strikes intended to cripple defense production. The Smith Act called for, and required, the fingerprinting and registering of all aliens residing in the United Sates and made it a crime to advocate or teach the violent overthrow of the U.S. government or membership in a group advocating or teaching it. What about the First Amendment and freedom of speech?” The Supreme Court of 1951 in Dennis vs. United States upheld the act’s constitutionality (because it could) and told dissenters to shut up and sit down. However, the Supremes have always been mercurial and subject to change. In 1957, the court amended its position in Yates vs. United States and ruled that teaching communism or other revolutionary theories did not in itself constitute grounds for conviction — only proof positive that direct action had been urged to topple the government could yield a conviction.
This is especially significant (historically) when viewed in a contemporary context in which the Clintonistas have been railing against militias and those who oppose government abuses.
The Red scare required certain organizations to register with the U.S. attorney general. It denied members employment within the federal government or its defense industries and the right to use U.S. passports. Other elements extended the statue of limitations for espionage, arranged for emergency detention of those likely to commit espionage or sabotage, and created (here we go folks) a Subversive Activities Control Board for the purpose of determining whether organizations and individuals were Red. The way inertia is guiding the Cintonistas, we may well expect a similar board to monitor and control dissent within the patriot movement from militias to talk show hosts — and certainly to certain cyberspace gadflies.
We have a history in the U.S. of Congress tinkering with what we assume to be carved in stone — the First Amendment. Now the first lady says, “… I don’t have any clue about what we’re going to do legally, regulatorily, technologically … we’re going to have to deal with that.” How are the Clintonistas going to “deal with that”?
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