Sunday Question: When Is There Too Much Free Speech?

As I’m mentally getting ready for the Syracuse – Gonzaga basketball game in a little while, I’m reminded of the reality of today’s world. That reality is that there are a number of people who believe that, because we (the United States) has a Constitution whose first amendment gives the right of free speech, that they can and should be able to say whatever they want to say, no matter who it hurts, and get away with it.

Something that I absolutely loathe is news sources allowing people to comment on news stories. I can’t believe the hate, racism, and bad taste that I keep seeing over and over, and I keep asking myself just who thought this was a good idea in the first place. Locally I’ve had conversation with someone who works at the newspaper, most specifically the online newspaper, and I’ve read commentary about it through someone else I know whose group tried to get some information from banks that’s supposed to be given immediately by them, had the story hit the newspapers, and the majority of comments against them weren’t positive, and pretty much had nothing to do with why they protested in the first place.

Then there’s this issue of health care, and how people on both sides are arguing with each other. This group of people who are calling themselves “tea partiers” (I call them “tea baggers”), are of course protesting against the bill, but they’ve gotten so vile as to call black representatives the N-word, throw money in the face of a man with serious Parkinson’s disease issues saying he didn’t deserve to live off the money of other people (as it turned out, he’s a college professor with a Ph.D.), spit on some other people and basically show themselves for what they mainly are; a bunch of no-nothing home grown terrorists who don’t want to discuss anything if they can’t get absolutely everything they want. Yeah, that was a rant!

You think that’s bad enough? I don’t. Rush Limbaugh this past week went after an 11-year old whose mother died because she couldn’t get the health care she needed, and Glenn Beck went after religious groups who believe that a part of their mission is to try to help others. I may not be religious, but wasn’t that supposedly what Jesus was doing (yeah, I know that answer; that’s sarcasm)?

People have this thing about free speech incorrect. That’s not what the first amendment says, just like the second amendment doesn’t say that everyone has the right to bear arms. I find it incredible that the same people who believe that they need to follow the tenets of the Constitution to the letter can’t even seem to understand what the words actually mean because none of them seem to know anything about history.

The first amendment was supposed to only be geared towards Congress; it even specifically mentions Congress. Its purpose was to make sure there was no national religion set up, since many people fled Europe to come here for religious freedom. Its purpose was to make sure Congress couldn’t stop the press from commenting either positively or negatively against government policies, like what’s going on in Venezuela right now, another reason many of them left Europe, which was the bastion of kings and emperors in the day. Overall, the amendment was there to protect the people from Congress; it wasn’t meant to create a free-for-all of bad behavior from anyone who decided they wanted to be a moron towards someone else.

Still, the Supreme Court has interpreted this one many times, and these days pretty much anything goes. Yet, during President Obama’s last State of the Union speech, we all saw one of the justices not enjoying the President’s idea of free speech, when he castigated them for declaring a certain law that most of us thought was a good one as being unconstitutional by a 5-4 party line vote. Seems even Supreme Court judges don’t necessarily want to have to live with this free speech issue that they’ve created. Tough; that’s what consequences are all about.

Anyway, that’s my Sunday rant; got a take on it? Just be nice and pick your words carefully because, unlike everywhere else, we pay for our blogs, and we all have the right to either delete or edit anything we don’t like; our money, right? I always say no one has to agree with me, they just have to respect me. After all, I would bet if I were standing in your face that the majority of people wouldn’t want to risk wondering what kind of physical reaction, if any, might come from me. It pays being a big guy sometimes, right Dennis? 🙂

Go Orange!

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23 comments on “Sunday Question: When Is There Too Much Free Speech?

  • Hi Mitch,

    Let me start off by saying that I find the examples you gave above every bit as vile and disgusting as you do.

    However …

    If we were to only “protect” speech that we find “acceptable”, then the value of protecting Any speech is inherently diminished.

    Know what I mean?

    Don’t get me wrong. There should definitely be Social consequences related to the words that we choose, and the actions that we take. Society should be able to define, and even “enforce” (to some degree) the definition of civil interaction. I just think it’s more of a sociology question, than a government question.

