Sunday, January 20, 2013

It’s Time For Controls On The 1st Amendment

Long, long ago, it was said that the pen is mightier then the sword.  Recent events have shown us just how true those words are.  We have seen violent video games – created on computers, the modern day pens – stimulate a troubled young man to kill 26 people, including 20 little children.

Of course this isn’t the only way that the extreme, absolutist view of the First Amendment hurts people.  Recently, a New York newspaper published the names and addresses of gun permit holders.  Now if they had limited themselves to only “normal” gun owners, publishing that data would have been a public service – but they were careless.  They published the names and addresses of cops and prison guards who have gun permits.  Prisoners are already walking up to guards and telling them their exact address – a veiled threat to both them and their families.  Police officers are now worried that people they have arrested know exactly where to come to seek revenge.   The effects of this newspapers actions will be felt for years and will likely cost several lives.  

Then there is the fact that the broadcast media continues to fuel these incidents of mass murder by reporting them, complete with names and details.  Hearing about such murders tends to cause other unbalanced people to plan their own massacres.  If these murders were kept quiet, it is very possible that additional murders could be prevented. 

Violent movies and video games are a direct cause of these incidents.  What good comes from these forms of “entertainment”?  How dare those who enjoy such things claim that they are somehow exercising a constitutional right?  Just because the vast majority of these people watching and playing them experience no ill effects, and in fact find them a pleasant diversion from everyday life, does not mean that they should not be regulated.  If even one life can be saved by banning violent movies and video games, shouldn’t we do it?

Although the courts have allowed a few limits on speech – you cannot libel others or yell fire in a crowded theater – in order to save lives and make a better nation, we need more limits – especially on the out of control internet.  After all, why should anyone be able to hop on the Internet and pretend to be a journalist, any without training, qualifications or a license?  The Internet has been used to distribute directions on how to build guns and bombs from common objects.  It has also been used by both terror and hate groups to recruit new members and to plan attacks.

Speaking of hate groups, the 1st Amendment stands in the way of common sense regulation of religious groups.  Not only does uncontrolled religion contribute to terrorism, it contributes to hate.  Surely, the religions we have allowed to oppose the lifestyles of some people have lead to attacks upon them.  Why should anyone be allowed to simply set up a religious organization, without having to prove they are qualified?  Isn’t that how cults get started, many of which have killed people?  Shouldn’t they have to prove that they are qualified and that their teachers pose no threat to the public?

Then there is the matter of pornography and rape, and sexual murders.  The two are directly linked in many studies.  Pornography degrades women.  It causes addiction in both men and women.  It causes some people to commit rape and murder.  The fact that the vast majority of people who buy and watch porn do not act out in this way is irrelevant.  This is yet another case where this so called “freedom” is costing people their lives. Surely the authors of the 1st Amendment could never have intended that it protect this kind of “speech”.

I could continue and talk about how the media exposes important state secrets, intrudes into people’s private lives (remember how Princess Diana died?), and even bring unsubstantiated charges against the government.   Things are just out of control.

We need to remember that when the 1st Amendment was written, the only media outlet was a single sheet printing press. Each piece of paper had to be inserted one sheet at a time.  Today, automatic presses spit out thousands of sheets per minute.  We have radio and television, we have the Internet, and we have video games.  Surely if the founders could have foreseen these things they would not have allowed such uncontrolled and destructive power.

It’s time for effective controls on speech, religion and the press.  Benjamin Franklin may have said, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”, but why should we listen to him?  As a constitutional professor recently said, “The founders are just a bunch of old white men, who lived over 200 years ago.  Why should we be guided by their words?”

It’s time for us to have the same kind of strict controls on 1st Amendment “rights” as we have on 2nd Amendment “rights”.  If it saves just one life, isn't it worth it?

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