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I thought we had free speech!!
August 4, 2010 - John Stack
I have previously written about the ruling Citizens Unoted V. Federal Election Commission where the Supreme Court ruled that corporations were ‘people’ and could donate unlimited funds to a political action committee. Back then, corporations said they were all ready being inundated with calls from politicians asking them to donate to these PACs. Well, in the race for governor in Minnesota this is really building up steam. The conservative Rep Steve Emmer was seeing a huge money disadvantage in campaign cash compared to his opponents. A group MN Forward was created with the express plan to run ads for Emmer. Now, a bunch of corporations (Target, Best Buy, Polaris) have donated to MN Forward, with Target dumping $150,000 into their coffers. This is (now) completely legal. Legally, this is seen as a free speech argument, as the Supreme Court decided. Now, Emmer and Target are getting flack for the donation.
Target, for its part is defending their donation, claiming they are just for supporting business objectives such as job creation and economic growth. They are exercising their right to free speech. But, Emmer is a very right wing conservative, who has among other things pushed for a constitutional amendment making marriage only between a man and a woman. This of course doesn’t go down well with the gay employees or the gay community. Target for its part has been a very open employer, celebrating freedoms and helping to sponsor Gay Pride activities.
Steve Emmer has waded into this and foolishly responded as such ‘"The sad part to me is, I thought we were supposed to be able to exercise our rights of free speech, we're supposed to celebrate the fact that we have different perspectives. And it doesn't seem like that's what this is about. This seems to be more personal and we've got to get over that." This is the kind of response I’m used to reading from uninformed fiery bloggers on political articles and the like. Many people don’t seem to understand what the right to free speech means. Many seem to believe that the right to free speech should only run one way – whatever the way they are advocating. Here, Emmer is showing his opposition to free speech by invoking the 1st amendment. For gay pride activists and the like, their right to protest this is the exact meaning our founding fathers had in mind. They didn’t mean that people could say anything they wanted without the other side having the opportunity to dissent. That which allows us to have discussions about the relative merits of Bush or Obama is the same law that allowed the Nazis to march on Skokie. While the rights of the Nazi followers were upheld, the same law allowed protesters to let them know what they thought of their ideas.
Another area of free speech is confused with what ‘freedom of the press’ means. Some bloggers/commentators/writers/advocates will complain that their article or comment or opinion wasn’t printed by the paper. They cry ‘I thought this was America! I thought we had free speech! I thought we had freedom of the press!’ Again, they have it backwards. The local paper are virtually always privately owned entities. If they were forced to print everything or anything people said, this in itself would be in opposition to a free press! In communist USSR, the press was controlled by the government. The papers were forced to lie about many things such as supplies of goods, how things were going etc. that was the opposite of freedom of the press. Over here, there is no law stopping a citizen from starting up his own newspaper or blog or magazine or radio/tv show and espousing their views. THAT is freedom of the press.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise is a great example. They write what they believe to be correct, as well as newsworthy. The local politicians don’t tell them what they can or cannot print. But, internally the ADE is owned by Ogden Newspapers, run by a conservative Republican Robert Nutting. As it is his newspaper, he has used his newspaper to advocate for his candidates. This is his right as freedom of the press. Now, I also write a blog for the ADE. I will never be confused with a right wing conservative, but I am allowed great freedom to write what I want on the website. This is not afforded me because of freedom of the press, but by the generosity of the newspaper to print what I write.
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