In the past, it has taken a war for the government to summon the courage to attack the very first right protected in the “Bill of Rights.” While constantly under attack, the right of free speech has withstood the invocation of all manner of horrors to convince people that it must be violated by the government to keep us safe. Now, it seems, the solitary act of a mentally ill man is enough to persuade Americans to falter.
The shooting in Arizona on January 9 was tragic. However, the argument that “irresponsible speech” had somehow helped to motivate it is completely separated from reality. In fact, the assertion that political speech is more “extreme” now than in the past is false. The spewing of raw invective at political figures is one of America’s oldest and proudest traditions.