January 22, 2010

On the day that the Supreme Court struck down a U.S. statute as a violation of free speech, Hillary Clinton was promoting free speech on the internet...

... criticizing other countries.

Here are some excerpts... that is: everything she said about blogs:
Blogs, emails, social networks, and text messages have opened up new forums for exchanging ideas, and created new targets for censorship....

[V]iral videos and blog posts are becoming the samizdat of our day....

Some nations.... have co-opted the internet as a tool to target and silence people of faith. Last year, for example, in Saudi Arabia, a man spent months in prison for blogging about Christianity....

QUESTION: Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang with BPSOS. We serve Vietnamese Americans and work with Vietnamese in Vietnam. While your initiative will take some time to take effect, just recently, in recent months, the Vietnamese Government sentenced several bloggers to five years all the way to 16 years in prison. So what does your office plan to do, and how the U.S. Government can confront such an emergency situation in Vietnam?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have publicly spoken out against the detention, conviction, and imprisonment of not only the bloggers in Vietnam, but some of the Buddhist monks and nuns and others who have been subjected to harassment.
Vietnam has made so much progress, and it’s just moving with great alacrity into the future, raising the standard of living of their people. And we don’t believe they should be afraid of commentary that is internal. In fact, I would like to see more governments, if you disagree with what a blogger or a website is saying, get in and argue with them. Explain what it is you’re doing. Put out contrary information. Point out what the pitfalls are of the position that a blogger might be taking.
So I hope that Vietnam will move more in that direction, because I think it goes hand in hand with the progress that we’ve seen in the last few years there. ...
Governments should not be afraid of commentary that is internal. If government doesn't like what people are saying get in and argue with them. Explain what it is you’re doing. Put out contrary information.

Yes. We not only have a First Amendment here in America, we believe in the rights it guarantees. We think other countries' governments ought to embrace the same principles. Come on, everybody! It's great! The marketplace of ideas.

Meanwhile, over at the White House, the President of the United States had a statement, released immediately upon the issuance of a new Supreme Court opinion strengthening free speech rights:
With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington--while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That's why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.
A forceful response to a Supreme Court decision recognizing the importance of free speech. It would have been even more painfully funny if Hillary Clinton had also, in her speech yesterday, promoted the American values of separation of powers and an independent judiciary.

Here's the ending of Justice Kennedy's opinion for the Court in Citizens United v. FEC:
When word concerning the plot of the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington reached the circles of Government, some officials sought, by persuasion, to discourage its distribution.... Under Austin [the case the Court overrules], though, officials could have done more than discourage its distribution—they could have banned the film. After all, it, like Hillary, was speech funded by a corporation that was critical of Members of Congress. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington may be fiction and caricature; but fiction and caricature can be a powerful force.
Yes, ironically, the Citizens United case was about a movie called "Hillary" that criticized Hillary Clinton.
Modern day movies, television comedies, or skits on Youtube.com might portray public officials or public policies in unflattering ways. Yet if a covered transmission during the blackout period creates the background for candidate endorsement or opposition, a felony occurs solely because a corporation, other than an exempt media corporation, has made the “purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money or anything of value” in order to engage in political speech. 2 U. S. C. §431(9)(A)(i).
Congress criminalized some political speech. But Hillary would like to apply moral pressure to countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam who imprisoned people for political speech.
Speech would be suppressed in the realm where its necessity is most evident: in the public dialogue preceding a real election. Governments are often hostile to speech, but under our law and our tradition it seems stranger than fiction for our Government to make this political speech a crime. Yet this is the statute’s purpose and design.
I added that boldfacing.
Some members of the public might consider Hillary to be insightful and instructive; some might find it to be neither high art nor a fair discussion on how to set the Nation’s course; still others simply might suspend judgment on these points but decide to think more about issues and candidates. Those choices and assessments, however, are not for the Government to make. “The First Amendment underwrites the freedom to experiment and to create in the realm of thought and speech. Citizens must be free to use new forms, and new forums, for the expression of ideas. The civic discourse belongs to the people, and the Government may not prescribe the means used to conduct it.”....
And our government is developing a forceful response to that. Brilliant. Idiots.

55 comments:

miller said...

Speech that criticizes the President is not free.

Harsh Pencil said...

Four Supreme Court justices are just fine with criminalizing political speech.

It's not much use having a Constitution when one party puts in judges which 1) refuse to enforce the plain meaning of the Constitution when doing so fails to achieve their political objectives and 2) make stuff up regarding what is in the Constitution in order to achieve their political objectives.

