The Supreme Court Abets the FCC’s War on Free Speech
Washington, D.C., April 28, 2009--Today the Supreme Court ruled in FCC v. Fox that the FCC can continue to fine broadcasters for “fleeting expletives.” According to Don Watkins, a writer for the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights:
“The Court failed to address the basic constitutional question in this case: are the non-objective ‘indecency’ laws that permit the FCC to dictate what Americans can say and hear on the airwaves consistent with the right to free speech? The answer to that is: absolutely not.
“The Supreme Court has defined ‘indecency’ as speech that ‘depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities and organs in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards.’ But which Americans count as part of the community? Why are they king? And how are broadcasters to divine the community’s supposedly shared standards?
“As the history of the government’s anti-indecency regime has shown, these questions are unanswerable. The only way for broadcasters to play it safe is to engage in self-censorship, cutting any material regulators might declare indecent.
“And once the government becomes the enforcer of ‘community standards,’ no speech is safe. How long until the courts start rubber-stamping the Bible Belt’s efforts to suppress the theory of evolution on the grounds that it many find it offensive, or that it supposedly corrupts young minds and undermines community values?
“The government must stop telling Americans what we can say and hear on the airwaves. Sadly, the Supreme Court failed to take this opportunity to protect our constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech.”
Don Watkins is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand—author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
For more articles by Don Watkins, and his bio, click here.