Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The right to speech

Freedom of Speech
What is it? Do we really have it?

January 19, 2011

Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Tuscon, the Westboro Baptist Church and the Upcoming First Amendment Supreme Court Decision

By John Stephen Blyth

In the coming months, there will be much talk about the freedom of speech. It was only in October of last year that the Supreme Court determined that it would take on a case of incredible controversy that is bound to have major ramifications for the American legal system and the rights of American citizens to make use of their first amendment rights, the case of Snyder vs. the Westboro Baptist Church. The day of reckoning is near, and almost as if on cue, the Tuscon massacre will most definitely add to these first amendment discussions of what is allowable and what is not when it comes to speech. Being very familiar with the tactics of the activist majority currently sitting on the bench of the Supreme Court, I find it highly likely that the court will find some manner of reasoning to rewrite the First Amendment as we know it.

Ever since September 11, 2001, first the Bush and then Obama Administrations have shown expressed discomfort with the revelation of secrets and the reporting of real news. How the American media is even allowed to call themselves “news” is beyond me, seeing that they don’t report it. Wikileaks is a prime example of proof the American media is not doing its job. Why didn’t Bradley Manning hand over his files to a media source in America? The only reason for this is because the media will not publish it. Even Daniel Ellsberg said that at first nobody would touch his Pentagon papers. National security is always the excuse for coming down on whistleblowers, taking away human rights, and hiding crime. Wasn't the excuse of national security used to hide the crimes of Iran Contra? It most certainly was. It is absurd that anyone can believe that taking away the rights of others, torturing, going to war on lies, etcetera, --the list going on and on-- can in anyway help our national security.

On October 6, the Supreme Court said it would hear the appeal of the Westboro Baptist Church in the ruling against them and for the plaintiff, Albert Snyder, who lost his son Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, fighting for his country in Iraq. As utterly from another universe as this may sound, it is the Westboro Baptist Church’s belief that there would be no American deaths in Iraq if Americans would stop sinning for the numerous things they find objectionable, such as rights for homosexuals. For this reason, they protested Corporal Snyder’s funeral. They stood with signs stating “God Hates Fags”, though Corporal Snyder was not known to be homosexual.

In their protest, the members of WBC respected a distance of a thousand feet away from the church where the funeral was being held and they left before they could be seen by anyone in attendance. The Snyder family and friends would never had known of the protest, except for the extensive coverage granted them by the media. My question is whether the media should take responsibility in causing grief to the Corporal Snyder’s family and friends who gathered to remember him? Wasn’t it the media that chose to broadcast the beliefs of this church, which must be horrifying to say the least to the senses of the aggrieved and is abhorrent to nearly all who hear the facts behind this story? However, Mr. Albert Snyder’s suit was not against the media that broadcast their views, but against the Westboro Church for expressing their views in a way that they considered to be an invasion of privacy, slander, and an intentional infliction of emotional harm.

Whenever a case comes before the Supreme Court dealing with the right to freedom of speech, it should be considered a matter of much concern for everyone who lives under U.S. law and for everyone in the world who wants a more isolationist America. I contend there would have been no way Bush could have led us into two occupations that were based on lies without the complicity of the media. Like the Citizens United decision, the case of the Westboro Baptist Church’s right to free speech seems specially designed for an activist court to change policy in a monumental way. Whether it was conspired or whether it was cherry picked by the court, this case is positioned to divide America like a lance and is a real threat to our democratic-republic.

Our political leaders understand well that the media is the most powerful weapon that can be used in any society. History has shown that people tend to behave like birds in a flock or animals in a herd; they do what they observe others are doing and accept that the group must know best because there is nothing like the media to influence group behavior. Advertising, for example, evidences the power of the media, a multi-billion dollar industry that gets people to buy things with thirty second commercials. Anyone who says the media does not influence people is lying through his teeth. The current situation of a government that works in secret only helps to unhinge normal people and make people act out who are already unhinged. Perhaps, a media that would do its job and a government that allowed its citizens to view its inner workings would do much to calm the agitated populace. Well, at least it would in the long run after problems are revealed and government is cleaned up.

