On October 29th, 2016, during a UW-Madison football game at Camp Randall, there was a man found wearing a costume acting like Barack Obama was being lynched. One man wearing a prisoner outfit and a Barack Obama mask on his face, a Hillary Clinton mask on the back of his head, and a noose around his neck. The other man involved, worse normal clothes with a Donald Trump Mask on. This man was seen holding the noose up that was on the other man’s neck. The assimilated the lynching of both Clinton and Obama. In terms of this being within the two men’s freedom’s of speech and expression, it is. The only thing that is illegal to do under the context of the president is to say something. There is nothing about acting out a President’s death. Someone is not allowed to say “I want to kill the President” or “Someone should kill the President”. Doing what these men did is highly offensive, but is within their rights. The one way this could be pushed to fall outside the lines of freedom of speech is obscenity. This states that “any utterance or act that strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time”. Meaning, if this offended the majority of the stadium, then this act can be considered outside the boundaries of freedom of speech and expression.
Freedom of speech can also be recognized as freedom of expression and when congress passed the case Citizens United v.FEC in 2002, it has since allowed large corporations to take advantage of free speech by donating to presidential candidates. Should corporate donations be protected by the 1st Amendment? According to National Review, last election many of the smaller donations were given to the smaller candidates whereas a majority of the large corporation donations were given to the bigger candidates. With corporations taking a stance and donating in their favor with higher quantities than individuals, democracy can tend to lean to the candidate with more funding than the other. When the fairness of the electoral process is affected, that should be a sign to keep this from happening.
Showing one’s support towards candidates is respectable and should be protected, although it should be regulated on the quantity of donations. According to Slate, nontraditional free speech is still free speech and can not be regulated because of the title “free speech”. Regulation on free speech only takes place in private locations and other instances, but does not affect donations. With the title free speech, the quantity of donations can not be regulated which creates a loophole. While the 1st Amendment gives us a lot of power, it is hard to decide what is too much or too little power. For these reason it is clear that money should not be recognized as free speech by giving too much power to corporations.
Kairys, David. “The Misguided Theories Behind Citizens United V. FEC..” Slate Magazine. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb.2018.
Minnesotalawreview.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
“Citizens United — 2016 Proves Its Critics Wrong | National Review.” Nationalreview.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
Our First Amendment arguably is the most important to us citizens of the U.S.. It gives us the freedom to say what we want and do what we want. Some examples include practicing our own religion, and having the right to say what’s on one’s mind. It is clear to say as well that many people over the span from the beginning of our country’s founding have fought and argued our First Amendment. Whether or not if it really is protecting us, either from choosing our sexuality, or to being ridiculed or harassed on racist terms. Many have stated that we need to do more to protect people from threats , or mean words, which they call ‘Hate Speech’. The only problem is, in my mind, how much regulation and restrictions will it take for our liberty to be smeared away in replace for a whole bunch of security?
If you are one who doesn’t see a problem with more security and safety, let me remind you of some countries in the past who have done that. Such as the Soviet Union, which the people gave up many freedoms for the government to protect them and control them. Another example is many fascist societies gave up many freedoms to protect them from enemies. Simply, there are many reasons why giving up our freedoms is bad, and to re-write the first amendment to ban against ‘Hate Speech(which isn’t defined by the Supreme Court) might let us finally slip down the slope if we aren’t careful. I understand that people have a reason to call someone out if they are making racist comments, but if the comments aren’t fighting words(words used to incite violence), or slander, how do we decide, and protect both freedom of words and decency? The answer might be clearer than thought, because according to Paul Larkin, Senior Legal Research Fellow, “The proper way to balance security and liberty is not to balance them at all; it is to insist on policies that maximize both to the extent practicable.” So instead of trying to change the First Amendment entirely, in a way to balance safety from words to actual depending threats, we the people should separate these from the First Amendment. For it might be the stone that knocks our rights down the hill, even if it is over ‘Hate Speech’. Some Supreme Court Cases that in the past have seemed to be related to ‘Hate Speech’, are cases like Beauharnais v. Illinois (1952). Where they stated that ‘Hate Speech’ is not protected speech, but the issue is does the protection of “liberty” in the Due Process Clause prevent a state from punishing libel towards a group? The debate over this is hot, and might be the biggest thing as a nation we have to face and decide over.
