Wow, the Government Really Hates that First Amendment

First, a quick personal update. remember how I said our four-year-old had been spared the ravages of this monster illness? Well, I was wrong — it hit her, and hard. She’s been fevered, coughing, and vomiting — which the rest of us managed to avoid — for the past several days. We ended up missing the company holiday party for the first time in my overly extended tenure here. The rest of us are improving, although I’ve gone from staggering as a result of fevered dizziness to staggering thanks to a twisted knee. For some reason, it’s taken a week to hit me, but I jammed it last weekend while clearing some overgrown trees for my mother-in-law over Thanksgiving. Man, I’m just falling apart here — a realization that becomes all the more apparent as I approach a milestone birthday later this month...

Well, enough of that — you’re not here to listen to me whine. You’re here to listen to me rant. So let’s see, where to start...

Well, it would appear that my assessment of AT&T Wireless was right on the money, at least according to a recent Post story. It seems that AT&T is giving folks a disproportionate amount of difficulty in changing phone services while retaining their cell numbers. It’s gotten so bad that the FCC may be forced to take action. It’s also worth noting that, along with Cingular Wireless, AT&T is one of the two companies losing the most customers since the number portability rules went into effect. Hmm... not too much to add here — particularly since I haven’t resolved my own little saga yet. What else have we got in the hopper?

Ah, here we go. On the heels of last week’s attempt to stifle free speech, we’ve got another one, equally ridiculous. It would appear that the Secret Service has figured out the newest threat to “homeland security”: Eminem. According to their assessment, he’s a “credible threat” to the “president,” as evidenced by a lyric in his yet-unreleased song, “We Are American”: “Fuck money, I don’t rap for dead presidents. I’d rather see the president dead.” Hey, forget Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein — remember, the biggest threat to our security is citizens who dare to speak their minds. (In all fairness, the Republicans don’t have a monopoly on First-Amendment suppression, as today’s Post profile of Joe Lieberman will attest.)

ConstitutionI’m no lawyer, but I at least have a working understanding of the limits of free speech, and this doesn’t even come close to crossing them. In order for a statement to be considered beyond First Amendment protection, it must be directly inciting illegal activity; for example, actually telling someone to kill the president. Simply saying he’d rather see the president dead is perfectly legitimate. Hell, should Duh-bya shuffle off the mortal coil, the only tear I’d shed would be in recognizing that Dick Cheney would be occupying the presidency — in name as well as in fact (I always thought those Munchkins were a little too quick to celebrate the demise of the Wicked Witch of the East). Hey, Secret Service — can I get on that “threat” list now? I could sure use the publicity.

I’d argue that the “founding fathers” actually meant to protect speech advocating political change by violent means — after all, that’s what they had just done a decade earlier. However, legal precedent has established that protection vanishes once you venture from abstract discussion to the commencement of concrete action. Fair enough — that’s probably a pretty wise line to draw. But Eminem’s lyric ain’t even close. Going after an entertainer like Eminem just serves to demonstrate who the real target of the Bush regime’s post-September 11 action is: the American citizenry. I wonder how many incidents like this it’ll take before people wake up to that fact. (I find it telling that, in the New York Post coverage of the story, they mention a survey in which kids found Eminem’s lyrics more credible than Duh-bya’s speeches. I ain’t saying Eminem’s a standard of truth, but duh — anything’s more believable than one of little George’s speeches.)

Which reminds me — I had a bit of a revelation over the weekend. I’ve been kicking myself trying to figure out how on Earth Shrub could keep inspiring so much support, despite irrefutable evidence that he’s done nothing but use his position to lie to, cheat on, and steal from the American people. Okay, I’ll write off the self-deluded extremists — nothing could get through to that crowd — but come on. People are not that irredeemably stupid. And then it hit me: Their behavior is perfectly consistent... with that of someone in an abusive relationship. No matter how much abuse they take, they refuse to sever the relationship; their capacity for denial is unprecedented. They keep telling themselves that, as bad as he may be, they’d never find anyone better — and maybe they don’t deserve anyone better. And at the heart of it is an underlying belief that it’s their fault — for electing him in the first place, for believing him when he said he’d fight terrorism, for trusting him when he said he’d make them more “secure.” It genuinely changed my outlook — instead of railing against these people, I should probably try encouraging them, restoring their lost self-esteem. You can find someone better. You deserve someone better. It’s not your fault. I’m here for you.

It’s a gradual process, but I’m not going anywhere. Not for another year, anyway.


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