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News Free Speech Zone

  1. Dec 26, 2003 #1
    December 15, 2003 issue
    Copyright © 2003 The American Conservative

    “Free-Speech Zone”

    The administration quarantines dissent.

    By James Bovard

    On Dec. 6, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft informed the Senate Judiciary Committee, “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty … your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and … give ammunition to America’s enemies.” Some commentators feared that Ashcroft’s statement, which was vetted beforehand by top lawyers at the Justice Department, signaled that this White House would take a far more hostile view towards opponents than did recent presidents. And indeed, some Bush administration policies indicate that Ashcroft’s comment was not a mere throwaway line.

    When Bush travels around the United States, the Secret Service visits the location ahead of time and orders local police to set up “free speech zones” or “protest zones” where people opposed to Bush policies (and sometimes sign-carrying supporters) are quarantined. These zones routinely succeed in keeping protesters out of presidential sight and outside the view of media covering the event.

    Complete text at http://www.amconmag.com/12_15_03/feature.html
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 26, 2003 #2
    Bush hates freedom...why don't you tell us something we DON'T know?
  4. Dec 27, 2003 #3
    That's just too much. Can he countersue the Secret Service for this?
  5. Dec 27, 2003 #4
    What lawyer is going to put his career/life on the line to sue the Secret Service?

    Do you ever wonder why the mainstream media, like CNN and Fox News, never cover these important topics? Make's you wonder if the media is actually free, or controlled.
  6. Dec 27, 2003 #5
    Yes true, you almost never hear it from regular mainstream news. Not even in most newspapers.
  7. Dec 29, 2003 #6
    Crazy stuff. Free speech must be absolute, or it does not exist at all.
  8. Dec 29, 2003 #7
    John Ashcroft is a menace to the bill of rights. It will take decades to un-do what his department of injustice has done. Bush must go in '04 in the interest of liberty at the very least.
  9. Dec 29, 2003 #8
    I wouldn't go that far...but there needs to be compelling reason to restrict free speech, and not just political expedience.
  10. Dec 29, 2003 #9
    So who decides those reasons? And on what basis? Can you guarantee they are without bias? How can I know he/she is without bias, and why should I trust that person? What if that person thinks we should not talk about something which I wish to discuss? What if that person thinks we should not talk about the gas chambers and death camps?

    In other words, since we all have different values, there is no just way to lay that power in any person's hands. There is no reason why one person's opinion of what is allowed to be discussed should apply to everyone.

    This is why free speech must be absolute, or it does not exist at all.
  11. Dec 29, 2003 #10


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    This is a common misconception. Political speech should be free, but there are limits on other speech.

    -Speech can be restricted for public safety. You can't shout "FIRE!" in a crowded movie thearter, unless there is a fire. It is arguable that even some truthful speech could be restricted for this purpose. Consider nuclear terrorism. Terrorists are attempting to blackmail the government with nuclear weapons. They say if any attempts are made to evacuate the city, they will blow it up. A reporter gets the information and wants to print it. The government prevents him.

    -Discussing how to commit a crime is itself a crime, conspiracy.

    In the case mentioned though, the government is almost certainly in the wrong. If political speech is deemed to be allowed in the venue, then all aspects of political speech must be allowed. The only way I can see the government winning this point is if it was not a public event.


  12. Dec 29, 2003 #11
    Exactly. For instance, if Bush has a cheering section, then protesters deserve an equal section in the same area, not several miles away. Protecting the media image of a politician isn't a compelling reason to restrict free speech.
  13. Dec 29, 2003 #12


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    I thought we had this discussion before: free speech is not, nor ever has been intended to be absolute. Like all rights, it has restrictions: specifically, it ends where it infringes on the rights of others (Njorl gave examples).
    The Supreme Court based on the US Constitution (and its basis in the political theory of Locke, Rousseau, etc) in the US.
    No. Certainly not. They are human.
    You don't have to - you just have to obey the rules you consent to by choosing to live in such a society.
    That person would not last long in a position of authority in a democracy.
    Absolute rights are a contradiction in terms because no person can exist in a vacuum. The way you exercise your rights affects the ability of others to exercise their rights. That's Locke's theory on rights and the basis for rights in Western society.
    If you are arguing in favor of Moral Relativism, that is an invalid theory of morality and it is NOT (despite what many people believe) the foundation of western ideas about morality/ethics/rights. Thats a topic for another thread though (or you could search the board for where it has been discussed in depth before). If its not a topic you've seen before, I suggest reading up about the debate between Moral Relativism and Moral Absolutism.
    From what little was posted, I would agree: almost certainly wrong. The actual situation is doubtless more complicated than the two sentence blurb though.
  14. Dec 29, 2003 #13

    This is a common miconsception. You are referring not to free speech, or to the logic involved, but to USA law. And only USA law.

