Free Speech

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*Some restrictions apply.

Free speech in the United States even while being one of our founding principles has been hopelessly eroded. “Free” has two major meanings to most Americans. The first being without constraint, the second being without cost to recipient. Free as in free from jail, or free as in free sample. So what is free speech? I’m going to generate a conversation to express just how I see things. According to the laws of our land and the various answers one might give to the question, what is free speech? <Speaker> Free speech means you can say what you want when you want and not have to worry about the government taking you away for it, Right? <Gov> Well, no, since if you say for example that you want to kill the president, or hurt someone, you can be brought up on charges and held, presumably as a terrorist, these days. <Speaker> Ok then, I can see that I guess, then freedom of speech is the ability to say what you want without threatening people with harm… <Gov> Sorry, but again not exactly, one can say something about a person that is in no way a threat and still be sued for slander, or libel depending on how they said it. And then of course there is word usage that in itself causes harm, like talking about a bomb at an airport, falsely reporting a crime, or yelling fire in a crowded theatre. <Speaker> Hmm, ok so what if I want to say something that won’t harm anyone, or threaten anyone, can I do that? <Gov> Pretty much. <Speaker> Ok sweet, now that I have my message I want to get it across to everyone, or as many people as I can at least. So, we'll go down town and gather up and talk about this. <Gov> Sorry, you're going to need a permit for that. <Speaker> A permit? To peaceably gather? I thought a permit was government permission to do something what would normally be illegal. And since free speech and assembly are promised us in the constitution, why should I need a permit?

<Gov> Well because, it doesn’t stipulate where and when you may assemble and speak. I mean we don’t want you disrupting a parade or end up fighting over the location, or do it in some guys living room so we have to structure your demonstration, and part of this is permission of whoever owns the land you choose to demonstrate on, the permit is asking us for permission to use our living room. It’s for your own protection, would you want people invading your home on the grounds of assembly and speech? See, while the constitution forbids the government from explicitly preventing peaceable assembly there is no promise of a speedy regulatory experience, as there is with trial. A lengthy, expensive, complex, and arbitrary approvals process while distasteful, is legal. <Speaker> But wait a minute, my living room is different from a public street. And no matter where I go, someone is going to own the land, what if I’m demonstrating against the concept of land ownership, no one would give me permission to publically attack something they do. And what if I don’t have the money for a permit? <Gov> Then your assembly becomes unlawful, and the constitution stipulates peaceful assembly. So no, in that case you don’t get to gather. Unless you want to risk arrest, tear gas rubber bullets etc.. <Speaker> *sigh* Ok, so how about I build a transmitter, and just share my views on the radio to whoever is in range? <Gov> I’m afraid you’re going to have to ask the FCC for permission on that one. Free speech doesn’t explicitly mention radio, television, or internet access. Can’t have everyone clogging up the airways, that wouldn’t be fair, you’d be disrupting other people’s freedom of speech. <Speaker> But you just… Never mind… how about public access Television? <Gov> Sorry, requiring television companies to give away air time is an infringement of their constitutional rights to free speech. <Speaker> Wait, a company gets rights like a person? <Gov> A cooperation is a legal entity. This is an extension of the idea that a shop shares the rights of its owner, because the owner has rights and can speak on any subject he likes including his business interests. A corporation is just another form of ownership, therefore it also has rights by virtue of its human owners. <Speaker> But it’s immortal, I thought our rights where ours because we are human. And with rights come responsibility, like you said about yelling fire and such. Can it be held accountable like a person?

<Gov> Of course. <Speaker> Well what if the company’s actions result in the loss of human life? You can’t incarcerate a company, and you can’t incarcerate a person for the actions of a company as a whole, so what do you do? <Gov> A corporation is an extension of the will of its owners, and is legally distinct. All corporation require money to survive. How a corporation is punished is through fines, which in effect is a cost in ‘blood’, because if you take enough money form a corporation, it will ‘die’. <Speaker> That doesn’t seem fair. Since I'd get the needle if I killed someone. Why can’t I opt for a fine? <Gov> I assure it’s all nice and legal, you should tell people all this if you have a problem though. That’s what free speech is about after all. <Speaker> That’s why I’m here! My beef is clearly with legality in and of itself. I can’t get the permit/air time/money. Don’t we have the right to petition the government for redress of grievances? <Gov> Of course you do, unless it’s criminally critical of the government, that could be treason, terrorism, inciting criminal activity, or sedition. And while you have the right to petition, we are under no obligation to answer the petition. Voting is what give you the power in that instance. <Speaker> How’s that? <Gov> Well you elect people and they make the laws, if you elect different people they may repeal the laws and make news ones that suit you. <Speaker> But what if my protest is about election policy itself? What if it becomes impossible to elect what I would call just representation? <Gov> Well then you protest, and demand redress of grievances. <Speaker> But that’s where we started! <Gov> For the system to serve your needs it must first exist, you demand that the government make no attempt to prevent its own destruction. And the surest threat to any government is a well informed and armed public. So, in the interests of continuing to exist so we can serve you, we try to limit protesting and election reform as much as possible. It’s for your own good, much like the stringent controls on drugs and guns and anything else you might hurt yourself with.

<Speaker> But I don’t think that was the original idea at all. Like here in the declaration of independence. “But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” <Gov> Well, the declaration was written to England by what became your government, not by you to us. It’s not at all legally binding. <Speaker> But don’t you think that’s why they gave us the right to bear arms and form militas? <Gov> “Arms” at that time were muskets, and we had no standing army for civil defense. Now that we have an army, and now that the weapons are so much more advanced you don’t need them to hunt or prevent burglary and the like. Now the only thing you could really use them for is revolt. <Speaker> I think that was the point. To prevent government from becoming this tyrannical, and if it ever did, to remove it from power. <Gov> I think you’re a terrorist. <Speaker> …

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