The Left vs. The First Amendment

Could last week have gone any better?  And of course the icing on the cake was the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election CommissionGreat news for liberty and the First Amendment, but not so great news for the liberal blogosphere, as ekg’s “ corporatist dystopia demonstrates.  After reading her blog, I felt I had just read a science fiction story of a corporate controlled future, in which nation states no longer exist and only corporate allegiance survives.  “Me?  Why I’m a citizen of Microsoft!”

But who are these gigantic corporate oligarchs bent on buying and selling Congressmen like shares of penny stocks?  In this case, the corporate behemoth was Citizens United.   “CZ” as we hip kool kids like to inappropriately nickname everything, is an non profit conservative organization set up to distribute films and documentaries to promote conservative causes.  In this case, they intended to buy time to air their film, Hillary: The Movie on DirectTV.  The Federal Elections Commission found that running the movie and commercials for the movie was considered “electioneering” and prohibited both the commercials and the movie itself from being shown.

Now, I’m not some big city lawyer, just a simple country boy blessed with the common sense that God has seen fit to bestow upon all of his non-attorney children, so really that is already more information I need to know to decide in which direction to go on this decision.

The government banned a movie.

That really should be all that needs to be said about this.

Sadly though, in times like these, when the word freedom is generally interpreted to mean getting something for free, the plain language of the First Amendment…

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.

…just doesn’t seem to be a good enough argument anymore.

Have we really slipped so far off our moorings that a law that allows the government to ban books if they have a hint of political advocacy within a certain time frame to a federal election is supported by much of the country?

My first amendment rights are fully protected if I want to create “art” of a crucifix in piss, or make a sculpture of Mary out of shit.  Why then, that calls for a NEA grant!  But political speech, which was the very core of the Founders intent in crafting the 1st amendment in the first place, should be regulated and banned?

I can’t imagine these same liberals would have felt that justice was being served if the FEC had banned Fahrenheit 911 from being shown in the 60 days leading up to the 2004 general election.  Apparently some right leaning legal group never thought of it, but up until the overturning of much of McCain–Feingold last week, that would have been perfectly legal to do.

A further irony is that McCain-Feingold explicitly exempts media corporations, such as major newspapers and broadcast companies.  These are corporations after all.  However specifically excluding them from McCain-Feingold is telling in itself.  Is it the government’s position that if they were not specifically excluded from the law, the FEC could regulate the coverage of media companies?  That’s why the canard about corporations being treated as people ring false to me.  The founders clearly didn’t intend that a newspaper owned as a joint stock company had no right to publish. That makes free expression a privilege granted by the government, not a right.  Equally ridiculous, if the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to corporations, does that mean the police require no warrant to search a company building?  Can a local government forbid a company from allowing prayer breakfasts on its premises?  Wouldn’t want a corporation treated like a person with the right to worship would we?

Although I think ekg’s vision of a return to the draft, banning of abortion, and evolution tossed out of the classroom in favor of the Old Testament is off the wall wacky, I can’t really predict what the long term results of this decision will be on the body politic. I don’t know that we will like the results.  However I know that I have to default to freedom.  This is not “hiding behind the 1st Amendment” or judicial activism, but a return to upholding the literal meaning of the 1st Amendment.

Liberals love to toss Ben Franklin’s warning of choosing security over liberty around as if they were playing catch in the backyard, but I’ve come to realize that they don’t really know what that means.  They will gladly toss freedom of speech over the side of the ship of state if they think they can accrue some short term political benefit from it.

“Liberals” sure have changed.

I am sad that we’ve gone so far down the road away from liberty that this argument even has to be made.  Forty years ago, a liberal would have defined himself by how supportive he was of free expression.  No more.  Now he merely defines himself by what he hates.

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16 thoughts on “The Left vs. The First Amendment

  1. It’s obvious.

    CZ (yeah, I’m hip! I’m cool!), under the direction of extreme right wing cry baby David Bossie, used Dirty Tricks, intimidation, and outright lies because he couldn’t get into Hillary Clinton’s pants.

