JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, 52 Stat. 631-633, as amended in 1942 and 1966, 22 U. S. C. §§ 611-621 (Act), uses the term "political propaganda," as defined in the Act, to identify those expressive materials that must comply with the Act's registration, filing, and disclosure requirements. The constitutionality of those underlying requirements and the validity of the characteristics used to define the regulated category of expressive materials are not at issue in this case. The District Court concluded, however, that Congress violated the First Amendment by using the term "political propaganda" as the statutory name for the regulated category of expression.
Appellee, an attorney and a member of the California State Senate, does not want the Department of Justice and the public to regard him as the disseminator of foreign political propaganda, but wishes to exhibit three Canadian motion picture films that have been so identified.
On September 12, 1985, the District Court granted summary judgment for appellee and a permanent injunction against enforcement of any portion of the Act which incorporates the term "political propaganda." 619 F.Supp. 1111.
We noted probable jurisdiction of the Attorney General's appeal under 28 U. S. C. § 1252, 475 U.S. 1117 (1986), and we now reverse.
Before we discuss the District Court's holding on the First Amendment issue, we briefly describe the statutory scheme and determine that appellee has standing to challenge the Act.
The statute itself explains the basic purpose of the regulatory scheme. It was enacted:
See Viereck v. United States, 318 U.S. 236, 244 (1943).
The Act requires all agents of foreign principals to file detailed registration statements, describing the nature of their business and their political activities. The registration requirement is comprehensive, applying equally to agents of
When the agent of a foreign principal disseminates any "political propaganda," § 611(j), in the United States mails or in the channels of interstate commerce, he or she must also provide the Attorney General with a copy of the material and with a report describing the extent of the dissemination.
It should be noted that the term "political propaganda" does not appear on the form.
The statutory definition of that term reads as follows:
In determining whether a litigant has standing to challenge governmental action as a violation of the First Amendment, we have required that the litigant demonstrate "a claim of specific present objective harm or a threat of specific future harm." Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1, 14 (1972). In Laird, the plaintiffs alleged that the intelligence-gathering operations of the United States Army "chilled" the exercise of their First Amendment rights because they feared that the defendants might, in the future, make unlawful use of the data gathered. We found that plaintiffs lacked standing; the Army's intelligence-gathering system did not threaten any cognizable interest of the plaintiffs. While the governmental action need not have a direct effect on the exercise of First Amendment rights, we held, it must have caused or must threaten to cause a direct injury to the plaintiffs. Id., at 12-13. The injury must be " `district and palpable.' " Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751 (1984) (citations omitted).
We find, however, that appellee has alleged and demonstrated more than a "subjective chill"; he establishes that the term "political propaganda" threatens to cause him cognizable injury. He stated that "if he were to exhibit the films while they bore such characterization, his personal, political, and professional reputation would suffer and his ability to obtain re-election and to practice his profession would be impaired." 569 F. Supp., at 1515. In support of this claim, appellee submitted detailed affidavits, including one describing the results of an opinion poll
It is, of course, possible that appellee could have minimized these risks by providing the viewers of the films with an appropriate statement concerning the quality of the motion pictures — one of them won an "Oscar" award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as the best foreign documentary in 1983 — and his reasons for agreeing with the positions advocated by their Canadian producer concerning nuclear war and acid rain. Even on that assumption, however, the need to take such affirmative steps to avoid the risk of harm to his reputation constitutes a cognizable injury in the course of his communication with the public. This case is similar to Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965), in which we did not question that petitioner had standing to challenge a statute requiring the Postmaster General to hold all "communist political propaganda" originating abroad and not release it to the addressee unless that individual made a written request to the Post Office for delivery
Our cases recognize that a mere showing of personal injury is not sufficient to establish standing; we have also required that the injury be "fairly traceable to the defendant's allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief." Allen v. Wright, 468 U. S., at 751; see also Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 472 (1982). Because the alleged injury stems from the Department of Justice's enforcement of a statute that employs the term "political propaganda," we conclude that the risk of injury to appellee's reputation "fairly can be traced" to the defendant's conduct. Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization, 426 U.S. 26, 41 (1976).
