The most important 44 words in the Constitution

The First Amendment to the Constitution, the most important 44 words in that priceless and precious promise of liberty and freedom, does not guarantee civil, wise or even responsible speech. It guarantees free speech, however goofy, dumb or even irresponsible.

The American obsession with free speech often confounds friend and foe abroad, even those, like our British cousins, who should know better. The Europeans say they cherish free speech, and guarantee the expression of it, but what they mean is that their governments guarantee the free expression of government-approved speech. That’s a distinction with a definite difference.

This is relevant, as always, and important to keep in mind this week when the Trump administration declined to sign the “Christchurch Call,” designed to be a pledge, nonbinding at the moment, to “take action” against the spread of extremist views on the Internet. It’s the brainchild of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand in the wake of the deadly shootings in Christchurch by a deranged, or more likely evil, young man who published a long, rambling, barely coherent white-supremacist diatribe about why he was doing it. He livestreamed the gruesome spectacle on Facebook.

Miss Ardern and President Emmanuel Macron of France convened a summit in Paris, attended by Prime Ministers Theresa May of Britain, Scott Morrison of Australia and Justin Trudeau of Canada, to do something about all the free speech floating on the air, causing violent mischief around the world. Representatives of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube signed up, too. (Nobody turns down a trip to Paris to make mischief.)

“The Christchurch Call to action has a simple purpose,” Miss Ardern says. “Tech companies have both enormous power and enormous responsibilities. And so do governments. We each have a role to play in protecting an open, free and secure Internet,” and, here comes the but, “this should never be used as a justification for leaving extremism and terrorism unchecked.”

 Read more at Washington Times

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