21 May 2019 at 4:16:12 PM
One issue involves government officials blocking or removing critical comments online. In a sense, this violates the core First Amendment principle that individuals have the right to criticize government officials. In the landmark free-press/libel decision New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), Justice William Brennan wrote that there is a “profound national commitment that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”
The paragraph above is specifically talking about government platforms, and social media platforms, including this blog, are private. The main idea is about whether there is some standard that only nice, agreeable discussion about government officials or that certain procedures have to be followed before one can speak out is permissible. Of course there is not, even though some mistakenly believe that criticism of elected officials must follow some rules arbitrarily believed by a given person. Social Media platform providers may be, though, in the business of censorship, and, because it is not government speech, they are entitled to do so. For example, I simply will not allow someone to come post here with a white supremacy, racist point of view. I own and run this site and I can do this. And I have freedom of the press.
The person who decides to run for public office and is elected, and especially where they have control over how money is spent, is subserviant to the citizens they serve. If the citizen doesn't like what the elected one is doing, he or she has every right to speak up, loudly, vehemently, and however critically he or she wants. That can be in a number of venues, to include public comments at an open government meeting or, for example, using freedom of the press to do so (letters to the editor, postings on a blog, comments on a website). I'm reminded of when Donna Long attended a Somervell County Hospital District meeting and was told by the board president , Ron Hankins, that she was "Monday Morning Quarterbacking" and the very real implication was that if she was going to be there, she needed to keep her opinion to herself. I suppose Ron Hankins would have been happy to have every board member, like rubber stamps, vote with zero disagreement every time. But we elect people who don't necessarily agree. The fact that a person is elected means that there is at least some faction of the public that voted for him or her and likes what they hear. This can, by necessity, create meetings that are messy, spirited, and not ordered according to "Vote: 5/0 everybody agrees". It's up the board president to make sure that the meetings are orderly, which to me means gaveling down people shouting from the audience or otherwise causing disruptions. It doesn't mean shutting up, for conversation, the people on the board or the citizens who come to comment. Their opinions do not have to be the same and it would be arrogant for anyone to assume that they should be. That said, the elected officials, to include Ron Hankins, who behaved poorly at board meetings, ought to have some respect for the proceedings.
Being able to call out points of view that may or may not be in favor with elected officials is patriotic!
P.S. Saw this interesting article today from MDJONLINE.com in Georgia
A Red Oak man has filed a lawsuit against the Adams County Sheriff's Office in federal court alleging his free speech rights were violated.
The ACLU of Iowa brought the suit in the Southern District of Iowa Tuesday on behalf of Jon Richard Goldsmith and names the Adams County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Cory Dorsey and Sergeant Paul Hogan as co-defendants. The suit says in July 2018, Goldsmith attended a ceremony in Corning where he observed Dorsey arrest a man her knew. Goldsmith later posted on the sheriff's office Facebook page, criticizing the handling of the arrest. Goldsmith was then charged with third-degree harassment for the post -- a charge that was later dropped. Goldsmith says he is suing because he is concerned with the actions of the sheriff's department.
"It's a matter of free speech," said Goldsmith. "Adams County should be upholding the law, not breaking it. That includes criticizing them, along with the government. I'm bringing this lawsuit because I'm afraid that if they don't get stopped, they are going to keep charging a lot of people and causing a lot of grief."
"They're used to filing harassment charges against individuals, where two individuals are in the middle of some sort of dispute and a person will repeatedly call or email after being told to stop," said Downey. "That's what they're used to and they forget that when the criticism is directed at them, those sorts of usual criminal actions that they are used to filing against, don't apply to themselves. It's this sort of Facebook post that's absolutely protected, unless there was some sort of true, imminent threat. Any sort of criticism is just something they have to get used to, no matter how much they personally dislike it. The First Amendment absolutely protects that sort of criticism."
freedom of speech
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