Two nights ago the wife and I went to see It’s Complicated, an utterly inane film that people over the age of 120 seem to love. The thing was so dreadful that, midway through, I wanted to stand up and scream, “FIRE!!! EVERYONE RUN OUT OR YOU’LL DIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE!”

But I didn’t. Because it’s not protected speech, even under the First Amendment.

I loathe Tom Coburn, Oklahoma’s smug, ignorant right-wing senator. I imagine it would give some great pleasure to call his office and say, “If you don’t start making sense, I’m going to shoot you.”

But I wouldn’t. Because it’s not protected speech, even under the First Amendment.

See, that’s the rub. The First Amendment protects free speech as well as any document the world knows, but it also possesses its own good-of-the-game clauses that limit certain genres of expression that do significantly more harm than good.

Yesterday, in a decision that you—white, black, Democrat, Republican, Yankee fan, Met fan, pet owner, Mormon, Jew, Christian, Muslim, anarchist, Oprah fan … everyone—should be mortified by, the Supreme Court overruled two vital precedents about First Amendment rights and ruled, in a heinous 5-4 decision, that the government cannot ban political spending by corporations.

Translation: Any voice you had in the process is completely, totally gone.

Ho-hum, you say. Blah blah, you utter. No. No! NO! This is not merely another boring court decision that will maybe possibly probably not impact your direct life. Nope, this decision completely changes the political landscape. For now on, corporations will absolutely, positively, without question own our candidates. OWN THEM. What? You say they’ve always been owned. Maybe—but not like this.

For example: An election is approaching. A Democratic candidate is in favor of, oh, alternative energy. ExxonMobil, obviously, is not. In the past, the corporation was limited in how much it could donate to a candidate. Now—whoooosh. ExxonMobil will spend gazillions of dollars to slam anyone standing in its path. It’ll run one ad after another after another—featuring smiling children singing happily in the tall grass until—Dun-Dun!—the rival candidate appears. Then the words start: “John Smith says he loves children. But does he? In 1987, in his term paper at Princeton, he wrote, ‘Kids annoy me.’ Kids annoy John Smith? Is this who you want running your state.” Over and over and over and over and over again. The messages will consume you and strangle you and choke the life out of the system.

No politician will ever, ever, ever answer to you again—hell, you’ll be lucky if anyone ever meets with you again—because they’ll have no need. You have $100 in your pocket? $1,000? $100,000? Big sh•t—because Target and ExxonMobil and IBM and Google and every other huge firm has billions. You have been rendered moot. No, mute. Hell, both.

A candidate says, “I believe in gay rights.”

A lobbyist says, “No you don’t.”

A candidate says, “Yes, I do.”

A lobbyist says, “Well, if you do, we will spend $10 million to make sure you lose.”

A candidate says, “No, I don’t.”

So what can we do?

I have noooooo idea.

PS: By the way, I’d looooove to know where all the Republicans screaming, “We don’t need activist judges!” are now. Hello? Anyone?

12 thoughts on “Speech”

  1. Or, people could actually grow the sense that God gave a rabbit and not be transfixed by the pretty pictures on TV.

    I am so liberal that I am practically a communist. However, the First Amendment should not be abridged to protect people from their own stupidity.

    This hurts. It does. But it was the right decision.

  2. You remember what country you live in right, Darrin?

    The same place where some feel that quitting a job as Governor is actually a good thing and a positive career move. The same people that think educated people are assholes and the only thing that they want is for their leaders to seem like they’d enjoy a beer with them.

    Right or wrong. This is not going to end well.

  3. They don’t believe that, Byron. They believe they want to see her naked and are justifying it.

    You’re right. We live in a country of idiots, but I am not in favor of a law that says idiots have to be protected.

    That’s what this is. Abridging the First Amendment is basically saying you don’t trust the public to make the right decision.

    Not trusting the public leads to bad stuff.

  4. Matt, the first amendment covers people not corporations.

    This is something that neither liberals nor conservatives seem to understand. Corporations are things, they are not people. Corporations do not have a conscience or morality any more than my keyboard or my coffee table have a conscience or morality. They exist solely to make money.

    And I’m OK with that. God bless capitalism.

    But that is why I’m not OK with letting corporations take over the political process because corporations are incapable of looking out for the best interests of the country. That’s not what they do. Corporations exist to look out solely for their own best interests. But the electoral process is designed to elect people who will serve the country’s best interest. So this ruling creates a very troublesome conflict.

  5. Corporations are run by people. There is a CEO who answers to a board and they all answer to shareholders.

    People have a responsbility to inform themselves. They have a responsibility to read multiple points of view. They have a responsibility to watch something besides American Idol and read something besides People.

    If they don’t do that, we’re a poorer oountry. But I’m not in favor of gutting the First Amendment to protect grownups from speech.

  6. Darrin, it won’t matter now how well informed the people are. Individuals won’t have the money the Corporations do….to “lobby”…influence the candidate! It seems to be The End of of our Republic! We have been bushwacked!

  7. Darrin, a multi-billion-dollar corporation simply doesn’t need the same protections that an individual may need. Come to think of it, a one-person corporation doesn’t need the same protections as an individual, because that would be redundant. All the shareholders and employees and customers are already protected by the Bill of Rights.

    The 1st and 14th Amendments were designed to protect individuals. The 14th Amendment was specifically designed to help ex-slaves integrate into American society. It’s pathetic, dangerous, and downright un-American that these Amendments are being used to create an oligarchy.

  8. Why shouldn’t the people that run corporations get to spend the money that they earn the way they want to?
    The politicians are already bought and paid for anyway. That is why nothing radical ever really gets done, why the basic distribution of wealth never changes all that much, and why the current system has remained intact for a very long time.
    But, look, Jeff, corporations depend on consumers. As a consumer, if we don’t like the political points of view that corporate money endorses, we can always choose not to fork over our money to that corporation.
    Capitalism is ultimately the most fair system of all, because citizens can choose the degree of their participation. That is not true at all in socialism.
    I don’t think that this is a bad Supreme Court decision, or that it will change all that much.

  9. Brian McDowell: Individuals who run corporations can spend their money the way they want to. That’s much different than a corporation spending its profits, especially when the corporation isn’t forthcoming about how they are going to spend their money. (Judge Thomas, by the way, also wanted to eliminate the requirement to disclose this information.)

    If you buy onion rings from Burger King, are you okay that you may be unwittingly supporting Jeff Pearlman for President? Or if you work for Burger King, are you okay with the CEO speaking for you on political issues?

    This is much different than donating to the “Jeff Pearlman for President” corporation. This is much different than like-minded people getting together and pooling their resources to get their points across. The 1st Amendment (hopefully) protects us from Tiananmen-Square-style crackdowns. Large corporations seeking political influence don’t need the same levels of protection.

  10. Jeff,

    No, you can’t tell Senator Coburn that you’re going to shoot him. But you can go to his website and call him a douchebag! That’s what I did!

  11. Darren; if Burger King was, in fact, donating my hard earned onion ring money to the Jeff Pearlman Presidential campaign, under this law, such information would be public knowlege. So, yeah, as a consumer, if I did not said money to end up Jeff Pearlman’s coffers, I would, in fact, have the option of spending my onion ring cash elsewhere.

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