Friday, December 30, 2022

Free Speech for Me, Not For Thee!

The Constitution is not a religious relic!

There has been a lot of talk about our Constitution lately.  Republicans, winning a thin majority in the house - often by lying about their credentials - have promised as their first act, to read the entire Constitution out loud!  Boy!  That will take weeks, right?  Actually, it is not a very long document and this sort of grandstanding nonsense is exactly why many are no longer enamored of the GOP.

Our "Founding Fathers" - who are now anointed as religious prophets - envisioned that the document they created was imperfect and installed, as a result, a mechanism allowing it to be amended over time.  They foresaw, for example, that the issue of slavery would eventually come to a head.  But before the ink was even dry on the Constitution, it was amended - ten times - to add what has become known as the "Bill of Rights".

Sort of an embarrassing omission, really - they wrote down what the Government could do in the Constitution, including such obscure things as establishing Patent and Copyright laws, but failed to set forth what the government couldn't do.  And coming from a revolution where the British (boo! hiss!) abused the rights of the colonists, they added ten amendments (which some on the right treat as Ten Commandments) concerning such obscure things as quartering of soldiers.

Of course, in recent times, the first and second Amendments have been talked about a lot.  The British tried to suppress talk and protest, and hence the first amendment's proscription that the government could not suppress speech.  Of course, this doesn't mean you are required to host a meeting of the proud boys in your living room or your place of business, only that the government cannot suppress, entirely, their views. This doesn't mean the government can't control the time and place of such speech. For example, in recent months, some idiots have decided to chain themselves across busy highways as a form of "carbon protest".  While they have a right to protest, they don't have a right to block city streets or highways.  It is pretty basic and understandable.

Similarly, the second amendment is not absolute and never, historically, was considered so.  For over a hundred years, New York had a concealed-carry law, for example, that required a permit to carry a concealed weapon - and have a damn good reason for doing so.  For some reason, during those hundred years, the Supreme Court never had an issue with this.  But in recent times, we are finding out why these laws were put in place - it is intimidating, threatening, and dangerous when people walk around carrying loaded firearms while wearing body armor.  We have turned our country into a war zone, and if someone doesn't like your opinion on some matter, they will show up with a loaded gun and parade in front of your house.

So much for free speech - it only exists if you own and carry a firearm.

But getting back to the first amendment, the people who are squawking the loudest about "cancel culture" and their "free speech" rights being trampled are usually the first to sue others for slander and libel.  Donald Trump, for example - he of perpetual grievance - claims his "free speech" rights are being violated because he was thrown off Twitter - a privately owned company that is in no way connected to the Federal Government.  Trump was free to start his own platform - and did - and it isn't our fault that only his nutball followers went on it.   To him, free speech means we all have to listen to what he says, like it, and agree with it.  Anything less is an outrage.

Trump is also famous for saying that our libel laws are too weak and need to be made more like those in the UK.   Of course, this allows people with money and influence to silence the voices of the powerless and poor.  If you speak out against a wealthy person, they can hit you with a SLAPP suit (a nuisance lawsuit designed to swamp you with legal costs until you beg for a settlement).   The rich can afford to silence the poor - and particularly the middle-class - with such antics.  The poor, meanwhile, are pretty powerless to stop the wealthy and connected from ruining their lives.

Free speech for me, not for thee!

The latest gambit of the "free speech warriors!" is they are claiming that Twitter (pre-Musk) "suppressed" a story published in the New York Post about Hunter Biden's laptop.  Hunter Biden's laptop apparently contained what are known on Tinder as "dick pix" and apparently his Dad asked Twitter not to publish those.  Of course, the entire story was published elsewhere in national newspapers and on other sites, so I am not sure how this amounts to "suppression" of speech.  But then again, the grievance-meisters (who are not victims!) never have much use for logic.

