Freedom of Speech

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump vs. Free Speech

Free speech beset by enemies.

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Donald Trump tells reporters, "We're going to have people sue you like you never got sued before."

Hillary Clinton doesn't like her opponents funding documentaries that criticize her, so she demands Congress overturn the Supreme Court decision that allows it.

The world is full of people who want their enemies to shut up. Some college students get so upset seeing "Trump 2016" chalked on sidewalks that they call the police, demanding the chalkers be punished and their words erased.

But because America's founders added, "Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech" to the Constitution, the police have no role here.

Those idiot college protesters want to shut me up. And I want to shut some of them up. But we have to tolerate each other. That's a good thing. The First Amendment helps keep America free.

Of course, the Amendment just says, "Congress shall make no law."

Private groups can limit speech. Fox can fire me if they don't like something I say. So can this website by dropping my column. The NFL can fire Colin Kaepernick for not standing up, and a Black Lives Matter group can expel a member who does.

The First Amendment applies to government. Which is why presidential candidates should get it right. Unfortunately, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton don't.

Both have talked about "closing down" parts of the internet to fight ISIS. When frightened, some politicians promise all kinds of things to look like they're protecting us. But shutting down those areas of the Web may not be technically possible, and if it were, it would mostly hurt innocent people.

That didn't stop Trump or Clinton from proposing it and making sneering comments about free speech.

They should know that rules meant to prevent ISIS from speaking can soon become laws to suppress any opinions that politicians don't like.

The same men who created our Constitution turned around a few years later and passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which punished people for insulting politicians, as though criticizing politicians was a threat to social order. Governments in Russia, China and Saudi Arabia still think that way.

I say, not criticizing politicians is a threat to social order.

Both Trump and Clinton want to ban flag burning. But burning a flag is a form of speech, as long as you own the flag and don't endanger anyone. Government bans should be limited to real threats.

Trump says, "We're going to open up those libel laws, so that when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace, or when the Washington Post… writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning."

It's true that libel law protects people like me so we can say what we want. I can criticize a public figure or get facts wrong, and courts will allow it as long as I wasn't malicious—I didn't know I had facts wrong. It's a good rule; it allows media to criticize the powerful.

In his speech, Trump added, "With me, they're not protected because I'm not like other people." Right. Because Donald Trump is rich, he intimidates critics into silence by threatening to bankrupt them with lawsuits. This is not a good thing.

Hillary Clinton is a lawyer, so you'd think she would have a more sophisticated view of free speech. But she doesn't.

She once tried to ban the sale of violent video games to minors, arguing, "We need to treat violent video games the way we treat alcohol." But video games are not alcohol; video games are ideas—speech.

Her argument was ridiculous anyway. Violence in video games has become even more prevalent, but crime has dropped and young people are less violent.

We'll never eliminate everything that offends or "triggers" people, whether they're Christian, Muslim, pro—Trump or so anti—Trump that they call the police when students chalk his name on a sidewalk.

I wish the next president were someone who understood that.

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41 responses to “Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump vs. Free Speech

  1. Free speech must be limited to one page. Otherwise it’s anarchy.

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  2. No, John. This website is not allowed to fire you.

    1. He’s going to get fired from Reason for not including the obligatory ‘BUT, Trump is worse!’ line.

    2. I’ll second that…..

  3. At the end of the day though, we’re at a point we keep getting to–Trump says, Hillary has done.

    And there’s a gigantic difference between those two points.

    1. So, we should take a flyer on a guy in the hopes he won’t do what he says he’ll do? You know who else did exactly what he said he’d do?

      1. Lee Marvin’s character in “Point Blank”?

        1. Patrick Swayze’s character in “Point Break”?

          1. Got me there. Lee Marvin never once did a flying roundhouse kick.

            1. Swayze also had Sam Elliot’s help. Poor Lee Marvin was stuck with peak Angie Dickinson.

              1. Poor Lee Marvin? Peak Angie Dickinson is a solid “would.” Sam Elliot, even at his peak, is definitely a “not.”

                1. Sam Elliott is a cowboy’s cowboy. Why you no like?

      2. So, we should take a flyer on a guy in the hopes he won’t do what he says he’ll do?

        Duh, what else are you gonna do? Vote for a 3rd party candidate? Go ahead, THROW YOUR VOTE AWAY!

