I think it goes without saying that the events of this weekend were tragic. Steve and Kevin have done a good job of laying out some of the double speak and self service that some on the left have used the events of this weekend for. There is however, one reactive action that NRE hasn’t covered.
Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA) has introduced a bill that would criminalize the use of “threatening imagery” against lawmakers and judges. Rep. Brady is reacting to Sarah Palin’s website that had a cross hair shown over certain jurisdictions which had incumbent Democrat representatives that could be targeted for defeat.
Certainly, it is easy to agree that no one cares to see physical harm come to any elected official, regardless of their party affiliation. However, a move to ban “threatening imagery,” especially against politicians seems to allow entirely too much latitude for courts to interpret. After all, as you may have heard in last week’s reading of the Constitution, the First Amendment states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…
A couple of things to note about that amendment. First, the free speech issue was not geared towards our day to day speech as to whether we liked or disliked Oprah’s latest guest. The free speech reference was geared specifically towards political free speech. The Founder’s wanted the public to be able to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their government. The latter was particularly important as one of the checks against a run away, out of touch, political elite.
The second thing to note is that the amendment doesn’t say “Congress can make some laws…” or “Congress can’t completely eliminate free speech.” No, it says “Congress shall make no laws.” Zero, zilch, nada, none.
Imagery, especially political imagery, should be jealously guarded. Like hate crime legislation, treading into what imagery is “right” or “wrong” requires the enforcer to know the mind of the “artist” and that just isn’t possible.
“War,” “Battle” and “Target” wording and imagery have been a part of political campaigns and imagery since before the nation was founded. If enacted, which of these images would the legislation limit?
The first known US political editorial cartoon?
This editorial at the start of the Civil War?
Or this editorial of President Bush?
I guess when you consider all the amendments we have to the Constitution we should be able to get by with at least one, or part of one less!