A Modest Proposal

by Jonah Goldberg

My column today is on the lunacy of holding our free-speech rights hostage to a mob of fanatics thousands of miles away. But, I’ve been thinking about it. Why farm out these decisions to people so far from home? Hollywood and political campaigns use focus groups all of the time. Why can’t the U.S. government and the Supreme Court? Let’s get a whole bunch of Islamist radicals and goons and put them in a room somewhere. Then we can test out potentially offensive materials for them to pass judgment on. After presenting the group with a video or a book or song that officials suspect will make jihadis angry, if they do in fact flip out, smash furniture, scream “death to America,” or turn otherwise violent we will take that as proof positive that such material should be banned or confiscated. This makes so much more sense than letting these materials just go “out there” without some prior review. And since the government itself isn’t well-equipped to determine what is or isn’t offensive, officials and judges can rely on what would in effect be a panel of experts.

But here’s where the idea really has promise. Where to convene such a focus group? Why, it’s silly to even ask. We have a state of the art facility already built, complete with rooms with two-way-glass and everything. It’s in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. If it’s really necessary we can have some of those focus group dial things installed. And whenever the jihadis rip the knobs out of the control box and try to stab the focus group leader with it, we’ll know we have some unconstitutional speech ready to be banned.

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