      3. We should do what we think is right.

        Coming to such a decision requires honest information.

        Clinton has done horrific things to undermine the First Amendment.

        Trump has said things that his armies of detractors have taken as a whole host of things that may or may not be accurate. But one tactic has become obvious–if he says something that sounds stupid or bad, it’s the god’s honest truth, never to be crossed–but if he says something that sounds good, or intelligent, he didn’t mean it.

        There’s a haze around Trump created by his detractors.

        You can’t make an informed decision when people are doing their level best to obscure any information.

    2. Not even that, Azahoth.

      (1) Trump’s opening offer, which we should know by now is subject to negotiation, is compared to what Hillary has actually done.

      Followed by

      (2) Trump’s opening offer is mischaracterized and exaggerated, while Hillary’s actions are diminished and defended.

      To me, this is less about Trump v Hillary, than the capture of the media by the Democratic Party to be weaponized as a source of disinformation.

  4. They should know that rules meant to prevent ISIS from speaking can soon become laws to suppress any opinions that politicians don’t like.

    Surprised by their own endgame?

    1. Oh come now, politicians and bureaucrats have never abused authority granted under, say , terrorism legislation… wait a minute?!

      1. *** narrows gaze ***

  5. But because America’s founders added, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech” to the Constitution, the police have no role here.

    This is actually the worst thing pointed out here. The way the constitution (and the government) was designed, congress only has the specific powers granted under the constitution. But we’ve flipped that on its head to become “anything that isn’t specifically prohibited is allowed”.

    This is supposed to be the position of the citizenry, not the government. But give a bunch of bureaucrats 250 years and they can drive a camel under that tent flap.

    1. Congress may not be able to make the laws but that doesn’t stop governmental agencies at all levels from abridging speech. The FCC rules on obscenity/decency, the FAA/Homeland Security rules on speech in airports and on planes, state and local government bans on pornography, strip clubs, alcohol sales (blue laws), and so on. At one time in the near past, it seemed these rules/laws were receding but lately the surge in restrictions on public college campus speech and demonstrations, and speech that becomes suspect under the guise of the war on terror seem to be increasing rules and laws against speech.

    2. I’m with you, Cyto. The first question should be: does Congress have authority under the Constitution to pass this law (or authorize a federal agency to make a rule*).

      *Pending, of course, a return to the Constitutional standard that only Congress can write laws, not the executive, and Congress’s powers do not include delegation of this authority to the executive.

      1. Yeah, we are a couple of real comedians, huh?

        A return to this notion would probably require tossing out 80% of Federal law and shuttering 80% of government agencies and programs.

        Then we’d have to go about the business of passing a couple of hundred constitutional amendments to enable the programs that people demand.

        In other words, when we get what we want, we’ll get that unicorn pony we always wanted too.

      2. Its not only that. The Judicial branch is lately fond of adding new “interpretations” of their own design to laws in order to make them work….

  6. It’s true that libel law protects people like me so we can say what we want. I can criticize a public figure or get facts wrong, and courts will allow it as long as I wasn’t malicious?I didn’t know I had facts wrong. It’s a good rule; it allows media to criticize the powerful.

    As much as I dislike Trump’s stance on libel laws, it’s pretty crummy for a journalist to consider this to be the paramount feature of the law as opposed to factual accuracy and criminal/civil harm. Especially because it’s pretty much this very stance that Trump has used to vault himself to his current position.

    1. No kidding. The SCOTUS “malice” standard for “public figures” is pure judicial fiat. Naturally, to people enjoying this judicial privilege, it is the central feature of our laws on free speech. Little wonder so many in the media support more privileges for themselves, including special exemptions for duly certified members of the “press”.

      The fact that Trump’s rather anodyne proposal to reduce an extraordinary protection somewhat is posited as the equivalent, or worse, than Hillary’s incredible position that the First Amendment should apply only to the speech of individuals, tells you a lot about why so many of us are bitterly cynical about the press.

  7. As much as I dislike Trump’s stance on libel laws, it’s pretty crummy for a journalist to consider this to be the paramount feature of the law as opposed to factual accuracy and criminal/civil harm.