    While there are certainly words and phrases in use today that I personally would like to see disappear from our language …

    The last thing in the world I would want is for any form of government to try to come up with a list of acceptable and/or unacceptable speech.

    … that’s just a tad too Orwellian for my tastes.

    Todd
    .-= Todd Morris´s last blog ..The Alamo – COB Adder Legal Office =-.

    • Hi Todd,

      Thanks for chiming in. And I’m not advocating that the government necessarily step in and start suppressing free speech, since that’s what the First Amendment wanted also. My gripe is that the most hateful speech seems to be this anonymous speech that’s just hateful and offers no redeeming value whatsoever. And voluntarily inviting that type of thing into your home, so to speak, which is what the newspapers do, is sickening. I think anyone who decides to offer their opinion online at a news source should have to use their real first name and last initial. Heck, many of us who blog have some kind of comment policy, which I expect is geared towards making sure we’re respectful of each other in some fashion at least. In my mind, we can disagree peaceably without degenerating into some of the most hateful stuff. I almost hate saying this, but in some ways, the KKK is more honest about their feelings and thoughts than many of these other people, and thus, oddly enough, you respect them more if only for that one thing.

      Ick; now I feel dirty that I said that! lol

  • Mitch:

    I agree with you on the newspaper quotes on news stories–the results are a fetid swamp of hate, bile and bigotry. The newspaper limits “free” speech everyday–by choosing what to print and what not to print. It is a private concern and can set its own standards. So why has it abdicated this responsibility on the internet?

    Of course, part of the problem locally is that the newspaper doesn’t control its web site–a separate corporation (but one still still within the Newhouse family of businesses) controls the content of Syracuse.com. They probably want to stir up controversy, as it may drive more traffic their way.
    .-= Phil´s last blog ..Big Papi Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day =-.

    • Hi Phil,

      I think if that’s how they’re thinking then they deserve to keep losing market share with the regular newspaper. I don’t think it should always be up to me and others to report things we see online that are inappropriate. Where are their censors in all this? Then again, the quality of editing online stinks anyway; never seen so many misspellings and grammar mistakes in my life as it pertains to the news.

  • Peter Davies says:

    Hi Mitch

    A very good article here which I can only comment on from the viewpoint of a UK citizen.

    Can I first state that examples you gave regarding people’s behaviour are vile by anyones standard.

    I must also add that people should be allow to state their opinions in any democracy but there should also be some form of accountability. For example if I say something to a press organisation then rants and expletives are not enough – they should be made to back up their remarks with some sort of factual justfication and by leaving the trash talk out – so perhaps the US Lawmakers need to look at a framework whereby you should be allowed to express opinions, but 1st they should be qualified by facts and secondly there should be some sort of Code Of Conduct stating that one should conduct oneself in such a way that they do not delibarately set out to ‘offend’ others. – Despite this I think if you compare the UK, we have probably gone too far the other way now, its called Political Correctness and it does need raining in as well.
    .-= Peter Davies´s last blog ..How Often Do You Mail Your Lists? =-.

    • I have to admit, Peter, that I’m a big proponent of politically correct speech most of the time. Probably because I used to have a quick temper and would be ready for a fight if I felt someone was speaking to me inappropriately, I’ve always encouraged others to choose their words carefully when interacting with me. Of course, in my day everyone didn’t walk around with guns. lol

      I have stated here often that as long as someone is ready to deal with whatever the consequences of their actions are, go for it. That means if you’re ready to lose your job, be killed, be castigated and hated and receive responses you may not have been expecting, go for it. But it’s illogical for people to expect that they can say hateful things and we the people have to turn our heads and say “please sir, may I have another?” The Bible may say turn the other cheek, but I’m not doing it, and most other people aren’t doing it either.

      Having said that, I will agree that there are times when some people are taking it way too far. If I criticize a performance I’m not criticizing the person; if I criticize the person, that’s another story. Good points you’ve made; thanks.

