Valley Patriot Editorial: Talk Radio: Congress Shall Make No Law …


 July, 2007

Careful readers of this paper have probably noticed the above byline under The Valley Patriot banner since our very first printing.

We chose this byline, the first five words of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, because we believe that this amendment is the first line of defense against government trampling our rights as individuals. It is a boldly stated “No Trespassing” sign that tells the government to do nothing that interferes in any way with our right to practice whatever religion we choose and our right to openly communicate our beliefs — whether orally or in writing, and whether alone or in concert with others .

The legitimacy of our government is critically linked with the tradition of forbidding any government interference with our right to freely receive, formulate and communicate ideas. If our government interferes with the very intellectual discourse that results in the selection of our elected representatives or that shapes our laws, then the institution of government itself is illegitimate and will ultimately lose the support of its citizenry. Often, violent revolution is the only remedy.

Today, our First Amendment rights are under attack.

First there was the McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation that not only interfered with the use of private property to exercise one’s rights protected by the First Amendment, but also placed explicit limitations of the exercise of political speech – a clear violation of “Congress shall make no law … .” What is it about “no law” that Congress or the Supreme Court doesn’t understand?

Now there is a concerted campaign to impose a “fairness doctrine” on talk radio. Anybody who thinks he wants government to be the referee of fairness when it comes to political speech – and, like it or not, talk radio is clearly political speech — is woefully naïve and ignorant of history.

Our freedom of speech has never been put at risk by an institution with greater resources. The New York Times may have tremendous resources, but radio, TV, cable, satellites, the Internet, and even papers such as The Valley Patriot ensure that a wide variety of ideas will be available to readers/listeners.

The only risk to our First Amendment rights comes from government.

How do we determine what is “fair”? Should the idea that suicide bombers are positive role models be given the same amount of airtime as a discussion of education reform? Why not? Who is to say how available airtime should be parceled out? Do we want the government to decide that?

Freedom works. Just as the raving lunatic on a street corner in New York City only draws a handful of listeners while others, with more valuable messages, fill Yankee Stadium or draw millions of readers or listeners, the marketplace of ideas responds to the people’s demands.

When governments pollute the process of their own evolution, they evolve tyrannies. If we let that happen, we will set the stage for Jefferson’s remedy: “The tree of liberty must be  refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”