timely quote

Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president.

Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is free speech really protected?

There's a case in front of the SCOTUS right now about Citizens United's 90-minute documentary Hillary: The Movie. CU attempted to put it on a cable provider's On Demand function but the FEC decided that it was a political ad, "prohibited electioneering communication," and forbid the showing of the movie.

Of course CU has sued and they are now in front of the SCOTUS. This is going to be an interesting case, because the Supreme Court is going to uphold or strike down the First Amendment with their ruling.
The test "does not depend on the length or the way it's communicated," Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart said.

The government lawyer also suggested that books could be prohibited in the same way McCain-Feingold restricts the airing of certain political advertisements within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. That proposition did not sit well with the court's conservative members.

Justice Antonin Scalia who has consistently ruled against restrictions on campaign speech rhetorically asked the government lawyer if the First Amendment "cover[s] the right of any individual to -- to write, to publish?
So now it's books and movies (but not W, that's ok because it was about Bush).
So what's next? Flyers? magazine articles about candidates' gun stances? Blogs? If McCain-Feingold gets upheld, if the government can regulate free speech based on who is speaking and when they choose to speak then free speech in this country is truly dead.

The First Amendment to the Constitution is very clear:
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.
So all of you reporters out there who think that because this was a commercially produced product and isn't the same as what you do, putting your opinions out there as fact every day, look again. If they take out part of the amendment to keep it fair (?) then the entire amendment fails. You will have no real protection. If you speak out you can be targeted. God forbid you speak out during an election cycle.

"This sounds like campaign advocacy," Justice David Souter. "If that isn't an appeal to voters, I can't imagine what is," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg added.

But Citizens United lawyer Ted Olson told the court that ruling and the law itself smothered his client's First Amendment rights to free speech. He added the government must have a "heavy burden" in limiting the speech.

"The government cannot prove and has not attempted to prove that a 90-minute documentary made available to people who choose affirmatively to receive it..." Olson said. "Indeed, this documentary is the very definition of robust, uninhibited debate about a subject of intense political interest that the First Amendment is there to guarantee."

God, I hope that the SCOTUS feels the same way about it. This was a bad law when it was passed and George W Bush lost a lot of my respect when he signed it in to law. This is one of the reasons I held my nose when I voted for McCain. There have been a lot of unconstitutional laws (like the Ex Post Facto, Bill of Attainder AIG bonus tax that made it through the house - see CoUS Article1, sec 9) passed recently but this is one of the worst.

Make your voice heard while you still can. Write your representatives and speak out. Tell them what you think of this bill and the case in the supreme court. Write the supreme court. If this is upheld you may not have much more time to speak your mind without concern. Also, I hope this story gets a lot more coverage than it has so far.

1 comment:

Taylor said...

I think that it's not free