One-and-a-Half-Cheers for the New York Times

by Jonah Goldberg

In the wake of the unanimous decision by the Supreme Court holding up First Amendment protections for offensive speech, the New York Times has changed its position.

The decision is likely to help the Washington Redskins, who lost their trademark protections in 2014 after years of complaints from Native American groups. At the time, this page supported the Trademark Office’s decision, and we still regard the Redskins name as offensive. Based on this case, however, we’ve since reconsidered our underlying position.

On the one hand, good for them. Too few people and organizations change their minds based on new facts.

On the other hand, it’s amazing that a newspaper ever held a contrary position at all. The Times is in the First Amendment business after all.

More remarkable to me is that their original position was so poorly thought-through that a Supreme Court decision would cause them to abandon it. We all must abide with the Supreme Court’s decisions, but there’s no mandate to agree with them. After all, there are lots of constitutional interpretations from the 1930s and 1960s that I disagree with. Heck, there are some from the last few years I thought were batty (Chief Justice Roberts’s “it’s a tax” ruling comes to mind).

I respect their legal authority, but I am not obliged to agree with the reasoning behind them. The Times decision to say “never mind” about what they claimed to be a solid principle just because the Court disagreed with them is fascinating. Maybe it reflects real introspection. Maybe it reflects a kind of deference to power. I really have no idea. But it is interesting.

Editor’s Note: This post originally misstated the nature of Chief Justice Roberts’s Obamacare ruling. It has been corrected.

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