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Supreme Court to Weigh In on 'Speech-Suppressive' Law

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posted on Jan, 11 2014 @ 10:54 AM
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So, ATS, I ask....What are the limits of free speech? Should there BE any limits to it, where it's political speech? Is it fair to say a major focus of creating the 1st Amendment was, in reality, protected political speech?

It seems the U.S. Supreme Court has chosen to bring clarification to this matter on a case they've just decided to take up.


(CN) - The Supreme Court agreed Friday to determine if groups challenging an Ohio law that criminalizes false political speech must prove they face a credible threat of prosecution.

Ohio law makes it a crime to "post, publish, circulate, distribute or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate" or ballot initiative knowingly or with "reckless disregard."


What precisely is at issue in this case? Well, it's nothing special to what I've seen in other states, along side interstate highways. In fact, it's downright tame by that standard.


The Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, ran afoul of the provisions with a planned billboard criticizing Rep. Steven Driehaus for supporting the Affordable Care Act. The sign would have read: "Shame on Steven Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion."
Source

Now, agree or not with the message, or even hate the debate with a passion that vibrates? None of that matters, as the example for Supreme Court level is never about the specific individuals and issue itself. That's not the job of the Supreme Court. It's the job of lower courts to handle the tens of thousands of such cases each year. The Supreme Court's job is to serve as final authority, as they are, for interpretation of cases and case law where Constitutional matters are in some form of conflict.

The conflict posed here is self evident, again, regardless of personal feelings for the issue sitting as the example. Should the State have the right to tell someone they cannot express their political views as they perceive and interpret that to be, with the rest of the general public?

or

To look at this another way, have we fallen so far in this nation for critical thinking and rational analysis through daily life that we require the state to actively silence people who may....just may...be flat wrong in their thinking but sincere in their desires or wishes to express it?

If so...who is the ultimate arbiter of what is accurate, what is biased and what is proper? Attorneys threatening legal action, as happened here? State laws..as this case is about? Citizens Committees perhaps? Even if censoring B.S. is considered right by society, it's how that gets defined that always leaves a Constitutional path to achieve it impossible to find, IMO.

What does everyone think? Is political speech free or should it carry a big * to see footnotes?

edit on 11-1-2014 by Wrabbit2000 because: Captain Typo Strikes Again




posted on Jan, 11 2014 @ 11:01 AM
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Unfortunately, while I agree with you completely on the idea of promoting critical thinking and analysis....

I think this is actually already handled under slander laws.



posted on Jan, 11 2014 @ 11:12 AM
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Ohio law makes it a crime to "post, publish, circulate, distribute or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate" or ballot initiative knowingly or with "reckless disregard."


Just tossing in my two cents, but doesn't this law indicate that the candidates themselves are in violation if they lie during their campaign? (I.E. Candidate promises to lower taxes, and immediately raises them). Wouldn't that be a false political statement as well?

Either way, it's a stupid law since the candidates lie about each other all the time.



posted on Jan, 11 2014 @ 11:27 AM
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reply to post by zeroBelief
 


But slander laws hold public figures/officials differently than ordinary citizens, but I think that "malicious intent" is already covered where public figures are concerned, so this Ohio law seems to be something the SCOTUS has ruled on, although the Ohio law seems to make it simpler and less vague. Saying "Candidate X molested his nephew" knowing that is false would be malicious, once could also argue that a reasonable person might believe it because there's no way to prove otherwise would like fall under acceptable free speech (with a good enough lawyer, and it being a pubic figure). Hell, look at Larry Flynt. I think the SCOTUS will strike down the Ohio law, because previous rulings, if i remember correctly, have held false information is protected unless, again, it can be proved to be singly malicious with intent to harm, which is HARD for a PUBLIC figure to prove.

That said, and back to the OP, I do not think there should be limits to free speech except as already noted under law (threats, etc).

I do, however, get tired of all the mudslinging and lies during election season, but I don't think it should be criminalized. It just shows the true character of the candidates and their campaigns (IF they endorse them, and it's not am independent third party).

Again, one of the foundations of the 1st amendment IS protection of political speech, because it was precisely political speech that was prosecuted under English law.

Bottom line: political speech is free, should remain as such, and have no footnotes.



posted on Jan, 11 2014 @ 11:34 AM
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IMO one of the scary thoughts here, is that something like this could criminalize conspiracy theories, could it not?

