Reflections on the Microsoft/Ireland Case

Last week the Supreme Court granted a review of a Second Circuit decision upholding Microsoft’s defiance of a U.S. warrant for the production of e-mail messages, stored in a server housed in Ireland, of a man suspected of drug trafficking.

At its simplest, the legal battle between Microsoft and law enforcement is a debate over the reach and intent of a law passed many years (1986) before the coming of age of the Internet.

Microsoft and its allies argue that that law, the Stored Communications Act (SCA), was written at a time when Congress knew virtually nothing about the Internet and what it would become, and that furthermore there is no indication in the language of the law or congressional intent that suggests it could be applied extraterritorially. Continue reading “Reflections on the Microsoft/Ireland Case”

A Court Strangely Conflicted About Indecency

By guest blogger LAURENCE H. WINER, professor of law, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz.   

You taught me language, and my profit on’t is I know how to curse.”  – Caliban in The Tempest

Here’s a question the late language maven, William Safire, might have pondered listening to the recent Supreme Court oral argument in the Fox and ABC broadcast indecency cases.   What is truly “indecent” in the normative, Webster’s Third sense of the word as “not conforming to generally accepted standards of morality”:

(a) “crush videos” depicting actual, gruesome torture and killings of animals for purposes of sexual titillation;

(b) violent video games encouraging a player’s virtual infliction of grotesque mayhem on realistic human avatars;

(c) purveyors of vicious hate speech shamelessly exploiting military funerals to garner media attention; or

(d) fleeting, meaningless uses on television of commonly used expletives and the brief showing of a naked human buttocks to dramatize an awkward family setting?

Hint for those challenged since high school by multiple-choice tests: The answer is not (d).  Yet, the same justices who very recently, and most appropriately, have had no trouble deciding that the First Amendment robustly protects each of the first three categories of expression seem strangely conflicted about so-called “indecency” in the broadcast media.  George Carlin must still be laughing.

To be sure, for many years broadcasters have been their own worst enemy.  Before the 1978 Pacifica case, mainstream broadcasters shunned controversy, bowing to advertising dollars and what they assumed their audiences would not accept in adult entertainment programming.  So terrible precedent was set by the repeated “verbal shock treatment” of the Carlin monologue even when broadcast as a serious commentary on societal language taboos.  More recently, rather than forcing the issue in a favorable posture (and, perhaps, preserving their competitive position versus cable and satellite) by routinely presenting in prime time, with appropriate notice of the content, critically acclaimed adult dramas, broadcasters wound up before the Supreme Court defending inane comments of sophomoric “actresses” (that last term being used advisedly).

To be fair, however, such timidity may be understandable by a media industry anomalously denied full First Amendment protection throughout its history and at risk for increasingly large fines from the government agency that holds its license.  The Supreme Court, however, has no comparable excuse for not finally disavowing Pacifica.

In oral argument of the Citizens United case, Chief Justice Roberts noted: “[W]e don’t put our First Amendment rights in the hands of [government] bureaucrats.”  In U.S. v. Stevens, the “crush videos” case, he wrote for eight justices: “[T]he First Amendment protects against the Government; it does not leave us at the mercy of noblesse oblige.  We would not uphold an unconstitutional statute merely because the Government promised to use it responsibly.”  And in Snyder v. Phelps, the military funeral case, his majority opinion eschews reliance on a “highly malleable” regulatory standard with “an inherent subjectiveness about it which would allow … impos[ition of] liability on the basis of … tastes or views, or perhaps on the basis of … dislike of a particular expression” (quoting Hustler Magazine Inc. v. Falwell).  Yet, in support of the FCC’s attempt to avoid a vagueness attack through its generic “context matters” approach to defining indecency – an indefensibly inconsistent approach that Justice Kagan justly summarized as, “nobody can use dirty words or nudity except for Steven Spielberg” – the chief justice made a telling slip of pronoun: “All we [sic] are asking for, what the government is asking for, is a few channels where you can say I’m [sic] not going to – they are not going to hear the S word, the F word.  They are not going to see nudity. “

Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, the violent video games case, reaffirms that “disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression” and warns of the “precise danger … that the ideas expressed by speech – whether it be violence, or gore, or racism – and not its objective effects, may be the real reason for governmental proscription.”  But Justice Scalia was very quick to endorse the “symbolic value” articulated in Justice Kennedy’s question as to whether there is “value, an importance, in having a higher standard or different standard for broadcast media on the television … an important symbol for our society that we aspire to a culture that’s not vulgar in – in a very small segment?”  So, per Justice Scalia, FCC commissioners presumably may not enforce their own tastes and standards regarding violence, or gore, or racism, but anything touching on sex (well, actually, even just profanity or nudity) is forbidden.  What fate now (pace former attorney general John Ashcroft and the “Spirit of Justice”) for the bare buttocks in the marble friezes adorning the Court itself to which Seth Waxman, representing ABC, called Justice Scalia’s surprised attention?

Justice Kennedy’s remark was by way of prodding the government’s position and well may not reflect his own approach toward mandating mere symbolic value.  After all, Justice Kennedy is the staunchest protector of free speech ever to sit on the Court.  And early in his tenure, his respect for the symbolism of the American flag did not keep him from providing a fifth vote in Texas v. Johnson to overturn a conviction for burning the flag as a political protest, despite the justice’s own, expressed distaste for the result, one that his view of the Constitution demanded.

Justice Alito (who dissented in Snyder and Stevens and concurred only in the judgment in Brown), perhaps searching for an easy way out, observed (to the dismay of attorney Carter Phillips and his client FOX) that “broadcast TV is living on borrowed time.”  So, rather than intervening, perhaps the Court should let the indecency issue “die a natural death.”  But such avoidance of a current constitutional problem because the future supposedly will take care of itself is reminiscent of Justice O’Connor’s controversial majority opinion in the 2003 law school affirmative-action case (Grutter v. Bollinger), an approach that it is difficult to imagine Justice Alito joining there.  

Perhaps the most dismaying aspect of the oral argument was the scant, almost non-existent, reference to the First Amendment and the appropriate standard of review, which in any non-broadcasting context would have to be strict scrutiny for a content-based restriction of pure speech.  The government relied, with encouragement from some justices, on the old shibboleth of broadcasters enjoying a special privilege in the free, licensed use of the public airwaves for which they may be made to pay through public interest obligations, including indecency controls.  So 20th century!  And an argument well characterized even then as a mere “trope” lacking serious analytical basis. 

The only specific rationale advanced to justify the continuing, chilling intrusion on broadcasters’ and the public’s First Amendment rights was the desire to maintain a “safe haven” on broadcast television, in addition to other dedicated family channels already available, where concerned parents may leave their children without fear they may encounter what five commissioners later determine was indecent content.  (Ads, however, for erectile dysfunction medication, with warnings about “an erection lasting more than four hours,” apparently are fine, despite the questions they could prompt in young children mystified by this adult condition but not at all phased by hearing other words with which they are fully conversant.)  Even if such a “safe haven” were desirable, the justices favoring the FCC’s position showed little inclination to consider the dubious constitutionality of forcing it upon broadcasters.

Kudos, however, to advocate Phillips who reminded the Court that the FCC was relying on “thousands of ginned-up computer-generated complaints,” and did not hesitate to tell the Court that it should overrule Pacifica (though this is not necessary to rule in favor of the broadcasters).  In the constitutional highlight of the Court’s unenlightened engagement with fundamental free speech issues, Phillips definitively rebutted Roberts’s reliance on carving out a small safe haven within broadcasting because so many other unrestricted channels are available: “[T]he notion that one medium operates in a certain way in the exercise of its First Amendment rights can be used as an explanation for taking away or for restricting the First Amendment rights of another medium is flatly inconsistent with what this Court has said across the board in the First Amendment context.  You don’t balance off one speaker against another and give one favored status and give another unfavored status.”  Amen.

The usual caveat about trying to prognosticate an eventual decision from oral argument naturally applies.  Justices Ginsburg and Kagan were skeptical of the FCC’s position, as Justice Thomas has been previously, and Justice Breyer was searching for his usual noncommittal, middle-of-the-road resolution.  It is doubtful a majority will emerge to overrule Pacifica, but the FCC’s current indecency policy also is unlikely to emerge intact.  Even a 4-4 split (Justice Sotomayor recused herself) would uphold the lower rulings against the Commission.  Pacifica, unfortunately, may not be as dead as the other broad categories of recent speech restrictions, but it may be left in a vegetative state.

