The Left vs. Free Speech
An extraordinary political realignment is occurring today: liberals and left-wing thinkers are now urging wide-ranging government regulation of speech. This shift away from what was once a virtually absolutist position favoring the unfettered exchange of information and ideas is already visible in the proliferation of campus speech codes and in the strong support that feminists have given to anti-pornography legislation. But attempts to limit expression in the name of multiculturalism or feminism are neither the most profound nor the most alarming indication of change. Although an organization like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for the most part still adheres to the older understanding of the First Amendment, growing numbers of liberals now support government supervision of speech, even when the fashionable categories of gender and race are not at stake.
Most of the advocates of the new and more jaundiced look at the First Amendment can be found on university and law-school faculties, but again, far more is at risk than the future of open inquiry on campus. The push to regulate speech comes at a moment when the silicon and fiber-optic revolutions are offering consumers a broad new range of information conduits, ranging from interactive cable television to wireless fax transmissions. To what extent should the government exercise control over the information that flows not only over old and tested channels of communication, but over these new channels as well?
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