Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Other Freedoms

From the amount of hysterical reaction on the topic, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is only one important part of the Bill of Rights: the Second Amendment. In my opinion, though, the far more important amendment is the First, which reads in its entirety ...

"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."

In other posts, I'll talk about the First Amendment's guarantees of the freedoms of religion, assembly, and petition. Today, I want to talk about perhaps the most important parts of the First Amendment: the guarantees of freedom of speech and the press.

The fact that we can debate the actual meaning of the Second Amendment - or anything else - is the result of the First Amendment ... the Constitutional guarantee that Congress shall make no law* "... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ..."

I bring this up at this point in time because our freedoms of speech and the press are under attack, and not just from the government. It's no secret that our notoriously thin-skinned president has advocated loosening up libel laws so that he can avenge himself on those he believes have treated him unfairly. But while we expect such behavior from a man like Donald Trump, whose ignorance of the Constitution has been on display all along, we see it also from our fellow Americans ... who should know better.

Consider that many of our elected officials - the Senators and Representatives we elected to be our voice in Washington - are no longer willing to hold public meetings with their constituents, because they are shouted down by angry crowds unwilling to listen to what they have to say. Instead, they send staff members to meet with the people they were chosen to represent.

Consider also that conservative flamethrower Ann Coulter backed out of an invitation to address a gathering at UCLA Berkley because of noisy and potentially violent objections by some students ... a situation described as "liberal fascism" by Faux News and as "a sad day for free speech" by Ms Coulter.

It's not often that I agree with Ann Coulter**, but I agree with her on this.

We may disagree with other speakers, but if we cannot speak freely, we cannot evaluate ideas and make informed decisions. We're sure we're right, and they're sure they're right ... if we cannot listen to each other, if we cannot compare their ideas to our own and weigh their value, we will never advance beyond the bitter quasi-intellectual stalemate we enjoy today. We need to understand each other's positions on issues so that we can find points of agreement - difficult though that may be - and work toward the shared goal of making the country a better place for everyone.

Conservatives and libertarians insist that the marketplace will ultimately resolve every problem, and if you believe that you should also believe that it will regulate the marketplace of ideas as well as the marketplace of economics. If we don't expose ourselves to other points of view, we cannot evaluate opposing points of view and ... perhaps ... change their minds.

Have a good day. Let the other guy talk.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Not that Congress has done much in the way of making laws lately, anyhow.

** Actually, I think she's an idiot who's swallowed too much of her own Kool Aid, but she's got every right to try to convince me otherwise. And she's doing a very poor job of it.


John Hill said...

I think the shouting down of others that have been given a forum to share their thoughts is a reflection of the poor manners that our society has deemed as normal.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

When one gets excoriated or reviled for stating an opinion, however disagreeable it may be to others, it then becomes a matter of whether it's worth exercising free speech. Sometimes you might just decide that it isn't worth a fight.

Hell Hound said...

This is a sad state of affairs we are in nowadays. Unfortunately, too many people use their own speech to shout down others' point of view. How do we gt the cork back into the bottle.

I would not want to face an adversarial crowd, myself.

Chuck Bear said...

Winning through intimidation?

Banana Oil said...

It takes real nerve to speak before a hostile crowd. People need to be nicer. Does this happen particularly in some places?

bakku-shan said...

An inportant freedom is to speak up and refute those who speak nonsense too. Bad representatives need to be corrected and defeated so their errors won't persist.