Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Freedom of Speech and the Democrat National Convention

Read the story here.

Especially precious is the line, "We don't deserve to be put in a detention center, a concentration camp," said Medea Benjamin of San Francisco. "It's tragic that here in Boston, the birthplace of democracy, our First Amendment rights are being trampled on."

Pardon me, dear, you are not being put into a detention center, you are voluntarily entering it so that you can protest.  And if you really think that the enclosed area is a "concentration camp," then those words have lost all meaning.  Let's ask some German Jews what a concentration camp is.

Okay, First Amendment rights are the cornerstone of our democracy.  Without the widespread dissemination of information, we may as well be living in, say, France.  But the First Amendment is deisnged to protect people from the government shutting down their presses, outlawing certain points of view, etc.  Nothing in that amenment guarantees a person an audience, or the right to go wherever one wants to convey his or her message.

If Ms. Benjamin disagrees, then perhaps she won't mind me blaring Bush campaign ads 24/7 at full volume in her living room.

This is the reason I think Michael Moore made a fool of himself after Linda Ronstadt got booed off stage in Las Vegas this past week.  He incredulously asked the owner whether he'd ever heard of Freedom of Speech, while I incredulously wondered if Moore has ever read the First Amendment.  Ronstadt was in a privately owned building.  She had no right to be there after management told her to leave.  Perhaps management could have been a little nicer about it, but the Constitution doesn't guarantee that people will be nice to you.  And the people in the audience had every right to boo her.  Destruction of property is another thing - tearing down posters, throwing cocktails, etc., was not the best plan.  But Ronstadt (and Moore) can't complain if people think her message is full of crap, she can't keep them in the theater after they decide to leave, and she can't force people to come hear her if they don't want.  Nothing in the First Amendment is to the contrary.

Counter-point:  the justification for keeping the DNC protestors in their little hamster cage is that, in a post 9/11 world, we can't take chances with security.  Granted, but I'm a little doubtful that keeping placard-waving PETA freaks in a cage (a little ironic, that) will stop a jihadi with a bomb in his backpack from getting into the convention through alternate means.  We'll just have to see.

On a final note, kudos to a Boston-area pizza shop owner who, in protest of the city passing out free food, will close his shop for a week, and who hung on the front of it a banner saying "DNC Thanks for Nothing!  Go Bush!"  The city wants him to take it down.  Note the difference between this case (a man doing what he wants with his private property) and the above-linked protestors (people complaining about restricted access to someone else's property). 

Update: Hat tip to Alisa, who wondered out loud in what sense Boston is, as Ms. Benjamin states, the birthplace of Democracy.  I was led to believe it was Athens.  I guess that's public schooling for ya.  Actually, she was wondering why Philadelphia doesn't at least earn an honorable mention. 

It's because we're not really a democracy.  We're actually a representative democracy, which is a compromise solution to the problem of getting 250 million Americans together to vote on every issue that comes up.  Instead, we elect representatives, who go to Washington on our behalf, and there, on our behalf, they eat incredibly expensive food, ride in limousines, make the occasional speech, live in luxury, and perform the single most important task a politician can perform:

Look out for you, personally.

That's right, government exists so that if you screw up your life in unimaginable ways, a big faceless bureaucracy can spend money on you.  This is a good thing, because not only are you no longer in charge of your own welfare, but it gives politicians an opportunity to show compassion, which otherwise they wouldn't be able to do.