Franklin Countys First News

Politics & Other Mistakes: Talking too much

There’s no such thing as free speech.

Al Diamon

Just because we live in a country where we don’t have to worry about jack-booted thugs smashing down our doors in the middle of the night to haul us off to re-education camps, doesn’t mean speaking freely comes without consequences. The U.S. Constitution protects us from government intrusion into our postings and prattling, but if you say something controversial, there can still be nasty aftereffects.

Your employer can fire you. Your religious institution can kick you out. Your family and friends can shun you. Bartenders can refuse to serve you. Dogs can pee on your pant leg.

That’s as it should be. Having the courage – or the foolhardiness – to make outrageous statements ought to involve taking responsibility for what you say. If you can’t handle that, be less brave – or less stupid.

Two recent incidents illustrate how difficult it is to grasp that concept.

The first was the January appearance of conservative commentator Michelle Malkin at an event sponsored by the University of Maine College Republicans. Malkin, who’s been accused of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and coddling neo-Nazis, was originally scheduled to speak at a hotel in South Portland. That facility backed out shortly before the event. The speech was moved to Lewiston. Another last-minute cancellation. Then, an Auburn golf course. Nope. Finally, it was held at the Sabattus Town Hall.

Reportedly, the venues that rejected Malkin did so after receiving complaints. In at least one case, there was an allegation of threats. That last one was not only unacceptable, but also illegal. Otherwise, every organization that took a pass was within its rights to do so, either because it objected to the speaker or to avoid alienating its customers.

Nevertheless, the young GOPers managed to overreact. “The left intended to shut down the state of Maine,” Jeremiah Childs, vice president of the college Republicans, told the Lewiston Sun Journal. “I think we all proved that they can’t do that. We will not be silenced.”

Given his group’s history of supporting racists and anti-Semites, such silence might be welcome. As an organization that revels in provocative antics, the college GOP should accept the blowback and quit whining.

The second incident involves a bill sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth, who decided that free speech has become too pervasive online and must be restricted. Millett’s measure would ban “deepfake” videos within 60 days of an election. Anyone who posted phony clips of politicians saying or doing stuff they never actually said or did would be thrown in prison and forced to view coverage of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins attempting to reconcile her statements about Donald Trump with her votes during the impeachment hearing. As Millett put it in testimony before a legislative committee, “Let them watch and listen until their eyes and ears melt.”

Those last two sentences are the print equivalent of a deepfake. However, I wouldn’t be prosecuted under Millett’s legislation because it includes an exception for satire. And I contend I was not being (entirely) serious when I wrote that. But I am when I say this deepfake bill is unreasonable, unenforceable and unconstitutional.

If we made lying during political campaigns illegal, politicians would be forced to shut up. Or tell the truth. Neither is a practical substitute for the standard blather.

The real problem with Millett’s bill is that it would allow the government to decide what’s true or false. Keep in mind that some parts of our government think climate change is fake and that women won’t be harmed by restricting access to reproductive health care. Letting Luddites like that oversee enforcement of a deepfake law would threaten the tiny sliver of free speech we actually enjoy. That wouldn’t be welcome news for everyone from hyperbolic college Republicans to hysterical liberals convinced an online video of Gov. Janet Mills naked in bed with Michelle Malkin would signal the collapse of democracy.

In the interests of free speech, both sides should put a sock in it.

You, however are welcome to continue the conversation by emailing

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6 Responses »

  1. It is within the rights of a building's owner or those who have permission to occupy it to make that decision on what they allow in their building, however, giving into a heckler's veto is not the proper response. And these venues allow other members of the public to speak, and convey their messages to their target audience. By them not allowing a particular group but allowing others, they are in fact discriminating and violating a person's civil rights for trying to silence them. Now was it a private club, that didn't offer those services to the public, then they could decide who can and can't speak, by them being public places and telling Malkin she can't speak there, is no different than them telling Al Sharpton that he can't speak there for the same reasons they denied Malkin, how long do you think it would be before that made headlines across the country? And this is the same thing, as a business not wanting to cater to a specific group of people, because they don't like the social group the person belongs to, if these public venues can freely decide who they will do business with, than one must also accept that other business have the same right.