The control of the media has always been used to help the few gain and retain power. Without the control of the media, where would tyrants like Mao or Hitler be in our history? There would most likely be little mention of them because both were made and sustained by the media that they controlled. The politicians living on C Street understand this, evidenced by their admission to actively studying the most despicable people from history as how-to manuals for strategies to be used against the American people in order to gain or keep power. Not long ago, I came upon some quotes and found the parallels to what has happened recently in American history to what happened in Germany are very hard to ignore. Look at this Goering quote for example.

“Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood¬¬. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dic¬tatorsh¬ip¬, or a parliament¬¬, or a communist dictatorsh¬¬ip. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” -- Hermann Goering

Goerings’ plan is certainly easier to accomplish when the media is on your side. In fact, CIA Director William Colby, who immediately preceded CIA Director George Herbert Walker Bush, bragged about accomplishing the control of the media even back in the seventies.

“The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media.” –William Colby

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”—Joseph Goebbels High Ranking Nazi second in popularity to Hitler

“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”—Joseph Goebbels

“Intellectual activity is a danger to the building of character.”—Joseph Goebbels

“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly—it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”—Joseph Goebbels

“We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.”—Katherine Graham editor of the Washington Post

It is disturbing that the quotes of the people with the power over our media today are opposite in nature to those of our founding fathers and similar to the masters of propaganda of Nazi Germany:

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freedom of speech.”—Benjamin Franklin 1722

“When the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.” – Thomas Jefferson 1799

“The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”—Thomas Jefforson 1787

“If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.”—Thomas Jefferson 1816

“Nothing could be more irrational than to give the people power, and to withhold from them information without which power is abused. A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with power which knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”—James Madison

“To the press alone, checkered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been obtained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.”—James Madison

“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us, the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”—George Washington, Address to Officers of the Army March 15, 1783

“The loss of liberty in general would soon follow the suppression of the liberty of the press; for it is an essential branch of liberty, so perhaps it is the best preservative of the whole.”—John Peter Zenger, Colonial Printer 1735

And others:

“Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe.”—Abraham Lincoln

“In the countries in which the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people ostensibly prevails, the
censorship of the press is not only dangerous, but it is absurd. When the right of every citizen must be presumed to possess the power of discriminating between the different opinions of his contemporaries, and of appreciating the different facts from which inferences may be drawn.”—Alexis de Tocqueville, French author of “Democracy in America” 1853

Compare these quotes to Bush Sr. and Jr.:

“What is at stake is more than one small country, it is a big idea - a new world achieve the universal aspirations of mankind...based on shared principles and the rule of law...The illumination of a thousand points of light...The winds of change are with us now.”—George Herbert Walker Bush

“You know, I could run for governor and all this but I’m basically a media creation. I’ve never really done anything. I’ve worked for my dad. I worked in the oil industry. But that’s not the kind of profile you have to have to get elected to public office.”—Geroge W. Bush in an interview with the Midland Reporter Telegram on July 4, 1989, quoted in Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential (John Wiley and Sons, 2003) by James Moore and Wayne Slater, p. 161.

“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in… to kind of catapult the propaganda.”—George W. Bush May 24, 2005

Or even William Jefferson Clinton:

“We can’t be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans.”—President Bill Clinton, USA Today, 3-11-93

People should be more alarmed by the fact that our recent leaders sound nothing like our founding fathers, but more like despicable people from history. The American people need to realize that these machinations for political power all depend on the few controlling all of our media. Who was it who originally said, “He who controls the media controls the masses.” I believe that I read it was also attributed to Goebbels. Why does our media so closely resemble the methods of this Nazi?