  • The problem with taking free speech and trying to somehow regulate what should be said by whom is, who decides that? Our corrupt congress? Our corrupt state legislators? Me? You?

    I look at it this way, this is a strange time in our country (which I love this country), and people are pissed off about some things that are going on. Should they stand up and have their voices heard? Absolutely, without a doubt, they should be marching on the streets of the capitol! Should they have some control too, YES! But how do you regulate who can say what, when they can say it, who they can say it to, without invading free speech?

    Whether you agree with the Supreme Courts rulings or not, isn’t a factor, it is our system and we are stuck with it. I would beg to say, that the Supreme Court is getting ready to be pretty busy trying to figure out the constitutionality of recent activity on Capitol Hill, they have their work cut out, and I for one wouldn’t want their jobs.

    The thing is, when someone is using free speech to advocate something we like then free speech is great, no matter what the other side thinks. When we don’t agree with their voice, then it becomes wrong somehow? (not saying you do that Mitch, just in general).

    Anyway, good article…
    .-= Keith´s last blog ..Are You Being A Cry Baby? =-.

    • Here’s my take, Keith. I’ve already stated in the post that Congress isn’t allowed to regulate speech based on the Constitution, so that route is gone. However, online, the newspapers can definitely regulate speech; it’s their product. We as bloggers can regulate speech; we’re paying for it. At a live protest, sure, people can say whatever they want, as long as they’re ready to deal with the consequences. If I’m walking down the street and someone decides to yell out something at me, they’re allowed their free speech as long as they think they’re brave enough to deal with the consequences. But people are much braver in a crowd than they usually are on their own, and they’re certainly much braver hiding themselves behind totally fake names and fake pictures than they are otherwise.

      In the end, I guess that’s my gripe. You have your picture, I have my picture, and neither of us is afraid to say what we want to say, and that’s legit. Neither of us, hopefully, are looking to start trouble for the sake of the fact that we could if we wanted to by hitting and running while being hidden, if you know what I mean. But this world has definitely changed in my 50 years; these days, people say hateful things first, then “apologize” after the fact. I’m waiting for more consequences to start occurring and some people deciding “hey, maybe I shouldn’t have said that” happening more also. Actually it’s already here; I’d love to see those teabaggers walking into the inner city saying some of what they were saying at the rally. How many of them do you think would walk out alive?

      • You know that by you using that term “teabagger” you are actually know better than the ones spewing hate during these protests?The Tea Party movement has taken off even more than I expected, and while I agree that protesters should keep it peaceable, they do have the same rights as you and I to stand up for what they believe.

        I don’t go around saying “those dumb communist, socialist, marxist liberals” just because I don’t agree with something a Democrat has to say.

        I understand your gripe Mitch, and while we are probably on different sides of the political landscape, at least you can debate intelligently, where most of the time it turns ugly when I try to get into any level of a political debate with someone that has different views than me.

        And, I would like to see some of those card carrying liberals walk through ares where I live shouting about there views and make it out alive. There is always another side to the coin….

        Thanks for the rational debate, I enjoy it!
        .-= Keith´s last blog ..Are You Being A Cry Baby? =-.

      • Keith, I figure I can discuss things with people in a civil manner, and if we can’t talk with each other on that level (I’m talking people in general) then there’s no reason to talk at all. But the reason I talk so much about consequences is that I used to have a quick temper, and let’s just say there are good reasons why I don’t have a gun or don’t walk around with any other type of weapon. Actually, here in Syracuse we have areas where I was told when I moved here not to walk through those areas. I did just that, but of course during the day, daring anyone to mess with me. Yeah, I had something in my pocket, just in case, but I did it anyway. That’s the consequences part; at my age now, it’s not something I’d do willingly. 🙂

  • BTW, you have twisted a few facts here, the religious groups were saying that their mission was to take from the rich to give to the poor, and that is what Jesus would or did do. I don’t know about you, but my Bible doesn’t read that way. Christianity was about helping others find Jesus, not money or entitlements. Jesus NEVER took from the rich to give to the poor, he did encourage giving, because YOU want to give, not because someone tells you to…
    .-= Keith´s last blog ..Are You Being A Cry Baby? =-.

