Limits to Free Speech


Columbia, MO – Maureen Dowd said it in her September 13 New York Times editorial. President Jimmy Carter has weighed in on the growing controversy. Now, on Anderson Cooper 360, the Tea Party Express’s lead “Teabagger” Mark Cooper has dredged the demons back from the depths.

Is the “race card,” being held over our heads like the sword of Damocles? Is America creating and encouraging a new racist mentality? Will we allow the purveyors of evil to continue to threaten what the United States has taken more than 145 years to accomplish.

I am an advocate of our First Amendment, our right to free speech and a free press, Yet these “unalienable rights” have limits. If the action of language threatens the “life, liberty or pursuit of happiness,” if the language is not just hateful but is designed to cause violence, if the language threatens our country, then that language must be the exception rather than the rule.

Is that the line Mark Williams and other members of the so-called “patriots” have crossed?

Williams was asked about comments made on his blog. Did he really call the president an “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug” and a “Racist in Chief?” Yes, he did and admitted so on national television. Should this type of insult be protected? You bet! Has it stepped over the line? I am not sure.

This is a matter of perception. If you read Williams’ blogs and web site, you will read some very questionable stuff. His language is outrageous and using emotion with little evidence. Calling Michelle Obama “Bigfoot,” calling the Speaker of the House a Nazi and purposefully using the president’s middle name, Hussein, as a badge of terrorism cannot be stopped. Not by our laws and I hope it can never be.  

When one person steps over the line, threatens to or actually causes bodily harm or destruction of property and it can be linked directly to hate speech… Pull the plug. If the language used is determined to be racist in nature… Pull the plug.

John Adam’s Sedition Act was wrong and America should never go there again. We can never again allow the suspension of Habeas Corpus as Lincoln did during the Civil war. Yet our founding fathers knew that the freedoms given to the American people, and by extension to all who visit this nation, are not absolute.

This right-wing extremism began with opposition to Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. Today it continues with opposition to a fair and free education to all. Opposition to healthcare for the greatest people on the planet. Opposition to energy independence unless it involves increasing our usage of an ever dwindling supply of crude. Opposition to anything that can talk this nation forward.

If you want to go back to the dark ages, if you want to see the People’s Republic of China, the communist one, take the lead in world economics, if you want to become a theocratic society like Iran, then follow Williams, Limbaugh, Hennessy and others soothsayers of doom.

For me, give me science and math, history and the arts, give me a future without hate and prejudice, give me the right to be who I am, what I am and who I want to be without having to be beholding to your version of the truth or religion. That is the American I want. How about you?

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About David Rosman

David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com, InkandVoice.com and NYJournalofBooks.com.
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