free speech

Regarding freedom of expression

From “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill:

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

By | October 11th, 2011|Uncategorized|1 Comment

How far can Arab news channels report the news?

Interesting coverage from Magda Abu-Fadil on the Arab Media Forum, held last week in Dubai. She provides a nugget of information about the limits of coverage of Arab news channels like Al Arabiya. The network, which broadcasts in Arabic but features an English language website and Twitter feed, is owned by the Saudi television conglomerate Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC). It serves as an alternative to Al Jazeera, based in Qatar.

Abu-Fadil writes:

The lively discussion turned to media freedoms in the Arab world and whether channels like Al Arabiya and Aljazeera were allowed to report on sensitive issues in their home countries.Dubai-based Al Arabiya is Saudi-owned while Aljazeera is based in Doha and funded by the Qatari government.

“We can cover Saudi Arabia, up to a point,” Al Khatib said, noting that media worldwide must operate within certain parameters. “There’s a romantic view that media aren’t courageous enough.”

He also said owners had interests and could take certain risks but that going too far meant jeopardizing advertising revenue and the possible loss of viewers, not to mention journalists losing their jobs if they ruffled the wrong feathers.

Interesting. I’d quibble with the insistance that all media outlets have limits imposed upon them. That’s true to a certain point. However, because of the absence of legal protections for the media in this part of the world, Arab media outlets practice far more self-censorship than in most other regions.

By | May 24th, 2011|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Plea for open records

The reporter from Hustler magazine asking for crime scene photos (that contain a woman’s nude and decapitated body) makes a pretty good argument for why the state shouldn’t be denying his public records request.

By | March 18th, 2010|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Why Tebow and not gay dating ad? CBS on Super Bowl hotseat

Good overview on the trouble CBS finds itself in after agreeing to run an anti-abortion ad but refusing to air an ad from a gay Web site during the Super Bowl:

By agreeing to show an “uplifting” antiabortion ad and rejecting a Super Bowl-style ad (read: funny) for a gay dating site, CBS is already feeling the effects of its decision to air “advocacy” ads for the first time on Super Sunday.

Working in a tough advertising climate, CBS surprised many Americans by explaining a new policy on advocacy ads after news emerged that it had agreed to show an antiabortion ad featuring Florida QB Tim Tebow and his mom, Pam.

That decision caused an uproar over the ad itself, the sponsor (the conservative organization Focus on the Family), and the prospect of politics seeping into a three-hour block where most Americans are trying to escape from the daily grind.

There are some extenuating circumstances — namely that the Web site may not really have the $2.6 million it costs to run the ad and therefore was really just engaging in a (rather successful) PR stunt.

That said, I’ve yet to read a good explanation for why the anti-abortion ad is OK while the gay ad is improper. Both will be highly offensive to some viewers and both advocate a position on a pretty volatile issue for many people. CBS appears to have opened up quite a can of worms by revising their standards — and I’m unsure how they’re going to enforce their policy without being arbitrary or capricious.

And, by the way, I’m referring to the “Big Game” as the Super Bowl. Come and sue me, NFL.

By | January 31st, 2010|Uncategorized|8 Comments

Huge ruling on campaign laws, free speech

The Supreme Court just ended the long-held ban prohibiting corporations from spending money on political advertisements:

WASHINGTON — Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

The ruling was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace will corrupt democracy.

The 5-to-4 decision represented a sharp doctrinal shift, and it will have major political and practical consequences. Specialists in campaign finance law said they expected the decision, which also applies to labor unions and other organizations, to reshape the way elections are conducted.

It’s hard to overstate the impact of this ruling. It basically throws out the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law and says that the government can’t tell corporations (including non-profit advocacy groups and labor unions) when and how they can spend their money to influence an election. Up till this point, the law banned groups from paying for ads 30 days prior to a general election unless the ads were not actually advocating for a candidate.

I think this is the correct ruling. I understand the arguments for restricting spending on campaigns — we don’t want corporations and advocacy groups with a bunch of money to misled the public buying up all the airtime right before an election. For the good of democracy, the argument goes, we should limit how much speech certain groups can have. But, in practice, corporations and advocacy groups were still spending a lot of money, despite all the laws. In Georgia, I saw plenty of ads that worked their way around the law. They’d tell me what sinister thing my elected official was up to and suggest I call them and ask them to stop. What they were really saying was — vote for the other candidate.

In the end, I agree with former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who said that “money, like water, will always find an outlet.” Crafting layer upon layer of regulation will never stem the flow of money into politics — so let’s just let it flow. In the marketplace of ideas, the best ideas will win.

By | January 21st, 2010|Uncategorized|8 Comments