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On Tuesday morning, incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference at a busy Manhattan intersection in which he called for the removal of President Donald Trump through the 25th Amendment or a second impeachment trial. During the presser, he was loudly interrupted by a Trump supporter.

“Where in the First Amendment does it say that you have to protest peacefully?” the woman asked Schumer.

Funny she asked. 

Opinion

Opinion

by George Lang, opinion writer for Free Press

This is the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America in its entirety:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an 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.”

As written by James Madison, the First Amendment consists of one all-encompassing sentence laying out the entirety of what is protected and what is not protected. It explains that “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” is all good in the eyes of the founding fathers, with “peaceably” being the operative word. 

See? You do not have to scream at a senator to get an answer that, when I was a middle schooler, was included in my 8th-grade civics curriculum. 

Unfortunately, there are many people with loud public voices who have no idea what the First Amendment protects or does not protect, and still others who are being willfully obtuse. 

These include U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, R-Missouri. When Hawley learned that Simon & Schuster was passing on publication of his book The Tyranny of Big Tech in light of his seditious acts against certifying the electoral college votes and promoting violence at our nation’s capital, he claimed that this decision violated his First Amendment rights.

“This could not be more Orwellian,” he said. “Simon & Schuster is canceling my contract because I was representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity, which they have now decided to redefine as sedition.”

Hawley is being entirely disingenuous. He graduated from Yale Law School and clerked for Chief Justice John Roberts. He knows this is high dudgeon bullshit. If he does not recognize the fallacy in his words, then apparently he received social promotion at Yale. 

The First Amendment does not require top book publishers to publish and distribute books simply because the authors want it done. If that were the case, there would be a run on New York publishers by Dunning-Kruger Effect sufferers proclaiming the Nobel worthiness of their works. 

Hawley’s partner in sedition, Ted Cruz, is similarly feigning outrage and calling a foul on tech companies that are deplatforming people like Trump who incited the January 6 attack on the Capitol. 

“Big Tech’s PURGE, censorship & abuse of power is absurd & profoundly dangerous,” Cruz tweeted three days after the attack. “If you agree w/ Tech’s current biases (Iran, good; Trump, bad), ask yourself, what happens when you disagree? Why should a handful of Silicon Valley billionaires have a monopoly on political speech?”

Like Hawley, Cruz attended an Ivy League law school, but I am secure in the understanding that Harvard University is better than that. 

Like Simon & Schuster, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites are publishers, and they can choose who and who not to publish. Deplatforming Trump just means that a media outlet is not available to him. He can stand on the 18th hole at Mar-A-Lago and scream to the heavens about his persecution, but that does not mean any business is required to amplify those words. 

People with otherwise ample intelligence just do not get it. 

In 2017, CNN fired commentator Jeffrey Lord for tweeting “Sieg heil!” to Media Matters for America president Angelo Carusone. In response, political commentator and former comedian Bill Maher came to Lord’s defense.

“CNN got rid of him because he said ‘Sieg Heil’ on a tweet. It was a joke,” Maher said on the November 3, 2017 edition of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. “This has got to stop, this idea that people have to go away if they’ve offended me even for one moment. How about just move on, turn the page, go to the next thing in your life?”

I used to watch Real Time with Bill Maher every Friday, but I tired of his smugness, his “both sides-ism” and his amplification of bad political actors like Julian Assange. While Maher is often revered for being an astute political analyst, he seems to think that Lord and other commentators should keep their jobs regardless of their behavior or their words. 

I get it. If I were the host of a snarky political affairs show that was starting its 19th season this Friday, I might feel the same way. But while Lord can surely “sieg heil” to his shriveled heart’s content, no one needs to pay him while he does it. For that matter, HBO can choose to do the same with Maher.

There is an ongoing, decentralized effort by those who have actually read the First Amendment to help those who have not, and they have a long road ahead of them. On January 9, former Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lamented her number of lost followers since the January 6 attack.

“I’ve lost 50k+ followers this week,” she wrote. “The radical left and their big tech allies cannot marginalize, censor, or silence the American people. This is not China, this is United States of America, and we are a free country.”

Yes, we are an ostensibly free country, or we will be in about a week. But deplatforming those who were cheerleading the insurrectionists does not silence them. If Sanders or Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida or any other pro-Trump bozo wants to open their front doors and say something terrible, they can do it. 

But they do not have to be paid for it.


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