The Beginning of the End of Free Speech

I made the mistake of listening to the news again…well, at least I got a blog post out of it.

 This week, the Supreme Court (which now has a conservative majority, with John Roberts as chief justice and Samuel Alito on the bench) handed down two decisions that further undermined the American democracy.

In the first decision, the court decided to overturn a precedent set some years back. This precedent held that corporate and union funding of particular political candidates was not a form of free speech, and therefore was not protected by the First Amendment. Well, it was nice while it lasted. Now, corporations, unions, and interest groups can run as many advertisements as they want for a candidate, the only constraint being that they must not use the phrase “Vote for this candidate.” Somehow, I don’t think being unable to come out and say it explicitly is going to stop the corrupt corporate money from influencing the outcome of elections.

With this piece of legislation, some of my greatest fears have been realized. The automotive lobby will now have a much easier time trying to weed out potentially environmentally-conscious candidaes. The insurance lobby will be able to eliminate candidates who support universal healthcare. As if that wasn’t bad enough, now we’re going to be swamped by even more political advertisements than before. By the end of election season, I’m pretty sure I will have gouged my own eyes out.

The second decision to which I referred was, in my mind at least, a greater blow to American political freedoms. The supreme court upheld a decision by a lower court limiting the free-speech rights of students in cases where those rights contradict the policies of the student’s school. This followed on the heels of a court battle that erupted when a student displayed a banner reading “Bong hits 4 Jesus.”

To many people, this may seem completely insignificant. But to someone who was a public-school student not so long ago, this is a terrible blow. For the latter half of my school career, I became more and more annoyed at the serious suppression of the constitutional rights of young people. We were treated like second-class citizens, if we were considered citizens at all. We were continually subjected to meaningless and unfair rules. Every day, we were reminded that we didn’t have any right to free speech, or any right to peacably assemble. It was intolerable.

Now, admittedly, many students would, given these freedoms, simply make trouble. But it’s still not fair to suppress all the students, many of whom are politically conscious and actively want these rights. Now, though, the suppression has gotten even worse. Students are going to feel more and more like their school is a totalitarian prison, which I’m sure many of them already do. How is this conducive to education.

What’s worse, though, is the possibility of government-sanctioned silencing of what is often the most politically-active sector of a society: the young. The young are our only hope for change, for progress, but that isn’t going to happen. Not if we condition them to get used to a system in which they have no rights.

This may seem a bit extreme, and probably quite paranoid, but as usual, it’s just food for thought…


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