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Appropriate and effective methods of political speech

By Scott Tibbs, June 18, 2008

Three recent news stories raise interesting questions about he boundaries of free speech.

American Family Voices is fighting the enforcement of a state law banning the use of automated dialing machines, claiming that it does not apply to political speech. There are also questions about whether the ban violates the First Amendment's protections for free speech. While I am wary of government deciding it can restrict speech, the hyperbole by Indiana Democratic Chairman Dan Parker is ridiculous. "There are some points before an election where I'm tired of all the TV ads, but that's free speech", Parker said.

Of course, you can easily change the channel, watch a DVD, or turn off the TV and do something else if you don't want to see a political TV ad, but you don't have a choice to instantly silence a ringing telephone. To compare a TV ad with interrupting someone's dinner so a machine can play a prerecorded message is ridiculous. Political phone calls are already exempt from the "do not call" list if made by a human being.

This seems to be a pretty clear case of a "time, place and manner" regulation that is allowed in American constitutional law. You have the right to say whatever you want without worrying that the government to censor you, but you do not have the right to bother someone in his home.

Here in Bloomington, a thug protesting against Interstate 69 threw a chunk of concrete, breaking out a glass pane in the entry door of One City Centre. The I-69 regional office is located in the building, but so is AM 1370 and other businesses. Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan disapproved, saying "Violent action is a disservice to our community's reputation and, in fact, does nothing but hurt the protesters' own cause."

Kudos to Mayor Kruzan for standing for civility and denouncing the inexcusable actions of the thugs/protesters. Last fall, I called on Mayor Kruzan to denounce the uncivil actions of other anti-highway thugs, who shut down an informational meeting at Bloomington North High school with intimidating tactics. (See articles from August 21, August 23, August 27, August 29, August 31.) The Mayor's silence was disturbing then, but his voice is welcome now. We can all have a reasonable debate about the wisdom of an interstate highway through southwestern Indiana without resorting to destruction of property and physically intimidating political opponents.

We move from the illegal to the just plain stupid when the fools at PETA decided to stage a protest against eating meat. Two young women, wearing nothing from the waist up and wearing only flesh-colored briefs from the waist down, posed on two huge Styrofoam trays and were covered with plastic wrap and fake blood. The point? That eating animal flesh is no different, morally, from eating human flesh. The protest wasn't illegal or violent, but it was stupid. Cassandra Calahan and Chelsea Pagan-Hermina might be able to think of themselves as morally superior for laying in the baking sun for this demonstration, but did they change any minds? No, it made people point and laugh. Such silly tactics only serve to make animal "rights" protesters look like clowns.