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 youâ€”white, black, Democrat, Republican, Yankee fan, Met fan, pet owner, Mormon, Jew, Christian, Muslim, anarchist, Oprah fan … everyoneâ€”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. Maybeâ€”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. Nowâ€”whoooosh. ExxonMobil will spend gazillions of dollars to slam anyone standing in its path. It’ll run one ad after another after anotherâ€”featuring smiling children singing happily in the tall grass untilâ€”Dun-Dun!â€”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 againâ€”hell, you’ll be lucky if anyone ever meets with you againâ€”because they’ll have no need. You have $100 in your pocket? $1,000? $100,000? Big shâ€¢tâ€”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?