Tag Archives: First Amendment

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.

Trump trots out flag-burning non-starter

Donald Trump’s mediocre campaign rally today produced few talking points, but one of them does surface.

He said from the podium in Tulsa, Okla., that anyone who burns Old Glory should be arrested, charged and if convicted sent to jail for a year.

Huh? Earth to The Donald: The Supreme Court has settled that one. It said that burning the Stars and Stripes in a political protest is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is, according to the court, a legitimate form of protest against government policy.

I agree with Trump on one point only: Anyone who burns a flag in my presence is not going to win me over to whatever point of view they are espousing. I hate the act and am repulsed by it. However, it’s a legit form of protest that the nation’s founders protected when they wrote the First Amendment.

Then again, political reality never gets in Trump’s way when he’s trying to ignite the cheers of his fans at political rallies.

Kneeling is a legitimate form of peaceful, civil protest

OK, here it comes again: the discussion over whether “taking a knee” while they play the National Anthem dishonors Old Glory.

I didn’t want to re-enter this discussion, but I am going to do so anyway. I’ll just need to prepare for some blowback.

Americans are protesting today against the treatment of African-Americans by some police departments and officers. It’s been a longstanding problem that the nation has so far failed to face on a national level. The George Floyd tragedy brought it to our attention in graphic, tragic and reprehensible fashion.

You saw the former cop kneeling on Floyd’s neck, snuffing the life out of him. Now we have re-ignited the discussion of whether professional athletes have dishonored Old Glory when they take a bended knee while they play the National Anthem.

No. The flag is not dishonored.

What does the kneeling represent? It represents a form of civil protest against certain practices and policies enacted by law enforcement agencies. The demonstration against those policies is, at its very essence, the basis for the founding of this great nation and the flag that flies over government buildings.

The nation was built by men who protested religious oppression. They created a governing document that laid out certain civil liberties in the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The first of those amendments addresses several key provisions: Congress shall make no law that establishes a state religion or interferes with a free press or prohibits the right of citizens to speak freely and to seek “redress” of grievances against the government.

Is that clear enough? It is to me.

Kneeling during the playing of the Anthem speaks against policies that many of us find objectionable. It is in no way a statement of disrespect to the flag, to the nation, to the men and women who fight to preserve our freedoms, or to those who serve the public.

Yet this form of civil protest has been perverted into something unrecognizable to the men who sought to make a hallmark of the government they created.

It all started when a pro football player took a knee to protest. Donald Trump called him and other pro athletes “sons of bitches.” He said they should be tossed aside, ignored, punished for their alleged disrespect of the flag. That is as shallow and idiotic a response as I can imagine.

Here’s my request: If we disagree with the method some folks use to protest a public policy, then focus the disagreement on the act itself … and stay far away from suggesting it disrespects or dishonors the principles on which the founders created this country.

Good heavens! Taking a knee in peaceful protest is the embodiment of what the founders intended!

Media earn a shout out on pandemic coverage

I imagine you’ve heard the gripes, mostly from conservatives, who bitch about the media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

They complain that the media are covering this matter so intensely for the so political harm to Donald John Trump

Their complaints are without basis. They are dubious in the extreme.

The media have done a spectacular job covering this crisis. And it is a crisis, no matter how many times some of our political leaders — such as The Donald — might seek to understate its impact on the world.

The media coverage arc has tracked like many of these events often do: They report on an incident, give it the attention it deserves; they follow its progression, then report on increases of incidents; then the story explodes when governments start reacting to the increasing instances of illness … and death.

The World Health Organization has weighed in with a declaration that the coronavirus outbreak has reached pandemic status, which quite obviously is a major development. The media have covered the WHO involvement carefully and thoroughly.

What’s more, the media have explored the nuts and bolts, the ins and outs, the zigs and zags of this issue from damn near every angle imaginable. There are quite likely to be even more angles to cover.

As for the political impact, well, let me just declare that the media only have reported the stumbles, bumbles, bungles that have come from the U.S. government’s highest levels. There can be no way for the media to paper it over. Has it harmed Donald Trump? Yes, more than likely. Is it the media’s fault? Hell no! The media are simply the messengers delivering the news.

So it has gone. The media are charged with the responsibility of chronicling what government does for us … and to us. The Constitution protects the rights of a “free press” and the media seek to be true to the document that informs government that it cannot interfere with or manipulate them.

The media will continue to do their job as the pandemic likely worsens. They will report to the world what they see without regard to the political consequences, which are of no concern to journalists who simply are doing their job.