Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Individual Right To Not Be Lied About Transferred In A Privilege For The Ubiquitous Media To Lie With Impunity

The insight that I took from what Pope Francis said is an important point.  When the United States Supreme Court under Earl Warren gave permission to the media to lie about people, he and his colleagues were, in fact, giving them a privilege to lie that came at the expense of the right of those they lied about to not be lied about.   They were transforming what was a right under libel laws -  to force those who lied about someone to correct the lie and to compensate the person they lied about - they turned that into a privilege for the corporate media.  They were, actually, destroying a personal right in favor of a corporate privilege, in the actual case of Times vs. Sullivan.   Though it more generally transferred the right to not be lied about into a privilege for individuals who lied, as well.

That right is the right to not have your personal life, your personal conduct, your public conduct, misrepresented so that people who don't know it will think badly of you.   If you don't think that is a right I can guarantee you that it is something you would know was one if it happened to you and lies ruined your reputation.

Since Supreme Courts, both left and right, have been in the business of creating privileges and calling them "rights"  based in manipulating the language of various amendments and clauses in the Constitution,  you can pretty well guess their motives by what they did and who benefited from it.  Though in the case of the Warren Court, by 1964 I think its members were so enamored with their practice of setting up landmark cases that that was also a motive for what they did.   And it was certainly something that they knew would get them good press, it being the New York Times and, really, all of media and the scribbling class that they were privileging.   Would those dolts have done it if they realized that it would largely enable the corporate right, racists, liars, those who would profit from lying?  I don't know.  There was a time when I would have suspected the "liberal" Warren Court might have been a bit sobered by the history of the next fifty years but, really, I'm not all that convinced of the actual liberalism of many of the justices we were sold by the media.

The glory decisions of the Warren court in racial equality that they make movies about are certainly being obliterated by the results of their decision in Times v. Sullivan.

After fifty years of the media hammering at liberals, they lost elections to the very people who the Sullivan decision ruled against.  That result began almost as soon as the decision was handed down.   Republican presidents appointed the enemies of racial equality to the Court.  The first president elected after that ruling, the Republican Richard Nixon appointed the active, voter intimidating, racist, William Rehnquist who, with other Republicans subsequently appointed by other beneficiaries of lies told about liberal politicians.   That line of direct and indirect beneficiaries of the privilege to lie about liberal politicians has signed the death warrant for the Voting Rights Act, major portions of the Civil Rights Act, they have been gradually chipping away at other major rulings of the Warren period and, in the Trump regime, will certainly accelerate their wholesale destruction of past liberal accomplishment in favor of oligarchic privilege.  Anyone who thought, seriously, about what was at stake for the free press in that decision - the need to fact check before they published - would have realized how much was sacrificed so that a major newspaper could avoid a minimal cost of fact checking before they published.  That, I was once taught, was a basic responsibility for a 6th grader writing a history paper.  The Warren Court exempted the most august newspaper in the country from that responsibility.   The most tragically short-sighted and foolishly ill-considered results of that are what we are living through, today.   The media, left to right have certainly not shown themselves to be even responsible enough to honestly consider their role in it.

There was no move by the people who wrote the unfortunately truncated, minor 18th century poetry of our Constitution to abolish civil actions for libel, they obviously saw that there was a right to not be lied about.  It is, in fact, a right that is far more explicit in the Bible than its negation is implicit in the First Amendment.  "Thou shalt not bear false witness,"  joins other such commandments about respecting the rights of other people as those against depriving someone of their property or their marriage or even their due respect.  When someone libels someone, they are, in fact, robbing them of the reality of their life, their conduct, their own restraint from doing wrong.  That is especially true in the pile-on, amplified rumor mongering factories of 24-7 news and, even worse, social media.

The continuing education in what happens when a Supreme Court ruling transfers a personal right into a corporate privilege is about to take the most serious turn it has in fifty years.  We are about to have a government by an overt fascist-strongman who is appointing an executive branch filled with pirates, gangsters, thugs and right-wing fascist nutcases.  And there is little to no chance that the legislative branch is going to be a check on them, it being already filled with those by other court rulings gutting the Voting Rights Acts and permitting the Republican partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts.   The Supreme Court has been the source of the most serious dangers to democracy in the history of the country, their often dodgy history, Dred Scott, Plessy, etc.  has been topped by a series of decisions by courts right and left which could enslave us all.   This is dead serious stuff, the old bromides and slogans that the left had substituted for hard thinking,  the First Amendment as interpreted by lawyers in the pay of some media corporation and publicity addled justices won't work to protect us.  If you think I'm exaggerating, check in after a few years of Trumpian fascism and see what you think then.

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