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.