When I grew up in the 60s and 70s in Greensboro, North Carolina, our local newspaper, the Greensboro Daily News, supported free speech. It had editorialized against the Speaker Ban Law which banned anyone with Communist Party connections from speaking on a state university campus. It featured great editorial writers like Jonathan Yardley and Edwin Yoder who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize later in their careers. The editor was Bill Snider who would get crosses burned in his yard for his support of civil rights.
So you can imagine my feeling when I read one of their most recent editorials arguing against free speech in the name of safety. It began:
Imagine a gun you could build in the privacy of your home in much the same way that you assembled model cars and planes as a youth.
A few clicks of a mouse and — voila! — you’re in business.
We have the know-how. We have the technology. And we should have the common sense not to use it.
You know where this is going. The unsigned editorial in the News & Record (combination of the old Daily News and Greesboro Record) was applauding the move by Attorney General Josh Stein (D-NC) to join the lawsuit in Washington State seeking to prevent Defense Distributed from publishing its files of code for 3-D printing and CNC machining.
No matter that these have been on the Internet since at least 2013 and thousands of us have copies of those files on our computers. No matter that it is 100% legal to make your own firearm so long as you are not a prohibited person and it is not a fully automatic firearm. Of course, they didn’t tell you that part in the editorial. Nor did they say that it would cheaper and easier to go to Lowe’s for parts and Harbor Freight for tools to make your own more substantial firearm.
As I commented on the story on their website:
When a news organization ostensibly dedicated to a free press AND to free speech editorializes against speech it doesn’t like – and make no mistake computer code is speech – it sets a horrendous precendent. What speech will you next want to subject to prior restraint? Will it be conservative speech by an African-American like Mark Robinson? Or will it be something said by a pro-life teen?
Where does it stop? You don’t have to like what is said and you can argue against the ideas contained in that speech. However, in our somewhat free society it should and must be allowed.
It is a bad precedent for any news organization to argue for censorship of free speech. The Greensboro Daily News and Record editorial staff ought rightly to be ashamed of themselves.