COLUMBIA — U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in Congress, said Sunday the deadly shooting in Arizona should get the country thinking about what's acceptable to say publicly and when people should keep their mouths shut.
Clyburn said he thinks vitriol in public discourse led to a 22-year-old suspect opening fire Saturday at an event Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords held for her constituents in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed and 14 others were injured, including Giffords.
The shooting is cause for the country to rethink parameters on free speech, Clyburn said from his office, just blocks from the South Carolina Statehouse. He wants standards put in place to guarantee balanced media coverage with a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, in addition to calling on elected officials and media pundits to use 'better judgment.'
'Free speech is as free speech does,' he said. 'You cannot yell 'fire' in a crowded theater and call it free speech and some of what I hear, and is being called free speech, is worse than that.'
I do appreciate this sentence from the Charleston Post and Courier:
Despite Clyburn's position, law enforcement has not yet revealed any motives in the shooting.
Fortunately, this does not seem to be a majority opinion among Democrats who wield power. And, as Nick Gillespie points out below, it is not likely to resonate with public opinion. As Mother Jones put it, "by calling for a free-speech crackdown, Dems may simply be accused of playing politics with a national tragedy."