Every time somebody gets fired for something they said or wrote, such as recently when blogger Paul Shirley was fired by ESPN for making retarded comments about Haiti, there's usually an interminable supply of Constitutionally confounded news commentators yammering about the First Amendment—such as CNN's Joy Behar, who said, “I don't think he should be fired for [exercising] free speech. I'm strict about the First Amendment.”
It always perplexes me whenever somebody in the media (read: a person who makes a living from free speech) doesn't know what the goddamn First Amendment is. Anybody with fewer than three lobotomies to their name knows that terminating someone for expressing their opinion does not violate their First Amendment rights. In fact, the opposite is true. It would be an act of censorship if ESPN was prohibited from firing Shirley, because ESPN, like all networks, has rights, too, including the right to shitcan serially lobotomized news commentators who don't understand what protected speech is.
For someone who is so “strict” about the First Amendment, Ms. Behar sure does have a pretty lame understanding. She's not alone. You hear it over and over again—all these talking heads screeching, “What ever happened to free speech!?” every time somebody loses a job for expressing an opinion. And this is from news personnel—anchors, commentators, writers—people who are supposed to, you know, know shit and shit.
I'd understand if it were, say, the 11th Amendment that put their brains in a barrel hitch (“The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity or blah blah blah blah...”) or even the 23rd Amendment (“The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as yada yada yada...”). But we're talking about the First Amendment here. It's first! It's the amendment upon which all the other amendments were built—the foundation amendment. When the First Amendment breaks wind, all the other amendments look up from what they're doing and say, “Hey now! Who brought me flowers?” The First Amendment directly affects every one of us in such a crucial, tangible manner that it's unlike any other amendment, and, really, what kind of constitutional retard doesn't know what the dang thing means?
Question: Little Joey Munson runs a lemonade stand on his block. However, Joey is afraid of cooties and refuses to serve girls, forcing LemCorp (the company that owns the lemonade stand) to terminate Joey's employment. Were his First Amendment rights violated?
Answer: No. There is nothing illegal about firing ignorant, insubordinate cootiephobes.
Q: At the expense of journalistic ethics, a cable television network—let's call it “POX News”—exhibits severe bias toward a certain political party. POX News demands that its staff support the bias or be fired. Are the staff's First Amendment rights being violated?
A: No. POX is a private corporation and can climb into bed with Satan and take turns lighting each other's farts for all the Constitution cares.
Q: The management at an alternative-news magazine—let's call it “PrettyBeat”—is upset with one of its columnists. The columnist routinely makes fart jokes to appeal to a lowbrow audience. PrettyBeat instructs the columnist to lose the fart jokes, but the columnist refuses (not on principle but, rather, because fart jokes are all he knows) and is fired. Is the paper violating the columnist's First Amendment rights?
A: Duh, no. Again, PrettyBeat has rights too.
Q: A bartender arrives to work in a shirt that depicts a burning flag. His boss tells him to take it off or go home because it irritates the shitkickers. Was the bartender's First Amendment rights violated?
A: No! It's the owner's right not to alienate redneck customers. Who could blame him? Shitkickers can booze!
Q: A public park has a sign that depicts a person flapping their left arm with their right hand burrowed in the armpit—to produce a sound similar to that which originates from the anal opening. The image on the sign has a circle with a line through it, indicating that you may not make such a sound in the park. Is this a violation of the First Amendment?
A: Yessir! The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that arm-farting is protected speech (People v. JoJo the Clown). As long as you do not use armpit farts to incite violence and you do not fart falsely in a crowded movie theater, you are free to indulge yourself on public property.
So, how'd you do on my little quiz? I should think you scored a 100 percent, especially if you're a member of the news media. I mean, really, if they're going to allow you to be on TV, shouldn't you have a basic understanding of free frickin speech? I think Congress should enact a law decreeing that any person with a public platform—whether on TV, radio or print—who does not wholly understand the First Amendment, will immediately be fired and, um—uh-oh. Scratch that. Doing so would actually be a violation of the First Amendment, which means I would have to be fired for recommending it. Crap! I sure hope my editor doesn't noti—Columnist terminated. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. For whom the bell tolls, visit www.edwindecker.com.