Americans have a solid faith in the expression of “Freedom of
Speech” — but only as long as they agree with what is being expressed.
If the speech is unpopular, or in need of condemning by community
standards, then the speech is repressed and made costly in the loss of
its ranging.

Abridging unpopular speech is always making unpopular news:

NEW
YORK (AP) – Rant all you want in a public park. A police officer
generally won’t eject you for your remarks alone, however unpopular or
provocative.

Say it on the Internet, and you’ll find that free speech and other constitutional rights are anything but guaranteed.

Companies
in charge of seemingly public spaces online wipe out content that’s
controversial but otherwise legal. Service providers write their own
rules for users worldwide and set foreign policy when they cooperate
with regimes like China. They serve as prosecutor, judge and jury in
handling disputes behind closed doors.

The
governmental role that companies play online is taking on greater
importance as their services – from online hangouts to virtual
repositories of photos and video – become more central to public
discourse around the world. It’s a fallout of the Internet’s
market-driven growth, but possible remedies, including government
regulation, can be worse than the symptoms.

Political discourse was recently shut down in New York City,
but the most ominous rise of oppression in the name of fairness is the
want to return to the bad old days of the “Fairness Doctrine” that
would knock out talk radio and blogging in a single pen swipe if that doctrine becomes the new law of the land:

There’s
a huge concern among conservative talk radio hosts that reinstatement
of the Fairness Doctrine would all-but destroy the industry due to
equal time constraints. But speech limits might not stop at radio. They
could even be extended to include the Internet and “government
dictating content policy.”

FCC Commissioner Robert
McDowell raised that as a possibility after talking with bloggers at
the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. McDowell spoke about a
recent FCC vote to bar Comcast from engaging in certain Internet
practices – expanding the federal agency’s oversight of Internet
networks.

The commissioner, a 2006 President Bush
appointee, told the Business & Media Institute the Fairness
Doctrine could be intertwined with the net neutrality battle. The
result might end with the government regulating content on the Web, he
warned. McDowell, who was against reprimanding Comcast, said the net
neutrality effort could win the support of “a few isolated
conservatives” who may not fully realize the long-term effects of
government regulation.

Free Speech is, and always has been, an illusion.

Free
Speech never had blanket protection — there were always exceptions and
conditions placed upon it — and none of us should be surprised one day
when an email comes knocking demanding we publish an opposing position
for every blog post we make… and for every thought we publicly
express.

When that day happens — and it will arrive
soon — where every argument has a legally required counter position,
even if it is ineffectual and specious, we become lesser in the
ridiculousness of the propagation of the illusion that speech was ever
free in the first place.

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