November 29, 2011

IT'S NOT ACTUALLY A FREE SPEECH QUESTION...:

No Free Speech at Mr. Jefferson's Library (Peter Van Buren, 11/28/11, Tom Dispatch)

Free speech is considered so basic that the courts have been wary of imposing any limits at all. The famous warning by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes about not falsely shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater shows just how extreme a situation must be for the Supreme Court to limit speech.  As Holmes put it in his definition: "The question in every case is whether the words used... are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent." That's a high bar indeed.

Does a newspaper article from November 2009, a few hundred well-reasoned words that appeared in the conservative Wall Street Journal, concluding with these mild sentences, meet Justice Holmes's high mark?

"Double standards don't play well in Peoria. They won't play well in Peshawar or Palembang either. We need to work to change the negative perceptions that exist about Guantanamo and our commitment to the law. Formally establishing a legal double standard will only reinforce them."

Morris Davis got fired from his research job at the Library of Congress for writing that article and a similar letter to the editor of the Washington Post. (The irony of being fired for exercising free speech while employed at Thomas Jefferson's library evidently escaped his bosses.)  With the help of the ACLU, Davis demanded his job back.


..since Mr. Davis exercised that right with no interference.  Instead, he's asserting a right to government employment, which isn't a constitutional guarantee.

Posted by at November 29, 2011 6:03 PM
  

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