The problem with believing firmly in the First Amendment is the company it keeps. There is a blogger in jail in Alabama. I’m not going to name him, because his personal situation isn’t what I want to talk about. From everything I have read he is a raving twit who makes hysterical accusations against anyone he dislikes. He has been sued for that. Further, he has been uncooperative with the Judicial process, to the extent of not showing up for a hearing or hearings. Nevertheless, as matters stand he should not be in jail.
He was jailed because he defied an injunction ordering him to cease blogging about the plaintiff in the suit against him. Mind you, the trial has not taken place. When it does I have scant reason to doubt that this pillock will lose, and will have behaved badly enough that a jail sentence is a real possibility. But the trial has not yet taken place. The Injunction he is in jail for defying is attempting to prevent his from publishing what has not YET been ruled to be defamatory and actionable. The Injunction is clearly a violation for his First Amendment rights.
It’s tempting to just dismiss this. The blogger in question is a poisonous little twerp. The content that the fuss is over seems unlikely to be true, and likely to be found outside of the umbrella of opinion. The dweeble deserves to be in jail or fined. He’s in jail. What’s the problem?
The problem is that prior restraint of free speech does not just keep dweebles from posting fake stories about infidelities they fantasize that their enemies commit. It keeps perfectly decent people from exposing government wrongdoing, before the exposure of a trial. And if you wait until the people whose First Amendment rights you are defending are perfectly decent people, you will be behind the curve and wrestling against a weight of case law put in place to “get” dweebles, and other offensive jerks. A First Amendment that does not protect offensive speech is worthless, if only because it is almost always possible to find somebody who is offended at anything.
So we who care about Freedom of Speech end up defending jerks like Larry Flint, the KKK, The American Nazi Party (can you imagine the door prizes?), and this blogger from Alabama. And washing afterwards.