Political speech is a popular subject these past few days, and seeing as that is what we do here, it should be. Any slight change about what is defined as paid speech could make what we do very difficult to define financially, and more cumbersome to execute. Take for example the value of web space or the cost of remote equipment used to broadcast “speech.” If we are not cautious, these and many other things might become “expenses” for “Speech hobbyists,” like those at GraniteGrok, that would require us to register and file with the Secretary of State. And failing to do so might invite action from the Attorney General.
So while the goal of speech related legislation may be to identify fly-by-night political groups who gang rape your constituents mail-boxes with lies and hate, the potential collateral damage is much too great. People forget that lies and hate are protected by the first amendment. We should have other laws for dealing with that (and not the lefts hate speech laws, a topic for a different post). Any speech related legislation should not define, value, or in any way complicate the act of speech itself; when you meddle with political speech you always risk placing a gag on it and at the very least risk handing someone else the gag to be applied later.
As far as I am concerned the actual intent (that is the legislators intent) of the speech law is irrelevant. Bureaucracy is a tax on speech. Simply having to know if you are at risk of violating the “law” can prevent discourse. And I’m not interested in whether you like the speech or if you think it is fair. You have just as much right to speak as anyone else. If you are telling the truth then tell it louder. If the bureaucracy makes it impossible for you to speak write a law to fix that or find someone else to speak for you.
Please keep your hands off my speech.
The moment you place a value on free speech it is no longer free and you invite a process that can or will limit it to only the people who can afford to engage in it; limit it to people with money for registration fees, people to track and file anything that could be considered a speech expense, or more likely pay for lawyers when the inevitable complaints come their way about what was said, how it was said, and how much it may have cost to say it.
And much like most other crime, everyone else will remain silent for fear of breaking the law except for the people who would break it anyway, and then they will be the only ones anyone ever hears.
I understand that elected officials, constantly under assault, may be more apt to listen to voices whispering (or shouting) about placing a value on speech. That we simply deserve to know who is speaking. But isn’t it the message that is important, regardless of who is sending it? Are we all just unprincipled cattle listening for the first dinner bell, incapable of discerning the value of what is said regardless of the speaker? Is the electorate in a state of mind that the first monkey to fling dung is presumed to be the monkey that is right? Maybe. But Freedom and Liberty demand that we leave speech alone and look to other avenues for remedy.
Speech in America has always been easier for people with money and resources. No matter how many laws we write, regardless of good intentions or bad, this will always be true. That does not mean we should pave a road to silence on the premise that knowing who a speaker is, makes the message any different. The message is still the same. A free people must be free to get it wrong.
Please keep you hands off my speech.