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Argument that First Amendment only applies to Government not restricting speech

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posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 12:26 PM
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Recently I have seen a lot of people on ATS and elsewhere make the point when discussing free speech that the first amendment only applies to the government restricting free speech, thereby making the argument that the first amendment does not apply to situations where individuals and not the government are attempting to shut down speech. A recent example would be in Arizona, where anti-Trump protesters blocked streets in order to prevent people from hearing Trump. Some people are claiming that because this was not the government shutting down people and instead just protesters, this is not a free speech issue. So lets look at the Amendment.

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 peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The amendment does indeed explicitly restrict congress from these actions, so it would seem that perhaps people have a point. I feel that a closer look shows that individuals also do not have the right to curtail your freedom of speech, at least in most situations.

The amendment seems to suggest that people should have the right say what they want, and there was a fear because of dealings with the government in England that the government may eventually censor speech that was critical of themselves. The idea that people should have free speech in general though seems to be implied.

It seems to me ridiculous to suggest that a person then has the right to censor another individual, particularly if it is not on their private property. Sure, if someone comes into your house, and says something you do not like, you can make them leave. The reason for this is not because you have the right to censor others, it is because you have the right to your personal property, and to allow who is on it. If you ask someone to leave and they don't, they have now committed a crime of trespassing.

However, if it is not your property, you have no right to censor another person, unless what the person is saying somehow violates the law (making specific threats or something). We all have the right to free speech, even if people find it offensive. If you think a person has broken the law with their speech, you have the right to call the police, and they will make that determination. You do not have the right to break the law yourself in order to stop someones speech, or stop someone from hearing speech.

The specific situation with the Trump protesters shows how absurd this is. These people broke the law by inhibiting travel on public property, in an attempt to control what people could hear or say. The argument that this is not a free speech issue is ridiculous. It may not be a first amendment issue, but people still have a right to free speech, and private people do not have the right to take that from you.

Look at what the rest of the amendment says, congress shall make no law restricting religion, does that mean well only congress may not do this, therefore as an individual you are free to restrict peoples religion? No, unless it is on your property. How about freedom of the press, individuals should be allowed to restrict it right? Again, no. So why do people keep bringing up that free speech is only from the government?

Lastly, this works both ways. Yes the Trump protesters were breaking the law and should have all been arrested, but that same principal should apply to Trump supporters who have hit people spaeking things they didn't like. You do not have the right to break the law because someone says something you don't like. It is up to the police or owners of the establishment to detain the people, not individuals.




posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 12:32 PM
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Good points. Another issue is the morons who block roadways during their protests. They're actually guilty of a felony, each and every person. They're obstructing interstate commerce.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 12:33 PM
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Your rights end where my rights begin and vice versa.

Just because you have the right to say something. Doesn't mean that someone else has to listen to it.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 12:35 PM
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a reply to: Grambler

Our entire society is diminished by those that seek to suppress discussion...especially on sensitive topics such as race and intolerance. The problem is if people feel they aren't being heard or worse marginalized because of their views these things foment more anger and hatred and not less.

If we want a truly free society (which I do) we need to encourage all people to share their views...even when we might disagree with or find those views offensive. Technically, individuals can sensor others, but it isn't an enlightened position that they might think. In fact they are supporting a form of fascism and hate that they purportedly are trying to avoid.

As a Libertarian I will always take the side of personal liberty even if I don't like what is being said. Only through GIVING OTHERS their personal liberty can we maintain our own.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 12:38 PM
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a reply to: Grambler

The problem is conflating free speech with the First Amendment. One is a universal moral principle, the other is a constitutional law of a particular country.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 01:11 PM
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a reply to: grey580

huh? You have no right to NOT hear something...You have the right to travel, so you don't have to hear something you don't want, but you have no right to stay where someone is exercising their right to free speech and prevent them from speaking...

Jaden



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 01:26 PM
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a reply to: Grambler

Certainly there are laws against blocking roads and such, but the first amendment is solely designed to limit the powers of the government and that is it. So when people correct others by pointing out that it isn't a first amendment issue that does not imply that those people are not breaking the law nor does it imply that their actions are condoned it is simply pointing out that the amendment does not speak to that issue.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 01:37 PM
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If you are an employer and your employee puts something on social media that is controversial, insulting, prejudiced, etc., that employer has the right to fire the employee for potentially causing problems for the company.

If you are a consumer and a company spokesperson makes a public comment that you find offensive, you have the right to boycott said company (and encourage others to boycott), even if it means the company will go out of business.

If you are on social media and you post something that others find insulting, prejudiced, etc., people have the right to respond with their opinion on what you posted, and you may lose friends and make enemies.

Sure, you have the right to say it, but you don't have the right to zero consequences from saying it.

The whole point of the First amendment was to prevent a government from arresting, torturing, or killing someone who said something against the government - not to keep someone's job or company afloat or to keep friends.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 02:22 PM
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a reply to: Grambler

What type of censorship are you talking about? Grabbing someone and putting duct tape on their mouth (assault)? Or do you mean over-shouting someone at a public event in a public place where they are trying to convince other of the rightness of their view?

I don't see that anyone is having their free speech stopped except though lawlessness (blocking roads, assault,etc) which is already illegal.

Please give me an example of how anyone has their (natural?) right of expression suppressed. Does the cure involve suppressing others rights of expression? Can we have it both ways?

Just asking.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 02:34 PM
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Interrupting the democratic election process and intimidating voters from supporting who they wish and hearing the positions of those who are legally running for office goes way beyond limiting free speech.

The Voters Rights Act of 1965 addressed many issues that existed at that time, when people were physically restricted and discriminated in many ways from their right to vote.

