Sunday, February 26, 2006

Will on Free Speech

Today's George Will Op-Ed, "Less Freedom, Less Speech" (Wash. Post, registration required) sums up my thoughts fairly well.

I remember disagreeing with my Criminal Law professor about the constitutionality of "Hate Crimes" laws. Will writes:

American legislators, using the criminal law for moral exhibitionism, enact "hate crime" laws. Hate crimes are, in effect, thought crimes. Hate-crime laws mandate enhanced punishments for crimes committed as a result of, or at least when accompanied by, particular states of mind of which the government particularly disapproves. Governments that feel free to stigmatize, indeed criminalize, certain political thoughts and attitudes will move on to regulating what expresses such thoughts and attitudes -- speech.

First Amendment rights are not absolute, but I believe we have gone much too far in the attempt to protect people from being offended by what others say.

For several decades in America, the aim of much of the jurisprudential thought about the First Amendment's free-speech provision has been to justify contracting its protections. Freedom of speech is increasingly "balanced" against "competing values." As a result, it is whittled down, often by seemingly innocuous increments, to a minor constitutional afterthought.

As has been attributed to Voltaire, I agree with the sentiment expressed as "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Political Correctness is not just a tool to create a more polite society, but is a calculated effort to squelch the voices of those with whom people disagree.

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