Scalia and ‘free speech’

The Supreme Court is deciding if Massachusetts’ buffer zone rule for clinics that perform abortions is constitutional. There is an argument to be made there, but today I only want to  look at one of Scalia’s statements:

Second, should the court reverse that 2000 decision entirely? The vote in that case was 6-to-3, with the majority ruling that in situations like those at abortion clinics, unwilling listeners have some right to be let alone.

The dissenters, however, were furious. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered a rare and blistering oral dissent when the opinion was announced. “Does the deck seem stacked?” he thundered. “You bet.”

He went on to say that “our longstanding commitment to uninhibited, robust and wide-open debate is miraculously replaced by the power of the state to protect an unheard of right to be let alone on the public streets.”

That’s certainly a defensible argument, but let’s look at another case that Scalia talks about:

One of the evolutionary provisions that I abhor is New York Times v. Sullivan. It made a very good system that you can libel public figures at will so long as somebody told you something — some reliable person — told you the lie that you then publicized to the whole world. That’s what New York Times v. Sullivan says. That may well be a good system and the people of New York state could have adopted that by law, but for the Supreme Court to say that the Constitution requires that — that’s not what the people understood when they ratified the First Amendment.

Now look at part of the argument given in that case:

Thus, we consider this case against the background of a profound national  commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited,  robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and  sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.

The New York Times case was about people trying to stop desegregation. If a newspaper wrote about civil rights in a way they didn’t like and made even the smallest error, they would sue–obviously this was a tactic to stop speech hence the argument upholding saying that free speech should be uninhibited. The fact that Scalia used the exact same words, makes me think he is mocking the earlier case that he so abhors.

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