Don’t Suck at Government-Knowing: The First Amendment

It drives me bananas when people invoke the First Amendment when it doesn’t apply to the situation.

When people oppose NeoNazi protests, I’ve seen people write it off because of First Amendment rights.

When a celebrity gets kicked off a show or a show gets canceled, supporters start squawking and going insane — “That’s stifling their free speech!! Blarg-a-mlarg!!”

It doesn’t matter which side they’re on when it happens — all I care is threat people know how to think about these issues correctly (so often, they don’t).

Read the text of the First Amendment, then I’ll get to why it’s soooooo often used incorrectly:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Got it?

They can’t make laws or officially create conditions governmentally to suppress us expression beliefs or punish that expression, even if those beliefs are unpopular or upsetting or even anti-Est, EXCEPT FOR a few situations that have been established by court cases (like, telling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre).

Rights have to do with our relationship to the government. And they also provide protections in our relationships with other people.

That means, to say to someone who thinks NeoNazis are turds and shouldn’t march is idiotic. Sure, that’s their right, but it means nothing to say to someone who just thinks Nazis suck (which they do).

It’s also dumb to get insane about rights when, say, a television company cancels a show or fires an actor when they do something. Racist rants. Sexual misconduct. Drunk driving. What that person does when employed or under contract with a company is a different set of concerns.

TV shows and movies are those companies’ products. Those companies are private companies, not making laws that apply to the public, aka: the government’s domain.

Public and private are different spheres. Always remember that. And, for goodness sake, let’s stop overlapping the two where they shouldn’t be.