Moreover, enjoining the application of the words "political propaganda" to the films would at least partially redress the reputational injury of which appellee complains. The Attorney General argues that an injunction would not provide the
We begin our examination of the District Court's ruling on the First Amendment issue by noting that the term "political propaganda" has two meanings. In popular parlance many people assume that propaganda is a form of slanted, misleading speech that does not merit serious attention and that proceeds from a concern for advancing the narrow interests of the speaker rather than from a devotion to the truth. See, e. g., Declaration of Edwin Newman, Correspondent for NBC News, App. 107-108. Casualty reports of enemy belligerents, for example, are often dismissed as nothing more than "propaganda." As defined in the Act, the term political propaganda includes misleading advocacy of that kind. See 22 U. S. C. § 611(j). But it also includes advocacy materials that are completely accurate and merit the closest attention and the highest respect. Standard reference works include both broad, neutral definitions of the word "propaganda" that
Appellee argues that the statute would be unconstitutional even if the broad neutral definition of propaganda were the only recognized meaning of the term because the Act is "a Classic Example of Content-Based Government Regulation of Core-Value Protected Speech."
The District Court did not accept this broad argument. It found that the basic purpose of the statute as a whole was "to inform recipients of advocacy materials produced by or under the aegis of a foreign government of the source of such materials" (emphasis deleted), and that it could not be gainsaid that this kind of disclosure serves rather than disserves the First Amendment.
The argument that the District Court accepted rests not on what the statute actually says, requires, or prohibits, but rather upon a potential misunderstanding of its effect. Simply because the term "political propaganda" is used in the text of the statute to define the regulated materials, the court assumed that the public will attach an "unsavory connotation,"
First, the term "political propaganda" does nothing to place regulated expressive materials "beyond the pale of legitimate discourse." Ibid. Unlike the scheme in Lamont v. Postmaster General, the Act places no burden on protected expression. We invalidated the statute in Lamont as interfering with the addressee's First Amendment rights because it required "an official act (viz., returning the reply card) as a limitation on the unfettered exercise of the addressee's First Amendment rights." 381 U. S., at 305. The physical detention of the materials, not their mere designation as "communist political propaganda," was the offending element of the statutory scheme. The Act "se[t] administrative officials astride the flow of mail to inspect it, appraise it, write the addressee about it, and await a response before dispatching the mail." Id., at 306. The Act in this case, on the other hand, does not pose any obstacle to appellee's access to the materials he wishes to exhibit. Congress did not prohibit, edit, or restrain the distribution of advocacy materials in an ostensible effort to protect the public from conversion, confusion, or deceit.
To the contrary, Congress simply required the disseminators of such material to make additional disclosures that would better enable the public to evaluate the import of the propaganda.
Ironically, it is the injunction entered by the District Court that withholds information from the public. The suppressed information is the fact that the films fall within the category of materials that Congress has judged to be "political propaganda." A similar paternalistic strategy of protecting the public from information was followed by the Virginia Assembly, which enacted a ban on the advertising of prescription drug prices by pharmacists. See Virginia Pharmacy Bd. v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748 (1976). The State sought to justify the ban as a means of
Likewise, despite the absence of any direct abridgment of speech, the District Court in this case assumed that the reactions of the public to the label "political propaganda" would be such that the label would interfere with freedom of speech. In Virginia Pharmacy Bd., we squarely held that a zeal to protect the public from "too much information" could not withstand First Amendment scrutiny:
Second, the reasoning of the District Court is contradicted by history. The statutory definition of "political propaganda" has been on the books for over four decades.
Third, Congress' use of the term "political propaganda" does not lead us to suspend the respect we normally owe to the Legislature's power to define the terms that it uses in legislation. We have no occasion here to decide the permissible scope of Congress' "right to speak";
The judgment of the District Court is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE SCALIA took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN, with whom JUSTICE BRENNAN and JUSTICE MARSHALL join, dissenting in part.
