Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Between truth and lies is free speech

In politics, one person’s truth is another person’s lie. The real truth is usually found in the middle but people are free to make their claims.

Senator Mike Kowall, Republican from White Lake Township, is organizing legislative hearings on the bridge project. The project is a proposal that the State of Michigan build a second bridge across the Detroit River to Canada. It is needed, the supporters say, because an increase in capacity to move goods and services across the international boundary will provide an economic boost to the region and the state. Those that are opposed to the idea say that if it is needed, then business should pay for the bridge and accept all the risks.

There is a lot of politicking from both sides of the aisle on the issue. One of the most high profile are the ads that are running on television in the Detroit market giving all the reasons why the state should not build the bridge. They are paid for by Matty Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge. Others don’t have the money to buy media, so they are working under the spotlight.

Kowall, publicly states he is a skeptic on the project. But, he said the hearings that his committee will host will be fair and impartial. Even though it is very unusual for legislative hearings to request subpoena power, Kowall says he will request it if “he thinks someone is blowing smoke.”

If the committee thinks there is a crime being committed, let’s inform the authorities and get it sorted out. But, this is not a criminal investigation, it is open debate on a legislative issue. To use the threat of a subpoena to discuss open debate is a threat to the freedom of speech. If every time a committee chair thought that someone should be summoned to a hearing because they expressed an opinion that didn’t fit with their view of the world, we would have a constraint of free speech. People would hold their opinions about the issues for fear of repercussions. You can hear it in the voices of people interviewed by western press officials on the streets of places like China. They give a nice answer but you know they are stressed about it.

In a political debate about an issue, it is wise to consider the advertising world. Many claims are made about how wonderful a product is. If the claims are false, then they are investigated by the agency that regulates their action. If not, they are left alone. If calling for hearings on every claim that was made became common place, image what would happen if a U. S. Senate was upset because his deodorant didn’t work.

Let’s get on with the process without all the threats.

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