‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
I’ve written about this a lot, but I feel we must revisit, because once again, there seems to be some confusion.
You know why I have so little hair on my head? (Genetics?) No, it’s because whenever I get frustrated with people deliberately misinterpreting or misrepresenting my favorite Constitutional Amendment, I rend yet more hair from my tortured noodle. (And if this keeps up, I fear for the future of other body hair as well.) (Sorry for the visual.)
The First Amendment simply says, “Congress shall make no law.” It does not say, “Social media shall publish all posts, regardless of political affiliation. (Especially mine.)” It also doesn’t say, “No one shall be allowed to differ with or otherwise hold a speaker accountable when he or she speaks freely.” It also doesn’t say, “No one shall be allowed to organize boycotts of the sponsors of a speaker for what he or she says.” Nor does it say, “People shall not be held responsible for what they said or wrote when they were a bit more ignorant than they are now.” And it really doesn’t say, “Social media shall never delete a post or the entire account of a current or former U.S. President.”
What prompts this rant is the former President of the United States plans to file a lawsuit against Facebook and Twitter, contending said entities violated his First Amendment rights when they banned him from their platforms. How sad is it that a former president can be this ignorant of the basic founding principles of the nation he once led? That he thinks the governing document of the republic requires publishers to air any and all opinions that may come to his pointed head.
Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.
Please reread the first paragraph of this column. Do you see anything there requiring private publishers to publish any and all submissions? The former president suing Facebook and Twitter for not allowing him to post on their platforms would be like me suing column syndication enterprises, on grounds that they’re Constitutionally required to syndicate anyone who submits their marginal work. It’s like suing the television networks, claiming the Constitution requires them to produce and air any idea submitted to them.
The former president’s lawsuit is especially troubling when you consider the fact that the Internet is such a big place. To give you an idea, there’s an online saying that if something exists, there’s an online porn version of it. With that in mind, if someone online has the industriousness to make a porn of, oh, I don’t know, curling, I dare say the president and his sympathizers are able — and more than welcome — to start their own social media platforms, where they can post and publish their opinions and viewpoints to their hearts’ content, without fear of their posts or accounts being deleted.The plain and simple truth is there’s no law, no regulation, no Constitutional Section or Amendment that says there can’t be any other social media platforms other than Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Yes, those platforms are powerful, because of their sheer size, but anyone with a hare-brained idea and someone who knows how to write code can start an Internet platform. Cases in point: Facebook started as a method by which college nerds could rate girls on campus, Instagram started as just a platform to post photos, and Twitter … well … who knows what the heck inspired that cluster mess?
Simply, the First Amendment doesn’t require publishers to publish everything that’s submitted, but it does protect your basic right to start your own publishing enterprise if you don’t like the ones you’re presently offered. The First Amendment guarantees your right to speak and write as you see fit, but it does NOT require anyone to read or listen. You have a fundamental right to speak, but no one is required to listen.
So please, spare what’s left of the hair on my head, and stop being deliberately ignorant about my favorite Constitutional Amendment. I ain’t got that much more hair to lose, people.