Friday, October 15, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Adam Serwer takes exception to Dave Weigel's belief that the Dems' latest bugaboo--funding for the Chamber of Commerce--basically boils down to the message "foreign = bad."
I'm not on the SCARY FOREIGN MONEY train, but like Antonin frickin' Scalia, I think democracy works best when people are publicly accountable for their political speech, that anonymity under these circumstances undermines civic responsibility, and that the First Amendment protects your freedom to speak and doesn't confer a freedom not to be criticized, particularly if you're an individual with the means to spend millions to swing the outcome of a political contest. Who is saying something, and who is paying them to say it, matters.
I wonder how far Serwer thinks this 'transparency' should go. Where is the line--by which I mean legal standard--drawn?  Is it just particularly widespread or effective political speech? What if IOZ becomes insanely popular, a la Glenn Beck, and launches effective rants against a candidate? Should we then compel him to reveal himself and all his sources of income? I don't think so.

There is nothing in the Constitution that requires, or even suggests, that people should reveal their identities when engaging in political speech.

Indeed, the suggestion that they should would have been rather odd coming from that Publius guy.

Look, I'm all for government transparency and we need a lot more of it.  Freedom of speech is one of our most cherished rights and disclosure requirements can act as a preemptive chill on speakers. Despite the opinions of Mr. Serwer and Justice Scalia, our democracy has worked just fine when we don't know exactly who is saying what. Speech should be judged for its content and not necessarily for the identities of its speakers.

1 comment:

IOZ said...

Don't you read my detractors. My source of income is a TRUST FUND!

Thanks for the link.