Misplaced Outrage

November 11, 2014

by Dan Ward

I’ve written many times about free speech issues, and have shared concern here about Justice Department intrusions on the freedom of the press.

That said, I’m having a hard time defending the Associated Press in its latest dispute with the FBI.

In 2007, a 15-year-old in Washington state was making bomb threats and directing cyber attacks at a Seattle high school, and the FBI was having a difficult time tracking him down.

Having profiled the suspect as a narcissist, an FBI agent communicated online with him, posing as an AP reporter to ask if he would be willing to draft an article about the threats. The request included a link to a fake AP story that included tracking software, which led agents to the suspect.

The AP calls this an “unacceptable” action that “belittles the value of free press rights” and “corrodes … our independence from government control.” Huh?

As the FBI director points out, deception is a tool of law enforcement, and the only person interacting with the fake AP reporter or reading the fake AP story was a suspect threatening the bombing of a school.

Journalists have plenty of reasons to be unhappy with the Justice Department. But they should save their outrage for genuine violations of the public trust.


Censorship is a Good Thing

August 11, 2010

By John Marini

As a strong supporter of Americans’ First Amendment right to free speech, I must confess that I am also a big proponent of censorship. In fact, I practice it every day.

Before you think I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, let me explain. I have never written to the school board asking them to take a book out of the classroom, although I wish math books were banned when I was growing up. What I mean is being selective with words, which I believe are very powerful.

As the father of two young children, I exercise censorship while reading to my children. Not only in the books I choose, but in the way I read them. Occasionally, I will come across a word that is no longer used in today’s vernacular, at least not in the same context, like the word queer. It’s used often in the wonderful book “The Boxcar Children,” which was written in 1942. When I first came across it, I told my 7-year-old son the meaning of the word and then every time I came across it again I substituted the word strange – partly because the word queer is now a slang reference to being gay (which is another word that doesn’t mean what it once did), and partly because it’s seldom used in today’s vocabulary.

I may also see a word I don’t want my children saying, like the word stupid. I happen to think it’s a particularly strong, derogatory word; I don’t say around my kids and I don’t want to hear coming from their mouths. When I recently came across it reading to my 4-year-old daughter, I automatically changed it to silly.

As a communications professional at Curley & Pynn, I have to choose the words I use very carefully because they can have a big impact on how a client is perceived. That’s why I employ self-censorship in what I write on a daily basis. Chances are you do too.

Think of this post the next time you hear of someone accused of censorship. While the First Amendment protects your right to say they are stupid or their thinking is queer, it may not be true.


The Power of Free – Part II

January 29, 2010

by Dan Ward

Roger Pynn wrote about the Power of Free … how the word “free” is a strong driver of consumer action.

I want to write about the power of Free from another angle … our rights, as individuals and as businesses or associations, to Free Speech.

The Jan. 21 Supreme Court decision striking down portions of the McCain-Feingold Act has been roundly criticized, because it will open the door to increased spending by corporations on political campaigns.

My response?  Deal with it.

The First Amendment is not meant to be convenient.  At times it can be annoying, unpopular, and even disturbing.  But it lays out essential freedoms that help to define who we are as a country.

Many pundits, media organizations and legislators are claiming that businesses do not and should not have the same rights to free speech as ordinary citizens.  I’m not buying it.

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …”

That is not followed by “*this freedom applies only to individuals, and not to businesses, associations, unions or clubs.”  The framers were sparse with their words for a reason.  The freedom of speech is meant to be expansive, not restrictive.

Some are saying that the increased power of corporations to use their wallets to gain air time will drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.  But we as citizens have a powerful right unavailable to any corporation. 

We have the right to a vote … and when we take the time to learn about issues and candidates rather than basing our decisions solely on ad buys and sound bites, nothing speaks louder.


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