Is Free Speech Endangered In America?

Mark Steyn believes (this is my characterization, not his) that he is engaged in an Armageddon of sorts; that free speech in America is under serious attack; and that the future of our mostly-free society hangs in the balance. Many consider such fears overblown. At the same time, there has always been some question about how committed most Americans really are to free speech.

That skepticism got a boost from this Rasmussen Reports survey. Rasmussen asked the question: “Should the government be allowed to review political ads and candidates’ campaign comments for their accuracy and punish those that it decides are making false statements about other candidates?”

It is hard to imagine anything more fatal to democracy (let alone the outer regions of free speech) than empowering “the government” to “punish” those who the government “decides” are making “false statements about other candidates” in a political campaign. Most likely every candidate for every office in every campaign of the last 150 years has sincerely believed that his opponent has made false statements about him.

So no one would support such a ridiculous proposal, right? Wrong:

Fifty-five percent (55%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe the government should be allowed to review political ads and candidates’ campaign comments for their accuracy and punish those that it decides are making false statements about other candidates. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 31% oppose such government oversight. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.

If only 31% of likely voters favor the core application of the First Amendment–we are not talking about nude dancing here–we are in worse trouble than I thought.

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