Rethinking Free Speech

Right-wing bloggers stretch the right to say what you think

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I am pretty much a First Amendment  purist. With narrow exceptions (yelling fire in a crowded theater and so forth) freedom of speech should not be limited, as odious as it can sometimes be.

But sometimes I wonder.

Through the miracle of Google Alerts, I have been following the coverage of John Holdren, science advisor to President Barak Obama, and an old friend. John’s resume is unassailable—president of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), Professor at Cal and Harvard, head of the Woods Hole Biological Lab, prolific author, and on and on. He was and is perfect for the job, and is a reason to hope that the new administration will pay real attention (rather than just lip service) to science in making big and serious decisions.

If you depended on Google for your news of Dr. Holdren, however, the picture you get is of a raving fascist, a madman, a devil in human garb. It makes me wonder about free speech, in this case propagated mostly by wing-nut blogs.

Like the sites that advocate violence against abortion providers, some of these characters come awfully close to what should be illegal incitement to violence. The most recent, for flavor, is here . John’s entry is down the page a ways—this is an over-the-top denunciation of much of the staff of the man the blogger calls, repeatedly, B. Hussein Obama. Prepare to be nauseated.

Tom Turner literally wrote the books about Earthjustice during his more-than-25 years with the organization. A lifelong resident of Berkeley, CA, he is most passionate about Earthjustice's maiden issue: wilderness preservation.