Free speech

There is free speech, and then there is free speech.

Minnesotans have gotten a steady dose of free speech tutorials in the last few months from would-be protesters at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

Today, for example, two groups are suing the city of St. Paul, not because they don’t have the right to free speech, but they haven’t been given close enough access to be heard by their intended targets — the delegates.

It’s an interesting claim — that you not only have the right to speak freely, you have the right to be heard when you do speak.

Then there are actual cases of people not being allowed to speak. That’s playing out today in Boston, where a trio of MIT students discovered a significant security flaw in the Boston mass-transit system’s fare-card program. They had planned to release their findings at DEFCON 16, a hackers convention today. The MBTA — the transit system in the city where some say freedom was born — sued the group and was granted an injunction, preventing the three from speaking… anywhere.

“The court’s order is an illegal prior restraint on legitimate academic research in violation of the First Amendment,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick.

It’s an argument that probably has more legs to it than the St. Paul case. But no worries, Minnesota, your name comes up all the time when free speech cases are debated. For it was Mr. Jay Near and Howard Guilford who published The Saturday Press, and wrote on September 24, 1927 that “a Jewish gangster was in control of gambling, bootlegging, and racketeering in Minneapolis” and that law enforcement agencies were looking the other way.

The attempts to silence — literally — the press (in this case) made it to the Supreme Court where the idea that muzzling free speech is censorship was further codified.

For his trouble, Mr. Guilford was shot dead.