When it comes to the First Amendment, too many people in this country have a distorted sense of what that document actually means.
This is especially true of the liberal elite media which construe the First Amendment in the following manner: 1) Congress shall not make any attempt to censor or diminish the rights of any media outlet--except those dominated by the right. 2) Congress shall not restrict flag burning or any form of pornography. 3) Religious people do not have the right to express their religion in public. 4) Political speech is equal to money and therefore can be censored at whim.
To those who doubt that, take a gander at this recent Kansas City Star editorial, denouncing the new John Roberts court:
The result, made clear in rulings handed down this week and earlier, is empowerment for the powerful and callousness toward individuals.
The session will be remembered for a ruling that allows politicians, rather than women and physicians, to say whether a particular form of late-term abortion is appropriate.
The court’s session will likely be remembered at election time for a ruling this week that could open the door for unions, corporations and other interest groups to spend unlimited amounts of money on ads meant to influence voters but thinly disguised as pronouncements on “issues.”
Framed by Roberts as a victory for free speech, the ruling is a ticket for monied interests to drown out the voices of individuals and groups that heed campaign financing limits.
Putting aside the very questionable "certain type of late-term abortion" defense (it's the right that dare not mention its name), the Star has a strange view of free speech. If we were to apply my hometown newspaper's standard of "monied interests" to the press, the Star itself could be regulated as it is owned by a large media corporation, McClatchy Newspapers. The only ones left unregulated would be bloggers.
But the Star is hardly alone in having such a bizarre reading of the First Amendment. As Jonah Goldberg points out, liberals and media "reformists" have misrecognized what free speech laws really were intended to be:
For a long time, we concluded the best way to protect political speech was to defend other forms of expression - commercial, artistic and just plain wacky - so as to make sure that our core right to political speech was kept safe. Like establishing outposts in hostile territory, we safeguarded the outer boundaries of acceptable expression to keep the more important home fire of political speech burning freely. That's why in the 1960s and 1970s, all sorts of stuff - pornography, strip clubs, etc, - was deregulated by the Supreme Court on the grounds that this was legitimate "expression" of some sort. [...]
[S]uch buffoonery would be pardonable if the grand bargain of defending marginal speech so as to better fortify the protective cocoon around sacrosanct political speech were still in effect. But that bargain fell apart almost from the get-go. At the same moment we were letting our freak flags fly when it came to unimportant speech, we started turning the screws on political speech. After Watergate, campaign finance laws started restricting what independent political groups could say and when they could say it, culminating in the McCain-Feingold law that barred "outside" criticism of politicians when it would matter most - i.e., around an election.
And that's why we live in a world where cutting NEA grants is called censorship, a student's "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" sign is hailed as vital political speech, and a group of citizens asking fellow citizens to petition their elected representatives to change their minds is supposedly guilty of illegal speech.
That is until this week. In one case, the Supreme Court ruled that a student attending a mandatory school event can be disciplined by the school's principal for holding up a sign saying "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," and in another it ruled that a pro-life group can, in fact, urge citizens to contact their senators even if one of the senators happens to be running for re-election. Staggeringly, these were close and controversial calls.