Elon Musk is another example of a "Free Speech Absolutist" who is all-too-happy to suppress the speech of anyone who disagrees with him or criticizes him in any way.  Irony is lost on this man.  Once again, we are given this bastardized definition of "free speech" to mean not just the government cannot entirely suppress speech under the first amendment, but that even private individuals and companies must be forced to host such speech - unless of course, it conflicts with the views of the free speech warriors.

"Congress shall make 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 peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Oddly enough, these first amendment proponents often fail to read the entire thing - and a major part of is that the government is prohibited from establishing a national religion.  The same folks who claim to be victims of "Cancel Culture" because they can't say "Merry Christmas!" anymore (they can, and do - anyone who says otherwise is lying) also claim that we are a Christian Nation and want to establish a form of Christian Sharia Law - where the Bible (in all its inconsistencies and contradictions) is the basis of the law of the land.  I wonder how "Thou Shall Not Kill" will work with their position on the death penalty - I'm sure they'll find an exception to the rule!

So what is ironic about all this talk about "First Amendment Rights!" and "Free Speech!" is that the people shouting this the loudest want quite the opposite of what the "Founding Fathers" intended.  They'd rather have free speech for those with power and money, and squelching speech for the powerless and weak.  That is not what the first amendment is all about.

One laughable example is Musk's obsession with suppressing the young man who put up a Twitter page which includes tracking data of Musk's airplane.  This data is freely available online from the US Government.  I use sites like Flightaware all the time when I see an interesting plane parked at our tiny crosswind-landing airstrip.  I can see who owns the plane, where they came from and even see their flight path.  Maybe this is an "invasion of privacy" but there are ways to disguise your ownership - many planes are listed in the name of an LLC or leasing company, for example.

If Musk has a problem with this, he should petition the FAA (or Congress) to make such information private.  Going after a young man who is just republishing government data comes across as petty and petulant.  Besides, mirror sites on other social media are publishing the same data, just to piss him off.  Apparently he's never heard of the Streisand Effect.  It sort of is like this Harry-and-Meghan Netflix debacle (which has had horrible reviews).  Kind of hard to do a six-part miniseries about how your privacy has been invaded.  You can't have it both ways - you can't crave celebrity and attention and at the same time, cry about your loss of privacy.

This is not to say that the Paparazzi are innocent parties - they often harass people and invade the privacy of celebrities and political figures.  On the other hand, I wonder why more celebrities don't just invite them into their home and say "take all the pictures you want!"  After a two-hour photo shoot, I suspect most of them would drift off - there is no value in celebrity pictures when they are being given away for free. You could just see the editor of The Enquirer saying, "Another photo of Meghan Markle?  I'm not paying for that!  I already have 10,000 of them!"  It is only when you make something rare that it becomes valuable.  Right there is why the Meghan-and-Harry series bombed.  There was simply too much of it.  If they made it a half-hour special, they would have been better off.

Just a thought.  I mean, the paparazzi are going to get their pictures anyway - you can spoil all their fun and ruin their business model by flooding the market with product.  Pretty soon, they won't bother taking pictures of you as there is no profit in it.  It is an interesting idea - use the free-market economy to your advantage!  Of course, maybe celebrities like to keep the "price" of their photos high, as people crave even more what they cannot have. There is a sick little dance between celebrities and the paparazzi - they claim to hate each other, but they are in a symbiotic relationship.

Or maybe this - take your own pictures of yourself in "compromising positions" and then sell them directly to The National Inquirer - and profit!  Why should some jerk-off with a telephoto lens make money off of you when you can sell these pictures directly (and no doubt have better quality photos as well!).   But then I guess, you can't be a whining celebrity if you do that.  I suspect some of the B-list celebrities are already on this, however - through their publicists.

But I digress. Or did I? Because much of this "First Amendment Warrior" and "Cancel Culture" nonsense is just some narcissistic celebrity, billionaire, or politician trying to keep their name in the papers - and online.

And maybe, 2023 is the year we finally get sick of paying attention to these idiots - and expose them for the two-faced liars they have always been.