The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

First Amendment not greatly cherished?

A case of
a prophet hath no honour in his own country
- up to a point.

A survey of attitudes to the First Amendment shows underwhelming enthusiasm for the jewel in the crown of the American political system.

I'm not sure how much reliance to place on the survey. For instance, Question 3 asks
Even though the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, government has placed some restrictions on it. Overall, do you think Americans have too much press freedom, too little press freedom, or is the amount of press freedom about right?

The results: 36/17/46.

Question 4 asks
Overall, do you think the press in America has too much freedom to do what it wants, too little freedom to do what it wants, or is the amount of freedom the press has about right?

Here, the percentages are 42/12/44.

And Question 20:
Some people believe that the media has too much freedom to publish whatever it wants. Others believe there is too much government censorship.
Of those polled, 49% agreed with the former sentiment; 34% with the latter.

On personal speech - as opposed to freedom of the press - Joe Public is much more critical: asked (Q5)
do you think Americans have too much freedom to speak freely, too little freedom to speak freely, or is the amount of freedom to speak freely about right?
the results are 11/28/60.

But soon flips to kow-tow when asked (Q9) for his views (Strongly, mildly agree; Strongly, mildly disagree) on
People should be allowed to say things in public that might be offensive to racial groups.
which yields 17/18/14/49.

(Same question substituting religious for racial (Q7) produces a slim majority in favour of free speech: 30/24/13/31.)

The freedom to say inoffensive things is no freedom at all, of course: disturbing proportion of the American public seem to believe in precisely that sort of freedom.

Questions of broadcast censorship produce equally heartsink answers: for instance, to
Government officials should have the power to regulate during the morning, afternoon and early evening hours those cable television programs that contain references to sexual activity.
the percentages for Strongly, mildly agree; Strongly, mildly disagree are 31/24/15/27.

Same question for late night: 23/24/19/34.

At the moment, there is no censorship of cable TV. Are the Congressional Comstocks (John Kerry amongst them) taking notice? You bet your sweet bippy!

The trends seem to be mixed, too. For instance, on Q20, the too much media freedom number is the worst for years 2001 (41%) and on; and to Q3 and Q4, the too much freedom answers maxed out in 2000 (no 9/11 effect evident).

But, to all questions, there is a persistent bedrock of opposition to freedom of speech in any form.

Perhaps these are folks who've savoured the WMD reports of Judith Miller, Presidential pressers, embedded reporting from Iraq and the like and decided that, if that's what American freedom of speech brings, it's not worth a Vice President's fuck.

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