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"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press."     ~the Constitution of the United States

"Those who wish to speak should always be as free to do so as everyone else is to ignore them". ~UK Wired

Freedom: Can You Handle It?
by Penmite

Freedom of speech may become redefined as "freedom of speech as long it's not morally unacceptable". The consequence will be that freedom is taken away.

Even though hate speech is hurtful emotionally, people have the right to say what they please. If you do not like what you are reading then you can quit reading it. The ability to decide that for yourself is what freedom means. However, isn't it valuable to know that whatever it was you chose not to read exists, and that some sicko out there actually thinks that way? Yes. The more you know about the world around you, the better equipped you are to handle it successfully. Instead of denying ourselves an understanding of what's out in the real world, we should be teaching ourselves how to think critically so that we can determine whether the things we hear are valuable, or invaluable, right or wrong, fun or no fun. Those who try to obstruct the freedom of speech want to make those decisions for you.

If you want the government to choose what you are allowed to hear, read and say, then you are assuming the government has your best interests in mind. Please be aware - the government has only it's own interests in mind. The ability to say what you want to say is a form of power. Those who seek power over others know that the easiest way to get more power for themselves is to take someone else's away. The less power you have, the more power they have.

Today those in power may be saying that your next door neighbor's web site is not OK to publish because it includes "offensive "material. Currently in our country "offensive" is usually defined as sexually explicit or excessively violent. Tomorrow they will be saying that your website is not ok to publish because it includes "offensive material": that essay you wrote against cutting down the Giant Redwoods could be considered treason against the government if the government is cutting them down.

That sounds ridiculous, right? But every government action that is taken sets a precedent for future actions. It's the "give 'em and inch and they'll take a mile" syndrome. We don't need the government to spoon-feed us whatever information they decide is in our best interest. We can think for ourselves.

Should You Believe What You're Reading?
A Review of Reason Express and the ACLU Newsletter

Article #1
REASON Express
April 24, 2000
Vol. 3 No. 17

- - Baud Crime - -

Both the promises and limits of Net-based speech are on display in Myanmar.
There, a military junta clamps down hard on the spread of cyberspace, using
familiar tactics of oppression like stiff prison sentences for innocuous

So even though there are some 50,000 computers in what once was known as
Burma, they provide little in the way of link to the outside world. After all,
unauthorized ownership of a modem can bring a sentence of seven to 15 years.

Email is still restricted to a few hundred users and is routed through the
Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. As for the broad array of content
that the World Wide Web brings, it is only available to government insiders.

The positive way to look at such things is to say they cannot possibly hold.
But the flip side of that is the reality that they have worked thus far.,1643,500196319-500268430-50137379

Reason Express is written by Washington-based journalist Jeff A. Taylor and
draws on the ideas and resources of the Reason editorial staff. For more
information on Reason, visit our Web site at Send your
comments about Reason Express to Jeff A. Taylor (, Virginia
Postrel (, and Reason editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie

by Penmite
The articles in Reason Express are consistently of high quality. They have an excellent balance of fact and opinion, with a clear distinction between which is which. As in the above article, the author states the facts that he is responding to and then tells us his interpretation of those facts, with a minimum of sensationalism. The articles don't include ranting or obvious exaggeration, and they often give very cool-headed, realistic interpretations of current events.

Article #2
I would contrast Reason Express with the ACLU newsletter in which sensationalism reigns supreme. It's not quite as bad as the US's National Enquirer, but it is hard for a well-read person to read it and not feel like he or she is being had.

This is the first paragraph from the ACLU Action Network newsletter
April 19, 2000:

"They're at it again! Despite the protests of victims' groups and legal
experts, the U.S. Senate is expected next week to follow up the failed
effort to adopt the so-called 'flag desecration' amendment with yet another
attempt to fundamentally alter the Constitution."

by Penmite
In the above paragraph you find no actual information. It is an attempt to spark the readers indignation. "They're at it again!" A starting phrase full of the suggestion that the proverbial "they" are still out to get us. This may be true, however, I'd like a chance to decide that for myself. In the sentence following, you find out that "they" are the U.S. Senate, so at least that question was answered, but the writer indicates that we should be opposed to the constitution being altered by the addition of an amendment. Which amendment? It doesn't say until later in the article. There are a lot of amendments to the constitution, are we supposed to feel that they are all bad? It is this heavy-handed persuasive approach that I disagree with.

I encourage everyone to be discerning about what you read. If enough of us demand better reporting, we'll get it.

School Shooters at Onelist
by Penmite

The following is a discussion group, sponsored by Onelist, which has 11 members.
"A list for all who find a strange fascination with school shootings. You may submit e-mail about anything related to school shootings; for example, you may discuss events leading up to past shootings, the aftermath that occurs in the wake of a shooting, possible causes, etc. This is also a forum for those who find fault in the sensationalistic news reportings by the media. If you wish to speak out about the persecution of "outcasts" then you may; no censoring will occur on this list. Even if one wants to tell of what one would, HYPOTHETICALLY, do to prepare for a shooting, then it will be permitted. Voicing your opinion, through free speech, should never bring about harrassment; rather, provoke debate and the taking in of knowledge. Whether you condone paramilitary assaults on the schoolyards of America, or find them to be reprehensible, this list can become your forum for discussion."

Why Someone Might Want This Censored:
One of the reactions people have had to the school shootings is to blame the media and free speech for "putting ideas in to kids heads." They believe that if the kids never heard of or saw anyone using a gun or being shot, that they wouldn't think of it as an option. Some may feel that the existence of this discussion group gives pro-shootists or future shootists a platform from which to advocate further violence.

Why It Shouldn't Be Censored:
The obvious and most important answer to this question is that censorship of ideas and self expression merely serves to frustrate and ultimately prevent a population from being able to grow and think for themselves.
As for this subject in particular, people (including kids) don't do things merely because they saw someone else do them or heard of someone else doing them. Each individual has a filter through which he or she sees the world and this filter is composed of moral concepts & value systems - in other words ideas of right and wrong - as well as notions of cause & effect, practicality, and self image. These filters are put in place by a combination of inborn personality, family upbringing and cultural indoctrination. A child who has been taught (successfully) that violence is not the way to solve things will look at a violent movie and say to him/herself, "This is just a movie, that's not really the right way to handle things - I would never do that." Whether the child is thinking these things consciously or unconsciously, the effect would be the same. Alternatively, a child who has been taught that violence is an acceptable way to handle things doesn't have to see the movie, he or she will figure out how to be violent without a guide, although his or her parents may very well be the perfect guide.
The people who join this discussion group just want to discuss the topic of school shootings. Lots of people, especially teens, are troubled, confused, and fascinated by school shootings and need to hear other people's viewpoints, ask questions, and have their questions answered. This is a serious topic that is important in our world of six billion people and it needs to be discussed openly. Open discussions often lead to understanding and solutions.

The URL for Onelist is

When they took the fourth amendment, I was quiet because I didn't deal drugs.
When they took the sixth amendment, I was quiet because I was innocent.
When they took the second amendment, I was quiet because I didn't own a gun.
Now they've taken the first amendment, and I can say nothing about it.

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