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The story is told of an assembly at which Josef Stalin gave a speech. The Party loyal were there, and duly applauded. And applauded. And applauded. Knowing they were being watched, everyone was afraid to be the first one to stop applauding. Finally one brave soul stopped the madness, and stopped applauding. He was later purged.
Compulsory speech is as offensive as muzzled speech. Forcing cigarette manufacturers to display ugly images on cigarette packs is a step toward Stalin's dystopia. It forces them to say something they don't believe. Indeed, it forces them to disseminate misleading information. Leaving aside the doctored images that have resulted from such laws, showing horrendous results of smoking is misleading because, while some smokers develop disfiguring facial cancer, most do not. This is merely the flip side of pro-tobacco forces pointing out the exceptional 95-year-old smoker.
The distinction between commercial and noncommercial speech is bogus. That distinction exists nowhere in the Constitution. It was invented by judges hostile to certain types of speech. Their rulings are themselves the type of government speech control the Bill of Rights forbids.
I have never smoked, loathe cigarette smoke, and have no truck with tobacco companies. But free speech is indivisible. Violation of a tobacco seller's free speech rights is a violation of my free speech rights. Yours too.
John Braden,
plaintiffs' personal injury lawyer

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