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53


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 53, August 15, 1999
"Cletus Berserker"

Overruling Freedom of Speech

by Vin Suprynowicz
Vin_Suprynowicz@lvrj.com

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

           In 1993, 17 employees of Mexican or Latin American origin sued Avis Rent-a-Car in California, contending company managers were creating an "abusive work environment" at the firm's San Francisco International Airport facility.
           The employees contended they were being subjected to "verbal racial harassment." Managers called them "derogatory names and continually demeaned them on the basis of their race, national origin and lack of English language skills," the plaintiffs asserted.
           A San Francisco jury awarded eight of the workers $135,000 in damages based on a manager's repeated use of racially tinged obscenities and ethnic slurs deriding Hispanics. Moreover, Superior Court Judge Carlos Bea ordered the manager to stop using such language and ordered Avis not to permit it in the future.
           The car rental company appealed Judge Bea's order, arguing that such an injunction amounted to unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech.
           But demonstrating how today's "politically correct" liberal orthodoxy can trump the former principles even of those traditionally known as defenders of the Bill of Rights -- "in an odd twist on its 79-year tradition of championing freedom of expression," in the words of the Los Angeles Times -- the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California chose to weigh in on the side of the Hispanic workers. In a 1997 amicus brief, the ACLU supported "limits on the unrestrained speech of bigots in the workplace, particularly when they are in positions of authority on the job."
           On Aug. 2, the ACLU got its way, as a deeply divided California Supreme Court ruled that judges do not violate First Amendment rights by prohibiting, in advance, the use of racial slurs on the job.
           Thus does the government take a further step toward eliminating any privacy of contract or behavior in the workplace.
           Both the U.S. and California constitutions ban "prior restraint." But the order upheld by the California Supreme Court Monday "constitutes just such a prior restraint," wrote Justice Stanley Mosk in a stirring dissent. "It impermissibly restricts speech based on the mere assumption that these words will invariably create a hostile and abusive work environment amounting to employment discrimination."
           Eugene Volokh, law professor at UCLA, warns that under such a ruling, media outlets could now face similar prior restraints: "After this case, it seems much more plausible for someone to sue a newspaper asking for an injunction barring publication of something he considers libelous," Prof. Volokh says.
           Thought you had a right to pen a letter to the editor, objecting to a government plan to place a halfway house for convicted child molesters in your cul-de-sac? Not for long, especially if the federal government objects to some of the uncomplimentary terms you might want to use to describe your new "neighbors."
           Yet Michelle Alexander, director of something called the "racial justice project" for the ACLU of Northern California, Monday applauded what she called an "appropriate and modest effort" to protect workers from discrimination.
           Even though it supersedes the First Amendment?
           Of course it's boorish to insult someone's ethnic heritage. But here we see a clear example of the current strategy to denigrate and erode the core rights to secure which (as Mr. Jefferson's Declaration reminds us) "governments are instituted among men" -- rights like freedom of speech.
           The tactic is simple: Erect a new "right," invented out of thin air, like the "right" to be well-fed, or to receive free medical care, or to live without fear that your neighbor might own a gun or consume a consciousness-altering drug without your permission -- even the "right" simply not to be called nasty names.
           Place this new "right" in competition with actual rights, like the right to teach your religion to your children without interference, the right to be safe in your home or car from warrantless search and seizure, or simply the right to free speech without some government nanny poised in readiness to wash your mouth with soap should you violate her list of naughty words.
           Then, have a bunch of liberal windbag jurists agonize over how to strike a proper "balance" between the real and the new, fake, made-up rights.
           Presto: It no longer matters that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech."
           We'll just let the courts do it.


Vin Suprynowicz, assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is editor of the new book, Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998 available at $21.95 plus $3 shipping through Mountain Media, P.O. Box 271122, Las Vegas, Nev. 89127. The 500-page trade paperback may also be ordered via web site http://www.thespiritof76.com/wacokillers.html, or at 1-800-244-2224.


[Evidence that the media-induced "culture of fear" is working -- ed.]

ABC News Poll 8/11/99
Violence in America is:
Worse than ever: 62.4%
The same as it ever was: 26.2%
Not as bad as it used to be: 11.3%
Total votes: 8,053
Source: http://abcnews.go.com/newsflash/DailyNews/poll_archive.html


"According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reports, --

"The crime index rate fell for the 6th straight year in 1997, and is down almost 17% from the rate of 1991.

"The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports Program (UCR) collects information from local law enforcement agencies about crimes reported to police. The UCR crime index includes seven offenses; homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft."

Source: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/cvict.htm


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