What Freedom of Speech?

Monday, January 1st, 2007 12:18 pm by Neal

Reader cyclops alerted us to this editorial by Mark Tapscott, the editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner, on the continuing demolition of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Thanks for nothing, John McCain and Russ Feingold.

The essay, “No, You Can’t Say That …. And Forget That First Amendment Stuff,” relates the case of a minor, small-time NASCAR team targeted by the FEC stormtroopers for an “improper independent expenditure” consisting of a “Bush-Cheney ’04” bumper sticker.

No, we’re not kidding. Here Tapscott’s description of the offense,

How does one know when the critical point in a Republic’s loss of its basic liberties like freedom of speech has been passed? A Dec. 22 notice from the Federal Election Commission looks very much like that point for America.

The notice concerned a complaint the FEC received from one Sydnor Thompson that Kirk Shelmerdine had improperly committed an independent expenditure on behalf of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign during the 2004 race.

When he committed the independent expenditure, Shelmerdine had none of the big-time sponsors normally associated with front-line NASCAR drivers like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. In fact, Shelmerdine had no significant sponsors at all during the four races in which he raced during 2004 while committing that independent expenditure.

But don’t worry, the FEC magnanimously declined to bring down the full weight of the law on Shelmerdine for this dastardly act of plastering a single bumper sticker on a race car that hardly anyone saw.

No, the FEC graciously and mercifully settled on sending a mere “admonishment” to Shelmerdine. After all, as soon as he knew about the FEC action against him, Shelmerdine “out of an abundance of caution” took the bumper sticker off his race car.

Thus grinds the insidious, oppressive wheels of government.

Today it is Shelmerdine who must remove a bumper sticker; tomorrow it will be you taking down a yard sign, an Internet posting, or maybe having the FEC gestapo visit your home to ask about those letters you’ve been writing to the local papers. Tapscott concludes,

If you still wonder why I believe this case is so important, think about this: What is the difference between Kirk Shelmerdine’s race car as his equipment for making a living and the pickup truck driven by the plumber or housing contractor?

The contractor with a Kerry-Edwards or Bush-Cheney bumper sticker on his back bumper and driving down I-95 or just about any other public road in America will be seen by far more people than Shelmerdine’s “field filler” race car at four NASCAR events.

It’s the same “independent expenditure,” but it has more impact than the Shelmerdine sticker, so what’s to keep Congress from next directing the FEC to “admonish” every contractor, plumber, electrician, etc. etc. in America to get those bumper stickers off their pickups?

The Shelmerdine case is not merely “simply silly,” as argued today by The Washington Post editorial page. It is indicative of the ongoing destruction of history’s greatest bulwark for the right of every individual to think, say, believe and associate as he or she chooses, without having to get prior permission from bureaucrats or politicians.

And thus one lone little voice among the formerly free American citizenry is silenced. The grasping, fearful politicians and the petty, controlling bureaucrats in Washington drive another nail in the coffin containing the First Amendment.

Jefferson’s point about the need for a revolution every 20 years or so is becoming clearer with each passing day.

This is just one example of what Ayn Rand articulated over four decades ago in her essay, “The Nature of Government”, namely, the perversion of the Constitution as a “charter of the citizens’ protection against the government.” Rand wrote,

Now consider the extent of the moral and political inversion in today’s prevalent view of government. Instead of being a protector of man’s rights, the government is becoming their most dangerous violator; instead of guarding freedom, the government is establishing slavery; instead of protecting men from the initiators of physical force, the government is initiating physical force and coercion in any manner and issue it pleases; instead of serving as the instrument of objectivity in human relationships, the government is creating a deadly, subterranean reign of uncertainty and fear, by means of nonobjective laws whose interpretation is left to the arbitrary decisions of random bureaucrats; instead of protecting men from injury by whim, the government is arrogating to itself the power of unlimited whim — so that we are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.

Kirk Shelmerdine could tell you what Ayn Rand meant when she warned about

  • nonobjective laws
  • arbitrary decisions of random bureaucrats
  • the power of unlimited whim
  • the stage of the ultimate inversion

Are you ready for what comes next?

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