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    Talking the walk

    Patterico pontificates that the FEC’s noises about political expression on the Internet mean a significant new stage in the erosion of personal liberties:

    Yesterday I said that, if the FEC regulates blogs, I will continue to blog the same way I always have. Some have warned me of the dangers inherent in such a position.

    This led to me wonder how unusual my position really is. I suspect that my attitude is widely shared by bloggers, including those who have signed the open letter to the FEC.

    I think it�s time to put the question to you directly. Who out there will make this pledge:

    If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

    Since I write from Japan but my blog lives back home in the States, I don’t know how things would play out for people such as me in practice, but as an American citizen, yeah, I pledge.

    I’ve never refrained from posting about something because of its political content–and that’s as someone who’s a guest in this country and frequently says critical things about its government and society. The reason I don’t feel the need to watch my step is that 60 years ago, we began the process of turning Japan from an empire into a democracy, complete with constitutionally-mandated freedom of speech. The following is from Chapter III of the constitution Japan has had since after the war:


    1 集会、結社及び言論、出版その他一切の表現の自由は、これを保障する。

    Article 21:

    1) Freedom of assembly and association as well as speech, press and all other forms of expression are guaranteed.

    Because America was concerning itself with extending the gift of liberty to its former enemies, Japan today has the same free-speech protections we have. It’s a beautiful thing to live around.

    Our government’s current enthusiasm for curtailing the constitutionally protected speech of its own people is not beautiful. It’s immoral, unethical, illegal, and outrageous. It’s also not new. McCain-Feingold, with its little numbered permissions and categories, is already law, after all.

    By the way, as someone who lives abroad, I think there’s something else we might consider. I don’t believe it’s our right or duty to install democracy throughout the world, but there is nothing wrong with seeing ourselves as a symbol of what to aspire to. We’d be selfish and mean if we didn’t want to give people hope; we all have ancestors who were once in their position, after all. And there are governments all over the place that would be overjoyed beyond measure to see the US start clamping down on political speech on the Internet–as in, “See? Even America doesn’t consider it a civil right to speak out about the candidate of your choice without permission. Now, stop bitching, citizens.” Happily, the proper response to this particular threat is something Americans are already good at: keep talking, and loudly. Best not lose that ability by indulging in another American habit: taking our good fortune for granted.

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