June 23, 2015

The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto writes about the New York Times, the First Amendment, and recent stories involving the Times‘ political activism and connections to the Clinton Campaign, including its recent (laughable) hit job on Marco Rubio (and his wife) for their driving records.

While pointing out the Times‘ corruption and sins, the WSJ columnist sides with the First Amendment:

Dark money distorting democracy, the possibility of corruption—these evils cannot be easily dismissed. To make the case in favor of the First Amendment, one must return to first principles.

The language of the amendment is unequivocal: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” There is no exception for communications intended to influence elections; indeed, political speech has long been understood to be at the core of the First Amendment’s protection.

The founders were not oblivious to the possibility of corruption; indeed, bribery is the only crime other than treason that the Constitution specifically cites as a ground for impeachment. It follows that they viewed government control of expression as a greater evil than corruption, or they thought free expression was a more effective prophylactic against corruption than censorship, or both. As Justice Louis Brandeis put it in Whitney v. California (1927): “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

This column must side with the founders and Justice Brandeis. Let the First Amendment continue to protect the New York Times Co.—and every other person.

Perhaps the Times doesn’t realize that were the First Amendment to be gutted (as is clearly their goal), their own political positions could put them in legal jeopardy. But it’s more likely that they’re just counting on selective enforcement, as leftists forever tend to do.