Corporate Campaign Ads: Worse Than Animal Cruelty

The Times has defended the free speech in violent video games and animal cruelty videos, but draws the line at (gasp) campaign ads paid for by corporations.

The Times again made its free speech priorities clear in Monday's editorial, "Disgusting but Not Illegal," assenting to a Supreme Court ruling finding that a law banning depictions of animal cruelty violated free speech.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who has become one of the First Amendment's most adamant defenders, led the Supreme Court earlier this year in refusing to create a new exception to the free speech clause. With only one dissent, the court struck down a law that banned depictions of animal cruelty. The House has come back with a replacement bill that is an improvement over its predecessor but still misses the constitutional point Justice Roberts made.

This paragraph is a fine example of the editorial page's hypocrisy on free speech:

The First Amendment is a remarkably fragile institution that does not need more exceptions carved from its meaning. But attempts to do that arise all the time. A California case coming before the court in the next term attempts to ban the sale of violent video games to minors, though there is no recognized exception to the First Amendment for violence, either. These games, and animal cruelty videos, may be repugnant to many, but America's legal tradition keeps them from being illegal.

A May 6 Times editorial on another Supreme Court case involving a California law banning violent content in video games argued " games are a form of free expression....The Constitution, however, does not require speech to be ideal for it to be protected."

Yet while the Times upholds the unrestricted free speech rights of animal abusers and makers of video games, it doesn't hold the First Amendment in such high regard when it comes to political speech on issues of the day - the most vital speech there is in a democracy.

A January 22 editorial called the Supreme Court's expansion of free speech rights, in the form of loosened restrictions on companies spending money on political campaigns, as "The Court's Blow to Democracy," calling it "a disastrous" ruling that "thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century."

So while the New York Times, part of the New York Times Company, remains free to editorialize on issues of the day, it wants other companies denied the same privilege.

You can follow Times Watch on Twitter.