The destruction of the American Educational system aids in this control of the American people by not teaching them the critical thinking and literary skills necessary to root out corruption. Perhaps, it should be made a requirement that in order to graduate from high school students must be educated about the media’s responsibility in some of human history’s most heinous crimes. Facts so often are like trees falling in the forest with nobody to hear them. In a manner of speaking, silenced and misleading information that are so prevalent in our media today are tantamount to acts of treason to a democracy. It has to be made clear that the worst offenses in human history happened because of a controlled media that incites violence with justifications inspired by stories designed to cause fear and hate. Is the absolute abhorrence of the public of the Westboro Baptist Church’s behavior going to be a story strong enough to curtail rights of free speech?

What should simply be a case of unacceptable behavior becomes very complicated when you realize that any ruling on this matter will have major consequences for everyone’s civil rights in matters of speech, religion, and privacy. Judicial decisions dealing with the first amendment take the risk of trampling on what people believe they hold most sacred about America.

One must assume that there was a reason why the first amendment is the first of the amendments in the U.S. Constitution. It was the civil right thought to be most precious and most needed above all others because it is the one that ensures all the other rights given to us in the Constitution. This only makes sense because our ability to communicate has everything to do with our ability to organize, learn, identify problems, exchange feelings, compromise, and take action. There would be no economy, no business, no shared discoveries, no ability to participate as a social unit, and no ability to progress over obstacles without our ability to communicate. Effective governance had to be ensured by good communication, especially in a democracy.

The founding fathers felt access to information to be so important that the Post Office was made to deliver newspapers free of cost. The question must be asked, why would our recent leaders want to take away the most unique quality of our being human, the one that is behind all of our accomplishments? In fact, we are nothing, except for the speech needed reference ourselves to define us as individuals. Limitations on the right to speech make us free or unfree, slave or not slave. Without the right to speak, our ability to think, communicate, and learn are limited. When our ability to think is limited, doesn’t that mean we have entered the territory of Big Brother and tyranny? Americans call themselves a democracy, but is it really? How effective is a democracy when free speech is curtailed? Free speech must be defined as more than the right to say anything you want. It must also mean you have the right to hear anything you want, access any information that you choose. By no means is this true about the media of today. The first amendment has been continuously assaulted and steadily dismantled with carefully planned increments of deconstruction. And, if we are lucky enough to be given the right to be heard by any large audience, neither is it assured that if we were to speak out, like Martin Luther King Jr. did against the Vietnam War for example, that we can be assured that we can speak without fear of persecution?

Will the Supreme Court rule against the aggrieved family whose suffering could only have been made worse by the hateful speech of a religious group who argue for their freedom of speech even though most consider their beliefs to be abhorent? The Westboro Baptist Church, led by Fred Phelps and consisting of a congregation mostly of family members, appealed their near $5 million loss in court, pitting their rights of freedom of speech to protest a soldier killed in the Iraq occupation versus the rights of the aggrieved family to heal from their painful loss of their son in privacy and in peace. For me, there is a greater issue here than these two parties and their grievances with each other. The real problem is not the freedom of speech, but the right to privacy the family has not to be bludgeoned by a controlled media’s broadcasts for all to see. When the media does not allow equal access and focuses on stories for political gain that then cause damage to already injured citizens of this country, it opens themselves up for litigation. The same is true of the recent massacre in Tuscon if there can be shown that the alleged perpetrator was influenced by incitements of violence.

There has always been limits to speech. Ask any child who has spoken out of line. This problem of what limits there should be is one that has dogged human history since language began. It does not matter whether you ask a judge or a lawyer or any person on the street; the opinions you will get about this subject will be very different and almost all will admit that the deliberation of this matter never comes easy. For example, a limit of one person’s right to say something destructive can easily be used as an excuse to take away the legitimate rights of people to take part in their democracy. With the Supreme Court stacked the way it is, I must admit that I do fear that a decision against this church will be used to justify the silencing of people who demand investigations of the Bush Administration and those who question the official story about September 11, 2001. This subject about the rights to speech moves me, even compels me to point out some facts that people may overlook as they come to their own decisions of how the first amendment should be protected and how it should be limited.

