Jefferson Muzzles 2006 Top Award Winner?—President Bush

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Each year, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia, issues its annual list of Jefferson Muzzle Awards. The Muzzles are "awarded as a means to draw national attention to abridgments of free speech and press and, at the same time, foster an appreciation for those tenets of the First Amendment."

This year's first place Muzzle went to President George W. Bush, "for unilaterally authorizing warrantless NSA wiretapping of the conversations of presumably innocent U.S. citizens."

Other notable efforts to squelch freedom of expression recognized with Jefferson Muzzles included the demand by the U.S. Justice Department that several search engine companies turn over data on their users to it; FCC chairman Kevin Martin's call for applying federal "decency" regulations to satellite and cable TV content; hecklers at the University of Connecticut for shouting down rightwing scream-mistress Ann Coulter; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to shut down an exhibition of graffiti art; several high school principals' censorship of school newspaper articles dealing with teen sex and sexuality; and many more.

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  1. Umm, I don’t know how to break it to the Jefferson folks, but the NSA wiretapping was not a violation of First Amendment rights. If anything, it was a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights. Ditto for the DOJ shakedown of the search engines.

    The FCC and the FEC (why no mention of them) are much better candidates for this award.

  2. I fail to see how students excercising their first amendment rights to shout down Ann Coulter, and enemy of the 1st amendment if there ever was on, is “muzzling” free speech. Sounds like the TJ center had to grasp a little to find an example on the Left.

    JMJ

  3. JMJ, if I could delete your posts from H&R, wouldn’t that be muzzling your right to free speech (at least here)? How is that any different?

    (Ah, if only…)

  4. Ever hear of political correctness JMJ? See, I didn’t have to think that long for a left one. Still alive and well on a campus near you.

    Having said that, you are correct that in today’s “war on terror” the same right wingers who correctly bemoan political correctness are committing free speach atrocities. Gotta love irony, or is it just par for the course. Guess that is why I hate them all.

    RC, you are correct on which amendment is being violated. Guess they just REALLY wanted to make a statement on that one so they fudged some. Of course if fear of being listened too makes you adjust your speach then I guess it is a proxy 1st amendment issue.

  5. I am basically pointing to the Jefferson site so that y’all can make up your own minds. In any case,
    here’s part of what the Center has to say about the NSA wiretapping:

    “Thus, insist the opponents of warrantless NSA surveillance, such clandestine activity violated both First and Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly remarked on the close relationship between the protection of privacy and the protection of expression. If individuals are fearful that their communications will be intercepted by the government, such fears are likely to chill their speech. Specifically, the speech of political dissenters is likely to be inhibited by such eavesdropping.”

    As for Coulter, other people did apparently did want to hear whatever nonsense she had to say.

  6. I just thought it ironic that one group of people speaking their minds is “muzzling” free speech when they speak over someone else. Getting booed off the stage is not being muzzled. It’s the very essence of free speech. If you’re free to speak, you’re free to be booed.

    JMJ

  7. “the NSA wiretapping was not a violation of First Amendment rights.”

    Under the “chilling effect” doctrine, it is. (There is a lawsuit currently pending that relies on that argument.) It is a Fourth Amendment violation as to those whose calls were actually recorded.

  8. “I just thought it ironic that one group of people speaking their minds is “muzzling” free speech when they speak over someone else. Getting booed off the stage is not being muzzled. It’s the very essence of free speech. If you’re free to speak, you’re free to be booed.”

    Exactly as I see it.

    We got the same bullshit out of Michael Moore when F911 got dropped by it’s original distributor. THEY ARE VIOLATING MY FREE SPEACH! Nope, just exercising their right to associate with whom they feel like. Dumb move though, they would have made a shitload of money on that.

    It is hard to come up with sympathy for Coulter. You live by the shrill sword, guess you get booed by it too. Who takes her seriously anyway. She and Michael Moore both need to go take an oceanside drive with Ted Kennedy.

  9. BOO

  10. “If you’re free to speak, you’re free to be booed.”

    But inasmuch as the Muzzle Awards are out to call attention to those who stifle free expression – and not just those who forcefully prohibit free expression – then those who “stifle” it by shouting down a speaker with whom they disagree are certainly worthy of such an “award”.

    You’d have a point if the award was specifically aimed at violations of the first amendment—which, incidentally, would subsequently restrict the “winners” to the government, since the first amendment refers to those rights which may not be abridged by the government. But, as far as I can tell from the award explanation, it’s not.

  11. Yeah, I guess you have a point there, Evan. And AL, yeah, dumping that Moore deal was pretty stupid. But I like Moore, myself.

    JMJ

  12. “But I like Moore, myself.” Given your comments since you showed up that is about as shocking as a dead battery. I personally can’t stand shrill partisan political hacks no matter what their viewpoint.

    Things published (or filmed as the case may be) by him and Coulter are noteworthy not for what they point out but what they leave out.

    Evan I think you are on to something with the stifle part. When two people or groups are stifling out the other’s free speech I guess we can say they are all assholes for certain.

  13. (Fan note: I’m a bit confused as to the author’s intent in having the JMJ character, heretofore totally unconcerned by – and often approving of – the muzzling of free speech, suddenly fight to blame that muzzling on the right. Maybe there’s a plot arc in the works?)

  14. JMJ,

    When are you going to go back to being called amazingdrx?

    “grasp a little to find an example on the Left” my ass

  15. Eric:

    A group of leftists shouting down Ann Coulter: ok

    Having a bumper sticker on your car that the majority doesn’t approve of: Not ok.

    At least we can commend him for the fact that he is consistently inconsistent.

  16. “Sounds like the TJ center had to grasp a little to find an example on the Left”

    That’s a laugher.

