APRIL FOOLS! GOTCHA!
Greetings sports fans. No, no. I’m not late for April Fools Day, I wrote this 4 days ago. I’m just now getting around to publishing it. April fools! Got you again. Happy Friday Las Vegas. But seriously folks; let us turn our attention now to the fake news.
President Trump did not tweet that, (yet). But I think he damn well should. Today would be a great day for doing just that. (Hint, hint, hint, Uncle Donald.).
The Constitutional guarantees of free speech and of a free press are inalienable rights. Period. End of story. No arguments accepted. Congress shall never abridge these rights. Not while I have a pen they won’t.
On Monday, the members of Malaysia’s Parliament voted to enact the first laws that make it a crime to lie in a public place. Specifically, in the news media. Did somebody say Hallelujia? The bill is expected to be passed by the Senate in short order.
It was reported by, Patrick Frater in Variety that the legislation passed by Parliament would include harsh penalties of over $120,000 in fines and possible jail terms of up to 6 years. Online service providers will be held liable for all third-party content.
Not only does it have power in Malaysia, however; it has territorial jurisdiction over said online content as well in regards to any fake news generated outside of the country in a case where the people or the nation of Malaysia are adversely affected by any falsely reported news.
Demikianlah Selalu Kepada Tiran. In America, Sic Semper Tyranis. Thus always to tyrants.
Malaysian opponents of the new law in Parliament put forth the argument that this was a violation of free speech and they expressed the opinion that it was nothing more than legislation aimed at silencing the voices of the government’s critics during an election year.
The opposition obviously failed to make their case in the lower house but they did manage to get the sentence range reduced from 10 years to 6.
That very same argument would surely be made by some should such legislation be proposed in the Congress of the United States of America. And that’s fine; they have every right to do so. You can say whatever you want about whatever you want to whenever and wherever you want to.
In point fact, this law, of all laws, is set in stone for without this law we the people have no voice in the government and then we have no laws we have only a dictatorship and that ain’t happening. Period.
You can successfully argue the right of the individual, to tell the truth, or to tell a lie. I know that I could. I get it. So let’s say then that the opposition is right because they are. That’s the beauty of equal protection of the law.
However. In the real world, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Every act carries its consequences and the First Amendment is no exception to the rule. That’s the flip side of the Equal Protection coin. Heads I win; tails you lose.
In Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919), a case concerning enforcement of the Espionage Act of 1917 during World War I. A unanimous Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., concluded that defendants who distributed fliers to draft-age men, urging resistance to induction, could be convicted of an attempt to obstruct the draft, a criminal offense. The First Amendment did not alter the well-established law in cases where the attempt was made through expressions that would be protected in other circumstances. In this opinion, Holmes said that expressions which in the circumstances were intended to result in a crime, and posed a “clear and present danger” of succeeding, could be punished.
The Court, in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., held that Schenck’s criminal conviction was constitutional. The statute only applied to successful obstructions of the draft, but common-law precedents allowed prosecution for attempts that were dangerously close to success. Attempts made by speech or writing could be punished like other attempted crimes; the First Amendment did not protect speech encouraging men to resist induction, because, “when a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.” In other words, the court held, the circumstances of wartime allow greater restrictions on free speech than would be allowed during peacetime, if only because new and greater dangers are present.
The opinion’s most famous and most often quoted passage was this:
- The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. […] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.
The phrase “shouting fire in a crowded theater” has since become a popular metaphor for dangers or limitations of free speech. Reprinted from Wikipedia.
If Congress has a right to prevent such acts then they clearly have an obligation to do so in upholding the defense of the Constitution which they are sworn to defend as well. You can in point of fact shout fire in a crowded theater. As long as the theater is actually on fire that is. But if it’s not on fire and you start a stampede for the emergency exits which results in the death of an individual then you are guilty of murder.
That Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., held it to be a criminal act to purposely deceive any person by the exercise of free speech is self-evident. The court agreed and rightly so.
The influx of false news articles and reports that are suddenly all over the internet are attacks on the First Amendment and a clear and present danger to America.
I hereby make a motion that Congress should enact a law to provide for the prosecution of those who spread fake news stories in the press that have an unreasonable and/or adverse effect on the people and/or the nation that would tend to shock the conscience of any right-thinking individual.
Who will 2nd that?