No, we don't have to publish you because of 'freedom of speech'

Tom Jackson
Apr 7, 2014

The other day, we got an email of complaint from a guy who calls himself "jacksonbrowne1960." I'm guessing it wasn't the singer, although I don't know.

Mr. Browne seemed to be unhappy, apparently because we removed at least one of his comments from our website. He wrote, in part: 

"It is interesting that you have taken a stance that you have fought against for years.

"I am talking about suppression!  You are no better than a communist government that tries to suppress the masses.  If one speaks their objections
against the SR you block them and remove their post ... Again, please remember that people fought long and hard to have freedom of
speech and give us the same opportunities through your publication."
I see this silly argument over and over again from people who apparently don't know what the phrase "freedom of speech" actually means. 
The First Amendment, what people usually mean when they talk about "freedom of speech," means that the government can't censor the paper. If I criticize President Obama in my blog, he can't arrest me or shut down our website.
Freedom of speech has nothing to do with whether the Register, a private company, is obligated to publish anything. The editors can, and do, decide whether they are going to put Tom Jackson's article on page one, put it deep inside the paper or not publish it at all. They "suppress" any number of syndicated columns, cartoons and comics by picking the ones they like, and leaving out the ones they don't like. News about the New York Mets is routinely "suppressed" on our sports pages, so that we have room to run articles about the Cleveland Indians. 
jacksonbrowne1960's complaint seems particularly odd given that modern technology means that no one is muzzled. There is nothing to keep him from going on Twitter, or Blogger, or Wordpress, or any number of other free Internet platforms, and saying pretty much anything he likes. 



I laughed...but you're right!


With you BD--face it, to argue with HZ is fruitless. He displays all the signs of a person suffering from (well, actually, we're the ones doing the suffering by reading his posts) Narcissistic Personality Disorder as evidenced below by it's definition:

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration. People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes.

I'm sure HZ has many mirrors and pools around his home so his can look at his magnificence at every turn. :}

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

The offer stands to actually come and see the person about whom you make so many presumptions.

From the Grave

Moderators have removed this comment before it was posted because they are psychic.



The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I admit I laughed at this!


I've had comments censored before. It was about a Pizza contest. All I stated was I had two bad experiences with the second place winner. It was nothing bad, but the Register must have agreed my experience was bad, therefore they took it down.

People's names are slandered, thrown in the mud by commentators, but if I said the delivery person was two hours late, and I got burnt pizza, it was removed. I also stated I liked their pizza before that happened to me. When Roadhouse and Friendly's closed down, there were all the negative comments about their food and service and none were deleted. Diana's Deli kitchen was talked about negatively also, it had nothing to do with the story.

It's your right. I can't argue with that. Seems as though there is no rhyme or reason to some of the deletions, except for favoritism that this paper has.

Spy's picture

On top of the fact private companies can do what they please, when you sign up for a website and you agree to the terms of use. You should know what to expect because you agreed to them.

Whether or not the reasons for censoring a comment are just or not in your opinion is a whole another issue.

There are plenty of places to discuss news and politics on the internet without any moderation except for spam and illegal content, like on 4chan. But bear in mind this freedom also comes with downsides, like being very uncivil.

Stop It

Obviously, jacksonbrowne1960 did not read the "Mollom privacy policy" at the bottom of the add new comment box.


While some say anonymously posting isn't good consider the posters who can put up facts about past, present, future events. The S.R. has the final say & yet they also know that they gain MUCH from many of us too. It is a 2-way street here. btw i've been deleted before.


A big part of the "problem" with freedom of speech (and the press and religion, etc.) is that too many people want to take advantage of it without understanding it at all. They want to be able to speak THEIR piece, but then make threats of business boycotts or worse when someone else speaks theirs and it disagrees. Freedom of speech isn't freedom if it doesn't include that with which you disagree! That does, by the way, include that which you find offensive.

