Democrat Mayor Attacks Magazine: "The First Amendment, like other constitutional rights, is not an unfettered right"

Philadelphia Magazine published a story about race relations in the City of Brotherly Love recently, and it detailed concerns from whites who say that the city has become segregated and that they’re scared to speak out on racial issues.

Perhaps justifying their views, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has launched an investigation into the magazine saying “the First Amendment, like other constitutional rights, is not an unfettered right.”

Mayor Michael Nutter called on the commission to consider rebuking both Philadelphia Magazine and writer Bob Huber noting that “the First Amendment, like other constitutional rights, is not an unfettered right.”

Nutter’s fury was directed at a cover story titled, “Being White in Philly.” The story included conversations with mostly anonymous residents who detailed race relations in the City of Brotherly Love.

“In a city that is largely poor and segregated, white people have become afraid to say anything at all about race,” Huber wrote on the cover of the magazine. “Here’s what’s not being said.”

But Mayor Nutter, a Democrat, believes it should have remained unsaid.

“This month Philadelphia Magazine has sunk to a new low even for a publication that has long pretended that its suburban readers were the only citizens civically engaged and socially active in the Philadelphia area,” Nutter wrote in a lengthy tirade to the city’s human relations commission.
He called the story “disgusting” and an “uninformed, ill-advised, ill-considered, uninspired, and thoroughly unimaginative.”

And the mayor also had some choice words for the anonymous individuals who were interviewed – some of whom claimed to have been victims of crimes perpetrated by blacks. He said they were “too cowardly” to provide their names.

Rue Landau, the Human Relations Committee’s executive director, agreed with the mayor’s concerns regarding what she called, “the racial insensitivity and perpetuation of harmful stereotypes portrayed in the Philadelphia Magazine piece.”

It seems clear that Mayor Nutter’s goal is some sort of legal action against the magazine, invoking the “shouting fire in a crowded theater” standard which is seen by some as an exception to laws protecting speech. Which would mean that Nutter doesn’t believe the magazine’s article is protected speech.

Meaning Nutter thinks the article can be censored.

Nutter wants the commission to consider whether the magazine’s essay was the “reckless equivalent of shouting ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater.”

“Only by debunking myth with fact, and by holding accountable those who seek to confuse the two, can we insure that the prejudices reflected in the essay are accorded the weight they deserve: none at all,” the mayor wrote.

Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, called that comparison unfair.

In short, what we have is a government official ordering an investigation by a sort of free speech commission to determine whether or not some controversial speech is allowable or not.

And this is happening in America. Land of the increasingly not-so-free.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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