    Security classifications should not prevent freedom of speech. However, the rigorous exercise of security prcoedures should limit the ability of reporters and others to know classified information anyway.

    Again, you are discussing only USA law. Not freedom of speech.

    Apart from irrelevent discussions of one nation's legal codes...

    The important question remains: Who decides what can and can't be said? What makes your opinion of the bounds of free speech more important than mine? What makes your opinion less important than Hitler's? Exactly which books do we burn? Do we restrict the Terrorist's Handbook on the same grounds that one country decided you can not legally shout "Fire" in a crowded cinema? Surely the Terrorist's Handbook is equally likely to cause harm, so why not outlaw that too? And once we outlaw that, why not books about medieval surgical techniques? Heck, even books on modern first aid can teach us how to deliberately cause harm, so we'd better outlaw those too! Where exactly does it stop? And why? And why is your opinion of where to stop, and what to outlaw, more important than mine?
  15. Dec 29, 2003 #14
    How do you even decide what speech is anyway?
  16. Dec 29, 2003 #15

    Incorrect. Let me quote the US Constitution itself:
    This is Amendment One of the Bill of Rights, which you can read here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html

    Regarding US law alone: it is illegal to restrict freedom of speech by any law.

    I'll make it simple for you:
    • Do people born in that country have a right to live under the founding principles of that country?
    • Or do the law-makers have the right to change those principles, so that those born in that country must make a choice to accept changed conditions or live somewhere else?
    If the latter, then what value has the US Constitution at all?


    There is no logic in that statement. What has being in a vacuum or not got to do with rights? Explain coherently, rather than simply quoting platitudes.

    While I'm sure the webpage you lifted that from looks really spiffy, it's completely wrong. Locke was a mere few centuries ago, whereas the society you term "Western" has its roots in the earliest known empires of the Mediterranean.

    Why is it an invalid theory? Explain logically, please.
  17. Dec 29, 2003 #16


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    Does anyone think that this is more of a freedom of the press issue than it is a freedom of speech issue.

    Ultimately the problem is not that people are not allowed to protest at Bush's speech, but that they cannot broadcast their opinion on the same widely distributed mass media channel. Here it is also clearer that the goverment provides a monopoly to the broadcasting corporations through the FCC.
  18. Dec 30, 2003 #17
    I think some of you folks need to be a little more realistic. It is true that no one lives in a vacuum, and no law exists in one either. There is no freedom that can be absolute, if it can potentially conflict with other laws and freedoms.For instance, you have the right to say whatever you want in your home. You do NOT have the right to stand on the edge of your property and scream into your neighbor's yard. You do not have the right to generally ignore the rights and freedoms of others to express your views.
  19. Dec 30, 2003 #18
    Actually, you can't get away with protesting a performer at any event. Try going to a play a yelling at the actors. Your going to get thrown out. The same thing goes for a speech.

    By setting up protest zones, they are allowing security to look for real threats, and not having to deal with people trying interupt the proceedings.
  20. Dec 30, 2003 #19
    Bush doesn't have the right to avoid protest by moving protester miles away from him. He just doesn't. I don't mean to say that the protesters have a right to rush the stage, but that they should be allowed to protest within a reasonable distance from the speech. If you want to set them up directly behind the supporters, that's cool, or even across the street.
  21. Dec 30, 2003 #20


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    When you make a contract to view an entertainment, you agree to abide by the rules the vendor of that entertainment sets. You have tacitly, voluntarily agreed to forego your freedom of speech for the duration of the event.

    A public political speech is different. Those admitted have made no bargain to give up rights. The president is using public funds to hold the event, ostensibly for the illumination of the general public. Political speech is allowed, demonstrably by the presence of the president's supporters. There is absolutely no grounds for preventing dissenting speech.

    If the event was actually a private affair - say a fundraiser paid for with campaign funds, then things are different. Still, secret service should not be ejecting protestors unless they threaten the president's safety. Protestors would need to be ejected by private security or local police. The ejection would not be on the grounds of their speech, but on the grounds that they are trespassing.

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