Controversy and Concern about the Supreme Court’s Upcoming First Amendment Decision
By John Stephen Blyth
On October 6, the Supreme Court said it would hear the appeal of 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. The Westboro Baptist Church believes that there would be no deaths in Iraq if Americans would stop sinning for numerous things they find objectionable, such as rights for homosexuals. They protested his funeral a thousand feet away and left before they could be seen, but were extensively covered by news groups whose coverage of their protest was filled with controversial and objectionable content. Mr. Snyder’s charges claim invasion of privacy, slander, and intentional infliction of emotional harm.
Whenever a case comes before the Supreme Court dealing with the rights to freedom of speech, it is a matter of much concern for everyone. Our political leaders understand well that it is the media that is the most powerful force within any society. Without the control of the media, where would tyrants like Mao or Hitler be in our history? They would probably be unknown. C Street understands this when this group of politicians admitted to studying the most despicable people from history in order to come up with political strategies to be used against Americans. People should be more alarmed by this and realize that these diabolical machinations for political power all have to do with the controlling of our media. What seems like a simple case of unacceptable behavior becomes very complicated when one realizes that any ruling on this matter will have major consequences for everyone on the subjects of religion, speech, and privacy. We as humans are nothing, except for our ability to define ourselves, and limitations on this right make us free or unfree, meaning free from the harassment of others and the freedom to speak our minds without fear of persecution.
Will the Supreme Court rule against the aggrieved family whose suffering could have only been made worse by the hateful speech of a religious group who also have rights to speak about what they believe even though most consider their beliefs to be hateful things? 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 issues. The real problem is not the freedom of speech, but the right to privacy the family has not to be bludgeoned by broadcasts for all to see by a controlled media.
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. 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.
I do not believe that our founding fathers meant that the freedom of speech was meant to have no limitations, but that is how Fox news and misinformers 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 because they hold another 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 an article stated on Bradblog back in 2007, 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 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. 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.
Fox, a corporation that falsely advertises itself as “Fair and Balanced”, allowed O'Reilley to slander Dr. Tiller (who was found innocent in court) over our commonly owned airwaves that BY LAW must be used for the public good. Because of the hateful, slanderous speech by O'Reilley about Dr. Tiller, a stranger was inspired to find where Tiller attended church, went up to him, and shot him dead. 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 not until after a shoot out that wounded two officers and shut down a freeway. 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 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 did this crime 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
4. and then the fact they can do all these things over our 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 moderation for truth and the public good on our public airwaves as it was originally intended.
Like Bush vs. Gore, there is another decision worthy of the impeachment and removal of members of SCOTUS 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 that 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? 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 but 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 cause that person harm. Without this type of speech 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 speech was any person 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? Would the founding fathers have had laws against these crimes if they felt differently? I think not. However, we must not lose sight on who the real enemy is. It is not this Westboro church who regularly says vile things, but it is a controlled media that does not serve the public and may even conspire against the public. 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. 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 used to incite the violence in Rwanda, 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 whom we must not forget whose blood, sweat, and tears are just as real as ours.