    Using well-worn right wing tactics of harrasment, misquoting sources, fabrication of outright lies, and everything else in the magic hat of Republican swift-boating rape of our Constitution using the paid coercion of five members of our Supreme Court.

    This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It has far more to do with pushing an agenda of AUTHORITARIANISM with the intent of suppressing the true meaning of “…Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”

    Want some free speech, lilMike? You are nothing but a pitiful, self-serving minion of the evil AUTHORITARIAN pigs who would love nothing more than destroying the foundation of what our nation has become.

    I can only hope that someday your loved ones face the harrasment and police state tactics that the family of Susann Coleman faced. Perhaps then, and only then, can your lilMind fathom the concept of compassion.

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  2. I love your distortion… tell me Mike, where were “Your” rights limited.. where are the “I” rights limited.. hmm, that’s right it wasn’t the singular that you make this out to be..“Your” rights were not limited.. “MY” rights were not limited.. so atleast adhere to who we are talking about here and make your argument a little more honest

    who would do such a thing? seriously? you must have missed the one example I gave who is doing it right now..

    ~~insurance conglomerates admitted to spending millions on ads to disprove the need for health reform. $20 million from 6 of the largest health insurers was quietly being pumped into third-party television ads aimed at killing or significantly modifying the major health reform bills moving through Congress
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/12/health-insurance-companie_n_420662.html
    ~~

    and hell, this wasn’t an election year, that was just the lobbying to get Obama-care booted…. I can only image that $$ number will only rise over the next few months when it gets funneled into the GOP pockets..

    you’ll ignore it tho.. I mean, it is really just science fiction make-believe right?..it could never happen… and the fact that is is just anomaly..

    here are some random thoughts..

    what if the singular share-holder of a corporation doesn’t agree with the ads and money the CEO are spending on a certain candidate.. isn’t their speech now violated and repressed by the company?

    oh that’s right.. you don’t care when a company does that.. just like you don’t care that now any foreign company with a subsidiary here in the states can buy a United States election… w00t! I mean it is free-enterprise and freedom of speech right? The ‘market’ will weed that kind of thing out anyway and to consider the horror of it is..wacky science fiction..

    and tell me this.. if you’re so bound up for the 1st amendment for corporations even foreign ones, then you must be turning towards the idea that detainees also have rights, ya know like freedom of speech, Habeas corpus, the right to a jury of their peers.. So when do you think you’ll be doing a blog on your support of them…

    or do you not want freedom of speech and other rights delivered to individuals,just the corporate groups?

    what’s that? Those are criminals who don’t deserve to share in our rights? Well lucky break for the corporations then that they can’t be tried for crimes like that then isn’t it?

    That’s right.. Company X can’t be tried in court, civilian or military, for murder or terrorism… but they can surly pay as much money as they want to influence the country because they deserve freedom of speech huh..we only ‘exhempt’ them from the other things because seriously, how can you try a company for murder or terrorism.. it’s not a ‘singular’ entity..

    Look, you admit you don’t know where this will lead to.. but let me ask you something.. can you see a scenario where the Bank CEO’s who don’t want to re-pay their bailout, don’t want anyone telling them what they can and can’t do with their ‘risk’ and the money they use for it, don’t want any regulation or questions at all.. use their unlimited funds to insure the candiate that upholds their wants gets elected.. It’s estimated that it takes $8Million to run/win a good senatorial campaign.. do you really think AIG or BOA would shun the idea of spending $8 million to elect the person they want if it let them keep the 100’s of billions they are supposed to pay back?

    this is your idea of democracy?

    Can you deny that while ‘wacky’ any of my scenarios would never happen…or could never happen?

    Well, when they country is bought and paid for by whatever country, United Health,AIG and BOA.. I’m sure you’ll do just fine in it…Because none of them would ever limit your free-speech would they?