In conclusion, deciding whether the people of the U.S. want more security over their liberties, is a tough and opinionated question to answer. The only thing that the people should know is a quote by Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Larkin, Paul. “How Must America Balance Security and Liberty.” The Heritage Foundation, http://www.heritage.org/homeland-security/report/how-must-america-balance-security-and-liberty.
“Beauharnais v. Illinois.” Casebriefs Beauharnais v Illinois Comments, http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/constitutional-law/constitutional-law-keyed-to-chemerinsky/first-amendment-freedom-of-expression/beauharnais-v-illinois/.
Volokh, Eugene. “Opinion | Supreme Court Unanimously Reaffirms: There Is No ‘Hate Speech’ Exception to the First Amendment.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 19 June 2017, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/06/19/supreme-court-unanimously-reaffirms-there-is-no-hate-speech-exception-to-the-first-amendment/?utm_term=.c5bc48f35483.
Is burning the flag illegal? Believe it or not, the 1st Amendment protects the right to do so. This is considered symbolic speech, which is similar to a protest or political expression, and is protected by the 1st Amendment under freedom of speech/expression. Protesting the government because you disagree with decisions or policies isn’t illegal.
One of the most infamous instances occurred when a man named Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag outside a convention center. The 1984 Republican National Convention was being held there and he wanted to protest Ronald Reagan’s policies. He was arrested because of this act and put on trial. Texas courts convicted Johnson but he appealed, claiming his actions as “symbolic speech” and were protected by the 1st Amendment. His case was taken to the Supreme Court, they ruled in favor of Johnson. He exercised freedom of speech and the public being outraged at his actions wasn’t a reason to convict Johnson. People argued that he was disrespecting those who have fought for this country and were offended by his actions. Similarly people claimed the same things when more recently, NFL players started kneeling for the National Anthem protesting the racial injustice and police brutality prevalent in the United States. President Trump even made statements on the protest claimed that kneeling during the National Anthem should be illegal. The protest became about a lack of patriotism and respect for military. Although this caused a wave of anger among many, players were exercising their rights to freedom of speech.
America was built on rebellion to become a free country. Freedom of press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech. Protesting is how we got here. Political expression is what makes this country great, not everyone agrees with the government and we can tell them that. Everyone has a voice and the right to express themselves under the 1st Amendment.
Branch, John. “National Anthem Protests Sidelined by Ambiguity.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Jan. 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/sports/nfl-national-anthem-protests.html.
“From the Colonists to Kaepernick–NYU’s ‘First Amendment Watch’ on the History of Symbolic Protest.” Newswise = Smart News Connection, http://www.newswise.com/articles/from-the-colonists-to-kaepernick–nyu%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cfirst-amendment-watch%E2%80%9D-on-the-history-of-symbolic-protest.
History.com Staff. “First Amendment.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2017, http://www.history.com/topics/first-amendment.
Satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. We see satire all around the media today from The Onion to TV shows like John Oliver and The Daily Show. These are primarily examples of satire, but what makes these satire instead of fake news? Fake news is one of the biggest things on social media nowadays. Fake news is false information that refers to propaganda and false information under the guise of being authentic news. The first amendment states, under freedom of speech, that the government must respect citizens’ rights to express themselves, therefore satire is protected by the first amendment. The main reason for media is for people to be informed on what is going on in the world. Is fake news protected by the first amendment or is it an example of slander/libel? Many past presidential elections have been won because of fake news. For example, many Republican websites posted claims about Hillary Clinton this past election helping boost Trump’s support.
The question is: What is the difference between fake news and satire, and what separates the two? Satire is used for a corrective purpose to point out why things are wrong. One of satire’s purposes is to inform viewers on what is actually going on in today’s world. When comparing satire and fake news, the title of fake news says it all. Fake news is fake with no purpose to inform whatsoever. In a study by the website “techdirt” called, Yet Another Study Shows US Satire Programs Do A Better Job Informing Viewers Than Actual News Outlets., many surveys have been done showing that satire news has better informed people than regular news stations like Fox and CNN. Instead of choosing the left or the right side of politics, satire shows all sides of every story. Fake news is false information that misinforms many people and can be very dangerous.
The 1st amendment of the United States Constitution addresses the issues of freedom of expression and the limitations government has when it comes to acting against the expressions of the public. According to the first amendment, government is not allowed to show bias towards a religion or belief and are not allowed to stop a person’s right to speak out about their values . One of the limiting powers of the government is that they are allowed to censor media and information from the public if under the proper context. Does censorship desecrate the freedom of expression? Or does it not hinder it at all?
