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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

First Amendment right or wrong?

What the heck is "freedom of expression" anyway?
Bill of Rights Amendment I 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.
Can someone tell me whence some loony judge derived "freedom of expression" from freedom of speech, press and assembly? Grunts, squeals, dropping one's pants and excreting waste can all be means of expression. Is this what the Framers had in mind? They specified speech and press, as well as assembly and petition of the government. (Well, also freedom of establishing a religion and exercising religious faith, but that's mostly outside this issue. Mostly.) The Framers were familiar with other forms of "expression" apart from speech and press. Recall a certain "Tea Party" or other more forceful expressions with well-aimed riflery? (See Second Amendment: freedom from government oppression via a well-armed populace.) Yeh, the Framers could well have guaranteed "freedom of expression" other than just speech and press. But they did not. And likely for a very good reason: the written and spoken word at least have some liklihood of being able to sensibly convey political speech. Public crapping in the name of "free expression" is simply bad hygiene. Burning the flag a "free speech" issue? Only if accompanied by speech, bubba. Otherwise it's likely a case of just being a jerk. (Well, burning with the political speech is still being a jerk.) And what's this stupid idea that "free speech" (or worse, "expression") is everyone's right anywhere, anytime? Hey, dummies! The amendment refers to political speech. (Yeh, again: references to freedom to practice one's religion--more on that another time.) Freedom of peaceful assembly and speech—oral and written. Moreover, the amendment only prohibits Congress from passing any federal statute that abridges these freedoms. You have multitudes of local and state laws that regulate speech, and rightly so. In addition, your employer can tell you what you can and cannot say on his dime. But what about "free expression" on campuses and in classrooms? Yeh, well, kick the slats out from under any "free expression" goon you meet and demand they speak up clearly and make some sense. If they start waving a burning flag dipped in excrement in your face, pound 'em real good, OK? That's assault they've committed and you have a right to defend yourself. But as to free speech on campuses, well, that's another story. First, is it a school that is supported by federal dollars (another issue--another one we'll leave for later)? If so, and anyone tries to tell you what you can and cannot say as pertains to your political views, well, they can do as Dick Cheney told Patrick Lehey to do. (BTW, that was, in that context, free "political" speech, and IMO appropriate speech, at that.) If it's an employee of a federal funds supported school and they try to shut you up or censure you, sue 'em. Really. (It's too much to hope for to try and have them arrested... yet. But one can hope for the best.) But if you're just bloviating about something non-political and anyone objects or seeks to have persons in authority shut you up, who flipping cares? You have a perfect right to make an ass of yourself, but you really ought to be smarter and more responsible than that. Political speech? I'd back you to the hilt. A theological or aesthetics or philosophical or sports argument? You're on your own, bubba/bubbita. The First Amendment simply wasn't talking about those things (unless the theological argument regards your personal beliefs and active practice of your faith) and I, for one, don't care what you bring down on your own head. Yeh, I know some wacko, idiotic, lame-brain judges have disagreed with me. That's all right by me. Even wacko, idiotic, lame-brain judges have a right to make perfect asses of themselves by demonstrating they a.) cannot read or understand plain English b.) are simply too stupid to beat their way out of a wet paper bag with a gavel. Damn, but democracy is stupid. And that's one of the reasons the Framers specifically designed our federal system as NON-democratic. So stupid, venal and corrupt people would have less chance of corrupting the government. Loosely paraphrasing Ben Franklin, we had a republic, but we didn't keep it, and stupid thinking and behavior stemming from stupid readings of the First Amendment have had a hand in that.