USING THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO SAVE DEMOCRACY
There may be only two ways our democracy can survive. One is to not let stupid people vote. The other is to not allow far-right politicians and media to lie.
Stupid people are not a problem on their own. As we have been told, some are very nice people.
However, the Republican Party, which has absolutely nothing to offer regular people, given that its only purpose is to take money from the working class and the poor and give it to the super rich, means that in order for Republicans to get people to vote for them, they have to scare the crap out of them, which they do with lies, which is not so easy to do with intelligent people.
And that is the problem. It's easy to scare stupid people. Therefore, Republicans do everything they can to keep people uninformed, uneducated, and financially stressed, knowing the dumber they are, and the more stressed they are financially, the easier they are to manipulate through fear.
They are destroying America’s public schools, from elementary through colleges and universities. They are banning books, and, when not possible, shutting down libraries. They are trying to defund public television, a process started under Nixon.
The centuries-long attack on public education and using intellectuals and educated people as scapegoats was always intended to dumb people down so they could be scared into voting for Republicans who would then make their lives worse so they would vote for Republicans again, who would dumb them down even more and make their lives even worse so they would vote for Republicans again. And again.
Assuming most decent people do not think it is nice to call people stupid, here are a few questions to consider
Would Trump have been elected president if stupid people couldn’t vote? Or would he have been seen as a sad, creepy clown?
Would DeSantis be considered a legitimate presidential candidate if stupid people could not vote? Or would he have been dismissed as a sandbox fascist long ago?
Pick a problem. Any problem. And ask yourself one simple question: Where would we be if stupid people could not vote?
Would there be smart gun regulations?
Would women’s rights be protected?
Would politicians be able to deny global warming is real?
Would trickle down tax cuts for billionaires be supported?
Would deaths from Covid have been lower?
The list is long.
The problem is, it is unlikely we can prevent stupid people from voting.
Therefore, the only alternative is to prevent far-right media and politicians from using lies to scare and manipulate stupid people into voting for Republicans who then do even more damage to the people they have already hurt.
In the end, the answer has been there all along.
It is the First Amendment.
SHOUTING FIRE IN A THEATER
In a 1919 case regarding the distribution of flyers opposing the draft during wartime (Schenck v. United States), the Supreme Court ruled that doing so was a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917, because it presented a clear and present danger to military recruitment during WW I. Schenck was sentenced to prison.
To explain the Court's unanimous decision, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote: "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic... The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."
Which meant speech or actions, whose principal purpose is to create panic, were not protected under the first amendment.
That changed in 1969 when the Supreme Court partially overturned the Schenck decision (in Brandenburg v. Ohio) and decided the right to shout fire in a theater, crowded or not, even when there are no reasonable grounds for believing there is a fire, is, by itself, not a crime, and is protected by the First Amendment.
It is a crime, however, if it results in someone being killed. In that circumstance, the perpetrator could be charged with involuntary manslaughter, at the least.
In other words, the Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment protects an individual's right to lie, even if it causes a panic, but not if it causes death.
Which means free speech is not absolute. You have a right to lie. But you can be prosecuted if the lie leads to actions that result in death.
Which brings us to Fox News and all the other far-right liars, whether they are media people or politicians.
Does Fox have a right to lie in order to scare people into following Fox News and to vote for Republicans? Yes. Can Fox or Fox's people be charged with involuntary manslaughter if the lies lead to deaths? That is the question. But it is not only Fox.
What about all the other far-right media people? And politicians? And internet thugs (some of whom we know are Russians or sponsored by Russia)?
People died during the January 6th insurrection.
People die during mass shootings by people acting on the lies spewed out by far-right media and politicians.
There are no alternative facts. There are only lies.
And because what media people and politicians say can be equated to yelling fire in a crowded theater, we should follow the Supreme Court’s First Amendment decision and prosecute the liars when their lies lead to deaths.
If we get rid of the lies, would there be any Republicans elected anywhere in the country? Probably a few. But not many. Not unless they decided to be pro America rather than pro Putin.
What about the Trump–Putin mob? The so-called Republican base? If it weren't for Trump, Fox, and a long list of other right wing media people and politicians being allowed to lie, there would be no Trump-Putin mob.
Why call it a Trump-Putin mob? Because Trump and Putin are the only ones to gain, along with a handful of billionaires, from what far-right media and politicians are doing to America.
Is it necessary to find some sort of proof that the Chinese and the Russians are supporting the far-right movement in America before claiming Republicans are working for Putin, not America? The answer is no. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. We can see what Republicans are doing. And we can see who stands to gain from their actions.
It is public knowledge that Putin's media was replaying tapes of Tucker Carlson supporting the Russians over Ukraine. Do we need a letter or an email trail to show that Tucker Carlson is working for Putin? I don't think so. What he did, he did in public. It doesn't matter who paid for it.
What about Democrats who lie? They should be shut down too.
But my guess is, if we counted up the lies Democrats have told over the last eight years, it's probably a smaller number than the number of lies Trump tells in a single day. And a tiny fraction of what Fox and other far-right media dole out in an hour.
Did Biden, in his first two years, add trillions of dollars to the national debt? No. The national debt has decreased under Biden.
If you tell someone who is a Republican that Trump added $7.8 trillion to the national debt, they will say it's not true.
If you tell them the unemployment rate under Biden is the lowest it has been in a long, long time, they will say it's not true.
If you tell them economic growth has been better under Biden than Trump, they will say it's not true.
If you tell them Trump did not prevent illegal immigration at the border and his wall was never built, and the only part that was put up fell over, they will say it's not true.
If you tell them some grifter stole millions of dollars from suckers by claiming he was building a wall, they will say it's not true.
But they may believe they are being attacked by Jewish lasers in outer space.
These people shouldn't be voting. It's that simple. But they are. So we have to stop the lies.