Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The exquisite pain of the First Amendment

Scott Lemieux reminds us of a long-standing p3 maxim: If defending free speech doesn't hurt, at least a little bit, you're probably not doing it right:

To its substantial credit, in an 8-1 ruling today the Court held that the civil suit against Fred Phelps violated the First Amendment. It’s hard to celebrate any victory for Phelps and his band of bigots, but that’s the point — you don’t need the First Amendment to defend popular speakers.

Thus is actual free speech in America distinguished from what Sarah Palin thinks it should be, which is speech that is free from ever being subjected to criticism. I'm as astonished as anyone that the same court that declared contract-based corporations to have the same free-speech rights as carbon-based citizens actually got this one right, but there's no denying they did.

(Bonus quote from Lemieux:

You’d think that ["Strip Search Sammy" Alito's lone dissent in] this case would kill of his wholly unearned reputation for moderation, but it seems as durable as Newt Gingrich’s wholly unearned reputation as an intellectual.


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