Press-Republican

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September 16, 2012

Courage or cowardice

One of the most redeeming institutions that flows from our Constitution and its amendments is freedom of speech. However, this freedom should not be free.

Our forefathers created a marketplace for ideas because they believed in the value of full information. Every idea can be put out there in the context of who is speaking and with the beauty of what is said.

It would be reassuring to have confidence in a message solely for its content, and not because of its source. However, this simplistic view is like witnessing the Mona Lisa through a veil.

For instance, do you believe there is any difference in one extolling the beauty of capitalism if she was a CEO of an investment bank or if he was the leader of the Communist party? Clearly, the messenger has to be part of the message. I believe our founding fathers contemplated this.

Now, though, with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, anyone can speak loudly without indicating who they are or how they stand to gain. Such anonymity is cowardice. Ads in the silly season become avenues for cheap shots.

I also see this cowardice in Speakout, where writers want to get something off their chest or convince us of the truth as they see it. They seem to have some sort of ax to grind. Their message is almost always negative. They rarely encourage the best from us, and, they don’t tell us who they are.

Many find Speakout tedious and disturbing, but we are compelled to read the comments because of the same instinct that forces us to witness the aftermath of a train wreck.

While those who take advantage of Citizens United do so at a great financial price, the Speakout writers, or anonymous bloggers, try to influence public opinion without cost.

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