Saturday, April 5, 2014

Speech Impediments

Dave Whitlam, The Kindness of Strangers (DeviantArt, 2014).
It's a little bit fun watching the Republicans in the wake of the McCutcheon decision basically trying to think of ways to say how much they approve of it without just running out in the street like kids in a summer rain in their bathing suits, to dance in the gentle Kochfall.

To the editors of the National Review, it's all about demonstrating that money really is speech:

Those who object to today’s ruling argue that the law should distinguish the freedom of expression and association from the freedom to use money toward those ends. In any other context, the absurdity of that position would be immediately apparent: We enjoy freedom of the press, but an actual offset printing press of the sort used by the New York Times is soberingly expensive: The Times built a $450 million printing facility in New Jersey and a $280 million facility in Queens within the space of only a few years in the early 1990s, and spends several hundred million dollars each year to print and distribute its newspaper. One of the functions of the New York Times is to influence elections and public policy, usually in destructive directions.
Actually a more central function of the Times, according to several distinguished economists, is to make a profit. You must be confusing it with that Blanche Dubois of journalistic enterprises, the perpetually needy National Review ("Looking for a good time, handsome? How about a cruise with Jonah Goldberg?"), and its culture of dependence on the kindness of strangers.

If the New York Times actually lost its several hundred million dollars each year it would cease to exist. Even Sith Lord Rupert Murdoch, who wouldn't bother to deny that he buys newspapers like the Sunday Times in UK and the Wall Street Journal here in the hope of influencing elections and public policy, has limits on the kinds of losses he's willing to tolerate and had to untether the WSJ's publisher Dow Jones from the Death Star not long ago. Though Murdoch, reducing his deficit at the Times and Sunday Times from upwards of £28 million in 2012 to just £24 million in 2013, is still up there in Koch territory (he'd expected to balance it off with profits at the Sun and Sun on Sunday instead of having to pay for their criminal activities).

More important, the New York Times doesn't just spend money, it speaks the speech as well (trippingly on the tongue), issuing hundreds of thousands of words every week. And so does the National Review for that matter (if not quite as many hundreds of thousands of words as it seems—it's a lot, though).

But Sheldon Adelson does not speak, nor does Charles Koch (or when he does, he's woolgathering about Schopenhauer); these men write checks. And not just to the National Review and Weekly Standard and the other talking charity cases, which is surely a means of causing speech to take place and protected under anybody's understanding of the Constitution, but to political candidates. That may be "speech" in the same way as, under certain circumstances, it is speaking when you fall on your knees with a tiny box from Tiffany's in your hands  ("Sweet Governor Walker, your ideas on trade unions make me dizzy with desire—will you make me the happiest investment banker on earth and be mine?"), but it isn't public speech, and I can't see how the First Amendment has anything to do with it.
Dave Whitlam, Creature Comforts (DeviantArt, 2013).

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