    Worse than that even is that so many people expect “journalist” and “factual accuracy” to be correlated – if nothing else, as an ideal, as a goal journalists strive for. When you regularly criticize journalists who regularly shade the story in a certain direction as being biased and partisan and unfair, you’re implying that fair and balanced is the norm for journalism – and that’s bullshit. You should no more expect to get the actual factual from a news story about a particular subject than you would expect to get the actual factual about how good Coke is from a Coke commercial – and you ain’t getting it from a Pepsi commercial either. They’re all biased, they’ve all got a particular viewpoint they want you to accept and the viewpoint they most want you to accept is that they’re not biased and they’re not pushing a particular viewpoint. To the extent that you say “Oh, I’m not listening to that guy, he’s biased” you’re swallowing a big fat lie from the people that are better at hiding their bias, the ones you don’t realize are biased.

  8. As long as the news is written, edited, and distributed by humans, I expect to have some bias in journalism. There has been a creeping of placing opinion in with news stories instead of letting opinions reside in the editorial section of the news. All of that is fine, if you don’t like the bias of one media outlet you can select an almost infinite number of other media outlets that better fit your preferences. What should not be acceptable, is when a media outlet targets a person, group, or business because of the dislike for that target and causes actual physical or monetary damage due to false/inaccurate/sloppy, not just biased, reporting. Reason had a fabulous three part story on the New York Times reporting on the Asian nail salons which is an example of when the media should be held libel. How about the Rolling Stone rape reporting? These media organizations should not be allowed cause great harm to thier targets then use the first amendment to avoid people seeking reparation. Is that reasonable?

  9. Your arguments against Hillary are a forced equivalency and pretty weak.

    1. The equivalency is forced and weak, but other than that you’ve got it backwards.

  10. HILLARY CLINTON; PAYING THE POLITICAL PRICE OF BEING A STRONG WOMAN IN A MAN’S GAME: “So what is it about Hillary? Michael Arnovitz, a blogger from Oregon, sifts through the evidence and concludes that, in large part, she is paying the political price of being a strong woman playing what is traditionally viewed as a man’s game. It’s hard to imagine that this could be true in 2016, in a world that has lionized leaders like Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi. But I confess I can’t think of anything else.” WHAT MR. ARNOZITZ SAID IS ENOUGH; Many are oblivious, unconscious, and in denial to it. Source: https://goo.gl/wlUkmY
    THE EMERGING CHRONICLES OF HILLARY CLINTON:
    Source: https://goo.gl/0P180U

  11. THE EMERGING CHRONICLES OF HILLARY CLINTON: Source: https://goo.gl/0P180U
    HILLARY CLINTON; PAYING THE POLITICAL PRICE OF BEING A STRONG WOMAN IN A MAN’S GAME: “So what is it about Hillary? Michael Arnovitz, a blogger from Oregon, sifts through the evidence and concludes that, in large part, she is paying the political price of being a strong woman playing what is traditionally viewed as a man’s game. It’s hard to imagine that this could be true in 2016, in a world that has lionized leaders like Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi. But I confess I can’t think of anything else.” WHAT MR. ARNOZITZ SAID IS ENOUGH; Many are oblivious, unconscious, and in denial to it. Source: https://goo.gl/wlUkmY

  12. I can criticize a public figure or get facts wrong, and courts will allow it as long as I wasn’t malicious?I didn’t know I had facts wrong. It’s a good rule; it allows media to criticize the powerful.

    It was not meant to be malicious, I merely had the facts wrong when I said, “Stossel is a sheepfucker”…

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  15. What a politician can do and what they cannot do are two entirely different things. The Clinton administration made several attempts to take over the Internet through legislation and all were defeated by the courts.
    Obama threatened to enact gun control by executive order and found out he could not.
    So what any politician would like to do and what they have the power to do are two entirely different things.

  16. most journalists supported the ban on political speech supported by Hillary and other leftist politicians. If she is elected I expect the Supreme court will soon allow congress to outlaw political speech, going even further to erode our rights than the McCain-Feingold Act. Clinton wants to ban films, radio shows and political advertising in America.

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