The Canary Test

"Chirp damn chirp, buddy."

copyright 2005 by Pat Powers

What WERE those crazy-ass Founders up to when they made freedom of speech the law of the land?

One of the arguments advanced by those who favor censorship is that the Founders never intended to protect sexual speech when they wrote that annoying line about "Congress shall pass no law abridging freedom of speech."

It has always struck me as obvious that if the Founders had intended to make exceptions to freedom of speech it would have been easy enough to do so when they wrote the First Amendment in the first place. They could have said, "...freedom of speech, except in regard to matters of (fill in the blank)." But they didn't. They chose to protect ALL speech, almost certainly because they realized that if you created an exception, some slick-ass doubletalker would sooner or later find a way to expand it to include sex, religion, politics or whatever. After which, freedom of speech would be a forgotten relic.

Bearing that point in mind, there's the Canary Test. Miners used to take canaries with them into the shafts as a way of testing for poison gases. If the canary keeled over, it was time to get out.


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Well, it's the same with censorship, really. If you're serious about keeping freedom of speech intact, you don't wait until the government is passing laws making it illegal to criticize Congress or the President. That would be like those miners using their largest, healthiest guy as the test for whether there are poisonous gases around. By the time HE felt it, everybody else would be seriously dead.

If you let the government censor speech on subjects like religion, philosophy, art or sex, it becomes a very short hop indeed to censoring political speech. The time to go to the ramparts is when the government is censoring "Bondage Babes From Beyond," not when it is censoring political articles on Slate or Salon, or discussion on their political forums.

That's why I'm glad to see thing like panty gags on mainstream TV. Even if they're not directly political speech, they're an indicator of a healthy situation in regard to freedom of speech.

Where does this website fit into all of this? Where do you expect? Chirp damn chirp!