According to an article entitled “ National Coalition Against Censorship” By the NACA censorship is defined as “ suppression of an image or idea because it offends or disturbs someone, or they disagree with it. This states that media can be censored if it offends or bothers someone, however this raises another question. What are the limits when it comes to offensive or disturbing material? And how do they decide if something needs to be censored or if it should stay? The IRA defines the difference in the following quote “ There is an important distinction between selection based on professional guidelines and what censorship actually entails. “ The goal of censorship is to remove, eliminate or bar particular materials or methods. The goal of professional guidelines is to provide criteria for the selection of those materials or methods”.
Censorship also plays a role in the education system. An article entitled “ The Student’s Right to Read” by the NCTE, states that “ students and parents have the right to demand that education today keep students in reality with the world outside the classroom. Since this a right of the parents and student why are books that are deemed to realistic or vulgar removed from the educational system. Another thing to consider is the responsibilities of an english teacher. The specific responsibilities are highlighted as the following “ Literature classes should reflect the cultural contributions of many minority groups in the United States”
Censorship does not just impact literature in school but also can hinder the quality and impact on education. How this affects students is shown in the following excerpt “ Censorship leaves students with an inadequate and distorted picture of the ideals, values and problems in their culture. Writers and authors have alot of power when it comes to the ability to impact students when it comes to sensitive or emotional content. Writers can distort or inaccurately portray a culture or value or they can paint an overly graphic image of a culture or idea. Censorship can protect the public from sensitive media but in the end does it have a negative effect on students when they enter the real world? That’s for you to decide for yourself, as for me, I think it affects us more than we realize.
The United States Constitution grants every person the right to petition the government along with free speech. Yet, every year, thousands of individuals, community groups, and organizations are sued for exercising these constitutional rights. These lawsuits are known as “SLAPPs” (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation). SLAPPs are often declared by corporations, real estate developers, or government officials against individuals or organizations who oppose them on public issues. Usually, SLAPPs are based on ordinary civil tort claims such as libel or slander, malicious prosecution, abuse of power, conspiracy, and interference with prospective economic advantage.
The difference between an ordinary defamation lawsuit and a SLAPP suit is that the plaintiff in a SLAPP suit does not generally plan to actually win their lawsuit. Instead, SLAPP suits are intended to intimidate, and discourage activists from exercising their right to free speech and protest. The main purpose of a SLAPP case is to decrease public debate on specific issues. Defending a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources, and therefore diverts the defendant’s attention away from the public issue and/or forces them to discontinue the case. Furthermore, a SLAPP also sends a threatening message to others that they too can just as easily be sued if they speak up.
In one example of a SLAPP case was in Dallas, a $1 million lawsuit filed by a pet-sitting company against a couple who wrote a one-star review on Yelp. Prestigious Pets and its owner filed the lawsuit against the couple, accusing them of defamation, business disparagement and a breach of contract after the couple posted the negative review. The case was eventually dismissed due to an Anti-SLAPP law that allows judges to dismiss frivolous suits filed against people who speak out about a matter of public concern. This is just one illustration of how businesses or dominant people can use their power to try to keep citizens from exercising their first amendment rights if it could tarnish their image.
I believe that SLAPP cases violate the first amendment because big businesses are prohibiting the public from exercising their right to free speech by suing them and using the power of the court system along with their own money to silence public opinions. SLAPP cases are just a way for people or corporations to hold their own interests above public interest and protect themselves from any criticism or opposition. Freedom of speech is important because it allows people to form and share opinions that may be different from others. Because SLAPP suits limit the first amendment, I believe that they should be outlawed or at least highly regulated in order to prevent businesses from punishing citizens simply because they exercise their first amendment rights to disagree or speak out against them.
“Examples Of SLAPP Suits In Texas”. Slapped In Texas, 2011, https://slappedintexas.com/examples-of-slapp-suits-in-texas/.
“Jarrow Formulas, Inc. V. Lamarche”. California Anti-SLAPP Project, 2011, https://www.casp.net/california-anti-slapp-first-amendment-law-resources/caselaw/california-supreme-court/jarrow-formulas-inc-v-lamarche/.
“SLAPP Suits | Civil Liberties Defense Center”. Cldc.Org, 2017, https://cldc.org/organizing-resources/slapp-suits/.