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"Boom cars" and "Choice" trucks

The topic of "boom cars" came up on yesterday's Afternoon Edition. When someone called in and said "boom cars" should be banned, AE host Darryl Neher asked if this is really somewhere that government should get involved. I called in and said that when the volume of someone's music is disruptive to someone else's life, government needs to step in. While we have free speech under the First Amendment, those rights are not unlimited. Reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech are not a violation of one's constitutional rights. (See my previous post on "boom cars" here.)

Neher asked if the same argument applies to large pictures of aborted babies, especially on the sides of trucks. Is that not forcing an image on someone, as a "boom car" forces music on someone who does not listen? I responded that one cannot get away from a "boom car" in the same way that someone can turn their eyes away from a picture of an aborted baby.

At this point, I think Neher misunderstood the point I was trying to make, because he said that one can simply drive away from the "boom car" just as one can avert their gaze from a graphic abortion photograph. I was not speaking about driving, but about being disturbed in the privacy of one's home. Should people have the right to expect that they will not hear music from other people's automobiles while they are watching television or reading the newspaper in the privacy of their living rooms? As I understand it, the anti-boom activists are more concerned about hearing the "boom cars" in their homes than in their vehicles.

This is where the comparison to aborted baby pictures breaks down. As another caller pointed out, if the Center for BioEthical Reform were to park a "Choice" truck outside of your home, you might be irritated but you can go about your business undisturbed. If someone parks a "boom car" outside of your home, you cannot simply turn away from it. You have to wait for the "boom car" to leave or you have to request that government get involved to address an invasion of privacy.

I think we have to be very careful when it comes to placing restrictions on political speech. If we are to err, we must err on the side of allowing speech we dislike, especially if that speech is unpopular of "offensive." The images on the "Choice" trucks are offensive, but they are meant to be offensive. The murder of an unborn child is far more offensive than showing the results of that murder.

One pro-abortion caller threatened to commit acts of terrorism against people driving the "Choice" trucks. No matter how offended the pro-abortion caller might be by the images on the "Choice" trucks, acts of violence to suppress political speech he does not like are unjustifiable and inexcusable. Make no mistake about it: acts of violence to silence political speech you disagree with are terrorism and must be dealt with very harshly. I hope that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was listening to the program yesterday and is prepared to subpoena WGCL phone records should such acts of violence take place.

One political lesson that we can take from this "boom car" controversy is the impact that a small group of people can have on a political issue if they devote themselves to bringing about change. A few people have been writing letters to the editor and attempting to raise public awareness on the "boom" issue, and Mayor Kruzan has been moved to act with a proposed "Lower the Boom" campaign. In a town like Bloomington, conservative activists would do well to recognize what has been successful about the anti-boom campaign and emulate it.