The First Amendment, as Mr. Jackson says, is a prohibition against government. Yes, you have free speech, but it's up to YOU to find the venue! It is NOT up to The Sandusky Register to provide you with one.


"Freedom of speech isn't freedom if it doesn't include that with which you disagree!" - Exactly. So many people refuse to believe that others will have differing opinions and wish to express them and they hate it when they are brought forward.


Seems they forget with every "freedom" comes a thing called "responsibility".

First says "Congress shall make..." Doesn't say a thing about states or local governments - or SUPCO (see "Sullivan") with regard to media and publication.

So the SR has the supreme power Congress doesn't. The SR can shut you up with reason.


Some folks think that the right of freedom of speech includes the right to an audience. YTou can step up on your soapbox on your own property, or on many public places and speak, if you aren't a good speaker, or if your message isn't at least interesting, you won't have much if any audience. If you make you own website you can say even more in an even wider access platform... if others wish to read it... if your writing or message sucks, you won't have an audience. You have a right to free speech, not the right to force others to listen or read. Right are things that don't require anything from other but to leave you do your thing, as soon as you require someone else to participate, it isn't a right but you are forcing others to do something. Go through the Bill of rights, nothing is required of others except to leave you be when you are exercising your RIGHTS.


I for one happen to enjoy the comments most people write. The SR is very good at provoking a response from its readers. This article here for instance will spark a good response from the "regulars". Comical to say the least. However, my general opinion is that the SR works the public for these responses. Articles about people who are arrested for stupidity. Like the article of the lady who stole wine from Kroger because she thought she could get away with it. Complete with her smiling mugshot. How bout the police dash cam video w Sandusky cops chasing some lady around town after she kicked out here dad's windows. Pictures of fatal car crashes and murder scenes. They bring added stress and anguish to local families and then write a feel good story to cover up the insensitivity. Is that news? I think of the SR as our own personal National Enquirer. As for the freedom of speech we'll...whatever.


They do work the public for responses. It makes them money on page hits and selling papers. Every media company has a slant to try and sell themselves.

It can be very comical to read the comments here at times.


Skins against shirts, no goal posts…just keep kicking the ball around the field. Go team!

Thank God for the insanely fast setting on my scroll wheel.

Once upon a time I was the king of deleted comments, did I change or was it you?


"The First Amendment, what people usually mean when they talk about "freedom of speech," means that the government can't censor the paper. If I criticize President Obama in my blog, he can't arrest me or shut down our website."

This statement is only true if you have the resources and access to publicity to counter government First Amendment retaliation. Currently the Toledo Blade is proving that "Freedom of the Press" and "Freedom of Speech" two separate rights contained within the First Amendment are easily abused by the government unless one has the resources to hire attorneys and a platform to generate the publicity for the cause.

Importantly the Press is granted expanded rights because of the important role the Press has in protecting everyone's First Amendment rights from the government and to educate the citizenry on public affairs. (The Fourth Estate) However, that important role requires the Press wield its powers responsibly.

In my opinion if the press chooses to omit certain stories out of fear of repercussions or does not allow subjects of stories and particularly subjects of government action an opportunity to tell their story; then the Press has failed in its role as the Fourth Estate and actually encourages government excesses and violations of citizens' constitutional rights.

Recently, the Sandusky Register has taken on with gusto its role in questioning government in parts of its reading area. The newspaper is to be commended for its investigative reporting and allowing us to comment on its stories. Just wish the current approach had been undertaken years ago.

TKeegan73's picture

LOL... This is exactly why I love to read the comments on posts, I'm still smirking. People need to grasp the concept that they are posting on a site owned and moderated by local media and it is THEIR choice on what comments are breaking the rules and guidelines of the comment section. Keep in mind if you slander a person who is affiliated with media, you're probably going to get your "comment"(personal attack) removed. Or if you say negative or derogatory remarks about a business and they run ads in this paper you are definitely going to get deleted but if the business is closed down your comment will probably be ignored. Personal attacks against each other on here for different political beliefs or just general disagreement is just uncalled for and very immature. If you want to say something and you think freedom of speech is going to protect your comment then you better read our Amendments better and start your own blog page where your ignorance can't be deleted.