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  3. My problem with this, is it’s comparison to a 30 second ad. When the founding fathers envisioned freedom of speech, I seriously doubt they would have done so with the idea that corporations were “individuals” who’s speech was *unlimited* based on a monetary level, thus suppressing those who cannot possibly participate on such an enormous scale.

    The East India Company, is a perfect example of why our Founding Fathers distrusted corporate and bank participation on a large scale in our or any government.

    I fail to see where this fulfills any of the constitutional ideals, that were and are geared towards the rights, liberties, and participation of the individual in his/her governmental process.

    If the playing field is purposely tipped in favor of corporations and special interests, without guidelines or some restrictions, to reign in their participation so that it is no more or no less than the individual citizen’s participation in the political process, how does that not potentially take freedoms away from the individuals in society as a whole?

    It’s a balancing act, it always has been…with good reason. We have NEVER lived in a *truly* free society. You cannot yell fire in a crowded theater. You cannot stand on a street corner or run television ads saying, “kill Mr. X, he’s a pedophile.” There are many instances where for the good of the whole, some things are purposely regulated, when the opposite of such introduces harm, which in most cases can be seen in our or others past or recent history.

    We allowed corporations, banks and special interests to chip away at 50 plus years worth of regulations designed to safeguard us from economic melt downs, visited on us previously by unregulated greed and market manipulation, that occurred over and over and over. Did we have recessions after the regulations? Yes. Did we have potential market collapse? No. What have we learned when we let corps, banks and special interests run unregulated? That they CANNOT and WILL NOT participate in any stable market model, while they pursue Solomon’s wealth. They do not take the citizenry’s well being into account.

    Like the abused spouse, we will continue to be punched, kicked, bitten, and slapped everytime we chant the mantra…”THIS time, they’ll change…I just know it.” History has proven us *wrong* EVERY TIME we take enforced responsibility off of corps and banks…this time, will be no different.

    They will take this new *freedom* and fuck everyone one of us with absolutely no remorse or sense of societal good.

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  4. ~~They will take this new *freedom* and fuck everyone one of us with absolutely no remorse or sense of societal good.~~

    That’s because a corporation has no remorse or sense of societal good… a corporation lives in a PO box offshore in the Caymans…they’re too busy trying to get out of that poor mailbox to care about showing any remorse.. 😉

    That’s what has taken the rights from Joe the Plumber.. of course he’ll blame that socialist Obama for stealing his guns.. but in reality, it’s the PO Box in the Cayman with all the power and backing from the Judicial and GOP now..

    and here’s another though.. the idea behind this is that ‘groups’ should have just as much free-speech as Joe Scmhoo.. well Lordy, now Al Q and the Taliban, who are groups, can legally donate money to elect the President most suited to them.. the best part is they can count on blogs like this one to fight their cause for them..

    w00t!

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  5. As usual, Howey never fails to live down to my expectations of him! Little substance; big on insults. It’s like you read the last two sentences in my blog and decided you were going to prove my point!

    I thank you sir!

    Now, for the adults…

    “…what if the singular share-holder of a corporation doesn’t agree with the ads and money the CEO are spending on a certain candidate.. isn’t their speech now violated and repressed by the company?”

    A small shareholder can sell his stock. A lot of small shareholders selling their stock will show up in the market. A large shareholder has shares to influence the board, which can influence management. Now answer me this. For decades, what if a Union member didn’t’ support his union’s decision to give millions of dues money to one political party? Is that member’s free speech rights violated by their union? That’s been going on for decades and you’ve not made a free speech issue about it before. A shareholder has a lot more options than a union member in this situation.

    “…if you’re so bound up for the 1st amendment for corporations even foreign ones, then you must be turning towards the idea that detainees also have rights, ya know like freedom of speech, Habeas corpus, the right to a jury of their peers.. So when do you think you’ll be doing a blog on your support of them…
    or do you not want freedom of speech and other rights delivered to individuals,just the corporate groups?”

