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Lt. Governor Of Pennsylvania Doesn’t Know The First Amendment.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman spoke the other day and offered this gem:

“This idea that saying that Pennsylvania was ‘rigged’ or that we were ‘trying to steal the election,’ that’s a lie,” Fetterman told The Hill. “And you do not have the right, that is not protected speech.”

Fetterman argued that tweets by President Trump echoing the false claim should have been removed by Twitter “immediately” and insisted such an action was “not de-platforming” but rather “deleting lies that are yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater when there is none.”

“That is not protected speech,” Fetterman doubled down. “He can talk all day about what his favorite football team is or that he’s the greatest president in the history of the world, but no one — Republican, Democrat, or whatever — has the right to say those kind of incendiary lies.”

Sharyl Atkisson tweeted back:

And of course, she is right.

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of United States v. Alvarez.

The case arose out of the 2005 version of the “Stolen Valor Act” in which a person could be arrested and convicted for lying about or wearing military awards and decorations. In addition, the act made illegal false statements about military service.

Xavier Alvarez lied about his service and his being awarded the Medal of Honor. He’s a lying scum for making such a claim, but whether mere lying was illegal and not afforded protection under the First Amendment was what the Court addressed.

The Justices wrote:

Content-based restrictions on speech have been permitted only for a few historic categories of speech, including incitement, obscenity, defamation, speech integral to criminal conduct, so-called “fighting words,” child pornography, fraud, true threats, and speech presenting some grave and imminent threat the Government has the power to prevent.

Claiming that an election was rigged or stolen doesn’t fall into any of those categories which means that Trump’s claims on the election were protected speech. Furthermore, other courts have held political speech – even speech that is false – is protected.

The general rule of thumb is that speech is not protected when it directly causes harm to others (libel, slander, etc) or serves a “criminal purpose” such as fraud.

The fact that Fetterman is stating a lie to cause unrest leads to the interesting question of “under his interpretation of the First Amendment, isn’t his speech not protected?”

We would say it is because of the First Amendment. He would claim it is because he said it and it is not hypocritical to demand others do what he will not. (It is, but that is another story for another day.)

Interestingly, another person is weighing in on this:

Earlier this week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., floated a congressional “commission” to “rein in” the media’s role in spreading what lawmakers would determine is “disinformation and misinformation.”

Think about that for a moment.

Ocasio-Cortez is basically demanding a “speech approval” commission by the government.

Nothing can go wrong with that, can it?

Oy vey.



2 Responses to “Lt. Governor Of Pennsylvania Doesn’t Know The First Amendment.”

  1. Percy says:

    While not claiming to understand all the subtle nuances of the First Amendment I’ve always thought one of it’s chief purposes is to allow the people to speak their minds freely against a government (or others) they disagreed with and have their opinions heard. This sets us apart from many tyrannical governments that do not allow such freedoms. The idea that some want free speech to be regulated and controlled by the government (or any other entity) should scare us all.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Percy,

      Thanks for the comment.

      That really is the purpose of the First Amendment – the exchange of information and ideas even if one disagrees with them.

      There are exceptions of course such as obscenity, fraud, child pornography, speech that incites imminent lawless action, speech that violates intellectual property law, and true threats.

      However, for the most part speech is pretty open as it should be.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.

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