Tag Archives: First Amendment

Demagogues sicken me

Our nation’s founders were wise men in that they felt it necessary to protect all forms of political speech, no matter how repulsive it might be to many of our ears.

But … damn! At times I wish we could outlaw demagoguery. I know we cannot. We dare not tinker with the First Amendment’s free speech clause, which I happen to value beyond all measure.

When I hear things, though, from those who claim to be speaking the “truth,” I cringe. Then I grit my teeth. I also might mutter a bad word or three.

I had an exchange recently with a critic of this blog. He continues to perpetuate the notion that political progressives endorse the notion of rioters committing acts of vandalism, not to mention inflicting bodily harm on police officers or those with whom they have disagreements.

I have sought to dispel that notion. Yes, I have heard some congressional progressive, speaking in the wake of police shootings of African Americans and the like, urge protesters to “take to the streets.” Is that an endorsement of violence, of vandalism, of committing felony crimes against human beings? No. It isn’t!

And yes, there are those on the left who resort to demagoguery at times. The current crop of demagogues features those on the right. They say that President Biden favors “open borders”; they contend that the president wants to “take your guns away”; they accuse liberals of “favoring” abortion in all cases.

This is the crap that sends me into orbit.

Do we ban those who promote such idiocy? No, we cannot do that. That Constitution of ours, drafted by those smart guys in the late 18th century, tells us we all have the right to utter nonsensical rhetoric. I accept that.

I just cannot accept what some Americans say while under constitutional protection.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Christian nationalism perverts Christianity

I had not heard of the term “Christian nationalism” until I opened my copy of the Dallas Morning News this morning and read a lengthy but remarkably informative essay by Ryan Sanders.

Sanders, a member of the DMN editorial board, says essentially that Christian nationalism is bad for the country. Why? Because in his view the notion takes Christianity and its religious tenets to dangerous new levels.

The essay alludes briefly to the founders’ intent when they formed this government of ours. They wrote the constitutional articles, noting in the preamble that “We the People of the United States” sought to form a “more perfect Union.” It doesn’t mention God, unlike the Declaration of Independence, which refers to our “Creator,” which of course is a reference to a universal God.

The First Amendment to the Constitution lists freedom from several government mandates, the first of those was freedom from government-sanctioned religion; it instructs that “Congress shall make no law” that establishes a state religion.

I am fine with that. Christian nationalists, though, are not fine with it. They believe wrongly that the founders created a religious document when in fact they created a document that was as far from a religious governmental framework that one can get.

I encourage you to take a look at Sanders’s essay.

https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2022/01/09/heres-where-christian-nationalism-comes-from-and-what-it-gets-wrong/

Sanders writes, for example: Christian nationalism isn’t attracting followers because it’s far-fetched. On the contrary, like all the most dangerous errors, it is attractive because it seems good. It is darkness masquerading as light, like the Apostle Paul warned. In modern parlance, we might say it is truth-adjacent.

The rioters who stormed the Capitol Building on 1/6 exemplified the horror of Christian nationalism. They sought to persuade the rest of us that they were to do God’s work by disrupting the 2020 presidential election certification. My goodness! They were acting at the urging of a defeated president and transferring his message into some twisted form of religious doctrine.

I must rank Christian nationalism among the list of existential threats to the very principles on which this nation came into being.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let ’em talk, however …

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

I have no qualms — not a single one — about the First Amendment and the guarantee of free speech it enshrines.

But, dang! Why don’t the right-wing lunatics out there cease delivering the “fake news” and the “disinformation” about current issues of the day, not to mention about our efforts to end a killer virus that keeps sickening Americans.

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene — a Georgia Republican QAnon queen — went on a podcast and said the Declaration of Independence instructs us to “overthrow tyrants.” Which she said was the intent of the 1/6 insurrection.

She is entitled to spew that trash. I just wish we could police such nonsense and send it immediately to the trash heap, where it belongs.

I never would consider watering down the First Amendment or any of our Bill of Rights provisions (yes, that includes the Second Amendment, which allows us to “keep and bear arms”).

I just want society to dismiss the crap that flies out of the mouths of loons such as Rep. Taylor-Greene.

I am game. Are you?

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

First Amendment vs. Facebook

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s take a look at the First Amendment, which has been revived as a talking point with regard to Facebook’s decision to keep Donald J. Trump off the platform for the time being.

Trumpkins keep yammering that Facebook is impinging on Trump’s First Amendment rights of free speech as a U.S. citizen.

Hold on.

The founders inscribed a fairly narrow guarantee when they wrote the First Amendment to our Constitution. They wrote:

“Congress shall make no law respecting the 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.” 

The most important and salient words of that Amendment are the first five of them. “Congress shall make no law … ”

That means Congress is prohibited from interfering in all those freedoms guaranteed by the founders. It says nothing at all about what a private company can do to limit Americans’ expressions. Facebook is a for-profit organization. It has every right to ban whoever it wants from its platform. It chose to act after Donald Trump kept fomenting the Big Lie about the 2020 election, that it was stolen from him. He used Facebook to promote the Big Lie; Facebook gurus decided they would have no more of it.