    Detainees and their rights have addressed on multiple occasions as you well know! You know I’m always happy to argue that subject when you aren’t using it as a distraction.

    “… do you really think AIG or BOA would shun the idea of spending $8 million to elect the person they want if it let them keep the 100’s of billions they are supposed to pay back?”

    I honestly don’t know how AIG could have gotten a better deal than the one they did, and that was pre-Citizens United. I guess the question is, do you think the people who supported that, and all the other bailouts, are bought and paid for tools of those companies?

    “Well, when they country is bought and paid for by whatever country, United Health,AIG and BOA.. I’m sure you’ll do just fine in it…Because none of them would ever limit your free-speech would they?”

    None of them have the power that the government has to limit my free speech rights. The government has that power, and thanks to your allies, they’ve been using it.

    “If the playing field is purposely tipped in favor of corporations and special interests, without guidelines or some restrictions, to reign in their participation so that it is no more or no less than the individual citizen’s participation in the political process, how does that not potentially take freedoms away from the individuals in society as a whole?”

    I guess I would ask, how does letting everyone speak prevent me from speaking? But allowing the government to pick and choose who can speak, when they can speak, and how much they can speak… well do you actually expect them to play fair?

    If I boil down the gist of your various arguments it comes to this: People who you hate and have agenda’s vastly different from yours have money to run ads opposing or supporting various candidates or legislation. You want to stop them from doing that.

    OK I get that, but is it worth overturning the bill of rights to stop them? Is this so important that you would advocate a constitutional amendment repealing the 1st amendment? If not, then why are you complaining about a court decision that merely recognizes the plain language of the 1st amendment?

    I can’t decide if you are calling politicians so corruptible that they can easily be bought with a few thousand dollars of support (in which case, how can they be trusted with tax dollars?), or you are calling the American people so stupid that who has the most ads on TV wins? And if that’s the case, how can you believe in any sort of democracy at all if the public is too stupid to make an informed decision?

    Let me ask this: Candidate Obama had so much campaign money that he was able to disregard campaign spending limits altogether. Is that why he won? If McCain had the lopsided financial advantage that Obama enjoyed, would he be President now? I think we all know the answer to that is no. Money is an important thing in politics, but it’s not the most important thing.

    None of you have addressed the most basic questions I asked. Should the government have the right to ban a movie?

    Given the legal regime that you all seem to support, and that you all seem to agree that the government acted properly in banning the showing of Hillary: The Movie, could, or even should, the Bush administration have banned public showings of Fahrenheit 911 60 days from the general elections in 2004?

    If a major corporation bought a newspaper or TV network to advocate for a particular political party or candidate, should the content of that newspaper or TV network be regulated?

    Do you really thing the 1st amendment actually allows the federal government to restrict and regulate political speech?

    Should this apply to books? That’s not a frivolous question. That very question was asked by Court during the oral arguments of this case, and the government’s response?

    Yes.

    Is that really the side you want to be on?

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  6. “As usual, Howey never fails to live down to my expectations of him! Little substance; big on insults. It’s like you read the last two sentences in my blog and decided you were going to prove my point!”

    Yet, you, in your AUTHORITARIAN pig way, fail to comment on any of the legitimate comments I made.

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  7. too much bullshit to even retort.. I don’t know where to even start, not that it would matter.. it would be reduced to me somehow calling someone a racist..

    hell, he’s got to win the argument somehow right.. so why not with misdirection and fairy tales..

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  8. Again, it’s all about *balance*. Yin and Yang.

    Corporations were never, ever suppose to have the ability to funnel unlimited money into politics, that completely undermines the average single or collectives citizens voice in government.

    People are being extremely black and white about the issue. Our freedoms are not absolutes, with good reason. If freedom of speech was unhindered, you’d have 1,000’s of people calling for 1,000’s of peoples deaths, crosses burning all over the south in people’s front yards, on and on…all protected from prosecution…because they were merely expressing their freedom of speech.