As I said there are many opinions on this matter, but in my personal opinion, speech intended to do another harm, such as protesting at a funeral should not be protected as free speech as much as someone going to a hospital to say insensitive things to a dying person. The grievous slander used by O'Reilley to call Dr. Tiller a baby killer and Glen Beck's rants about The Tides Foundation and the ACLU as evil organizations or his trolling for people to murder Nancy Pelosi on his radio program should not be protected, but prosecuted for incitement of violence. The public posting of addresses or phone numbers of people you disagree with, and the repeated use of hateful terms such as the n-word to harass people, should not be considered protected speech, but something punishable by law. I believe that hate speech is nothing less than an incitement for violence. Sarah Palin is also a notable example, and if there is credible evidence that Laughner was inspired by her slander, then Palin must be tried for manslaughter.

I do not believe our founding fathers ever intended that the freedom of speech was meant to be free of limitations, but that is what Fox news and misinformers in our media would like for us to believe. The type of speech the founding fathers viewed most reverently was of the sort where there is the attempt of one party to convince or disabuse another of his opinion. Speech that repeatedly puts out false information in order to misinform the public should be illegal because it undermines our democracy. We must recognize that speech can cause harm, and that our democracy depends on an educated populace informed of relevant information. If my reasoning makes any sense at all, then the natural implication is that our controlled media is treasonous. As a Gallup poll stated in April of 2009, fifty-one percent of the American public want a real investigation into the Bush Administration and the terrorist attacks, yet our media completely ignores the needs and desires of the public. I assume the sentiment is even greater now that more of their crimes have come to light and they have collapsed the economy.

What freedom of speech is there when there is absolutely no discourse on the MSM questioning the official story of the Bush Administration? We have a government that continually says that we, the people, who are supposed to be running this country democratically, are not allowed to see how our government works for the reason of "national security". It is quite frustrating because as they claim national security, they are standing in a pile of evidence implicating them in crimes such as torture and conspiracy that we are not allowed to prosecute them for. If we had real transparency in this country, then there would not be so many conspiracy theorists. People are beginning to learn what they don't know CAN actually hurt them and they understand that the speech that they need to hear is not reaching them. In order to truly have "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", which implies living without fear, we deserve a government of transparency, not conspiracy, and a media that serves the interests of the public. It has come to my attention, that the Snyder family would never had heard about their protests that were a thousand feet from the funeral, except for the media broadcasting it. I mean, really; what is more important, broadcasting this story that causes this family emotional harm, or the testimony of a Sibel Edmonds who has revealed treason in congress?

The real problem is that this small group with little following and very little support is getting so much attention at the expense of other stories for doing grievous acts. Is this good use of our public airwaves? For some reason the controlled media believes this coverage of them will further their agenda. The problem is not free speech. The problem is controlled speech. How do we get more access to things that serve the public interest? How do we practice our rights to freedom of speech when the media is not free? It is controlled and costs more than most can afford to broadcast.

Over our commonly owned airwaves that BY LAW must be used for the “public good”, Fox a corporation that falsely advertises itself as “Fair and Balanced” allowed O'Reilly to slander Dr. Tiller, though the doctor was found innocent in court by a jury of his peers,. Because of the hateful, slanderous speech by O'Reilly about Dr. Tiller, a stranger was inspired to find where Tiller attended church, approached him, and shot him dead while he worshipped. If that is not inciting violence, what is? Glen Beck’s tirades about the evils of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU without doubt put the public in harm’s way. One of his followers, Byron Williams, was on his way to shoot up those places. Fortunately, he was driving erratically and the Oakland Police Department had to deal with him, but only after a shoot out that wounded two officers and shut down a freeway for hours. What these men are allowed to do is as much an abuse of free speech as yelling fire where there is no fire in a crowded theater. When there is perceived danger, people tend to flock like sheep. It is impossible for one not to know that, as people try to escape the theater, injuries or fatalities will follow. When Bush told us that there were WMDs in Iraq, he committed a fraud upon the American people in order to propel crimes of a much grander scale that allowed him to seize foreign lands that made him and his friends richer than they already were. Was that freedom of speech? Do politicians get to lie to the public about their work?

