Adam Schiff, Chief Constable of the Speech Police

“Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Apparently Congressman Adam Schiff skipped that bit  in law school. The Congressman has sent Amazon CEO (and owner of the Washington Post) Jeff Bezos, a letter to “express concerns” about anti-vaccination content that lives on Amazon’s website. Among other things, Amazon sells books that inveigh against vaccinations. So in his letter, Congressman Schiff asked Bezos what Amazon was doing to combat the spread of misinformation.

Mr. Bezos might consider telling Mr. Schiff that he has decided never to cover the Congressman’s speeches again since said speeches routinely contain substantial amounts of misinformation. Mr. Schiff, for instance, can not help going on about how raising the minimum wage to $15 is going to help low wage workers, a risible assertion easily dismissed by anyone who has passed freshman economics. 

Notwithstanding Congressman Schiff’s willingness to trample on the First Amendment (incidentally not for the first time), there is a problem with people refusing to have their children vaccinated. And the phenomenon is a potential public health problem. For instance there has been a troubling outbreak of the occurrence of measles, at least partly attributable to people not being vaccinated. (See this note from the CDC).

A solution to the problem does not require trashing the Constitution. It would be far better for States that haven’t already done so to require children to be vaccinated before they are allowed to attend a public school.  Private schools are quite capable of creating their own rules. But it isn’t sufficient to adopt this rule and leave it at that. The rule must also be enforced. That is crucial. 

Enforcement is crucial for a number of reasons. First, a non-enforced rule is the same as no rule at all. Second, refusal to enforce existing laws, rules and regulations means that they are arbitrary and subject to selective and prejudicial use. Third, it is a habit of progressives to continually engage in symbolic acts like passing laws (actually aspirational statements) that they have no intention of enforcing and do no good. This practice should end.

For example there are constant cries for more gun control laws (despite their dubious Constitutionality) when existing gun control laws are not enforced. And irony of ironies, the furious resistance that progressives have launched against President Trump’s immigration policies is aimed to prevent him from enforcing existing immigration laws passed by Congress. 

The ongoing campaign against vaccination is the result of profound ignorance; it should be countered by persuasion. That can be a difficult task, all the more so because government and government officials lack credibility. They lack credibility for a reason: they routinely lie.

Nevertheless there is a potential public health problem here that needs to be addressed. Accordingly, behavior (the definition of which does not include speech) that threatens public health should be managed by enforceable (and enforced) law and regulation with respect to that behavior. Stomping out even wildly uninformed speech is no solution. And a government campaign to try to require private companies to only publish “correct” information is an affront to the First Amendment, the rule of law and the American way of life. 


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