Maybe there needs to be a new law addressing these issues today.
Peaceful protesting is fine, but screaming in peoples faces and threatening them, spitting, pulling peoples feet on stairs, putting people down for having differing views - are surely against the basic rights assured in the democratic process.
If people can not support and vote for who they choose, without fear of reprisals and threats of violence, then our entire system will not work.

edit on 3/22/16 by BlueAjah because: spelling



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 02:35 PM
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Can an individual rightfully infringe on the rights of another individual?

Can I, as an individual, stop you from voting?
Can I, as an individual, stop you from assembling?
Can I, as an individual, stop you from purchasing property?

Can I walk up to complete strangers and prohibit them from enter a building?
Can I walk up to a group of people and keep them from assembling?

Can a group of people like myself stand in the way of another group of people that want to exercise their right to vote?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you might belong to #BLM or be a member of MoveOn.com.
edit on 22-3-2016 by DBCowboy because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 02:43 PM
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a reply to: DBCowboy



Can I walk up to complete strangers and tell them that they cannot enter a building?


You can tell them such verbally. That isn't against the law. Actually stopping them with force is against the law.

It has nothing to do with BLM it has everything to do with what the law says.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 02:46 PM
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originally posted by: Grimpachi
a reply to: DBCowboy



Can I walk up to complete strangers and tell them that they cannot enter a building?


You can tell them such verbally. That isn't against the law. Actually stopping them with force is against the law.

It has nothing to do with BLM it has everything to do with what the law says.


I changed the wording to satisfy any grammatical errors, since we are taking this so literally.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 03:11 PM
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originally posted by: BlueAjah
Interrupting the democratic election process and intimidating voters from supporting who they wish and hearing the positions of those who are legally running for office goes way beyond limiting free speech.

The Voters Rights Act of 1965 addressed many issues that existed at that time, when people were physically restricted and discriminated in many ways from their right to vote.

Maybe there needs to be a new law addressing these issues today.
Peaceful protesting is fine, but screaming in peoples faces and threatening them, spitting, pulling peoples feet on stairs, putting people down for having differing views - are surely against the basic rights assured in the democratic process.
If people can not support and vote for who they choose, without fear of reprisals and threats of violence, then our entire system will not work.


That has to do with voter registration and harassment near polling places.

Trump supporters keep attempting to add on to the 1st amendment and the Voting Rights Act, but are still unsuccessful.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 03:25 PM
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a reply to: reldra

That's what I mean. Maybe we need a new law protecting the rights of those who want to gather to hear the views of a candidate for office.
Others should not be allow to prevent people from hearing the candidates views in person.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 03:52 PM
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a reply to: BlueAjah

Stopping people from voting has nothing to do with Freedom of Speech.

What happened in Chicago had nothing to do with stopping people from voting.

What happened in Chicago had nothing to do with the First Amendment.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 04:00 PM
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originally posted by: kaylaluv
a reply to: BlueAjah

Stopping people from voting has nothing to do with Freedom of Speech.

What happened in Chicago had nothing to do with stopping people from voting.

What happened in Chicago had nothing to do with the First Amendment.


It has to do with disorderly conduct, disrupting commerce, interfering with official duties of police and medical personnel, and obstructing justice. It has to do with voter intimidation and suppression. Are they going to block the streets to stop people from voting for Trump next? What happens when he is sworn into office? Are they going to prevent Trump from entering the White House?



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 04:22 PM
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constitutional rights are temporary privileges....example: most of the 4th amendment has been done away with the advent of search and seizure of property before conviction of a crime, wiretaps, personal bank accounts frozen before conviction of a crime, etc.....the "freedom to assemble" in the 1st, is only granted with the permission of law enforcement, otherwise you can be arrested for unlawful assembly. the "freedom of speech" in the 1st, is not allowed if it hurts commerce or reputations, you can be sued or arrested.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 05:29 PM
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originally posted by: Grimpachi
a reply to: Grambler

Certainly there are laws against blocking roads and such, but the first amendment is solely designed to limit the powers of the government and that is it. So when people correct others by pointing out that it isn't a first amendment issue that does not imply that those people are not breaking the law nor does it imply that their actions are condoned it is simply pointing out that the amendment does not speak to that issue.


But often what those people are implying is that you don't have the right to freedom of speech, just the right to not have the government stop your free speech. Therefore, protesters have the right to shut you up, or to stop people from listening to you, and this is not true. I bet many of these protester feel as if they are personally well within their rights to block the road to stop people from hearing an offensive Trump, or to block people from campus in places like the University of Missouri.



posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 05:37 PM
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originally posted by: kaylaluv
If you are an employer and your employee puts something on social media that is controversial, insulting, prejudiced, etc., that employer has the right to fire the employee for potentially causing problems for the company.

If you are a consumer and a company spokesperson makes a public comment that you find offensive, you have the right to boycott said company (and encourage others to boycott), even if it means the company will go out of business.

If you are on social media and you post something that others find insulting, prejudiced, etc., people have the right to respond with their opinion on what you posted, and you may lose friends and make enemies.

Sure, you have the right to say it, but you don't have the right to zero consequences from saying it.

The whole point of the First amendment was to prevent a government from arresting, torturing, or killing someone who said something against the government - not to keep someone's job or company afloat or to keep friends.


Of course there are consequences to what a person says, no one is arguing that. This issue is do private individuals have the right to censor speech they do not like? This is what happened at the Trump rally at Arizona, this is what is happening at universities where groups such as feminists or BLM are barring speakers or press or people of certain colors from entering or speaking.

The first amendment not only says the congress shall not infringe on free speech, but in doing so also implies that people have the right to free speech. For example, it also speaks on religion. Do you believe private individuals have the right to force you to change your religion? The amendment only says congress shall not infringe , so people should be allowed, correct?




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