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Turning the First Amendment on its head

The First Amendment to the Constitution tells the government that it cannot control your speech, but Sarah Palin has managed to turn it completely on its head. To her, the First Amendment is a weapon to be used by the government (that would be her, since as you might recall she is the governor of Alaska and is running to be the VP) to attack the press!

On a Friday morning conservative radio show, Palin said she fears her First Amendment rights may be threatened by “attacks” from reporters who say that she is engaging in a negative campaign against Barack Obama. This is hypocritical on so many different levels that the founding fathers must be spinning in their graves fast enough to solve the energy crisis.

According to her it is OK for her to say that Obama is “palling around with terrorists” and call him a socialist. She said that if the media “convince enough voters that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations, then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”

She seems to think that the First Amendment is designed to protect her from the press, instead of protecting the press from her! And even worse, even though she is the person attacking Obama, she is turning it around to play the part of the victim.

And finally, there are limits to free speech. You cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater, or incite other people to break the law; for example, to riot or to murder someone. So a case could be made that what she is doing at her rallies — where her strong words are inciting people in the crowd to yell “kill him” (and worse) about Obama — do not even count as protected speech.

Instead, Palin’s words border on provocation — committed by a government official. One of the main purposes of the First Amendment is to allow the media to point out such things.

As constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald puts it, “This is actually so dumb that it hurts”.