Monday, July 13, 2009

Cass Sunstein: Freedom of speech beware

Last Update 12:09PMJuly 11, 2009Posted 12:05pm July 11, 2009

When it comes to the First Amendment, Team Obama believes in Global Chilling.

Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law professor who has been appointed to a shadowy post that will grant him powers that are merely mind-boggling, explicitly supports using the courst to impose a "chilling effect" on speech that might hurt someone's feelings. He thinks that the bloggers have been rampaging out of control and that new laws need to be written to corral them.

Advance copies of Sunstein's new book, "On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done," have gone out to reveiwers ahead of its September Publication date, but considering the prominence with which Sunstein is about to be endowed, his worrying views are fair game now.

Sunstein is President Obama's choice to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

It's the bland titles that should scare you the most."Although obscure," reported the Wall Street Journal, "the post wields outsize power. It oversees regulations throughout the government, from the EPA to the OSHA. Obama aides have said the job will be crucial as the new administration overhauls financial services regulations, attempts to pass universial health care and tries to forge a new approach to controlling emissions of greenhouse gasses."Sunstein was appointed, no doubt, off the success of "Nudge," his previous book, which suggests that government ought to gently force people to be better human beings.

Czar is too mild a world for what Sunstein is about to become. How about "regulator in chief"? How about "lawgiver"? He is Obama's Obama.In "Oh Rumors," Sunstein reviews how views get cemented in one camp even when people are presented with persuasive evidence to the contrary.

He worries that we are headed for a future in which "people's beliefs are a product of social networks working as echo chambers in which false rumors spread like wildfire."

That future, though, is already here, according to Sunstein. "We hardly need to imagine a world, however, in which people and institutions are being harmed by the rapid spread of damaging falsehoods via the Internet," he writes. "We live in that world. What might be done to reduce the harm?"

Sunstein questions the current libel standard, which requires proving "actual malice" against those who write about public figures, including celebrities. More "negligence" isn't libelious, but Sunstein wonders, "Is it so important to provide breathing space for damaging falsehoods about entertainers?" Caleb rags, get ready to hire more lawyers.

"This is scary stuff folks. I can see this easily going out of control to the point where anyone questions anything that the other person or organization does not like, and those who do the questioning will find themselves with a problem that there will not be enough money to hire the lawyers one will need to defend their rights to free speech. If you think that protecting your guns was important, this far surpasses that!

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