Does this inhibit Trump’s First Amendment liberty? Not one bit. He can still make whatever statement he chooses, meaning he is free to lie his a** off!

I had many discussions over the years while working in daily journalism with those who challenged my authority as a newspaper editor to disallow them from expressing themselves on our pages. I would reject a submission if it dealt in falsehood. I would tell the author of that decision. The author would respond: “But the First Amendment allows me to say it.”

No, it doesn’t. It does give us all the opportunity to run their own publication and to allow whatever they want to appear on its pages.

So, the fight over the First Amendment continues as Donald Trump and his minions try to make an argument that is as hollow as the lies Trump keeps telling.

The nation’s founders got it right when they said “Congress shall make no law … “

No First Amendment problem

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A word to the right-wing wackos who are going bonkers over Facebook’s decision to keep Donald Trump off the social medium … for now: settle down and take a deep breath!

The Trump cultists in Congress are bitching about so-called First Amendment infringements because Facebook, a privately held media company, has decided it cannot allow someone to use its platform to call for an insurrection against the U.S. government.

That is what Trump did on Jan. 6. So it banned the former president. It decided to make a firm decision later on the extent of Trump’s banishment.

As for Trump’s First Amendment free speech guarantee, it is still there. Trump can yap, yammer and yeowl all he wants about the 2020 election being “stolen.” Of course that is just so much bullsh**. Trump knows it. I certainly do. So do you as well.

The First Amendment allows Trump to spew such nonsense. It doesn’t prohibit a private firm from exercising its own policy-making ability on who gets to speak out and who faces the muzzle.

So, right-wing blowards? You need to pipe down.

Ol’ Ben was a wise man

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Benjamin Franklin well might be my favorite Founding Father.

He was an inventor, a diplomat, a writer, a statesman, a scientist and a man of impeccable vision. He was 70 years old and in poor health when he put his name on the Declaration of Independence.

But he knew the value of free speech and vigorous political discourse. A quote from ol’ Ben appeared this week in the Princeton (Texas) Herald that I want to share:

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected in its ruins. Republics … derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.”

Franklin’s wisdom is worth sharing today because of the battering that free speech and expression has taken in recent years. We’ve just been through a horrendous political era in which the nation elected a man with no understanding of government and of the precepts that drive it. Donald Trump encouraged his followers to “beat the  hell” out of protesters at his rallies. He called the press the “enemy of the people.” He abhors criticism directed at him in any form and along the way developed a following of like-minded individuals who adhere to his strange and dangerous notion of a democratic society.

Benjamin Franklin had it exactly right when he wrote the words I have copied.

Franklin knew about the inherent strength that democracies get from “a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.” My goodness, the very First Amendment to our Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to “peaceably … assemble, and to petition government for a redress of grievances.”

We have heard plenty of talk about the “peaceable” part of protesting. It gets out of hand at times. Violence is not the answer and those of us who value what Benjamin Franklin believed abhor the violence that occasionally erupts when citizens get angry.

I am going to set the insurrection of Jan. 6 aside from this discussion. It was a singularly heinous act by a mob of terrorists who had no intention of seeking a peaceful solution to their grievances.

As we move forward from that horrifying event, let us not lose sight of the principle on which the founders — such as the great Benjamin Franklin — created this government. It is that we are allowed to protest what our government does in the performance of its duties.

The end result of Franklin’s wisdom is the realization that we are the bosses of those we select to represent us.

This isn’t our ‘best’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Make no mistake, I am not a Pollyanna. I know good bit about our political system, about how we can elect zeroes as well as heroes to our governing bodies.

But, oh brother, we have an astonishing number of numbskulls in Congress, taking power and being handed the opportunity to make laws that govern all of us, not just those who send them to Congress from their various states and congressional districts.

Marjorie Taylor-Greene, I am talking about you.

Rep. Taylor-Greene is the walking, talking embodiment of a domestic demon in our midst. She represents a Georgia congressional district and she is a believer in that QAnon cult that has gripped millions of Americans by the genitals.

She believes Muslims cannot serve legitimately in Congress; she has stated that the Sandy Hook and Parkland, Fla., school massacres were hoaxes; she says President Biden stole the election from Donald Trump; she has called for the summary execution of Democrats.

Yes, she is now among the 535 men and women who serve in the legislative branch of government.

She is a traitor. A potential terrorist. She is certifiably unfit to serve in a public office.

And yet … the folks in her congressional district sent her to Capitol Hill. Astonishing, yes? You know the answer. It is frightening in the extreme.

The news gets even worse. Congress contains others who hold the same view as this idiot. Oh, and the Republican leadership to which she ostensibly answers isn’t calling her, slapping her down, telling her to keep her mouth shut. They stand behind the First Amendment’s free speech clause.

