Re: Freedom to say what I wan?
On Apr 14, 8:36 am, Tony Cooper <tony_cooper...@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
On 14 Apr 2007 06:50:11 -0700, "Spaun" <Michael.Conne...@xxxxxxxxx>
What is the freedom of speech as stated by our constitution? Is it the
freedom to speak out against the government without reprisal of the
government? Or is it the freedom to speak any way we want to anyone we
want and expect the same "get out of jail free card" the first
amendment affords "We the People" speaking out against it? I am
confused as to why "Freedom of speech" is brought so much into
controversy when the government is not involved. As with the whole
My thought is that you should read the First Amendment to the
Constitution. It states "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."
IANAL, but here are two other parts of the Constitution that I think
Article I, Section 8: The Congress shall have power... To promote the
progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to
authors and inventors the exclusive rights to their respective
writings and discoveries."
A copyright law is by definition a restriction on freedom of writing,
and as I think it would now be interpreted, of speech (public
Article III, Section 3: "Treason against the United States, shall
consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their
enemies, giving them aid and comfort."
Giving the U. S.'s enemies military information or making propaganda
broadcasts for those enemies (funny, we were just talking about Ezra
Pound) looks like aid and comfort. You could conceivably say that the
Congress meant the First Amendment to exempt such actions from the
definition of treason, but I doubt it.
So although the First Amendment is written as an absolute statement,
that's not what anyone had in mind. The legal right to free speech
conflicts not only with other parts of the Constitution, but also with
the public interest, and that's where Tony's next comment (after a bit
that I snipped) comes in.
The First Amendment, however, is just the tip of the free speech
iceberg. The body of the free speech issue is in the interpretations
of the First Amendment by the Supreme Court. For example, there have
laws against sedition, and sedition includes speaking out against the
government. Of these laws, I think only the Alien Registration Act
remains in force.
Other laws regarding slander and libel touch on the First Amendment
since they can be considered to regulate free speech.
You can come up with many other examples. There are laws against
revealing secrets (espionage), making false statements under oath
(perjury) or in business (fraud, false advertising), planning a crime
(conspiracy) or encouraging someone to commit one (I think that makes
you an accessory), making threats (assault, extortion), and probably
I don't know that the courts have ever drawn any lines on some of
these issues. I imagine that if people ever offered a free-speech
against charges of espionage or perjury, they were just laughed at.
The categories Tony mentioned--sedition and defamation--have given the
Supreme Court a lot more work.
Americans are fond of saying "You can't shut me up. The Constitution
says I have the right of free speech". The Constitution doesn't say
that. We do not have the untrammeled right to free speech. There are
many limitations on what we can say.
I don't see a free speech issue in the Imus situation.
I don't see a legal one either. However, people might believe on
moral grounds that no one should prevent us from hearing any kind of
thought, feeling, or symptom of oral diarrhea. Those people might say
that the networks' obligations to the public override their duty to
their stockholders and that Imus shouldn't have been fired.
Jerry Friedman wouldn't say that.
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