Very well said Mr. Brown. Thanks for explaining freedom of speech to many on this site that don't understand. As a old relative of mine used to say, "Nobody owes you nothing." This includes the Sandusky Register too. Keep up the good work.


SR determines worthiness - and who should get blasted.

Does John Cahill have enough signatures yet to file his candidacy?


Mr. Jackson, you're conflating the legal tenet of Americans' First Amendment rights with the ethical principle of freedom of speech. The first is about the government's legal obligation to respect a natural right. The second is about the ethical obligation of individuals and groups of good character to do so. Yes, we all know about the Register's property rights not to publish what they don't want to publish. The Register has every LEGAL right to censor the content of its paper and website.

However, the PRINCIPLE embodied in "I disagree with what you say, but I defend your right to say it" is not only about the government and the law. The importance of free speech does not spring from a vacuum - it is based on the value of a robust marketplace of ideas and the willingness to respond substantively to criticism rather than shout it down. One cannot be intellectually honest by saying one stands for the PRINCIPLE of free speech and then using heavy handed tactics to avoid hearing and responding to unfavorable ideas. The Register happens to have the biggest soapbox in town, and with that comes a certain nobless oblige to be viewpoint-blind in what comments are allowed. While the Register has the right not to present critical or opposing viewpoints, the willingness to do so is critical to its credibility. Only a bully who can't defend his views feels the need to shout down, or shut down, contrary views or critics.

It's interesting to note that Matt Westerhold often responds directly in the comments to those who are critical of the Register. Now, THAT is a principled approach to free speech - answering undesired speech with more speech. On the other hand, both you and Matt have, on a few occassions, deleted comments and offered explanations that didn't hold water. That's disappointing, because most of the other blogger/columnists don't delete comments, and, of all the writers at the Register, the two of you display the most talent and ability to defend your views. You have deleted comments far less critical than those which Sharon, Damon, Ruth, and Eda let stand and to which the latter three responded, and you're a better writer than the four of them combined.

It all comes down to whether your devotion to free speech is a meaningful support a principle, or merely a craven legalistic calculation of whose ox is being gored?


Re: "It all comes down to whether your devotion to free speech is a meaningful support a principle, or merely a craven legalistic calculation of whose ox is being gored?"

Not at all. You're confusing the responsibilities/authorities of news outlets with those of government. The Register is not legally or even ethically required to offer up their large soapbox to all comers. They're also not obligated to publish anything they don't want to publish.

The debates that show up on these blogs are, without question, helpful to The Register. Generating added interest or even controversy isn't ever a bad thing where publications are concerned! At the same time, you don't own their servers. You don't dictate their content. And you're not vested in their business. Whether their decisions are good ones or bad ones, it's up to THEM to make those decisions.

The GOVERNMENT (at least theoretically) can't force you to shut up. It can't prevent you from building your own soapbox, either. But it's sure not responsible to PROVIDE you with a soapbox, and The Register is that much less responsible no matter WHAT you want to say.


Sorry, Sam, but you're making the same conflation as Tom. There are three ways the Register can stand for free speech. The first is by grudgingly accepting that the First Amendment means they can't ask the government to silence their critics. That's acknowledgement of the legal tenet. The second is to not value it except when they can rely upon it to further their own ends. That's the aforementioned a craven legalistic calculation of whose ox is being gored.

The third is to believe that free expression is a good unto itself that we should all value. The belief that we all benefit from a robust marketplace of ideas where everyone responds substantively to differing views rather than shouting them down. This is what Voltaire was expressing when he said "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." France never enjoyed anything like the First Amendment in his lifetime, and he didn't die on the barricades trying to change that, so clearly, he was speaking of a principle by which he would govern his personal conduct.

