My uncle was in World War II, fighting against the Nazis. Likewise, my wife’s father. So you can imagine that Nazis are not particularly welcome in my living room.
Understand, my living room is not in McMinn County, Tennessee. The school board there just banned Maus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic-novel depiction of the Holocaust. McMinn found it to present a view of history biased against the Nazis and likely to hurt their feelings.
McMinn may see “very fine people, on both sides.” Still, outside of Tennessee, the choice is mine: I dislike Nazis; their feelings are rubbish beneath my boots; they will stay out of my house.
If I ran a restaurant or bar, I might have a similar rule. If my customers are more comfortable without loud hard-shell preaching, I can keep that out, too.
The Supreme Court says the same is true for privately sponsored parades on the public streets. So there was probably no excuse for a 10- to 15-minute bloc of obnoxious noisy trucks during the Christmas parade.
The Florida Legislature was unclear on this principle, however. Maybe they wanted to be in a parade and their feelings were hurt. Maybe they do not understand private property. Or maybe Tallahassee is just a one-party town.
Anyway, last year they enacted SB 7072, known as the “Social Media” bill. It required private companies to host neo-Nazis, ISIS recruitment, and everyone else we exclude from our living rooms.
Legislators did not understand the difference between private property and the public square. I need not permit every Tom, Dick and Ron to speak in my yard. If I disapprove of neo-Nazis or hard-shell preachers, I can run them off.
Government, however, cannot do that. Any goof can preach hellfire, damnation or racial purity on the street corner. Unless a street screecher gets excessively loud or blocks traffic, our best option is to pass out literature with competing views.
Perhaps legislators did not expect the courts to throw out SB 7072. No one else was particularly surprised. The First Amendment protects our right to exclude obnoxious twits from our parlors, both physical and virtual.
The problem is that many of our legislators seem to be exactly the sorts that decent people do not want in their parlors. And you can tell what the legislators are thinking — people start by kicking us out of their virtual living rooms, and next, they will kick us out of office.
— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.