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Yes, Uh, Make That No

Read the following statement, with which I totally agree, but that's not why I want you to read it.

Just roll with him and his impassioned defense of speech, letting your dudgeon, if it is in the mood, elevate to match his own, then read on to see the ironic kicker.

Mr. ACKERMAN . Mr. Speaker, I am continually amazed that defending our Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech is such a lonely job in the House of Representatives. I believe in decency and protecting children as much as any Member, but what is at stake here is freedom of speech and whether it will be nibbled to death by election-minded politicians and self-righteous pietists.

If you don't believe that this so-called Broadcast Decency Act will have a chilling effect on free speech, let's take a look at a few examples of how the culture of censorship has spread to the airwaves over the past few years.

Numerous ABC affiliates refused to commemorate Veteran's Day by airing the movie “Saving Private Ryan'' because they feared an FCC fine. Ironically, ABC had previously aired unedited versions of the WorId War II movie in 2001 and 2002 without incident.

Many PBS stations refused to air an episode of the children's show “Postcards with Buster'' because Buster, an 8-year-old bunny, learned how to make maple syrup from a Vermont family with two mothers.

CBS refused to air a political advertisement during the Super Bowl because it was critical of President Bush's role in creating the Federal deficit.

CBS and NBC refused to run a 30-second ad from the United Church of Christ because it suggested that gay couples were welcome to their church, and the networks felt that it was “too controversial'' to air.

This is how free speech dies: with the pruning of self-satisfied politicians and the whimpering of fearful citizens. These are just a few examples that occurred before this ill-conceived bill has even been signed into law. Broadcasters will certainly increase these practices and bite their tongues when “decency'' enforcers can slap them with a $325,000 fine, multiplied by numerous stations. How much farther down the slippery slope of censorship will we slide?

By John Eggerton