ISSUES IN FOCUS
Week of May 24, 1999
Capitalizing on the hysteria over juvenile violence in our schools, statists are now proposing new legislation that will make it illegal to disseminate certain kinds of information. If enacted, it will effectively shut down certain kinds of web sites, remove books and videos from libraries, bookstores and other retail outlets. If this move by statists is successful, i.e., becomes law, statists will have established the precedent that the state may outlaw access to ideas and knowledge it deems undesirable. It will be a giant step towards the eventual imposition of total censorship.
Most Americans are appallingly oblivious to just how far down the road we have already come to the eventual establishment of full-blown censorship by the federal government.
Consider the extent to which freedom of speech has already been restricted.
Today, it is already illegal for you, within 60 days of a federal election, to use the words "vote for" or "vote against," in reference to a candidate for federal office, on your web site, or in advertisements, unless you register with the Federal Election Commission. In other words, you must get the equivalent of a permit from the federal government before using such words and they dictate the terms of their use. And statists, in the name of "campaign finance reform," are now pushing for an outright ban on the use of such terms, as well as others, during an "election cycle."
Today, it is illegal for certain companies to express certain ideas. The most notable example is the tobacco company that has effectively been forbidden from saying it is a good idea to smoke. In other words, the precedent has been established that the state may ban the expression of ideas it deems to be bad. Smoking may be a bad idea, but in a free country it is not, and should not be, illegal to express such an idea. Frighteningly, most in America appear unable to grasp the principle involved: if the expression of one idea may be banned, any idea—good or bad—may be banned.
Today, it is illegal for you to use certain words—words the state considers "discriminatory"—in any advertisement you might place in any medium of communication. Further, tort law, as well as laws on discrimination, make you vulnerable to criminal and civil prosecution if you simply say anything that might be regarded as an utterance of "discrimination."
Today, we have already criminalized ideas by giving extra jail time for the criminal who holds certain ideas.
And, now, we have statists attempting to make it illegal to publish certain kinds of information.
When statists are attempting to establish a major precedent, such as this one, they typically focus on something most adults would not want in the hands of children. True to this pattern, statists have selected what appears to be a political winner: bomb-making information.
Statists are proposing that it be made illegal to publish such information if the intent of the publisher is to assist someone who is preparing to commit a crime. And just how are statists going to determine intent? You only need to listen to Orrin Hatch, co-sponsor of this amendment to the so-called Juvenile Justice bill: "Why someone feels the need to put such harmful material on the Internet is beyond me…." And this means: the mere presence of such material on the Internet is harmful and will be construed by statists as "intent" since it is accessible to children bent on violence. The same will apply to any bookstore or library that has a book on explosives on its bookshelves.
It is already illegal, and properly so, to knowingly aid and abet an individual’s commission of a crime. So Hatch’s claim that his amendment only applies to those who know that such information is going to be used in a violent act is just camouflage to cover the real goal of this legislation. The goal? To put the state in the business of controlling what you may or may not know—to empower the state to deny you access to certain knowledge. They are attempting to set themselves up as the armed gatekeepers of information.
There are countless, valid reasons for knowing how to manufacture explosive devices. Explosive devices are used in mining, in the construction of buildings and dams, in the demolition of structures, in agriculture, in land development, in highway construction, in the exploration of space, in the creation of weapons of defense and numerous other human endeavors that are perfectly rational.
Just like guns, explosive devices can be used for good or for evil. Knowledge of their construction and use is not inherently evil or good. Only their use is good or evil. Virtually every human creation has the potential to be used for evil. You can kill someone with a bomb, gun, knife, baseball bat, automobile, poison, bookend or a chunk of ice. Virtually anything can be used to kill another person.
Once these new restrictions on information about explosive devices are in place, evil children intent upon building a bomb will be able to get such information from what is currently their favorite place for violence: their school. Any youngster who gains a rudimentary knowledge of chemistry from his high school chemistry course can build a bomb. Once this occurs, statists will undoubtedly call for background checks for any student who wishes to take a chemistry course. Only federally licensed teachers will be allowed to teach chemistry. And chemistry textbooks will have to be checked by state authorities in order to ensure that potentially dangerous knowledge is not published.
And on and on it will go until statists achieve absolute control over what you may read or say. Once we arrive at that end, at that moment of enforced ignorance and silence, America’s freedom will quickly implode, collapsing into the black hole of total tyranny.
If certain knowledge is outlawed today, then any knowledge can be outlawed tomorrow—and with statists in charge, it will be. The failure of most Americans to understand this principle has placed this country on the brink of taking a disastrous step toward the suppression of ideas and the eventual elimination of freedom of speech.
May 24, 1999
To read more by Fulton Huxtable, go to Fatal Blindness.
To read a news account about restrictions on the use of certain words, read this article in the New York Times. It requires registration, but the registration is free. Small Campaign Web Sites May Collide With Election Laws.
To read more about proposed Internet restrictions, including the Hatch-Feinstein amendment to the Juvenile Justice bill, go to: Horror Story.
© Copyright 1999 Fulton Huxtable
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