Friday, January 8, 2010

Bring back The Sedition Act

So I'm reading a very interesting and funny book by Bill Bryson, Made in America, a history of American English, and I come across this oddity:

"The Sedition Act of 1918 made it illegal, among much else, to make critical remarks about government expenditure or even the YMCA."

All you windy fiscal stimulus denialists in the Windy City - you know who you are! - DO NOT PASS GO , DO NOT COLLECT $200!


Anonymous said...

So why were the Village People allowed to continue?

An Anarchist FAQ

kevin quinn said...



Shag from Brookline said...

I assume Anon's reference to the Village People ties into the song that calls for audience participation: "Y - M - C - A" with arms raised to spell out the letters. As a jazz fan going back to Dixieland, I did not pay that much attention to the Village People in their prime. But what I have done in recent years is change the song to:

"A - C - L - U"

that permits the arms of the audience to spell them out as a reminder of the Bush/Cheney rights failures.

Jack said...

I would rather suggest re-enactment of the Sedition Act of 1798, especially Sect 2., which states,
"And be it further enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or publishing, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the constitution of the United States, or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act, or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against the United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years."

Sect 3 does allow, "it shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give in evidence in his defence, the truth of the matter contained in the publication charged as a libel."
In effect, the truth will set you free.

Fox News and its commentators and officers would most likely go to jail. Most of those at the lead of the Tea Bagger movement would not be far behind. I especially like the part about "...publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings..."

That's surprisingly similar to the words of Robespierre, who said in regarding the influence of the rich and the powerful: "When will the people be educated? When they have enough food to eat, when the rich and the government stop bribing treacherous pens and topngue to deceive them." Unfortunately even at that early time he knew that such reforms were unlikely to be enacted. He asks and answers, "When will this be? Never." A man who understood economic reality and the short comings of political action.

TheTrucker said...

I have long thought that the general citizenry should be empowered to act against the purveyors of propaganda; that sources which hold themselves out as "NEWS" sources should be held accountable, not by government, but by a citizenry insisting upon truth in what can be presented as unbiased reports of happenings and reports of proposed and elaborated intents.

But a few years ago Fox News was sued by some citizens for lying. Their defense was that there was no statute that compelled them to tell the truth. Such a statute should be the law of the land. I have no problem with O'Liely and Hanity, and Beck. These are entertainers. The same can be said of Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow. But a presentation identified as NEWS should have to rise to a higher level of public service. And those who hold themselves out as NEWS sources but spread lies in the quest for "sensationalism" and big tire sales should suffer an economic consequence.

run75441 said...


There was a time when the news was an unimpeachable source of information. It appears, the O'Rileys, Maddow, etc still attempt to ride on the historical news reporting coat tails of integrity while rousing whatever people who would believe. What a difference a $dollar makes in reporting the news accurately and timely.

Jack said...

I'll object to your comment's general and specific points. First, when the news media was "unimpeachable" the lord may only know. It has always served its masters' interests. The public interests may have recevied incidental attention. Look back historically. The muck rackers wrote books. The earliest news outlets were no less political ideological organs. Alex. Hamilton didn't put money behind the publication of the NY Post for altruistic reasons. And as I've already noted, Robespierre was complainging about "treacherous pens and tongues" with good reason.

More specifically, to put people like Maddow in the same box as the O'Rileys over looks the veracity, or lack thereof, in their respective reports. The tendency to tar fact at the same time as fiction causes the two to become indistinguishable. Fox presents entertainment on all of their stations. Their use of the word news is itself a misrepresentation.
Maddow and Olberman as well describe their reports as overviews and analysis and have not been shown to be deceitful nor deceptive in their presentations.