Occupy the Courts: The Irony of Protesting Against Free Speech

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Exercising their right to free speech to argue against free speech

Morning Edition on NPR ran a segment on the many protests today against free speech held in honor of the second anniversary of Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. The protests are organized by the Occupy the Courts movement which aims to amend the Constitution in order to gut the First Amendment's protection of free speech. Amusingly, the NPR segment does include this great line about today's anti-free speech demonstrations from Institute for Justice attorney Steve Simpson:

"People banding together in groups and exercising their right to free speech, to protest a court decision that held that people should be able to band together in groups and exercise their right to free speech — that's a little bit ironic."

Ironic? Well, yes. 

For more background, read my colleague Jacob Sullum's brilliant article on the Citizens United case, You Are Now Free to Speak About Politics.

NEXT: Sheldon Richman on SOPA and Internet Censorship

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  1. Were any corporations there counter-protesting?

    If corporations are people, Mitt Romney is a serial killer.

    1. It’s entirely possible that many of the people there were shareholders in, or workers for, corporations.

      Consider the fact that lots of charities and political groups are organized as non-profit corporations.

      Which is precisely what Citizen’s United was. A non-profit corporation formed by a political group to facilitate financing of political speech.

      1. The author is assuming money=free speech. Occupy believes differently. 95% of all elections are won by the candidate who spends the most money during the campaign, does that sound like a democracy to you? To continue allowing money to decide who will represent us or what laws shall be passed is in fact already destroying our government, something that should be obvious to anybody who pays attention to politics.

        1. I’m sure you didn’t consider the corresponding situation where 95% of elections are won by incumbents…

  2. Hopefully the occupiers were all hipsters.

  3. Corporations and the rich are icky, and their speech is even ickier.

    1. Hello.

    2. See, that’s not the point. The point is that in the public square it is possible to drown out all other voices, and Citizen’s United allows that to happen with no accountability.

      Essentially the Citizen’s United decision was the government — in this case the Supreme Court — eroding free speech by allowing people with big bullhorns to shout down people with laryngitis.

      That’s not free speech. That’s government acquiescing to censorship.

      1. Hmm, the First Amendment clearly states “Congress shall make NO LAW…”

        There isn’t an * that says “but unless we think it serves some misguided public interest”. No, it says Congress shall make NO LAW abridging the right to free speech.

        You have a right to speak out, not a right to be heard.

        1. The author is assuming money=free speech. Occupy believes differently. 95% of all elections are won by the candidate who spends the most money during the campaign, does that sound like a democracy to you? To continue allowing money to decide who will represent us or what laws shall be passed is in fact already destroying our government, something that should be obvious to anybody who pays attention to politics.

      2. So the solution to that is for the government to embrace censorship?

        Take SOPA for example. Without the protections of citizens united, Google and Wikipedia could not have said a word about it since they would have no freedom of speech. Without Citizens, the government can just ban any corporation saying anything about any issue.

        You really think that is going to work out well?

      3. Thanks for the lulz, noob.

      4. If your concern is speakers drowning out other voices, then you would also ban the Tea Party rallies, Occupiers, Union Walker recall rallies, etc.?
        Seems the annoying behavior has nothing to do with whether or not the speech is organized by a group of citizens acting in partnership or acting as a corporation.

      5. Life is not fair; life cannot be made fair; because life is random.

        Some people are born with lots of marbles; others aquire lots of marbles during their lives; most are born with few and acquire few. Government cannot actually change that without destroying most, if not all, of the marbles.

      6. Good point if a person burns a flag they draw more attention to their cause. Therefore we need an amendment to ban flag burning.

      7. In the digital era with myriad avenues for expression that cannot be easily drowned out, your public square analogy rings hollow.

      8. Please explain how I am shouting you down if I produce an anti-hillary clinton documentary.

      9. So, Nathan…you mean corporations like Newscorp, the NYT, etc. that have controlled the debate for 100+ years?

        1. For some reason, that comment reminds me of the “Winners. . .like Vietnam?” bit from A Fish Called Wanda.

      10. I suppose it’s never occured to you that the “people with laryngitis” could pool their resources together (kind of like a corporashun!!!!!!11!!) so that they could “buy a bigger bullhorn”, to continue the tortured analogy. Which, ironically, is pretty much what these fucktards are doing (I may not agree with the fucktards, but they do have the right to spew their idiocy as much as the next group of fucktards).

