Sunday, November 24, 2013
The truth about freedom of speech
I think that too many people in this nation are confused about the freedom of speech, that you can say anything you want anytime about anyone and anything without being held accountable. That is a myth worth dispelling.
This confusion can sometimes get people into trouble. Quite often even lawyers and legislators misunderstand and misrepresent the law, to the detriment of the people. It can get a journalist into trouble if he mouths off about how much he hates his job. It can get a blogger into trouble if he trashes his employer, something all of us would like to do from time to time. Surely we might do so in private, but in the public arena? Yikes! If we do that then we are asking for trouble.
"But," some of you might be saying, "What about the freedom of speech? Doesn't that protect my right to say what I want when I want?"
My answer: "Nope!"
Okay, so allow me to explain.
Most people don't realize this but the 1st Amendment protection of freedom of speech is a superfluous law. This is because the Declaration of Independence protects our natural rights, and then it states as examples the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. While Jefferson only listed a few natural rights (probably to prevent his hand from becoming sore), he simply "assumed" fellow Americans would know the remainder (you can see them all listed here).
Most Americans at that time probably did know all the natural rights of men, as the idea that natural rights came from God was a common theme during the Age of Enlightenment. Natural rights were thus referred to as inalienable rights, or those which cannot be taken away except by the government. In other words, we are born with natural rights, and only the government can take them away. Such an idea challenged the divine right of kings, whereby our rights came down from government, or that the government gives us our rights.
The Constitution in and of itself also protects our natural rights, so already two times they are protected. The U.S. Constitution is the only such document in the history of the world that tells the government what it cannot do, as opposed to telling it what it can. So Congress shall make no law, cannot make any law, that would take away any of our natural rights, including the right to free speech.
But, thankfully the founding fathers wanted to make sure this wasn't misunderstood, and therefore, once again, for the third time, they protected the right to free speech. This time it was in the form of the first ten amendments, or the Bill of Rights. In these they list what they thought were the most essential natural rights, the ones Jefferson assumed we would know, and among these included, in the 1st amendment, the right to free speech. They thought it was so important they listed it #1.
This turned out to be yet another genius idea of the founding fathers, as for just a fleeting moment, they though, what if there comes a time when the people don't learn about natural rights. We better, for the sake of argument, list these just to be on the safe side while we are all in agreement here.
There is another thing that's confusing about the 1st amendment, and that is that it protects all speech. That is not true in the slightest. The idea behind the 1st amendment was that in England, and for most of history, people weren't allowed to criticize government officials. If you spoke ill of the king, for example you risked imprisonment and even death.
The founding fathers wanted to protect Americans who did not agree with the government, and wanted to assure that they were allowed, as their natural right suggested, to criticize that of which they don't agree. So they protected the natural right to speech.
This amendment, however, stops at protecting your right to criticize your government. It does not protect your right to, say, criticize your boss or your place of employment. For example, I can say here that I don't like Obama's healthcare plan, and I can go on typing away here as though I never said it. Obama cannot have me punished for speaking my mind. I can say I hate Rick Schneider as the Governor of Michigan, and he can't have me hung at the stakes. I'm not saying either of those is true, I'm just trying to make a point here.
On the other hand, I cannot say I hate my boss and I wish she were never hired. I cannot say that my place of employment has a bunch of dunderheads running it, and they all stink. My place of employment stinks. I hate it. I cannot say to the public, "Go to Shoreline medical at your own risk."
Surely you have a right to say such things, but if my bosses find out I'm saying such filth about Shoreline Medical, this can hurt the image, and can hurt the profits of where I work. They can, if they so choose, punish me and even fire me for what I said. Obviously they can't hang me, but they can rid me of my employment.
Another thing most people do not know is your place of employment does not have to have a reason to fire you. They can simply say, "You're fired!" So for this reason, your humble RT has to be careful what he says here on this blog. In this way, sometimes he has to be creative in how he says what he says. Sometimes, he simply has to bit his cheek and not publish something, or write it another way that's not so offensive.
The neat thing is, though, that there's a way to get around speaking the truth without crossing the line of inappropriateness. The way to do this is to speak in generalizations. The way to do this is to show absurdity by being absurd, like I do by my list of 'olins.
So, yes, you can be fired for speaking the truth. What you can't be is hung for speaking the truth about your government. You can say things like, "Bush is a Nazi!", or, "Obama is the antiChrist!" I agree with neither of these, I'm merely making a point.
So Uncle Sam cannot put his hand over your mouth to hush you, but your boss can. So if you so choose to decide to create a blog, and I so hope you do, be careful how you say what you want to say.
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