    • Actually, that’s not quite true, Keith; the representation of my facts, that is. The only religious groups I know saying what you’re saying I said are those televangelists who are frauds. I’m also certainly not saying there aren’t churches that do that. However, I am saying that my interpretation of what Jesus was all about leads him to have been a peace activist for the poor and infirmed and in helping others; I hope you’re not saying that’s not what he was doing, since that would probably counter what most people think about the guy. He took a stand and gave his life for it, supposedly. Beck stated churches advocating the same thing are communist and Nazi; I’m sure you’re not agreeing with that stance either.

      • I am not agreeing with that stance, and there is no supposedly about it He did die for it.

        The audio played on Beck’s show was clear as a bell to me. The pastor stated that voluntary contributions were not enough and mandatory contributions were necessary, and he also stated that is how Jesus would have done it. I am sorry, but that is Socialism at it’s purist meaning, and Jesus did NOT advocate that.

        Whether our government agrees with that guys statement, I don’t know. But I hope they don’t.

        I believe in helping others, and have helped to start non-profit organizations that do just that, but I did it because I wanted to, not because someone said I had to. Are we to allow our government to dictate to us when/where/how we help others? That is exactly what the guy that Beck played the audio of stated, and I will stand and protest that sort of behavior.

        Beck can take things to the extreme (much like progressive liberal talk show hosts do to), but I see it for what it is.
        .-= Keith´s last blog ..Are You Being A Cry Baby? =-.

      • Ah, see, you did something I refused to do, so you heard more than I did. I refuse to watch Beck in any way. Instead, I read the transcript of his words, and saw the picture of him holding up the Nazi symbol & something else that escapes my mind right now, both abhorrent to me. So, I have to defer to you on that one, and if that guy did say mandatory contributions were necessary, I’d disagree with that one as well.

        Are there any progressive liberal talk show hosts other than Maddow and Olbermann? Seems Fox only has Rivera who’s liberal, and he’s, as my mother would say, “some-timey”. lol

  • So, does that mean that as long as these people supplied their real first name you’d be happy with their the news sites accepting their moronic remarks? I don’t see how that would make a difference.

    Personally I think they should delete anything that could be considered as racist, hateful or just plain stupid.

    I commented on an Aussie news site the other week and was told my comment would be moderated and would only go live if it was approved. Reckon that would be a good idea for your guys to adopt.
    .-= Sire´s last blog ..Update On Sponsored Tweets As To It’s Money Making Potential =-.

    • Sire, I think if they had to supply both first and last name that they would probably temper their remarks a lot more, but first name might help some. Sure, you can’t prove those names are real, but here’s the thing. To write the newspaper about commentary there, you have to provide first and last name, address, and phone number, and they call to verify who you are. So, they check people out more thoroughly for the newspaper than online; that’s interesting if you ask me.

      • I’m with that, Sire. With the knowledge that one’s overall product is being judged, not only by how the news is presented but how other people decide to participate in the process, one would think they’d handle that better. It’s what we do with our blogs if we’re responsible. We totally eliminate spam, and we either modify or delete those messages from people who don’t stay on topic, or are abusive towards someone else.

  • In regards to Jesus, he never once advocated taking from the rich to give to the poor, that was Robin Hood.

    Jesus message was that you were love one another, that you were to believe in God and that you were to believe in Him as being the Son of God.

    He helped all who believed, it didn’t matter if they were poor, rich, powerful or whatever, as long as they believed and were willing to following His way of living.
    .-= Sire´s last blog ..Promoting MyDomain Brand Me Contest. =-.

    • Sire, being the heathen that I am, I’m not going to counter most of what you said above except for your last line. For that, I refer you to James 2:14-20. It seems that there was a feeling that if you were of means and didn’t help that you weren’t really faithful at all, just giving it lip service. I kind of equate it to slave owners in America.

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