That’s Right Nate

Thoughts from a right thinker.

That’s Why They Call it the First Amendment

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James F-ing Madison

[I’m very excited to introduce a guest writer tonight.  Mrs. Wright has been a great source of information and conservative opinion on Twitter.   I hope that she’ll become a regular contributor to this blog]

Last fall, Sarah Palin issued a trenchant retort to media outlets criticizing her remarks about Barack Obama’s “palling around with terrorists” as negative campaigning:

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”

The powerful Constitutional argument Sarah was making became somewhat buried in the hectic last weeks of the election. But this was a true “teaching moment.” She was demonstrating why the First Amendment is so important—and so basic to our lives as Americans that we don’t even have to read it to discuss and cite it.

Let’s face it, no one likes being criticized. That is why the very first amendment of the Constitution limits the rights of others—the press, especially– to criticize things you say or do. This is what is meant by “freedom of speech.” You shouldn’t have to feel bad just because you say something someone else disagrees with, much less thinks is utterly idiotic, or even vaguely off track for that matter. America was invented to keep things like that from happening. That’s democracy, stupid—anyone can say whatever they want without fear of having to defend it, or of having to see one’s opinions ridiculed. Everyone’s love for the things he himself says must be respected. The Puritans emigrated to this country from England because they were sick of being called lame in the elite monarchist press. They retorted, boldly, “You’re the ones who are lame, for calling us lame!!” but they had no real protection from the viciousness of such attacks, so they went to Boston.

I thought back to Sarah’s struggle to wrest her First Amendment rights from a repressive press last week, when Scott Baio was being victimized by liberals on Twitter. For those of you who don’t know, Twitter is a social networking site that allows you to defend freedom without putting down your mobile cellular device. After some liberal interlopers criticized Scott for bragging (understandably) that his wife had called Barack Obama a “shitfuck” (or something), the former actor and celebrity argued powerfully that he was being victimized by people who wanted to take away his right to free speech. One can only imagine how it must have felt to him to receive such “Tweets”—I think of the SS officer’s knock on Anne Frank’s family’s door, or a similarly chilling image.

How did we Americans come to enjoy this privilege? Well, the Founding Fathers were sensitive men. Madison, in particular, was known to sulk after even good-natured ribbing. Once, during an evening at Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan, John Jay alluded jokingly to the amount of time the Virginian had taken to write his latest installment of the Federalist Papers. Madison’s sour vibe killed the rest of the evening for Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and the rest present. And other documents suggest that this was only one example of Madison doing this sort of thing.

When the others criticized aspects of his anti-federalism, Madison wrote his wife, Dolly, “I hate these motherf***ers!! Who the f*** do they think they are? Don’t these affholes know who I am? Is it because I own flaves? Yeah, that’s it, they think everyone from the fouth is ftupid!” (Madison Collection, University of Virginia Library)

And that’s how the First Amendment got written. If anything in all this is surprising, it’s that they forgot to put this in the regular Constitution and had to stick it in an amendment at all.

[Mrs. B. Wright, aka Wingnutte, is the author of her town’s ballot amendment to proclaim climate change a myth. She lives with her college-age daughter and owns a megaphone. You can follow her on Twitter at @Wingnutte.]


Written by thatsrightnate

October 20, 2009 at 7:35 pm

One Response

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  1. […] That’s Why They Call it the First Amendment ( B. Wright – Author) […]

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