    If people feel this was a win for free speech, they must overlook the literal 10’s and 100’s of millions it will suppress to the whims of the wealthy few.

    Balance. It never makes everyone happy, especially those few who benefit most by it’s tilting.

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  9. ~~Balance. It never makes everyone happy, especially those few who benefit most by it’s tilting.~~

    I think this the proverbial “watershed moment” for the GOP..and if they don’t take heed, they may live to regret it for a long long time…. this ruling makes them extremely happy because they know they are the benefactors if it.. the problem is, the American people are hyper-aware politically right now, more than they have been in a seriously long time, they want results and are not unwilling to fuck up elections like the NY 23rd or toss Palin out of their tea- party for being RINO and supporting McCain of all reasons or even the (I) putting an (R) in Kennedy’s spot to get their results.. The GOP is basking in the glory right now and not paying attention to what’s going on around them..

    the GOP is taunting the (D) with smirks on their faces that “well, you should have listened to the America people”.. but the fact is.. they never have listened to the people, but they have always gotten away with it.. I don’t think they understand that that has changed..

    This ruling is bad, people are hyper-political and know this.. and if they don’t .. they will.. they may vote more GOP at 1st, but when they find out the GOP they voted for has to give into the wishes of master AIG or Exxon and not master tea-bag,master conservative, they’re going to be pissed and turn against their own even more severely than they turned against the (D)..

    The GOP thinks it’s still business as usual with just better benefits now that SCOTUS gave them such a bonus.. and they will abuse it.. in the end, if they don’t stop from indulging their own greed and Big business’ agenda over that of the people.. if they don’t ‘balance’ it all.. I believe they will be hoisted on their own petard so to speak..

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  10. Howey, I don’t know what comment you made that I could consider legitimate. Whether I’m an authoritarian pig or some sort of other authoritarian barnyard animal? Anyway, the term authoritarian is usually applied to those who want government to tell people what to do, not people who oppose the government doing that. If anything; “authoritarian” is a label that would fit more comfortably on your piggie haunches than me.

    For Uselesslegs, I would say that yes, people are being extremely black and white on the issue, and I would include yourself in that bunch. You constantly try to look for a middle way or a compromise, and usually that’s a good thing, but I don’t see how you can expect to “regulate” political speech without picking winners or losers, and who does the picking? The government of course. I’ve seen campaign finance as a big con to protect incumbents by limiting the visibility of outsiders. Incumbants have plenty of free access to the media to make their point, but outsiders don’t. Unless you want to limit challengers to the Bloombergs and other multimillionaire self financers, you are going to have to let enough cash come into the system to make up for the incumbent advantage. I would prefer transparency; openness about where every dollar comes from, than a fools errand in trying to keep that money out of the process. It seems to me that as a policy, trying to regulate has been a failure.

    Freedom is not only a better policy ethically, there is just less paperwork.

    Ekg, based on where the money went during the last Presidential election, I don’t think Wall Street could have picked a more compliant President. Look how much of our money he’s helped give them! And that was with campaign finance. So, it’s basically failed. You are supporting a system that was not only unconstitutional, but that didn’t even do what it was supposed to do.

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  11. Corporate political funding and participation was limited, due to *history* demonstrating (on MANY occasions) where such participation is almost exclusively in favor of those corps and special interests *at the expense* of the rest of society.

    Laws that were put in place, while exclusive in nature, were done so to protect citizens rights to fairly participate in the political process, as is accorded to them, without worry that their efforts were merely for show.

    We’re damning the orchard, for one tree.

    The ruling stretched to form a holding on issues that everyone, including Citizens United, agreed were not in front of it. Further, two previous cases were used as precedent where it explicitly acknowledged no precedent existed.

