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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Pet Peeve: Politics and Facebook Twaddle

     The right to free speech and the right to join with others in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy and at the core of the First Amendment.  When it comes to political candidates what that means is that they are allowed to say whatever they want.  The exception is hate speech which is defined as any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. Some of the stuff some politicians are saying is probably borderline, but that's not the issue.
     According to the American Civil Liberties Union the rights of political protesters are constitutionally protected in "public forums" such as streets, sidewalks and parks or their expressions may be permitted in public locations that the government has opened up to similar activities. 
     However, on private property the owners may set rules limiting free speech. If anyone disobeys the property owner's rules they can order the offender off their property and have them arrested for trespassing if the protester does not comply. Police are permitted to keep two antagonistic groups separated but should allow them to be within the general vicinity of one another. 
This MUST be true...it's on the Internet
     I see on social media sites a lot of propaganda and fake news stories that are fueling hate among various groups of people. The last one I saw was at a candidate's rally where protesters were escorted (against their will...they did not go peacefully) out of the auditorium (private property) and the comments about the candidate were all negative. I don't know anything about the man, but given all the video editing and Photoshopping I see, there is simply no way of knowing what led up to his derogatory statements to and about his detractors or whether or not the video was even legitimate. 
     Also, this candidate, like most of them, was NOT on public property; he was in a rented facility. Therefore, he (and the owners) had a right to have the protesters who were disrupting his speech escorted off the property. Further, to avoid potential violence, police had an obligation to separate the protesters. In this case the police were not involved, but rather private security. 
     What peeves me is 1) the gullibility of the simpletons who think that if it's on social media it's true and let these video clips and photos guide their thinking and 2) they are uninformed about even the most basic laws. 
     Social media can be a great tool and a fun place, but too many people let the hearsay, half-truths and outright lies they see be the source of what they base their opinions and beliefs on. Off course, responsible news outlets are not above trying to upstage their rivals with incomplete news stories and are prone to sensationalize things just to get viewers and readership. The result can be that they incite people in the process just like social media.
     Local on air news reporters are often clownish, too. I wish they would go back and watch men like Douglas Edwards and Walter Cronkite to see how news should be delivered. 

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