The Court, in this case today, fails to apply the long-established "principle that the freedoms of expression must be ringed about with adequate bulwarks." Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58, 66 (1963). While I agree with the Court's conclusion that appellee has standing, I do not agree that the designation "political propaganda," imposed by the Department of Justice on three films from Canada about acid rain and nuclear war, pursuant to the Foreign
The Court's decision rests upon its conclusion that the term "political propaganda" is neutral and without negative connotation. It reaches this conclusion by limiting its examination to the statutory definition of the term and by ignoring the realities of public reaction to the designation. But even given that confined view of its inquiry, it is difficult to understand how a statutory categorization which includes communication that "instigates . . . civil riot . . . or the overthrow of. . . government . . . by any means involving the use of force or violence," § 611(j)(2), can be regarded as wholly neutral. Indeed, the legislative history of the Act indicates that Congress fully intended to discourage communications by foreign agents.
The Act grew out of the investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee, formed in 1934 to investigate Nazi propaganda activities in the United States and the dissemination of subversive propaganda controlled by foreign countries attacking the American form of government. See H. R. Res. 198, 73d Cong., 2d Sess. (1934), 78 Cong. Rec. 13-14 (1934).
In 1942, Congress revised the Act, 56 Stat. 248, ch. 263, at the request of the Department of Justice in order to strengthen the Government's "chief instrument . . . for controlling foreign agent activity in the theater of political propaganda." Hearings on H. R. 6045 before Subcommittee No. 4 of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 77th Cong., 1st Sess., Ser. No. 9, p. 24 (1941) (1941 Hearings) (statement of Lawrence M. C. Smith, Chief, Special Defense Unit, Department of Justice). The amendments included the definition of propaganda in addition to labeling and reporting requirements virtually identical to those imposed under the current version of the Act. The Department of Justice explained that it sought to counter secret propaganda efforts "[i]n view of the increased attempts by foreign agents at the systematic manipulation of mass attitudes on national and international questions, by adding requirements to keep our Government and people informed of the nature, source, and extent of political propaganda distributed in the United States." Id., at 25. And, as in the original Act, the amended version furthered Congress' desire to disable certain types of speech by the use of disclosure requirements designed to bring about that result.
The meaning of "political propaganda" has not changed in the 45 years since Congress selected those two words. While the Act is currently applied primarily to foreign policy
Even if Congress had enacted the "propaganda" designation at issue here with a completely neutral purpose, that would not be sufficient for the First Amendment inquiry, for the Court has "long recognized that even regulations aimed at proper governmental concerns can restrict unduly the exercise of rights protected by the First Amendment." Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Comm'r of Revenue, 460 U.S. 575, 592 (1983). The Court today, however, fails to undertake this inquiry. It concludes that the statutory definition of "political propaganda" is a "neutral one," ante, at 479, n. 14, and dismisses the District Court's holding as resting on a "potential misunderstanding of [the statute's] effect," ante, at 478.
A definition chosen by Congress is controlling as to the scope of the statute, but the Court has never held that Congress' choice of a definition precludes an independent determination of a statute's constitutionality based upon its actual effect. See FEC v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc., 479 U.S. 238, 255 (1986) (plurality opinion) ("The fact that the statute's practical effect may be to discourage protected speech is sufficient to characterize [it] as an infringement
I do not see why the analysis here should be any different, or why the statutory definition should be given any greater weight, in the case of the elected public official who wishes to exhibit films that the Federal Government has categorized as "political propaganda."
I can conclude only that the Court has asked, and has answered, the wrong question. Appellee does not argue that his speech is deterred by the statutory definition of "propaganda." He argues, instead, that his speech is deterred by the common perception that material so classified is unreliable and not to be trusted, bolstered by the added weight and authority accorded any classification made by the allpervasive Federal Government. Even if the statutory definition is neutral, it is the common understanding of the Government's action that determines the effect on discourse protected by the First Amendment.
