Illustration by Hannah Kunkle
The most important rights to preserve are the rights that let you be an asshole, because these are always the most vulnerable. No Congressman is going to introduce legislation banning wholesome, supported-by-everyone stuff like adopting adorable puppies or doling out soup to the homeless. The behaviors that the government tries to ban are always antisocial activities like smoking cigarettes, owning way too many exotic animals, and yes, even living in a pubic park and waving signs around. Real freedom is the freedom to do stuff that a lot of people disagree with, even stuff that is really stupid and despicable—stuff like lying about having served in the military.
I didn’t just pick that example out of thin air. Thanks to a little-known law passed in 2006, it’s illegal in the United States to lie about having been awarded military medals. The law covers both written and spoken lies, and you can even go to jail for a year if you lie about having received the Medal of Honor, which is what a guy named Xavier Alvarez did at a public meeting in Pomona, California. He’s fighting his conviction on First Amendment grounds and the case has just been passed up to the Supreme Court.
Good for him for having the courage to say, “Yeah, I lied about the Medal of Honor, but I have the right to do so!” He would have been a better person if he had the courage not to go around saying he won an award for courage that he hadn’t won. But hey, cowards and criminals deserve rights too. (Remember, the dude who the Miranda Rights are named after was a career criminal and pervert.) Freedom of Speech means freedom to lie and say horrible things and insult people and make unfounded arguments—if we didn’t have the freedom to do those things, the internet would be empty of content. Sometimes, your horrible untruths get found out and people sneer and laugh at you for being a lying sack of shit, and that’s punishment enough. Like in Alvarez’s case, everyone now knows him as not just a liar, but a terrible one, since [you can look up a list of every Medal of Honor recipient online](http://).
A more serious and more reported story is the introduction this week of a bill that would allow the Attorney General to blacklist certain websites and force internet service providers to block them. The bill in question is aimed at sites that are devoted to copyright “infringement activities” (copyright infringement, you have to admit, is a vaguely dickish thing to do), but it’s easy to see how this could get out of hand. Even if you buy all of your mp3s legally and wait for your TV shows to stream on legitimate websites, even if you don’t even know what a “torrent” is, you should be worried every time the government says “Hey, we want to ban some websites, but only bad websites, we promise.” Who knows what’s going to count as a “bad website” in the future? Will Congress’s panic and the lobbyist-driven agenda lead them to ban websites that show pictures of dead soldiers or websites that call Congress a bunch of shortsighted intellectually stunted meatheads who can’t take a piss without their aides holding their dicks for them?
Once you start banning websites you don’t like, you’ll end up banning websites until the internet is nothing but pictures of kittens in costumes and forums about pickup trucks. And I should know, because I’ve got two Purple Hearts for my service in Vietnam.
Previously – Dwarf Tossing and-Fresh Milk