                                  

The opinions expressed above are those of the writer and not necessarily of The Media Institute, its Board, contributors, or advisory councils.  Prof. Winer is a member of The Media Institute’s First Amendment Advisory Council.

D.C. Circuit’s ‘Net Neutrality’ Decision

The D.C. Circuit Court’s decision, while obviously correct, will not slake the thirst of anyone looking for intellectual arguments for or against the FCC’s proposed regulation of the ISPs’ network-management practices. Because the court ruled that the FCC lacked the "ancillary" authority it asserted, the body of the decision amounts to little more than a refutation of the respondents’ argument that earlier Supreme Court decisions provided precedent for the FCC’s claims.

The "legalistic" nature of this decision aside, there is something important here. It is widely surmised (and feared) that, thus rebuffed, the FCC will attempt to get to its desired result – network neutrality, as it’s called – by attempting to regulate ISPs, like phone companies, under Title II of the Communications Act.

But look what’s happening here. On the basis of claims of abuse so slim they’re very nearly invisible, the FCC has proposed to expand and codify that agency’s "Internet principles" in a way that guarantees its regulatory oversight of the freest, most democratic, and fastest-growing communications medium in the country. And for what? Because of fears that Internet providers might look for ways to insulate everybody else from the negative consequences of the actions of a relative handful of bandwidth hogs?

One of the intervenors in this case – Free Press, whose sole reason for being is the subjugation of the commercial media and communications companies to the yoke of government – coined the phrase "Net Neutrality: The First Amendment of the Internet." The reality, as someone put it, is that codified net neutrality is more nearly "The Fairness Doctrine of the Internet."

For now, nobody knows for sure what will happen next – whether the FCC, or Congress, will push ahead in the conviction that this too is an issue of such "transformative" importance the only thing that matters is getting it done. But in this, as in so many things, the wiser course would be to rethink the matter entirely. It rarely happens that government acts more efficiently than the marketplace, and net neutrality is almost certainly no exception to that rule.

A Unitary First Amendment – Redux

By guest blogger LAURENCE H. WINER, Professor of Law and Faculty Fellow, Center for Law, Science & Technology, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz.

“[W]e don’t put our First Amendment rights in the hands of [government] bureaucrats.”  What an extraordinary statement for the Chief Justice of the United States to make when one considers the Supreme Court’s long history of allowing Federal Communications Commission (FCC) content-based regulation of broadcasting and other electronic media!

Chief Justice Roberts made this statement in last week’s oral argument of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  Citizens United, involving “Hillary: The Movie,” is the little case that could – could just restore a strong measure of freedom of speech in the most critical of all contexts, namely political speech.

As described in an earlier post occasioned by the first round of oral argument in this case last spring, the narrow issue is the provision of the McCain-Feingold “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002” (BCRA) that bans the use of corporate funds for “electioneering communications” via broadcast, cable, or satellite close to an election.  In the earlier argument some members of the Court were astounded by the government’s contention that Congress also would have the constitutional power to similarly ban printed material, including books.
    
This apparently led those members of the Court who long have been troubled by limitations on political speech imposed in the guise of campaign finance reform to set re-briefing and rearguing for an unusual and extended one-day September session.  And, the Court broadened the issue for rehearing by asking the parties to discuss whether the Court should overrule not only that part of its 2003 opinion in McConnell v. F.E.C. upholding the specific BCRA provision, but also the Court’s 1990 opinion in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce.  In Austin, over strong dissents, the Court upheld a state’s restrictions on independent expenditures from general corporate funds for ads supporting or opposing a candidate for state elective office.

Not surprisingly, the Court’s actions with respect to Citizens United prompted more than 40 amicus briefs with what the New York Times called “an array of strange bedfellows and uneasy alliances” and set the stage for high drama.  How far will the Court go in affirming the political free speech rights of corporations?  

