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In defense of anonymous speech

November 11, 2014

As often happens during election season, the media has been up in arms about “secret funds” being spent by independent groups on messages meant to support or oppose candidates.

They should get a grip. The First Amendment enshrines freedom of speech, not witch-hunts led by the political establishment under the banner of “transparency.”

Our nation was founded on anonymous free speech by independent groups. Under pseudonyms, the Founders deliberately hid their identities as they engaged in coordinated advocacy of the ratification of the Constitution in 85 pamphlets. The pamphlets were crucial to rebutting the arguments of those who opposed the Constitution.

Without anonymity, the arguments advanced by the Founders could have been evaded with ad hominem attacks. Anonymity forced the opposition to grapple with ideas on their merits. This resulted in a better debate, which the Founders won on the strength of their ideas.

The marketplace of ideas is enhanced, not diminished, by the freedom to engage in anonymous speech. Broadside government attacks on anonymous speech threaten to suppress the marketplace of ideas, which ultimately threatens the media as much as any independent group.

Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.

Learn More:

Arizona Republic: Throw a light on secret funds

Library of Congress: The Federalist Papers



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