    “Buckley did not consider §610’s separate ban on corporate and union independent expenditures,” and “Bellotti did not address the constitutionality of the State’s ban on corporate independent expenditures to support candidates.”

    We as citizens are limited in our funding, corps and special interests, with regards to ad campaigns and others are not now. If people honestly believe this will not impeded a citizens ability to participate in the political process…they are at best naive and at worst proffering idealism, at the expense of reality.

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  12. Perhaps you didn’t get my point, lilPutin. Calling Obama a Socialist doesn’t bother you at all…yet I think when history’s written many years from now it’ll portray your heroes Bush and Cheney as the epitome of authoritian leadership.

    From Lewin:

    “Authoritarian leaders provide clear expectations for what needs to be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done. There is also a clear division between the leader and the followers. Authoritarian leaders make decisions independently with little or no input from the rest of the group.

    Researchers found that decision-making was less creative under authoritarian leadership. Lewin also found that it is more difficult to move from an authoritarian style to a democratic style than vice versa. Abuse of this style is usually viewed as controlling, bossy, and dictatorial.”

    From Annick Brennan:

    “Authoritarian leaders can be arrogant, hostile, boastful, and egotistical.”

    Sounds a lot like the Bush regime, IYAM.

    But anyhow, the comments I wanted you to address were the dirty tricks, harrasment and police state tactics that the family of Susann Coleman faced with Bossie’s pursuit of Hillary Clinton.

    All in the name of **cough** free speech.

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  13. Anyway, the term authoritarian is usually applied to those who want government to tell people what to do, not people who oppose the government doing that.

    whoa.. what? isn’t your party THE party that wants gov’t telling people what they can and can’t do? who they can/can’t marry? who they can/can’t visit in the hospital? who can/can’t adopt? who can/can’t serve their country? how they should be the one to decide medical procedures?

    not to mention all the phone calls your party wants to listen to and secret searches they want to do..

    seriously? you’re going to promote the (R) party as the one who doesn’t want gov’t to tell people what to do?

    holy wow Batman!

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  14. Ekg, based on where the money went during the last Presidential election, I don’t think Wall Street could have picked a more compliant President. Look how much of our money he’s helped give them! And that was with campaign finance. So, it’s basically failed. You are supporting a system that was not only unconstitutional, but that didn’t even do what it was supposed to do.

    will you ever answer my questions instead of dodging them? you weren’t asked about Obama.. you were asked about corps and spec interests and what they could do…do you think you could stick to the discussion at hand instead of constantly diverting from it?

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  15. Oh Howey,! You make me laugh! Maybe for the wrong reasons though…

    “Authoritarian leaders can be arrogant, hostile, boastful, and egotistical.”

    Hmm… sounds like a current administration I know!

    But anyhow, the comments I wanted you to address were the dirty tricks, harrasment and police state tactics that the family of Susann Coleman faced with Bossie’s pursuit of Hillary Clinton.
    All in the name of **cough** free speech.

    I’m not familiar with this issue, so you will have to explain to me what this has to do with this court decision, but one thing I do know is that only the state can use police state tactics. They are the ones who actually have the police.

    And for ekg:

    “will you ever answer my questions instead of dodging them? you weren’t asked about Obama.. you were asked about corps and spec interests and what they could do…do you think you could stick to the discussion at hand instead of constantly diverting from it?”

    Ironic considering I’ve had to ask the same questions over and over on the muche (still waiting for answers!).

    Corporations and special interests will of course try to influence the process. I’m not arguing otherwise. My argument to that though is twofold:

    It’s really can’t get much worse than it is.

    The real answer is to restrict the federal government from being in a position to do favors for private interests. Every contract, every purchase, and every earmark is something to be fought over and divvied about by other interests. The more of that there is, the more corruption there is going to be in the system.

    You want to make the target juicer, and are blind to the utter failure of the law before United, What kind of bargain is it to trade away free speech in the hope of keeping corruption out of the system, and then end up with less free speech and more and more corruption?

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