Arguing briefly for Senator Mitch McConnell as amicus, Floyd Abrams reminded the Court that in New York Times v. Sullivan the Court eschewed available narrow grounds to resolve the case and instead issued a broad ruling to fully vindicate the vital First Amendment interests at stake.  And he told Justice Sotomayor that, similarly here, this is the way the Court would do more good than harm.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, making her debut appearance on behalf of the FEC, tried to reassure the Court that the government’s position on printed campaign speech had changed.  Don’t worry, she suggested, the FEC has never tried to ban a book, though when pressed she immediately stated a pamphlet might be different.  And this is when Chief Justice Roberts made his comment about not relying on FEC bureaucrats to protect the First Amendment.

But the Court has left countless First Amendment matters in the hands of the government bureaucrats at the FCC at least since Justice Frankfurter’s 1943 opinion in the seminal NBC v. U.S. case in which, in a single paragraph, he subordinated the First Amendment to the public interest standard of the Communications Act.  This later caused Professor Harry Kalven to comment that: “The passage catches a great judge at an unimpressive moment.”  

Over the years, the Court’s deference to the FCC has allowed all manner of infringements on free speech in the name of the amorphous public interest, from the now-defunct (but perhaps soon to be resurrected in some version) fairness doctrine, to the recent debacle over broadcast “indecency,” and maybe to a threatened similar campaign against violence in the media.

But members of the FCC, no less than of the FEC, have no expertise or competence in First Amendment matters.  This is not a comment on any present or former members as individuals; rather it is the basic recognition that the First Amendment disables any government bureaucrat from claiming or exercising any province over matters of free speech or free press.  “Congress shall make no law” is a straightforward “hands-off” policy for government bureaucrats.

During last week’s argument of Citizens United, Justice Breyer suggested to Ted Olson (representing Citizens United) that Congress had a compelling interest for the restrictions it enacted and thought it had narrowly tailored them.  So, the justice asked, should the Court really second-guess Congress?  Mr. Olson forthrightly replied, “You must always second-guess Congress when the First Amendment is in play.”  Exactly so, regardless of the medium of communication at issue, and a fortiori must courts stringently second-guess the FCC when it is infringing free speech, directly or indirectly, as it is wont to do all too frequently.

Whatever the ruling in Citizens United, we can only hope the chief justice’s words reverberate loudly the next time the FCC seeks to sustain an infringement on free speech or press in the name of the public interest.

Back to Square One

Two of the Supreme Court’s decisions most awaited by First Amendment advocates this term have landed with a thud.  Or maybe a whimper.  But certainly not with a bang.

On April 28, the Court upheld the FCC’s power to implement a tougher policy against so-called “fleeting expletives” on live television.  This was the Second Circuit’s case involving profanities uttered by Nicole Richie and Cher during music-awards shows in 2002 and 2003.

The other shoe dropped today when the High Court considered the Third Circuit’s case involving Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.  The Supreme Court told the appeals court to consider reinstating the FCC’s $550,000 fine against CBS.  

In both cases the High Court skirted the constitutional question of whether the FCC’s content controls run afoul of the First Amendment.  Last week’s profanity decision, for instance, was decided on procedural grounds (upholding the FCC’s right to change its indecency policy) and only then by a slim 5-to-4 vote.

In both cases too, the courts of appeal had sided with the networks and against the FCC.  The First Amendment question will now most likely be addressed specifically at that appellate level and, one hopes, make its way back to the High Court for a definitive ruling.  

We know that the Supreme Court avoids reaching constitutional questions when a case can be decided on other grounds.  That’s exactly what happened here, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.  But it’s still a disappointment.

On a bright note, however, Justice Clarence Thomas said in a dissent that he thinks it’s about time to reconsider the two cases at the heart of broadcast regulation: Red Lion, which creates a lower standard of First Amendment protection for broadcasters; and Pacifica, which turns on the FCC’s authority to regulate “indecent” broadcast fare.

The openness of Justice Thomas is both refreshing and hopeful.  But, with the First Amendment question presently back at the appellate level, it will be a long time (if ever) before the Supreme Court tackles the underlying premises of Red Lion and Pacifica.  And with a new, and as-yet-unnamed justice thrown into the mix following the retirement of Justice Souter, all bets could be off.
 

A Unitary First Amendment

By guest blogger LAURENCE H. WINER, Professor of Law and Faculty Fellow, Center for Law, Science & Technology, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz.
 
