Free Speech and Free-er Speech

I’ve written in the past that a lot of righties seem to think the freedom of speech clause in the First Amendment includes a right to not be disagreed with. Josh Marshall about America’s whiny, paranoid mega-wealthy and notes that seems to be what they want, too.

Extremely wealthy people – enabled by a series of key Supreme Court decisions as recently as yesterday – want to be able to spend gargantuan amounts of money in the political process and remain essentially private persons who don’t get knocked around or criticized like everyone else in the political arena.

See also “If you criticize wealthy donors, you’re basically Hitler.”

Chris Hayes’s book Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy” makes the point that our institutions both public and private are being run by a class of people who got what they’ve got by circumstances largely not of their making; are sheltered from the realities most of us deal with; and who ultimately don’t know what they’re doing, but are so sheltered from the consequences of their own actions they don’t realize they don’t know what they’re doing. Donald Rumsfeld is a classic example. One suspects most of our captains of industry aren’t much sharper. But, y’know, they have lots of money, so we’re supposed to respect them.

20 thoughts on “Free Speech and Free-er Speech

  1. The Koch Brothers made their money the old-fashioned way – they inherited it.

    They have been rich, and separate from ordinary people, their whole spoiled and wealthy misery-inducing lives.

    They know as much about how we live, as King Louis and Marie Antoinette.
    And if they were told that the American people were revolting, they’d say, “Yes, they certainly are!!!”

    To them, we are sub-humans: Unternenschen.

    People like them, can certainly be looked at as the winners in the game of life – and not because they earned it, but because fortune/luck smiled upon who impregnated their mother, and their lives afterwards.
    And while people like gracious winners, they can understand angry, whiny, and petulant losers – but there’s not much that they HATE more than angry, whiny, and petulant winners.

    I don’t consider money to be the measure of victory in life – but that’s me.
    Too many people in America do.
    Even the ones who have less than I do.
    They think that someday, they’ll win Powerball, or their state lottery, and think that then they can lord it over the less fortunate plebes.

    I’m more realistic.
    All I’d like to get, is a job with a livable wage.
    But right now, sadly, that seems as likely as my winning Powerball.


  2. Oh, btw – I’m not saying that they’re not smart businessmen.
    But that they’re unscrupulous ones.
    Plus, ones who gamed the tax system to that it would take a series of absolutely catastrophic mistakes to not rapidly keep expanding their fortunes.
    They could make mistake, unlike working people, and still stay rich – if not get even richer.

    And if all of these Conservative Reich-Wing rich douche-canoe’s want to have people kiss their asses in their gratitude, they should do more than the donate their charity money to schools, Arts & Medical facilities, in a quid-pro-quo that whatever they do, has to have their names slapped all over them.

    While I have some issues with the following people, you can’t say that they haven’t returned a lot back to the world – Ted Turner, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates.

  3. Well, if they have no friends, at least they still have their “authoritarian followers” to keep them warmly flattered.

  4. I think the motives and ideology of donors (democrats and republicans) should be questioned in proportion to the amounts donated. This is possible ONLY if there is disclosure – who gave to who and how much.

    Any attempts to make any part of money in politics confidential is an attempt to institutionalize the corruption. There’s actually a lot of agreement in the trenches liberal and conservative on that point. There’s a lot of bipartisan agreement among elected officials on keeping the gravy train running as far as campaign contributions go.

    Taking the big donor out of politics will cause as much crying among congesscritters as taking a bottle from a hungry baby. It’s gotta be done – big money in politics is as poisonous to democracy as arsenic in baby’s formula.

  5. Bill,
    Who needs friends, when you have tons of lackey’s, sycophants, butt-and-boot kissers, and knob-polishers?

  6. I ran across this on Booman:

    It’s not a singular example, it’s part of the water we swim in. Booman takes Andrew Sullivan to task, as he should. The issue he raises about the first amendment has been with us a long time. It seems that people, especially on the right, see the first amendment as the right not to be disagreed with. But, given the flap over that fellow from “Duck Dynasty,” and a long string of other bagger rants it seems that something else has been happening over the past couple of decades. In the minds of the “common man” corporate figures are taking on or have taken on some of the character and power of government. Somewhere in the non-rational shadows of the American psyche, the captains of industry have been cast as the guarantors of freedom and liberty. I know it seems counterintuitive in light of the empirical evidence to the contrary, but, from talking to people on the right, especially libertarians,it seems that they really believe in a corporate version of a benign dictator. They really believe that in a world “free” of labor unions, regulations and taxes, the masters of the universe would afford them with all the rights and liberties provided in the Constitution, without the “inefficiency” of government. So, when a person is fired or disciplined for a beach of corporate image, some people think their First Amendment rights have been violated, because somewhere in their minds, they confuse economic power with governmental power. And let’s be clear, the separation of the two is degraded.

    I am probably not explaining this well, it is just an effort to explain bizarre behavior. I almost always discount “arguments” that include accusations that opponents are “stupid” or “ignorant.” I take that to mean that the person making the argument, simply has no argument. In the case of my right wing friends, they might not be the sharpest crayons in the pack, but, they are not stupid and while we may disagree on the premises of an argument, they are trying to figure things out, as we all are.

    Considerable effort and misinformation has been spent making their minds and opinions what they are. Black helicopters, Agenda 21 and a seemingly endless matrix of conspiracy theories have brought the birthers, truthers and the “second amendment community pretty close to the edge.

    Okay, this is the second paranoid rant comment in just a few days. Maybe I am the one who should “seek professional help.”

  7. goatherd,
    Great rants!

    And over the years, how many of MY rants have you read (or, wisely ignored ;-)?