    See the link below.

    http://news.nky.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20060414/NEWS0103/604140420

  17. You guys really don’t see what I mean here? You don’t see the TJC as a bit of a Right-pandering stretch, probably done to appear more bi-partisan?

    And Evan, you really don’t see how driving around with distracting profanity emblazed on your vehicle on the public roads (which you have no inherent right to do in the first place) is not protected by the first amendment?

    C’mon gang! I know it’s Monday – but Jeez!

    JMJ

  18. The chilling effect argument is the most ridiculous one imaginable. The chances of any one person being listened to by the NSA are on in tens of millions. Moreover, even if they are listening, exactly what are you so afraid to say? There is no way a sane person not involved with Al Quada can honestly say they have felt inhibited in their phone conversations since they found out about the NSA program.

    RC is absolutely right, it is a 4th Amendment Issue, not a 1st Amendment issue and is not a muzzling of free speech. By putting it as number one the folks at the Jefferson Center show that they are more interested in scoring partisan points than they are in real threats to free speech.

    Moreover, how about Muslim extremists as the number 1 muzzles of free speech? They didn’t even make the list. George Bush hasn’t prevented me from reading, seeing or saying anything this year. Thanks to Muslim fanatics, media outlet after media outlet have censored themselves over the Mohammad cartoons. The same people who consider the 1/10,000,000 chance that some drone at the NSA might be listening to your phone conversation, don’t see how the very real threat of a bunch lunatics burning your book store or TV down could possibly have a chilling effect on free speech.

  19. It’s amazing how often people — like John there — happily rid themselves of the burdens of freedom by exclaiming “Why do you worry about it if you’re doing nothing wrong? Only CRIMINALS need to worry about the police”.

    Such idiocy must be the result of years of practice.

  20. No, you are an idiot Morrat, apparently reading comprehension is not high on your list of abilities. I stated nothing one way or another about validity of the NSA program. The point is that regardless of whether it is Constitutional, it is not a muzzling of free speech. Again, who other than the most paranoid moonbat picked up the phone in the last year and really censored themselves over the NSA program.

    It must take years of practice to be such an idiot to be able to ignore evil that is right in front of your face and instead chases phantoms of “government conspiracies”. Muslim extremists are clamping down on free speech all over the world through violence and intimidation, yet morons like you are worried about the CIA listen to your phone calls.

  21. Thank you Morat – and John, by the way, there are 280,000,000 Americans. There have been 10s of thousands of taps – that’s better odds than you figure. I wonder how you’ll feel when President Hillary uses the taps to track down online gun purchasers…

    JMJ

  22. JMJ,

    There are 280,000,000 Americans, but we all make more than one call a year. There are billions of phone calls. Even a 100,000 taps still wouldn’t bring the odds of anyone phone call being tapped up very high. If anything 1/10,000 is putting the odds way higher than they ought to be.

  23. One other thing, when Hillary does that, it will be violating privacy rights, not first amendment rights. Something tells me the good folks over at the Jefferson center wouldn’t have much to say then, but that is just a guess.

  24. John, how do you even know who they are tapping, how much, and why? You don’t. And that’s the problem. We are not at war, the president has no such powers to do this and he should be immediately impeached for this. Of course, that beying sheep would disagree.

    JMJ

  25. John, what’s the difference between what Bush is doing an that? Couldn’t Hillary say, “We’re at war and need to make sure that no guns are going to the terrorists.”? Same shit.

    JMJ

  26. I wonder how likely we are to see them hand out a muzzle award to radical Islam, Borders, Comedy Central, NYT, all of the colleges censuring student editors who run Mohammed cartoons, etc. I guess as big a proponent of the separation of church and state as Jefferson was, he wasn’t at all concerned about speech abridgements sponsored by religious fanatacism.

  27. Moreover, how about Muslim extremists as the number 1 muzzles of free speech?

    Bingo.

  28. “If you’re free to speak, you’re free to be booed.”

    I think moderate booing and heckling is OK, but continuing to do it so much it makes it impossible for the speaker to continue is over the line. House of Commons question time is a good example.

  29. “There is no way a sane person not involved with Al Quada can honestly say they have felt inhibited in their phone conversations since they found out about the NSA program.”

    The FBI and police departments all over the United States have been caught using anti-terror surveillance powers against the Quakers, the stoners, and other entirely-peaceful protestors.

    The DHS recently put out an anti-terror press release about “eco-terrorists,” warning against such terror attacks as mass emails, repeated faxes, and flyers. They have yet to put out a release regarding anti-abortion terrorists (ie, John Salvi), white supremacists (ie, the KKK), or right wing extremists (OKC bombers). FYI, the death toll of all the “eco-terrorist” attacks in the history of our nation remains at zero.

    So, no, the fact that the government has declared that it is only using this “anti-terror” practice against Al Qaeda doesn’t reassure this almost-entirely-sane person one bit.

  30. While I agree with joe that warrantlessly (is that a word?) tapping the conversations of US citizens is generally a bad idea I think his argument about white supremacists, abortion bombers and ELF/ALF is disingenuous at best.

    ELF/ALF is a group of nutty folks who commit a lot of property damage (read: they believe arson and vandalism is a good way to communicate their beliefs and say so proudly on their web-site) and will eventually manage to kill someone if they keep setting fires and destroying things.

    Claiming that the FBI considers sending out faxes, mass e-mails and putting out flyers is pretty goofy – especially given what ALF/ELF actually do.

    On the other hand, no one is going to argue that white supremacists and abortion bombers aren’t also bad guys, but frankly, every time I see a white supremacist I think to myself “there’s a bunch of in-bred, sad idiots who have deluded themselves into thinking they are somehow special by virtue of who their ancestors were. Wankers.”

    When was the last time – since the FBI pretty well wiped out the whole organization – that the KKK did anything other than march around and make moronic statements?

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