        The government isn’t acquiescing to censorship at all because noone’s lost their free speech rights because of citizens united.

        Censorship would be the other way around, but I guess some people are fine are with that as long as they’re not the ones being censored.

        1. The author is assuming money=free speech. Occupy believes differently. 95% of all elections are won by the candidate who spends the most money during the campaign, does that sound like a democracy to you? To continue allowing money to decide who will represent us or what laws shall be passed is in fact already destroying our government, something that should be obvious to anybody who pays attention to politics.

      11. “Essentially the Citizen’s United decision was the government — in this case the Supreme Court — eroding free speech by allowing people with big bullhorns to shout down people with laryngitis.”

        Yes, what a catastrophe it would be if a tiny documentary maker were allowed to drown out CNN, Fox, NBC, with its giant megaphone.

        You know that, whatever its wider implications, Citizens United was about a simple case of political censorship, right?

        1. Our ability to compartmentalize is legendary. We ignore the fact we support censorship though we are as a matter of principle against censorship because there is a higher principal involved — our corporate crony masters in Big Media and Academia.

  4. onetime my stomach hurt real bad and I went to the hospital and a doctor pulled a green army man out of my butt.

    1. I like what you have wtitten and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

      1. Why subscribe? Sarcasmic The “rather” spoofer provides it here, hassle-free.

    2. Does spoofing run contrary to the NAP?

  5. “d” is NOT “P!”

    “d” with part of the Winnipeg Jets logo pasted on it is NOT “R!”

    http://www.devry.edu

  6. It’s not ironic. You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater, so there are limits to free speech.

    You also can’t stand in a public square and scream and shout and play loud music so no one else can be heard or speak. That is the effect of Citizen’s United.

    I am often astonished that people are so opposed to the GOVERNMENT restricting their freedoms, but they are happy to let corporations, the rich, churches or others do it to them.

    It seems it’s not about freedom, but about government. To me that makes no sense.

    1. Why don’t you just be honest and say no one has a right to say anything you object to.

      1. Why don’t you just be honest

        Have you ever met an honest left-tard? They’ll bitch and moan and bleat incessantly about free speech and quote Voltaire and all that shit when team Red is in charge, but as soon their team is running the show it’s sit down, shut up, and let the “adults” talk. Hypocrits piss me right the fuck off.

    2. “It’s not ironic. You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater, so there are limits to free speech.”

      Said a facist Supreme Court justice that was trying to justify a facist president’s decision to throw people in jail that opposed World War I. Holmes was wrong, period.

      “You also can’t stand in a public square and scream and shout and play loud music so no one else can be heard or speak. That is the effect of Citizen’s United.”

      That’s not an appropriate analogy. You don’t have to listen to or be swayed by PAC ads. You are, after all, and I know this is absurd and heretical to Occutards, a free thinking individual that should be left to make your decisions.

    3. You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater

      You can if there’s a fire in it. Even when it isn’t crowded.

      1. Nathan can yell fire in a crowded theater. People will probably ignore it, or kick its ass.

        1. onetime I yelled movie in a crowded firehouse.

    4. The fact that someone or many someones can speak louder than me by spending money doesn’t bother me at all, because they can’t stop me, alone or in conjunction with others, from speaking as well. The government, on the other hand, if not almost completely constrained from doing so, can stop me.

      This idea that businesses, churches, rich people, unions, whatever have anywhere near the power of the government to actually oppress people is horribly wrong. Even when, say, a business does something really oppressive, it almost always does so through the connivance of the government. It’s the government we should fear, not the various influences on it.

      1. Even when, say, a business does something really oppressive, it almost always does so through the connivance of the government.

        Actually, in my experience, most of the time corporations make decisions that really screw over their customers they are forced to do so to comply with government regulations.

        It is instructive that the two industries the occupy folks criticize the most are financial and insurance. They happen to be industries very heavily regulated by the government.

    5. “You also can’t stand in a public square and scream and shout and play loud music”

      Have you ever seen a protest rally?

    6. Are you shaving yet Nathan?

      1. I’ll shave Nathan’s yet.

    7. “You also can’t stand in a public square and scream and shout and play loud music so no one else can be heard or speak.”

      Really? Because there are a bunch of occupiers just down the street who have been taking over a public park for a few months now. Every week or so they march by my office banging drums and yelling. And they have a police escort with them. I must have been hallucinating.