    And as for frequency of rants here, I feel I have no equal.
    Not QUALITY, mind you – but, quantity!!!

  8. Goatherd – good rant. One thing I would add. The ‘right’ not to be penalized for free speech is most cited when it’s a conservative viewpoint that was penalized. If they (conservatives) propose sanctions, boycott or whatever, for a liberal viewpoint that’s not an objectionable censure in their minds. The booman post is excellent, but he gives Sullivan credit that Sully doesn’t deserve. When it suits his purpose, Sullivan will correctly cite the First – only when he wants to extend it in a deceptive manner will he undertake the fraud that he did.

    The door only swings one way.

    Let’s look at a liberal example. In my previous post I suggested that the motives and ideology of donors be examined in proportion to the size of the contribution. I did not say ‘conservative donor’. Scoundrels will try to buy liberal politicians if it serves their purpose. This is a common distinction between the liberal and conservative view. I would establish limits that operate equally in the liberal and conservative hemispheres. Conservatives usually only want to place limits on liberals. I don’t suggest this rule is universal – but it’s a trend you can put safely bet on.

    Gulag – you don’t appreciate how you drum up business for ENT doctors who have to treat sinus membranes scalded or othewise damaged by beverages spewed thru the nose by unwary readers. (i have learned to put the coffee down before I undertake to read your screed.)

  9. Doug,
    I can’t be held responsible for what happens when someone reads my long-ass word-turds!

    Or – OH SH*T!!!!! – can I?

  10. Well, I really value the insights that are offered by this blog and the commenters. I try to step outside of myself when I get to “thinking” about something, with questionable success. Sometimes when I am mending a fence or doing mindless chores my monkey mind slips into gear, for better or for worse. I don’t think the people of the community at this site blindly follow each other, but, often I read something and think, either “Yes, that’s what I was trying to say.” or “I wouldn’t have thought of that, but, by George, I think she’s got something there.”

  11. I hear you, goatherd. I do many mindless tasks in the garden, and I spend countless days driving across Florida. This allows time for thinking. My daughter works at a psych clinic ; today we went blueberry picking, and I asked her if it’s me or is everyone else nuts.she said i have the ability to see things as they are and not how i wish them to be.
    My right wing friends operate on fear ; FEMA camps, black helicopters, militant Muslims in our midst, a user per in the white house ready to confiscate their guns. It’s all nuts all the time.

  12. Goatherd & erinyes – I think you are on to something. In my job, menial and tedious, I have hours where my hands are occupied and my mind relatively free. I get a lot done in that space. However, if I had just the time without the task to keep me tied down, I don’t think that I think as well. Is there a ‘zone’ of creative thinking that exists with busy hands and a mind that wants to digest new ideas?

  13. Donald Rumsfeld is a classic example. One suspects most of our captains of industry aren’t much sharper.

    Rumsfeld was a CEO and corporate executive for years before he ascended to SecDef to screw up on an even larger scale. His oblivious, con-artist mentality is typical of the species.

  14. I agree, mike g. Worse yet, their scions try to follow in their foot steps with even more disastrous results. Dubya and rand Paul are examples, along with Connie Mack in south west Florida.

  15. “I asked her if it’s me or is everyone else nuts?” Boy, erinyes, i wish I had a dollar for every time I asked myself that question. I guess the important part is “is it me?” As long as we keep questioning ourselves along with the rest of the world, we may just have a chance.

    “Is there a ‘zone’ of creative thinking that exists with busy hands and a mind that wants to digest new ideas?” — I don’t know, Doug. I was going to make a quip about never quite getting to the “creative” part, but that would be silly. It does seem to me that puttering around in the shop or doing something that doesn’t require too much focus does seem to stimulate thought, To me it is a kind of recreational space in the mind, where things bubble up from the subconscious areas. Some concepts floating around in the stew of ideas and impressions band together and insist on being considered or at some level the mind realizes or imagines that there is a connection, and it’s off to the races.

    I used to enjoy mucking out the barn as a kind of meditation. Although, I am probably mistaken in my definition.

  16. I came across a post from a right wing friend that liked to a Ted Cruz site. It was entitled, “The Broken Window Theory of Obamacare.” Basically, it made the assertion that Obamacare was analogous to “the government mandating that everyone get government approved car windshields. Then of course, when everyone buys one they come around and smash them all and declare the business a success.”

    I am paraphrasing here. But, I feel halfway between those characters in the cartoons of my youth, who suddenly pointed a gun at their heads and lamented, “Now, I’ve seen everything.” and George Bailey in “It’s a Beautiful Life” explaining that he “must have gotten some bad liquor.”

    Maybe this is a major failing of my powers of cognition or a sign of advancing dementia, but I find the “Broken Window Theory of Obamacare” absolutely incomprehensible. Is Ted Cruz suggesting that government agents will be traveling about the countryside sewing disease and injury or impregnating young women in order to make Obamacare seem like a success?

    I may be missing the point, but, offhand this really does seem to be, literally, the stupidest thing I have ever encountered. It seems like it deserves a place among the “Wonders of the World.”

    That is a good question for an open thread, “what is the stupidest or most ridiculous thing you have ever read?”

  17. If you are looking for a story about the suppression of speech by intimidation, there is this one. The journal Frontiers in Psychology retracted a paper over fears being sued by global warming deniers. This despite the fact that the journal’s own investigation determined that the research was sound.

    The paper was based on an earlier one, which showed a link between global warming denial and a belief in conspiracy theories. The paper in question looked at the reaction of global warming deniers to that earlier paper, and found that it “exhibited conspiratorial content and counterfactual thinking.”

    The paper named names, and some of those named threatened to sue. Shockingly, the journal caved.

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