Monday, February 8, 2010

What part of "Congress Shall Make NO Law" is Hard to Understand??

From the brief on the Citizen United case prepared by the Supreme Court:
"Although the First Amendment provides that “Congress shallmake no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech,” §441b’s prohibitionon corporate independent expenditures is an outright ban on speech, backed by criminal sanctions. It is a ban notwithstanding the factthat a PAC created by a corporation can still speak, for a PAC is aseparate association from the corporation. Because speech is an es-sential mechanism of democracy—it is the means to hold officials ac-countable to the people—political speech must prevail against lawsthat would suppress it by design or inadvertence. Laws burdening such speech are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the Gov-ernment to prove that the restriction “furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.” WRTL, 551 U. S., at 464. This language provides a sufficient framework for protecting the interests in this case. Premised on mistrust of governmentalpower, the First Amendment stands against attempts to disfavor certain subjects or viewpoints or to distinguish among different speak-ers, which may be a means to control content. The Government may also commit a constitutional wrong when by law it identifies certain preferred speakers. There is no basis for the proposition that, in thepolitical speech context, the Government may impose restrictions oncertain disfavored speakers. Both history and logic lead to this conclusion. Pp. 20–25."
How is this complex?

I had a rash of conversations with a number of friends & frenemies who don't seem to grasp these basic concepts.  They, following the suits in the media, went on a series of insane non sequitur tangents about "corporate speech" claiming that corporations are not people.  Well... True enough... Corporations aren't people, and as a result, corporations have no ability to "speak" at all!  Which, I should note, is precisely why that argument is irrelevant...

It is the INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE who have organized themselves into a corporate structure who are speaking, and in the case of Citizens United, the sole purpose of their organization into a corporation at all was to create a video speaking critically of an incumbent politician.  That incumbent politician was Hillary Clinton - who then used a horrendous law to stifle political speech on the grounds that Citizens United wasn't the New York Times (a much bigger corporation which was conveniently exempt from the campaign finance law's unconstitutional restrictions on political speech within a month of elections).

In short, Hillary Clinton did exactly what the First Amendment was designed to prevent!!!

The whole point of freedom of speech is that no people anywhere may be prevented from speaking or producing speech in any medium they so choose.  It specifically prevents Congress from making any law restricting that liberty because the Founding Fathers were exceedingly clear on the value of debate, dissent and the importance of allowing unpopular views.  It doesn't matter what is being said, it doesn't matter who is saying it, it doesn't matter if it's one person, 10 people, 1,000 people chanting in unison, or 10,000 people who've organized into a corporation, a religious institution, a charity, a union, etc. who've appointed a leader to speak for them.  The First Amendment is not contingent on how speech is expressed, it is simply and clearly the most important of all limitations on Congress preventing them from damaging liberty in the United States.

This nonsense about corporate personhood is asinine and unrelated to that point.

That said, let's talk about that for a second... The reason corporations are treated as individuals within certain legal frameworks in some sense is actually extremely important insofar as it separates the corporate entity from shareholders and protects the individuals involved from really serious problems, to quote Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute a few weeks ago:
"...would the “no rights for corporations” crowd be okay with the police storming their employers’ offices and carting off their (employer-owned) computers for no particular reason? — or to chill criticism of some government policy.

Or how about Fifth Amendment rights?  Can the mayor of New York exercise eminent domain over Rockefeller Center by fiat and without compensation if he decides he’d like to move his office there?

So corporations have to have some constitutional rights or nobody would form them in the first place.  The reason they have these rights isn’t because they’re “legal” persons, however — though much of the doctrine builds on that technical point — but instead because corporations are merely one of the ways in which rights-bearing individuals associate to better engage in a whole host of constitutionally protected activity."
It's just a technicality... Kind of a definitional trick, not a literal position.  Corporations aren't "people", and it's an idiotic strawman to say that that's how they are being treated - fortunately a tiny majority of the US Supreme Court is clear on that point.  You can't talk to a corporation, or be hit in the face by one...  You can only do those things with the people who run those entities.
It is nothing more than an organizational structure which has been codified & sanctioned by the legal structure of the country for centuries.
Now... I don't blame people for wanting many corporations to have less access to people's hearts & minds, but everyone needs to keep in mind that there's no way to do that without destroying the liberty of everyone who wants to speak with a unified voice.  So simply banning speech is useless - and furthermore, the truly big corporations, especially the news media, already have exemptions.  Even if you could stop some corporations from speaking within 30 days of an election it would inevitably be those like Citizens United and not the real big money who helped write the laws to begin with.
The point is very simple.  People are free in the United States to say whatever they want in whatever organizational form they  choose.  Only individual people have rights, and those rights don't go away when those individuals form groups.  
Instead of whining about all that, it's time for the supposed supporters of civil liberties to wake up and revisit the text of the First Amendment, which reads:
"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."
So my challenge to all those whining about this topic:  Please find me the part of the above statement that says "except if you're a corporation", "unless you hold politically unpopular views", or "unless it is 30 days prior to an election". 
That part isn't there.
Please everyone, quit wasting my time and that of everyone else with stupid.  Thank you.

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