reader, who expressed a desire to "stop" Fox News from spreading hatred of Obama in her community of rural Arkansas. Some readers commented that everyone has the right to free speech, and that it is necessary to defend Fox, even if we strongly disagree with it.
Mary's wish that Fox could be "stopped" did not strike me as an especially risky position, but a reasonable one under the circumstances.
The situation Mary described with respect to Fox News is analogous to a guy in the town square screaming into a megaphone. He won't shut up even for an hour. Nobody who is not his buddy gets a chance to be heard.
Although the guy with the megaphone has the right to speak, just because someone can afford to buy a megaphone does not mean he should be able to use it continuously, or keep it set at such a high volume that others cannot be heard. Free speech doesn't mean that the guy holding the biggest megaphone should be able to dictate who gets to speak and be heard and who doesn't. It is right that the townsfolk should assemble and make rules governing the use of megaphones.
Free speech is a means to an end, a way to ensure any ideas can be discussed, and so make for the betterment of yourself and your society. It's about having the best conversations possible. It's about creating opportunities to make informed decisions.
If all the megaphones are under the control of just a few companies with strong ties to the government, too many people do not get heard. Then there is no conversation, no lively discussion of issues anymore. There may be "free speech" in a technical sense, but it cannot be very effective.
That's why I thought it was sensible for Mary to point a finger at the guy hogging the loudest megaphone and say: "Let's stop him" (from dominating the whole conversation).
Too few megaphones in too few hands presents a serious problem. Regulating the use of megaphones should not be equated with taking away anyone's right to free speech. Rather, it's a means of defending this right.
Photo by Jotman shows leaders of a May Day rally in Jakarta.