NY Times Commentator has a Confused Concept of Censorship

by | Jul 7, 2000 | Free Speech

Censorship refers to the government's forcible suppression of speech, to the imposition of legal penalties on those who would express particular points of view.

Like most contemporary commentators, Frank Rich (“The Sounds of Silencing,” June 17, 2000) muddles the discussion of free speech by employing a confused concept of censorship.

Censorship refers to the government’s forcible suppression of speech, to the imposition of legal penalties on those who would express particular points of view.

When a private citizen refuses to listen to or support the views of those with whom he disagrees, however, he is merely exercising his right of freedom of association. And he leaves others’ freedom of expression intact.

Free speech does not guarantee an audience and does not include the right to force other people to listen to what one has to say. Thus those who campaign for withdrawing sponsorship from Dr. Laura Schlesinger, Bruce Springsteen, and others, are not attacking anyone’s right to say what he wishes; they are simply urging people to withdraw support from what they regard as objectionable content.

The greatest champion of free speech can consistently join in such campaigns.

— A version of this op-ed was published in the NY Times on June 20th.

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Tara Smith, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, is a contributing writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, CA. The Institute promotes the ideas of Ayn Rand--best-selling author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and originator of the philosophy of Objectivism.

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