In last week’s Supreme Court oral argument of the “Hillary: the Movie” case, Citizens United v. F.E.C., the government attorney apparently perplexed several of the Justices by the breadth of his argument.  His argument, and the responses of some Justices, highlight a crucial aspect of the First Amendment.

Citizens United is a nonprofit corporation that made a 90-minute film sharply critical of Hillary Clinton.  During her presidential campaign it wanted to pay cable companies to make the film available to subscribers free via video on demand.

The McCain-Feingold “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002” (BCRA), however, bans “electioneering communications.”  This ban prohibits a corporation or labor union from using its general treasury funds for any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication that constitutes express advocacy or its functional equivalent regarding a clearly identified federal candidate within a set time prior to an election.  Electioneering communications, however, do not include news or commentary by a media company, and the statutory ban does not apply to the print media or the Internet.

We are used to media exceptionalism, at least with regard to broadcasting.  That is, throughout its history broadcasting has struggled under a strange First Amendment jurisprudence affording it limited freedom of expression and subjecting it to a panoply of “public interest” obligations that would be constitutional anathemas for any other medium of mass communication.  

Political access rules and requirements for children’s educational programming, for example, fall in this public interest category for broadcasting.  BCRA strangely perpetuates this dichotomous approach by, on the one hand, in effect covering only “television” (broadcast, cable, and satellite), and at the same time exempting from its reach news and commentary in all media.

When pressed by the Justices, the government attorney took the position that the Constitution would allow Congress, if it wished, to extend the statutory ban to print media, a book for example.  To this, Justice Alito replied, “That’s pretty incredible,” going on to characterize the government’s position as allowing it to ban a book about politics, under an expanded BCRA statute, if published by a corporation close to an election.  

Justice Kennedy then demonstrated how bizarre the government’s position is by noting that a book, downloaded by satellite onto a Kindle reader, presumably both would come under the reach of the present statute and, in the government’s view, constitutionally be subject to censorship.  Before long Justice Scalia confessed to being “a little disoriented” because he thought the Court was dealing with the constitutional provision, known as the First Amendment, that he remembers as beginning with “Congress shall make no law.”

BCRA’s restriction on political speech in the guise of campaign finance reform is troubling in its own right.  What great evil of political propaganda justifies this sort of censorship?  But it is good to see members of the Court now “disoriented” by the hopelessly disjointed, media-based approach to First Amendment freedom of expression that the Court itself spawned in the middle of the 20th century and unfortunately maintains in our radically transformed digital era.  

These Justices were incredulous that the government would suggest it could extend a regulation of electronic media to print.  But the disconnect finally should go just as strongly in the other direction – what is prohibited in regulating print media is also prohibited for all media, including broadcasting.

In recent years, the Federal Communications Commission under former chairman Martin pursued a relentless and unwarranted campaign against so-called “indecency” on broadcast television.  The Supreme Court has pending before it a challenge to the Commission’s authority in this area to regulate what no government entity can restrict in any other media.  It would be gratifying if in its decision in the next few weeks the Court finally adopts and applies a unitary First Amendment.

Professor Winer is also the Faculty Editor of Jurimetrics.

FCC on the Offensive

Say what you will about the FCC, but you have to admit they’re a scrappy bunch when it comes to pursuing their crackdown on broadcast “indecency.”  First they persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case they lost in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit – the one about Cher and Nicole Ritchie uttering a couple of verboten words during Fox’s “Billboard Music Awards” shows.

Now the FCC crowd is asking the Supreme Court to hear yet another indecency case they lost – this one in the Third Circuit involving the infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe incident during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show on CBS.

The Supreme Court hasn’t even ruled on the Fox case yet, and in fact heard oral argument only about a month ago (Nov. 4).  But the word on the street is that the justices seemed sympathetic to the FCC’s arguments in Fox – perhaps even sympathetic enough to rule in the agency’s favor.  Handicappers are predicting that a vote favoring the FCC would be slim (say 5 to 4) and decided on narrow procedural grounds, rather than reaching the constitutional issues.  IF the vote goes the FCC’s way at all, that is.  

The common wisdom, of course, is that predicting Supreme Court decisions based on oral argument is a fool’s errand.  So, an unreliable prediction that foresees such a tepid outcome would seem a double whammy, enough to give one pause.