Because the Court believes that the term "political propaganda" is neutral, it concludes that "the Act places no burden on protected expression." Ante, at 480. The Court's error on neutrality leads it to ignore the practical effects of the classification, which create an indirect burden on expression. As a result, the Court takes an unjustifiably narrow view of the sort of government action that can violate First Amendment protections. Because Congress did "not pose any obstacle to appellee's access to the materials he wishes to exhibit" in that it "did not prohibit, edit, or restrain the distribution of advocacy materials," ibid., the Court thinks that the propaganda classification does not burden speech. But there need not be a direct restriction of speech in order to have a First Amendment violation. The Court has recognized that indirect discouragements are fully capable of a coercive effect on speech, American Communications Assn. v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 402 (1950), and that the First
In Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58 (1963), for example, the Court struck down a Rhode Island statute authorizing a commission to designate morally objectionable material. The Court rejected the State's argument that the First Amendment was not violated because the Commission did not "regulate or suppress obscenity," id., at 66, finding that through the use of informal sanctions, "the Commission deliberately set out to achieve the suppression of publications deemed `objectionable' and succeeded in its aim," id., at 67. There likewise was no overt restraint on speech in Lamont. The Postmaster General argued there that because an addressee had only to return a card in order to receive the publication, "only inconvenience and not an abridgment is involved." 381 U. S., at 309 (concurring opinion). But, as was stated there, "inhibition as well as prohibition against the exercise of precious First Amendment rights is a power denied to government." Ibid.
By ignoring the practical effect of the Act's classification scheme, the Court unfortunately permits Congress to accomplish by indirect means what it could not impose directly — a restriction of appellee's political speech. Political discourse is burdened by the Act because Congress' classification scheme inhibits dissemination of classified films. In deciding whether or not to show a film, individuals and institutions are
The Court perceives no burden on First Amendment rights, because "Congress simply required the disseminators of [propaganda] material to make additional disclosures that would better enable the public to evaluate the import of the propaganda." Ante, at 480. Yet in its discussion of standing, the majority recognizes that the practical effect of the "disclosure" is to place a film exhibitor on the defensive, for this "disclosure" would require the exhibitor to take affirmative steps to avoid harm to his or her reputation. Ante, at 475. Moreover, disclosure requirements are not inherently consistent with the First Amendment and do not necessarily serve to advance discourse. The Court often has struck down disclosure requirements that threatened to have a "deterrent and `chilling' effect on the free exercise of constitutionally enshrined rights of free speech, expression, and association." Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 557 (1963); see also, Brown v. Socialist Workers '74 Campaign Comm., 459 U.S. 87, 100 (1982) (names of campaign contributors and recipients of funds); Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60 (1960) (identification of names and addresses of authors of handbills); N. A. A. C. P. v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, 462 (1958) (membership lists).
Appellants have not even attempted to articulate any justification for saddling the expression of would-be film exhibitors with the classification "political propaganda." Yet this Court has held consistently that a limitation on First Amendment freedoms can be justified only by a compelling governmental interest. FEC v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life,
There are two ways in which the purpose of the Act to inform the public is fulfilled. First, the Act requires films transmitted by foreign agents to be "conspicuously marked" with the name and address of the agent and the foreign principal, and, second, the Act requires dissemination reports for the film and the agent's registration statement to be placed on file with the Department of Justice, available for public inspection. §§ 614(a), (b), (c), and 616(a); see ante, at 470, and nn. 5 and 6.
Even if appellants could assert a compelling interest, the propaganda classification carries a derogatory meaning that is unnecessary to the asserted purpose of the Act. The Department of Justice admitted as much in a letter regarding proposed changes in the legislation:
Given that position, the Court errs in tolerating even the slightest infringement of First Amendment rights by governmental use of a classification deemed unnecessary by those who enforce it. I respectfully dissent.
"Every person within the United States who is an agent of a foreign principal and required to register under the provisions of this subchapter and who transmits or causes to be transmitted in the United States mails or by any means or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce any political propaganda for or in the interests of such foreign principal (i) in the form of prints, or (ii) in any other form which is reasonably adapted to being, or which he believes will be, or which he intends to be, disseminated or circulated among two or more persons shall, not later than forty-eight hours after the beginning of the transmittal thereof, file with the Attorney General two copies thereof and a statement, duly signed by or on behalf of such agent, setting forth full information as to the places, times, and extent of such transmittal."