Thus, those who CLAIM to believe in open debate of issues, rather than pontifications from a bully pulpit. have an ethical obligation to practice what they preach, and not exploit power differentials to silence their opponents and critics/ Yes, they own the servers, etc. but for them to delete critical comments is akin to a kid who invites the whole neighborhood to play ball in his backyard then declares that his team gets an unlimited number of strikes at bat. Sure, it's his yard, and he's legally entitled to do so, but he's still a jackass, and there is no credible value to his subsequent boasts of having won the game. Yes, this is America, and I'll defend his legal right to be a jackass, but he's not entitled to be held in high regard by the neighborhood. More important, he can't expect much from them when he needs help - this is particularly applicable given the Register's recent cries on behalf of the illegally detained Blade reporters.

Just because you have a right doesn't make how you exercise it right. You don't have to allow someone say bad things about you in your own living room, but if you're half as intellectually honest and forthright as the Register portrays itself to be, you'll stand there and force them to expose their inability to prove what they say, rather than kick them in the head and toss them out the door. While the First Amendment applies only to the government, the principle that the best answer to unwanted speech is more speech in response applies to us all.


I, for one, would like to extend a hearty "Thank you" to the Sandusky Register for giving me the opportunity to post my thoughts, comments and convictions on a local level. It also serves as my small contribution to combat those who have the financial ability to now purchase mass-marketing political propaganda via the latest SCOTUS decision. That IS wrong and should have been denied. True "freedom of speech" is not having the ability to purchase more of it than others no matter who or what the source. We seriously need to simplify the political funding process. Not make it more contorted or imbalanced.

Thanks again SR.


Re: "True "freedom of speech" is not having the ability to purchase more of it than others no matter who or what the source."

Since you've concluded that it is "mass-marketing political propaganda," what difference should it make to you how much and in what fashion PACs spend their money?

The U.S. politicos have been attempting to remove money from politics for over 100 yrs. and they've yet to succeed.


"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."

- John Wanamaker


THURSDAY... and Mr. Jackson, Mr. Westerhold et al get another lesson in "Freedom of Speech" to wit:

The Prosecutor doesn't have to tell you ahead of time that he's taking a case to the Grand Jury just because you utilize "Freedom of the Press" to namecall, persecute, and attack him.

Of course the above-named personnel and publication - and many on here - already have determined the Patrol Officer's guilt.


Jury selection/Rockware/TeamRay. Did anyone read the N-M story about the process in drawing the Sandusky County juries for the next trimester? The process was very well explained.
I guess I just overlooked the story here?

Matt Westerhold

Thanks ContraryAnn. You're quickly becoming a frequent commenter. Unfortunately, you seem to be getting and sharing a limited amount of information that overlooks important details. Other information from you is based on your personal assumptions without the benefit of actually knowing much about the process. It might be that you're not getting those troubling details, or you're simply ignoring them as if not acknowledging something means it does not exist. The Register was not invited to the "How a grand jury gets picked" demonstration, but in reading the account from another newspaper to which you refer, the important and contrary details were left out. The Register is more interested in determining why that occurred, and the circumstances that caused it to occur, than it is in presenting information that ignores its occurrence. Hope that helps you have a broader understanding, but it does seem as though you might prefer to ignore the troubling details the same these issues were ignored during the demonstration on Tuesday. Let's all sing "Kumbaya."  


but in reading the account from another newspaper to which you refer, the important and contrary details were left out. The Register is more interested in determining why that occurred, and the circumstances that caused it to occur, than it is in presenting information that ignores its occurrence"
In the interest of enlightenment of myself and others, can you REPORT exactly what were those "important and contrary details"?
Son, I've been involved in the process since the day when numbered balls were pulled from a tumbler - much like a bingo game - longer than you've been reporting on it.