But not the FCC.  They reportedly are buoyed by the oral argument in Fox to the point that they want to pile on with the Janet Jackson matter.  The Commission did, however, request that the High Court defer a decision on whether to hear the Third Circuit case until after the Court rules on the Second Circuit case.   

This begs the question of why the Commission petitioned the Court at this particular time at all.  (The Court is not likely to issue a ruling in Fox until next spring or summer.)  Maybe this is just the Commission’s way of warning broadcasters that the indecency watchdog is not about to roll over and play dead.  To this observer, however, it seems a transparent ploy that might well prove all bark and no bite.    

The FCC, Indecency, and the Rule of Law

Call it a victory for the rule of law.  And a victory for common sense.

On July 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s fine against CBS televisions stations for airing the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident.

As you might remember, this was the so-called “wardrobe malfunction” involving Justin Timberlake that allegedly traumatized millions of children watching the Super Bowl halftime show.  Activist groups mobilized, Congress jumped in, and the FCC swiftly cracked down on “indecency” in an abrupt departure from its decades-long policy of restraint toward “fleeting” incidents.

However, the Third Circuit concluded that the FCC had reversed its policy in a manner that was arbitrary and capricious without adequate notice to broadcasters.  In doing so, the Commission had violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the court found.  In essence, the court told the FCC that it can’t do whatever it feels like doing in response to the winds of public opinion or the grandstanding of certain politicians.  

That’s the right decision.  Yet the ruling was greeted in many quarters with reactions ranging from keen disappointment to outrage, as if the indecency crackdown were an end that should be justified by any means.  As John Eggerton reported in Broadcasting & Cable, even the FCC chairman was “surprised” and “disappointed.”  In our judicial system, however, the rule of law trumps personal feelings and public opinion – even the “public opinion” of mass e-mail campaigns orchestrated by activist groups.

So far, the Second Circuit and now the Third Circuit have rebuked the FCC for its recent approach to indecency enforcement.  In response to the Third Circuit’s decision, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin noted “the importance of the Supreme Court’s consideration of our indecency rules this fall.”  He’s right about that – and we trust the Supreme Court will be the next judicial body to get it right.
 

The Threat to Free Speech Is Just Across the Border

Note to American journalists: Step across the border into Canada and you will give up every vestige of your right to free speech and free press. If you write a piece that someone finds offensive or that merely hurts his feelings, you may end up facing trial before one of Canada’s “human rights” tribunals that collectively boast a conviction rate in the range of 100%.

Hard to believe?   Just ask Mark Steyn, widely regarded as one of Canada’s finest journalists.  He recently went on trial before one of these kangaroo courts in British Columbia because a group called the Canadian Islamic Congress didn’t like a book excerpt of his that appeared as an article in Maclean’s magazine. 

The Islamic group claimed that the excerpt from Steyn’s book America Alone engaged in “spreading hatred against Muslims” – despite praise from other journalists such as Rich Lowry, who calls the piece “a sparkling model of the polemical art” and lauds its “profound social analysis.”

No matter.  Before the national Canadian Human Rights Commission and its provincial counterparts, truth is no defense.  And there is no requirement to prove harm.  All you have to do is disagree with the writer’s point of view.  Forget freedom of speech.  Lowry quotes one of the national commission’s principal investigators as saying: “Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.”

It is incomprehensible to think that freedom of speech and press have been so thoroughly brutalized within the borders of our northern neighbor.  Equally unbelievable, however, is the fact that the plight of Mark Steyn has been greeted with such a stunning and nearly universal silence by U.S. media.  With a handful of exceptions like Lowry, American journalists have completely ignored this travesty to the north. 

It’s true that Steyn and Lowry both are conservatives – Lowry is editor of National Review  – but I don’t want to say the deafening silence is driven by ideology.  (One of the few other Americans to break the silence, for example, is New York Times reporter Adam Liptak, writing in the International Herald Tribune.)  I think it’s a matter of journalistic indifference to something that’s not happening here.

Yes, it’s a Canadian matter.  But threats to free speech and free press transcend borders.  Especially when the threat is this serious, and the border this close.  That makes it our matter, too. 

Final note to American journalists:  WAKE UP!!