As I read stories, engage in debate, or even scroll through news stories or social media, I keep seeing people invoke their First Amendment rights, yet I find that many people distort or are perhaps more commonly mistaken about what the First Amendment means. The First Amendment is wonderful, and I am thankful that I live somewhere where I have the right to free speech.
But I keep seeing constant distortions of the First Amendment and its actual intent.
First of all, free speech does not include with it or guarantee a podium from which to shout your views. I see complaints from people when a YouTube or comment on a post are deleted that state something along the lines of, “Hey, that’s infringing my right to free speech. This is my page!” True, it is your page or channel, but when you use another’s platform, such as Facebook or YouTube, to post anything, you agree to their terms of service. The First Amendment does not include the right to use Facebook.
Free speech also does not mean you can limit what others say in response to your free speech. If someone posts something ignorant online then they should expect a response or a dialogue. When I point out that someone is making a false statement, sometimes I will get the response, “I can say what I want because of the First Amendment.” THAT is true, but it does not make whatever that person SAYS true. And I certainly have the right to point out that they are wrong. It is funny how everyone loves the Constitution until it inconveniences them.
Also free speech should never mean completely free from legal consequence. Recently some people have called for the arrest and indictment of a certain ignorant red hat wearing preacher. (I refuse to use his name because I do not want to give his hate speech videos more views). They have called for his arrest because he called for people to “take action against Planned Parenthood.” Many people believe people like this individual incited the recent Colorado Planned Parenthood terrorist attack. (Again, I will not use this individual’s name, either).
However, others have said that it is right and moral to urge people to take action against Planned Parenthood. My own view is that he is a worthless individual, but the word “action” can have many meanings. I believe his intent was that people should take violent action, but I cannot speak for him, nor do I want to.
However, what if he said to kill healthcare providers? Then I would say that is a different story. It is no different than shouting “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater. Yes, you can say what you want, but you should be held accountable for what you say.
There are also those who subtly spread propaganda to fit their own agenda, such as Carly Fiorina, who refused to condone the Colorado terrorist attack or take responsibility that her own lies may have contributed to it. This is despicable. Should she be jailed? No. However, she should take responsibility and fully expect to be challenged.
So, I urge everyone to not hide behind the First Amendment but to take responsibility for your words and encourage engagement. This is how society develops and evolves, and the free exchange and debate of ideas is what our forefathers intended—not for people to cowardly hide behind the Constitution or claim they have the right to incite violence against others
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