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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Before you claim First Amendment privileges, please read the damn thing.

It won't take long -- the First Amendment is a mere 45 words long:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

And as I've maintained for years, it's the most elegantly written law in history. The First Amendment offers up five freedoms in just those 45 words.

As important and tightly written  are those words, the first five are extremely incisive: "Congress shall make no law ,.."

See there? The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the first of the Bill of Rights is about government censorship.

So the First Amendment doesn't allow citizens to say anything they want without repercussions. If you call fellow employees by racist names, the business can fire you. If you say something stupid on social media, others can respond.

And when social media companies ban certain bad behavior -- racist language, threats of violence and, yes, false information damaging to the public conversation -- they can do that. Social media companies are not Congress. Even if they're publicly held, they are not the government.

The Supreme Court has been insistent for more than 200 years, the freedom of the press extends only to those who own and run the press. Now that term "press" has extended to websites. Imagine if someone insisted I print in this blog something to which I was diametrically opposed, say "the Chicago Bears are the greatest team ever." No one can force me to publish such nonsense under the guise of the First Amendment. Go Pack.

But some would suggest that companies like Facebook, Twitter and so on are required to allow false and now deadly information, particularly as we work through a pandemic that has killed 150,000 of our fellow citizens.

Because of the First Amendment.

No. Sorry.

If you're so inclined, please read and memorize the First Amendment. It's that big a deal.

Peace and free speech unto you my brothers and sisters.


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