Theorist: JFK / RFK were killed by the CIA under the approval and direction of LBJ

Government: Prove it, or that is an illegal statement, for which you will go to jail and/or be fined


Dangerous precedent to set.


IMO they should not allow this. If they do, the burden of proof should be on the government / prosecutors to prove that the claim is false. Which, of course, would be difficult if not impossible to do, in most cases.
edit on 11-1-2014 by iwilliam because: (no reason given)
edit on 11-1-2014 by iwilliam because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 11 2014 @ 11:36 AM
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reply to post by zeroBelief
 


The Super Court doesn't generally take up cases for national level handling...which are already covered by the local level ordinances and laws.

The source article adds a bit more at the bottom for clarity though and to be precise:


The high court agreed to weigh in on two issues: 1) whether parties challenging a speech-suppressive law must prove that authorities would "certainly and successfully" prosecute them, and 2) whether the 6th Circuit erred when it ruled that Ohio's law banning false political speech is not subject to chilled-speech review so long as the speaker maintains that the speech is true, despite what others say.


As is generally the custom of the Super Court, they are very specific in what they take up, why they choose to take one case over another (most are rejected) and what they intend to see decided or settled for precedent.

@ Liquesence

Very good point. That is another valuable reason free speech must be absolute (outside those public safety exceptions we all know). There has been more than one group or individual I WOULD have voted for and/or supported, had they not opened their big mouth to educate me on just how over the edge they really were. Todd Akin as Missouri Senate Candidate will likely stand as the most profound example of that for me. It went against every bone in my being to vote *FOR* Claire McCaskil. I really had spent years looking forward to casting the vote against her. ....then dipstick opened his mouth on the rape comments and proved I couldn't stomach voting that level of pure ignorance, regardless of politics.

Had he not been free to demonstrate his unmitigated stupidity? I absolutely would have voted for Akin ..and who knows, many others likely would have too. Oddly, free political speech works to self-check bad people sometimes, as much as anything else.



posted on Jan, 11 2014 @ 11:54 AM
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reply to post by Wrabbit2000
 


I bet the Supreme Court is going to rule in favor of politicians.

This will essentially stifle free speech and people will be afraid of criticizing politicians since most criticisms can't be proven until after the # hits the fan.

Who knows though?



posted on Jan, 11 2014 @ 12:13 PM
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zeroBelief
Unfortunately, while I agree with you completely on the idea of promoting critical thinking and analysis....

I think this is actually already handled under slander laws.


Actually, it's covered under libel laws, which is criminal involving malicious (or non-malicious) intent and damages do not have to be proven. Slander is a civil instrument and requires damages normally. At least that is the way it is in Canada, we have odd tort law.

Cheers - Dave



posted on Jan, 11 2014 @ 12:22 PM
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reply to post by Wrabbit2000
 


The minute you start parsing or redefining free speech, is the minute you lose it.



posted on Jan, 11 2014 @ 03:11 PM
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zeroBelief
Unfortunately, while I agree with you completely on the idea of promoting critical thinking and analysis....

I think this is actually already handled under slander laws.


Libel/slander laws do not apply to public figures except for in the case of actual malice being behind the falsehoods. Public figures have less protections from slander and libel than the average person.

Applicable Supreme Court Case: New York Times Co. v. Sullivan

In other words, in order to win a case utilizing slander/libel laws as a public figure, the plaintiff has to prove that there was malicious intent behind the publication. In terms of candidates, that portion will be probably struck down as unconstitutional as per stare decisis. NYT v. Sullivan already settled that issue. The ballot initiative portion of the law is a tricky one though as its not a person at all. If they perceive the things that the Ohio law is affecting directly as being a portion of the press, I'm betting that the law gets struck down as unconstitutional. Our current Supreme Court has already shown that they are willing to protect the First Amendment on already spoken speech as in the fairly recent Westboro Baptist Church ruling.

That's my bet, at least. I agree with Wrabbit. Laws such as Ohio's are inherently dangerous in how they may be executed. Does something true but largely unsubstantiated get struck down in Ohio because the target cried "liar"? That's not how it's supposed to work. If there is a problem with the public's ability to discern, we need to resolve it at the educational level and not risk putting a gag on speech because our country has chosen to make a good portion of the populace a bunch of airheads. If our legislative, executive and state branches have a problem with people getting suckered in by lies, then they should probably do something about fixing the schools so that everybody is learning critical thinking and analytical tools. You reap what you sow, I suppose.





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