In last week's Liberty Update, we highlighted the Heritage Foundation's 2022 Index of Economic Freedom…
CFIF on Twitter CFIF on YouTube
Image of the Day: More Economic Freedom = Higher Standard of Living

In last week's Liberty Update, we highlighted the Heritage Foundation's 2022 Index of Economic Freedom, which shows that Joe Biden has dragged the U.S. down to 22nd, our lowest rank ever (we placed 4th in the first Index in 1995, and climbed back up from 18th to 12th under President Trump).  As we noted, among the Index's invaluable metrics is how it demonstrates the objective correlation between more economic freedom and higher citizen standards of living, which this graphic illustrates:


May 19, 2022 • 12:53 PM

Liberty Update

CFIFs latest news, commentary and alerts delivered to your inbox.
Liberals Seek Free Speech for Media, Censorship for Everyday Americans Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, April 27 2017
The last thing that our Founding Fathers would have encouraged is a rarified urban corps of elitists enjoying some special privilege denied to everyday citizens.

What is it about freedom of speech that leftists continually find so threatening, anyway? 

It's almost as if they're incapable of refuting opposing ideas, so they simply attempt to silence them completely. 

Across America, we're experiencing another epidemic of censorship, particularly on college campuses where conservative and libertarian speakers are physically attacked and prevented from engaging in debate.  Ironically, universities claim to be redoubts of open debate and marketplaces of ideas, and that's where free speech is most crucial. 

Regardless, while riots on college campuses attract headlines, freedom of speech isn't necessarily faring any better across American society more broadly.  In particular, the movement to silence everyday citizens from expressing their beliefs persists. 

Look no further than the continuing onslaught against the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision.  Today in popular discourse, that ruling has been so demonized that its very name constitutes an ad hominem slur among the political left.  For far too many people, it has become shorthand for some sinister threat of powerful special interests corrupting our otherwise pristine political system. 

But step back for a moment and consider what was actually at issue in Citizens United, and a very different picture emerges. 

Back in 2008, a conservative nonprofit organization going by the straightforward name Citizens United wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton, who was then a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Federal law in the form of McCain-Feingold, however, prohibited political speech that merely refers to a candidate  labeled "electioneering communications"  occurring close to an election.  In other words, precisely the sort of speech that the Founding Fathers explicitly protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution. 

Consequentially, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of Citizens United, holding that the First Amendment prohibits government from banning political speech by private citizens independently organizing as nonprofit organizations or unions.  In the words of the majority opinion, "If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech." 

Citizens United did not affect the existing federal prohibition on corporations directly contributing to political parties or candidates. 

But that hasn't stopped leftists and free speech opponents from mischaracterizing the decision as somehow opening the floodgates to large corporations or foreign entities pouring money into political campaigns.  Barack Obama, who once taught constitutional law, made that very claim in his infamous State of the Union address. 

Since that time, leftist censors have responded with their usual array of marches and sloganeering, such as "corporations don't have free speech rights" in their campaign to reverse or limit the case's holding.   

But if that's the case, then doesn't it mean the government can suddenly begin censoring NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post?  They are, after all, "corporations." 

All too often, those on the political left respond that mainstream media organizations are somehow different, and entitled to more First Amendment protection than everyday American citizens like members of Citizens United, or bloggers, or internet gadflies. 

But that elitist claim doesn't withstand scrutiny, according to an underemphasized 1972 Supreme Court decision in Branzburg v. Hayes

That case involved a newspaper reporter named Paul Branzburg, who wrote a story about the manufacture of hashish inside the United States.  He was subsequently subpoenaed to testify in court, but he refused to identify the people who had provided the information at the center of his reports, to whom he had promised anonymity.  Disobeying a judge's order, Branzburg claimed that the First Amendment afforded a special privilege to media reporters that didn't apply to everyday citizens. 

The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that the press doesn't enjoy some elevated status denied to ordinary Americans.  The majority stated definitively that the reporter wanted the Court "to grant newsmen a testimonial privilege that other citizens do not enjoy.  This we decline to do." 

That's important, because contemporary censors seem to believe that mainstream media organizations are somehow different from ordinary Americans like those at the center of the Citizens United decision.  But they are not, nor should they be. 

The last thing that our Founding Fathers would have encouraged is a rarified urban corps of elitists enjoying some special privilege denied to everyday citizens.  So the next time someone maligns Citizens United, it's worth asking whether they believe in the First Amendment freedom of speech at all. 

Because freedom of speech either belongs to everybody, or it belongs to nobody. 

Quiz Question   
When did Memorial Day officially become a federal holiday?
More Questions
Notable Quote   
"Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio are pushing back against a Biden administration plan to give the World Health Organization authority to dictate global lockdowns and mandates, superseding U.S. and state laws.According to an amendment to a treaty likely to be approved this week by representatives of 194 countries, sovereign nations would be required to fund and participate in a…[more]
—Bethany Blankley, The Center Square
— Bethany Blankley, The Center Square
Liberty Poll   

Should any U.S. government agency have a function called the "Disinformation Governance Board" (See Homeland Security, Department of)?