When I first turned the page and saw the article "What Part of 'NoLaw' Don't You Understand" in the March 1996 issue of Wired, Ifelt deja vu. A great title for my book; why didn't I think of it?The subtitle was "A primer on the First Amendment and the Internet byconstitutional scholar and attorney William Bennett Turner", and Iwas ready to read a recapitulation of my book on the realFirst Amendment. Riding the zeitgeist! Since this article appeared inWired, a plaintiff in the case against the CommunicationsDecency Act, I fully expected a rousing defense of the FirstAmendment.
But you can imagine my shock when, in the first column of thearticle, I came across the following sentence: "The FirstAmendment speaks in seemingly absolute terms . . ." Hey, what'sthis? I was expecting a defense of the First Amendment, but instead Iwas getting just one more dose of the "Private Mythology" I outlinedin that chapter in my book. As I read the article, the statements gotmore and more bizarre. Turned out that this article was a wolf insheep's clothing, a Trojan Horse carrying an ideological virus.
With friends like these, who needs enemies?
The following quotes are taken sequentially from pages 104, 106, 108,110, and 112.
While the previous three statements are partially accurate, we'reactually about to be headed, once again, down the wrong road. In thenext section, unbelievably entitled "No fine print", Turner gives usthe premises that justify the fine print painstakingly detailed in mybook:
Phew! After reading this muck, I fired off the following letter toWired:
William Bennett Turner's article "What Part of 'NoLaw' Don't You Understand?" (WIRED 4.03, p. 104) would be more aptlytitled "What Part of 'No Law' Don't I Understand?" Whileostensibly a defense of the First Amendment, Turner's article turnsout on closer inspection to be a stealth-bomb attack on the FirstAmendment via its delivery of the "Private Mythology" I havecatalogued in my on-line book, WOULD THE REAL FIRST AMENDMENT PLEASESTAND UP?
In his article, Turner makes statements like "correctlyinterpreted, the First Amendment does not prohibit all restrictionson speech." True, but only because the First Amendment is by itsexplicit terms limited to Congressional speech regulation. Turnermisses this point, however, and instead delivers the standardnon-sequiturs that "the First Amendment is written in seeminglyabsolute terms," and that "the First Amendment means what thecourts say it means," even though the First Amendment means exactlywhat it says (what part of 'no law' don't you understand, Mr.Turner?), and that failure of judges to recognize this would resultin a violation of Clause 3 of Article VI of the Constitution, whichstates that "all . . . judicial Officers . . . shall be bound by Oathor Affirmation, to support this Constitution . . .", said failurebeing an arguably impeachable offense.
The logical conclusion of Turner's anti-constitutional view is hisstartling statement that "government [including the Federalgovernment] can restrict certain speech because of its content, if itproves that there's a 'compelling' government interest." Holy 1984,Batman! When Turner says "for better or worse, we have to accept thatCongress can make a law outlawing obscene speech on the Internet," werealize that this so-called "constitutional scholar" is really a wolfin sheep's clothing, and that WIRED missed the boat on this one.REALLY missed the boat.
They didn't publish this letter. A lack of space, no doubt.