    8. “I am often astonished that people are so opposed to the GOVERNMENT restricting their freedoms, but they are happy to let corporations, the rich, churches or others do it to them.

      It seems it’s not about freedom, but about government. To me that makes no sense.”

      You’re going to have to take that one up with the dead guys who wrote the first amendment. They wrote “Congress shall make no law…,” not corporations, the rich, and churches shall make no law.

  7. That is the effect of Citizen’s United.

    Of course it is.

  8. You also can’t stand in a public square and scream and shout and play loud music so no one else can be heard or speak. That is the effect of Citizen’s United.

    Yeah, what reddit and Wikipedia did yesterday was wrong! They shouldn’t be allowed to do anything ever, except what I want them to do.

    1. The point is that in the public square it is possible to drown out all other voices, and Citizen’s United allows that to happen with no accountability.

      Essentially the Citizen’s United decision was the government — in this case the Supreme Court — eroding free speech by allowing people with big bullhorns to shout down people with laryngitis.

      It’s totally not fair that the New York Times has more readership than my tumblr page. I demand that my voice be heard.

      1. “But the NYT is a corporation that’s dedicated to selling ne…promoting the truth! So they always have a right to free speech! You’re just some guy who might lie!”

  9. If Citizens United had been able to show that video about Hillary no could ever have spoken again.

  10. Feed a troll, go to jail.

    1. My jail or yours?

  11. Never forget:

    Citizens United went to court *only* after a group of citizens made a movie critical of a Democrat presidential candidate.

  12. All I really need to know about Citizens’ United is who is most outraged by it; incumbents and establishmentarians.

  13. “People banding together in groups and exercising their right to free speech, to protest a court decision that held that people should be able to band together in groups and exercise their right to free speech ? that’s a little bit ironic.”

    But, but the corporashunz!!!!! They’re steeling our democrasy!!!!

    What a bunch of morons.

  14. We could have a lot less of these imbeciles today if you hadn’t ragged on my ass so hard.

    1. Speaking of ragging your ass, Oliver, bend the fuck over, it’s that time of the day again.

  15. “People banding together in groups and exercising their right to free speech, to protest a court decision that held that people should be able to band together in groups and exercise their right to free speech ? that’s a little bit ironic.”

    Except that’s not what CU is about. CU is about people banding together, incorporating under state law, and then using this newly created entity, which of course is separate and distinct from its members, to “speak,” as if anything other than a human being can speak. This is why CU antagonists are right but for the wrong reasons. Corporations, including nonprofits, are not people. They are by definition distinct entities, and not human. Nonhumans can’t speak, and therefore aren’t entitled to the benefit of the First Amendment. Libertarian defense of CU continues to miss the mark.

  16. Hmm, let’s see:

    “People banding together in groups and exercising their right to free
    speech, to protest a court decision that held that people should be able
    to band together in groups and exercise their right to free speech ?
    that’s a little bit ironic.”

    That’s Steve Simpson quoted approvingly by Ronald Bailey. Apparently we
    have two “libertarians” who cannot distinguish between:

    (1) Corporations — authoritarian, hierarchical organizations formed by
    government-granted charter that gives these “collectivist legal
    entities”, these legal fictions, various state-granted privileges.

    And:

    (2) The occupy movement, which consists of individuals gathering
    together in libertarian and egalitarian groups organized by consensus
    decision-making, that happen to oppose the privileges granted to
    corporations by the government, such as giving the legal fiction the
    rights of a persons (human beings), in this case free speech. If they
    had their way, people would still be perfectly free to band together in
    groups and exercise their right to free speech — just without
    state-granted privileges.

    So, a more factually accurate account might be “People banding together
    in groups and exercising their right to free speech, to protest a court
    decision that granted the rights of human persons to legal fictions as
    yet one more instance of government-granted corporate privilege.”

    Anyway, Simpson and Bailey seem to be committing the error of “vulgar
    libertarianism” — confusing our current state-corporate capitalist
    system with a truly free market.

  17. The author is assuming money=free speech. Occupy believes differently. 95% of all elections are won by the candidate who spends the most money during the campaign, does that sound like a democracy to you? To continue allowing money to decide who will represent us or what laws shall be passed is in fact already destroying our government, something that should be obvious to anybody who pays attention to politics.

    1. And banning Super Pacs will make elections, not be decided by money?

      What Occupy thinks doesn’t matter, they are Socialists who want more handouts and bailouts.

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