The problem with speech broadcast over the media:

1. the allowance of a few to have all the speech they want;
2. the impedance of all other opinions and facts from being broadcast;
3. the subverting of the English language for their benefit; for example, conservatives are not conservative, Fox is not fair and balanced, the liberal media is not liberal,
4. and then there is the unfairness that whoever controls the media can do all these things over the people’s commonly owned, but tightly controlled airwaves, because these corporations claim to have freedom of speech.

When it can be shown that everybody has the same access to the airwaves as everybody else, then let people say what they want on air no matter how harmful, but until then, there must be regulation for truth and the public good on our public airwaves as was originally intended.

Where is the justice system protecting our rights to a free media, freedom of speech, and access to information? I do not think that there is much disagreement that the majority of the members of our highest court are corrupt, and this is why we do not have the media we deserve. It is a sad Catch-22 that a working justice system depends on a media that works and the media depends on a justice system that works. What are we to do? Like Bush vs. Gore and the Citizen’s United Decision, there is another Supreme Court decision worthy of the impeachment and removal of members and it has to do with speech.

Fox calls itself news, but is allowed to lie about it. This is fraud. Is fraud free speech? The Supreme Court says so. Do I get the right to sell you a ham and tell you it is beef? That is what Fox is selling when they are allowed to lie about their product on the air. Any honest reading of the constitution understands there were already fraud and slander laws when the Constitution was written. There didn’t seem to be a conflict so much back then, so why is there now? Are we less educated than we were two hundred and twenty-five years ago? Perhaps, it’s because corporations were not people back then and, because they are not people, they are incapable of compassion and know not what they do by the broadcasting of what is hateful and dangerous. I stand against them and I am looking for others to stand against them too. We as a people have to stand up to deny hate speech as a first amendment right for the reason that hate speech is based on slander; it is nothing less than a degradation of the statement in our Declaration of Independence, on which our Constitution is based, that all truth and all rights are based on the fact that we all are created equal. Hate speech is nothing less than a dehumanization of another human being with the intention to make it easier to cause that person harm. Without this type of speech, the tragic story of Rosewood and the thousands of lynchings in the South not so long ago would never have happened.

Our founding fathers, considered it self-evident that the concept of speech was any breathing person (non-slave) trying to express to the best of his knowledge what he believes to be the truth. They believed this right must be protected in order to protect one’s right to participate in our democracy. Isn’t it just common sense that every person has the right to say how things should be, but no person be allowed to cause harm whether it be from slander or fraud or the covering up of crimes or the incitement of violence or the repeated and deliberate dispersal of misleading information as was done in Germany? Would the founding fathers have had laws against these crimes if they felt differently? I don’t think so.

What damage could the Westboro Baptist Church have done without the media broadcasting their views? Let us keep track on who the real enemy is. It is not this ignorant, backwards Westboro Baptist Church who regularly says vile things, but it is a controlled media that uses them to divide the public rather than serving it.
Have you ever asked yourself how is it that so many pundits come on their news cycles saying the exact same things? There is no way to do that, except to conspire to disseminate propaganda. Many people, unfortunately believe that if it is on the television, then the story must be true. It is undeniable that the effect of hate speech is amplified many times over by the use of our commonly owned airwaves to repeat again and again only the stories that they want us to hear. A crazy person on a soap box is infinitely less dangerous than one with millions of viewers. Even more dangerous than that are those with millions of viewers who know exactly what they are doing.

It is time that we must question whether the Military Industrial Complex owns our media because all it seems to be doing is promoting more and more war. People need to remember, it was the controlled airwaves that were used to spread the propaganda of untruth and fear that incited the violence in Rwanda, Cambodia, that took us to war in Vietnam, caused the civil war in the Balkans, the war crimes of WW2, and were behind our recent invasions of countries based on false reasons that took the lives of over a million people in our name with our taxes whom we must not be demoralized enough to forget whose blood, sweat, and tears are just as real as ours.

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