I am a big believer in free speech and in the First Amendment. I also believe free speech should be responsible and shouldn’t be perceived as a threat to our very government.

This member of Congress doesn’t represent our best. She represents the worst of us.

Trump ban is no violation of liberty

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Time for a brief civics lesson to the minions of Donald J. “Insurrectionist in Chief” Trump.

Many of them are yammering that Twitter’s decision to ban Trump permanently from the social media platform is a violation of the president’s First Amendment rights of free speech.

Ummm, no. It isn’t. Not even close.

Trump has made liberal use of Twitter to get his message out, to do an end-around the filter of what he calls “mainstream media.” He was wildly successful at it, collecting 88 million or so followers. Many of them hung on every pronouncement he made. To be candid, I followed him, too, but only to see what kind of nonsense he would send out there.

He also used it to foment lies, such as the voter fraud lie about the 2020 election.

Twitter took action as a private business and banned him. Why doesn’t it violate the First Amendment?

The amendment instructs Congress to pass “no law” that restricts a number of personal liberties; one of them is free speech. The founders directed the amendment at the legislative branch of government, ordering Congress to refrain from passing laws that inhibit free speech, religious freedom, a free press, freedom to assemble peaceably, to seek redress of grievances against the government.

The amendment does not prohibit a private business, such as Twitter, from blocking someone from using that platform to spew lies … which Donald Trump has done!

There. Civics lesson is over.

Whether to ID sources

Jeffrey Goldberg is taking a good bit of heat these days over a story he wrote for The Atlantic magazine.

You no doubt know of what I speak: the story about Donald Trump’s reported denigration of men and women in the military and the tale it tells of Trump’s profound disrespect for those who serve in defense of the country.

Goldberg is getting panned by those on the right because he granted anonymity to several individuals who he says have direct knowledge of hideous statements Trump has made.

Which brings me to the point of this brief blog post: Should he have granted them anonymity?

Well, I worked for nearly 37 years as a print journalist for small and medium-sized newspapers. I would get requests from sources to remain anonymous. My bosses always had a rule: We don’t grant anonymity unless naming the source posed a threat to that individual’s well-being. I never granted anonymity.

Goldberg’s sources, from what I understand, had to remain hidden because of severe threats they face from none other than Donald Trump himself. Goldberg has told media interviewers that he knows who they are and he knows whether their knowledge is legitimate. Thus, he remains comfortable with the decision to grant them anonymity.

I don’t know Jeffrey Goldberg, but I surely know of his work and of the work contained in the page of The Atlantic. He is a time-tested journalist who takes his work quite seriously. Yet, there are those who say categorically that Goldberg’s story is false, that it’s made up, it’s fiction.

I simply would respond with this: No journalist who has developed the reputation for meticulous reporting that Jeffrey Goldberg has acquired is going to toss a career’s worth of work aside for the sake of publishing a false story.

Journalists don’t take an oath to report the truth. They rely instead on the protection guaranteed in the Constitution against government recrimination. They cherish that protection and — take my word for it — no serious journalist is going to flout it for the sake of a “fake news” story.

I am going to stand with Jeffrey Goldberg on this one.

What about ‘religious freedom’?

I want to discuss religion briefly, as it well might become an issue in the rapidly unfolding and accelerating presidential campaign.

The issue has come up in a public way and in a way near to my own heart.

Former college and professional football coach Lou Holtz told the Republican National Convention that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is a Catholic “in name only.” Coach Holtz, who once guided student-athletes at Notre Dame University, received immediate pushback from the renowned Catholic school. He spoke for himself, ND officials said, not for the university.

Biden is far from a CINO — Catholic In Name Only. His faith is well-known. He speaks openly about it, about how his faith has helped steer him through unspeakable tragedy.

This topic makes me uncomfortable. Religious faith is deeply personal. It’s not something I like sharing, and I won’t do so here.

However, I do want to challenge an implication that a fellow I know made to me directly. He said in a social media post that I “probably” am comfortable with doing away with “religious freedom.” This fellow seems to believe, according to his world view, that we should be allowed to worship openly and freely without any interference.

I could not agree more with this fellow. He and I actually share a devotion to “religious freedom.” I want to add a caveat, however.

The Constitution spells out quite clearly that we also are free to not worship if we choose. It is a secular document written by men whose direct forebears fled religious persecution in Europe.

While I am committed to religious freedom, I also want to embrace what I believe is a broader view of what that term means and what it entails.

So, when a noted public figure, such as former coach Lou Holtz, says a leading politician is a “Catholic in name only,” he crosses a line he shouldn’t cross. He shouldn’t purport to know what rests in Joe Biden’s heart. That is a dangerous assumption Holtz makes.

As for the fellow who jabbed at me by assuming I “probably” would want to do away with religious freedom, he also is crossing a precarious line.

I am all for granting Americans the right to worship as they please. I also believe we are free to forgo religious faith … if that’s how we want to roll.

Just think that we’re about to be force-fed a large dose of religion in a presidential campaign that already has gone from harsh to ugly.