"It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States who is an agent of a foreign principal and required to register under the provisions of this subchapter to transmit or cause to be transmitted in the United States mails or by any means or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce any political propaganda for or in the interests of such foreign principal (i) in the form of prints, or (ii) in any other form which is reasonably adapted to being, or which he believes will be or which he intends to be, disseminated or circulated among two or more persons, unless such political propaganda is conspicuously marked at its beginning with, or prefaced or accompanied by, a true and accurate statement, in the language or languages used in such political propaganda, setting forth the relationship or connection between the person transmitting the political propaganda or causing it to be transmitted and such propaganda; that the person transmitting such political propaganda or causing it to be transmitted is registered under this subchapter with the Department of Justice, Washington, District of Columbia, as an agent of a foreign principal, together with the name and address of such agent of a foreign principal and of such foreign principal; that, as required by this subchapter, his registration statement is available for inspection at and copies of such political propaganda are being filed with the Department of Justice; and that registration of agents of foreign principals required by the subchapter does not indicate approval by the United States Government of the contents of their political propaganda. The Attorney General, having due regard for the national security and the public interest, may by regulation prescribe the language or languages and the manner and form in which such statement shall be made and require the inclusion of such other information contained in the registration statement identifying such agent of a foreign principal and such political propaganda and its sources as may be appropriate."
After examining the survey data, the survey research practitioner who had designed the survey concluded that the charge of showing political propaganda "would have a seriously adverse effect on a California State Legislature candidate's chances [for election] if this charge were raised during a campaign." Declaration of Mervin Field ¶ 5, App. 69. The District Court found that this declaration, "neither rebutted nor impeached by the defendants, establishes beyond peradventure of a doubt that whoever disseminates materials officially found to be `political propaganda' runs the risk of being held in a negative light by members of the general public." 619 F.Supp. 1111, 1124 (1985) (footnote omitted). In addition, a principal political fundraiser and adviser to appellee, Harry Bistrin, stated: "I have no doubt but that some members of the North Coast [of California] press, present political adversaries, and future opponents, would openly seize upon the opportunity to utilize the government's reporting, dissemination and label requirements under [the Act] to their benefit by portraying the plaintiff as a disseminator of `foreign political propaganda.' For these reasons the plaintiff has a compelling interest, perhaps more than most citizens, to ensure that the exercise of his first amendment rights does not `boomerang' to be utilized as a deadly weapon against him in his political career." Declaration in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, App. 30.
"With respect to the evidentiary question — does the phrase `political propaganda,' when officially applied by officials of the United States Department of Justice, abridge speech — the Court has little difficulty. The declaration supplied by Mervin Field, neither rebutted nor impeached by the defendants, establishes beyond peradventure of a doubt that whoever disseminates materials officially found to be `political propaganda' runs the risk of being held in a negative light by members of the general public. See Gallup Study of the Effect of Campaign Disclosures on Adults' Attitudes Toward Candidates, July, 1984; Plaintiff's Exhibit A, Declaration of Mervin D. Field, at 3. For this reason, the Court finds that Congress' use of the phrase `political propaganda' to describe the materials subject to the registration and reporting requirements constitutes a burden on speech by making such materials unavailable to all but the most courageous. Since the exercise of First Amendment rights often requires an act of courage, it is important to note that the courage required by the operation of FARA is not the courage of one's convictions but the courage to use materials officially censured by the government." 619 F. Supp., at 1124-1125.
An obvious flaw in this reasoning is that the materials that satisfy the definition of "political propaganda" are not "materials officially censured by the government." The statutory term is a neutral one, and in any event, the Department of Justice makes no public announcement that the materials are "political propaganda."
Like "propaganda," the word "lobbying" has negative connotations. See The New Columbia Encyclopedia 1598 (1975) ("The potential for corruption. . . has given lobbying an unsavory connotation"). Although the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act, 2 U. S. C. §§ 261-270, uses this semantically slanted word, we are not aware of any suggestion that these negative connotations violate the First Amendment. See United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612 (1954) (construing and upholding constitutionality of statute's registration and reporting requirements).