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Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are not guilty of sedition -- but over-the-top 'tea-party' rhetoric doesn’t help

Overheated rhetoric from Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and other 'tea party' activists may create barriers to serious conversation, but it's not seditious. When it comes to weighing free speech versus sedition, we should err on the side of freedom.

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Sedition. The word is all the rage as the nation commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing this week amid tumultuous times: a historic recession, massive deficits, nationwide “tea party” protests. As memories of the domestic terror attack resurface, critics of those tea party protests have shifted the debate from “racist or not?” to “seditious or not?”

Joe Klein of Time magazine recently made headlines when he said that comments by tea party advocates Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin “rub right up close to being seditious.”

Mr. Klein later explained that their sedition sprang not from dissenting, but from questioning the administration’s legitimacy. But even clarified, Klein’s position is troubling. Mr. Beck, Ms. Palin, and the protesters they rally are not engaged in sedition, and in making the charge, Klein not only waters down the true meaning of sedition but legitimizes it as a weapon against political opponents.

In a democratic country dedicated to freedoms of speech and press, sedition – inciting rebellion against the state – presents a conundrum. Where does legitimate, protected opposition end and sedition begin?

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