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TOM KEANE

Forced speech on tobacco firms threatens free speech for all

FREE SPEECH has been in the news lately. In the wake of Rush Limbaugh calling a Georgetown law student a “slut,’’ the ubiquity of vile commentary has caught public attention. CNN contributor Roland Martin tweeting an anti-gay comment and liberal talk show host Bill Maher calling Sarah Palin a “dumb [expletive]’’ are just two more examples of a coarsening of political discourse that treats the ad hominem as argument and polarizes rather than illuminates.

Still, as offensive as it all may be, few would argue that there’s a role for legislation here. Most of us buy into the First Amendment to the Constitution - the one that says “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.’’ We may not like Limbaugh’s words, but it’s hardly up to Congress to prohibit him from saying them.

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