  2. Anyone remember the cake maker who refused to make the gay wedding cake and what they put him through?

    Would Al have told the gay couple to quit whining and simply find another cake shop? (Only if he wanted to be harrassed by Jack Booted liberals doing what they do to anyone who disagrees with them)..
    And the loving couple sued the cake maker. (Which seemed kinda whiney to me)...

    Al says the college Republicans should just shut up and quit whining (about their rights).

    Oh and where are your examples of the racism you claim represent the college Reps?
    Or were you just whining about conservatives again?

    Oh never mind about the examples Al,,, I'll just find you protesting in front of the post office and ask for myself..
    I'll come prepared to be stomped by your Jack Booties,,,,

    You are a funny guy Al.

  3. By my reading, under Maine law private owners of public accommodations (malls, hotels, colleges, stadiums) may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry or national origin.

    All forms of discrimination are not illegal. There is nothing in the law that prohibits denying a public accommodation for Ms. Malkin based on the content of her speech. Her free speech rights were not violated. Also, like the plaintiffs in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission who had a cake made elsewhere. Ms. Malkin found a place to speak. That case was narrowly decided on lack of religious neutrality by the commission (not speech) in favor of the baker.

  4. Al expressed an issue with (ie;whined about) someone he considers a racist who expressed an issue (whined) about another issue.....
    I have an issue with Al's issue.

    Is whining legal?

  5. Xenophobia: fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.

    Islamophobia: irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against Islam or people who practice Islam.

    I’m not an expert on Malkin, but I have heard her speak. She doesn’t speak against immigration; she speaks against illegal migration. And against hypocrites who conflate the two. She doesn’t speak against Islam, but against Islamic extremism. Ditto the comment about hypocrites. And far from coddling neo-Nazis, she speaks against violent fascists, and against people who condone the antics of groups like Antifa - as long as those groups stick to the proper targets.

    I agree with her on all topics. And I suspect that I am far from alone on that here in Maine. Our state is kind of like a college campus writ large: a vocal minority of snowflakes uses intimidation to exclude speech they don’t like, while pretending to support first amendment rights.

    Ditto the comment about hypocrites.

  6. Most normal people who KNOW anything, who have READ or WATCHED anything she's done, would say that Malkin has been FALSELY accused of 'racism, xenophobia..." by people who are absolutely and utterly intolerant of any definition or view of those things other than their own. She is a minority herself! This is a MOB mentality (hey, true Democracy, right?). You don't want to hear THE TRUTH.

    If you continue to silence those who you disagree with, to threaten them, harass, and at times physically block and accost them....please don't be surprised when they adopt the same tactics and go after YOU. I don't think that day is too far off. I've posted here before, and will again: if you take MY rights, I am absolutely going to take YOURS. Same for 'retribution' (guess it's called "doxxing" now, and all you Libs love it, right?).

    Nobody blocked terrorist Bill Ayers from speaking right at UMF, for pete's sake! My tax money PAYS for that place!! But next time - perhaps they WILL.

    The issue of the LEFT blocking people and trying to harm their neighbors whom they disagree with (the actual issue here) is why I don't give my name on this area, I think my shop would be harmed if I didn't stay anonymous, simply because I disagree with the Democrat Socialists' coercive position on most things.

    To use your terms...the situation regarding this is UNSUSTAINABLE, and it's NOT going 'un-noticed' just because you live in a tiny echo chamber and think you're the big dogs up here in tiny Maine.

    There is a lot of anger brewing at the loss of free Millett's bill...yeah, same thing on a larger scale. You'll use this to favor the Left, and if the Right does it, OMG, off the rails you will go, just like RCV. Again - take my freedoms, I will take yours. It's just the hubris the Left always shows, that THEY will never fall prey to their own follies ('nuclear option', anyone? ha ha). SCOTUS has ruled many times that parody and satire are covered forms of free speech - so, bring it. We anticipate a big shift in the Legislature in Nov, esp. because of these assaults on the Bill of Rights you so happily take up.

    Sad to see an entire Party become the anti-Constitutionalists, but they have.