Rethink The 1st Amendment?


In light of the latest example in the New Zealand massacre in which at least forty nine people were gunned down while the alleged gunner broadcast via the Internet platforms not only his intentions but delighted in exhibiting pictures of his massacre I am for rethinking this most important safeguard for the freedoms we  have enjoyed in our Country.

For years people have asked me how the news business has changed in my working (and non-working) lifetime. I always have begun my answer by saying every change in what we consider news, in how to package and deliver news, was preceded by a change in technology.

From the simplest of things – the ability of new cameras to broadcast color on television to the emergence of Cable to the World Wide Internet delivery we have adopted (meaning we have changed) how we think of what is news and how we deliver it.

I’m saying this in our own USA system, the (modified) capitalist system in which the profit motive is very important, if let loose out of hand (oh please deregulate some more)  the most important motive.

I learned to move from Here’s what we journalists think is important for you to know to What would you like to hear. Want to know about who is Jlowe’s latest boyfriend instead of the latest movement in controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons, no problem. We can package “Jlow” as an important example of societal movement for a changing time and lead with it.

Which brings us to Facebook and Twitter and Google and those other methods for giving everybody, I mean everybody their ability to communicate.

So, isn’t that good?

Almost the day before yesterday, I might have said Yes. Remember, I’m a 1st Amendment guy.

Today, I say No. If you want to go up into the Sandia Mountains where I live in New Mexico and amid “baying at the moon” spew forth your hatred and twisted concept of human life, perhaps okay. Speak to the coyotes and occasional cougar.

But I would strip you of your “1st Amendment” rights to take to the Internet with your hatred and despicable speech which leads to violence. And the Platforms that you have been using must, by force of law if necessary, employ whatever technology available and at whatever cost to them to stop you, to render you silent!

Yes, I know, I am advocating that the meaning of the 1st Amendment which was designed to protect unpopular speech be changed to protect only speech that does not incite to violence and hatred and murder and that those who wish to speak it be banned from modern technology ability to do so.

And if you tell me how difficult it would be to know where to draw the line precisely, I fall back on Justice Potter Stewarts famous reply when asked how to define hard core pornography.

He said I can’t give you an all embracing definition, but “I know it when I see it.”

In the case of the suspect in the Australian massacre, we surely could have known it in his pre-massacre writings when we saw it.

And rendered him silent!

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