Constitutional law has become a bad joke.

shoutingthomas said...

Wall Street banks and insurance companies contributed a fortune to Obama's presidential campaign.

The Obama bailed them out as payback.

Now, he wants us to believe that the people who bankrolled him, the people he bailed out, are his enemies.

This man is a profound liar.

rhhardin said...

It's possible it's just part of Obama's very necessary business demonization and not particularly about free speech.

The nation's interest is always in second place with Obama.

Palladian said...

"The nation's interest is always in second place with Obama."

Or third or fourth or fifth or sixth or....

traditionalguy said...

Speech shines light on hidden payoffs. Government has always been about the flow of cash money. The High Priests of a religion are a cabal of thieves siphoning off the sacrifices demanded by the oagan god. The political religion started in the late 1960s by the anti-war activists has been tapping the till like every other religious gang. This only works in very small numbers of insiders that can keep an eye on the others cutting up the loot. Free speech is holy water being thrown on the skin of theses vampires. John Edwards was a perfect example of this arrogant insider group on the Democrat's side. The GOP has their own bagmen. The World system is a money scam first and last , and it lets a few saints get public awards for unselfishness as a cover up but it secretly despises them. The beauty of a free speech commitment is the head butting between two parties restrains the level of the corruption by the fattest cats in the state religion scam.

kent said...

Now that President Present (and his mingy minions) have spent an entire calendar year demonizing American "big business" and corporations, 24-7, non-stop: said whipping boys will now be free to respond in kind, during the upcoming electoral cycle.

Can you say "karma," boys'n'girls...? ;)

Maguro said...

Big Brother Obama says it's time for our daily Two Minute Hate against the fat cats. Who are we to argue?

garage mahal said...

A dirty trickster that started a anti-Hillary 527 that calls itself C.U.N.T, forever changes campaign finance laws. Amazing. Wonder how that one got to the supremes so fast. Corporations are people! Money is speech!

Montagne Montaigne said...

Yeah. Idiots. Well I think you're an idiot, because you think a corporation is the same thing as a person. I don't think McDonalds is a person, and I don't think McDonalds or any other corporation should get the same rights that I do from the bill of rights. That's the difference between me and you.

from Stevens' dissent

In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races.

Joan said...

I'd like to hear about those dissenting opinions. On what grounds are they dissenting? How can they justify supporting legislation that is so clearly unconstitutional?

I love the juxtaposition of HRC defending internet free speech on the same day as the case involving Hillary was decided. Yesterday was a really good day.

garage mahal said...

And love how Alito and Roberts lied through their teeth about respecting precedence, and moving incrementally. What a crock of shit.

shoutingthomas said...

The idiot here is one Montaine.

Every one of his posts is a seething response to a perceived attack on President Obama, apparently based on the notion that anybody who opposes the actions of Obama hates Obama personally.

This is the leftist cult of personality. MM invests Obama with his hopes and dreams. MM is looking for a savior.

The notion that others might not be invested in a cult of personality is, of course, unimagineable to the MMs.

My own political leanings are: I prefer divided government. I'd prefer to see the House and Senate in the hands of one party, and the presidency in the hands of the other party.

This tends to limit government. I'm in favor of government doing as little as possible.

By default, the MMs of this world always decide that this means that I am just a member of the opposing cult of personality... probably a Sarah Palin worshipping, or some such thing.

As I said, the idiot is MM.

Palladian said...

God, it's wonderful watching you piddle yourself again and again, garage.

When Justice Kennedy makes me mad, I just remember cases like this one to remind myself why I love him.

kent said...

Shorter Garage, Montagne: "Mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm."

SMGalbraith said...

If a corporation doesn't have any rights then that means the government can limit the speech of media corporations like the NY Times or Washington Post?

Who knew?

traditionalguy said...

While thinking about Corporate Power, you need to ask yourself how Government Motors is doing these days? Are the State Media doing any stories on that Big Corporation with its Fat Cat Bosses smoking cigars while they crush small people like Michael Moore's films used to do? Well, where are those articles? It turns out that the new fascistic state run Corporation suddenly has no enemies willing to risk speaking. The monopoly of exposure speech is the most important sine qua non of every government scam that creates operates a monopoly business. The TVA is a long known example.

Richard said...

garage mahal,

The "money is not speech" canard had a certain ring to it when liberals were talking about direct contributions to candidates. But this case was about whether the FEC could bar distribution of a movie, which under pretty much any definition that's not Orwellian, is undeniably speech. During oral argument, the SG conceded that, under the statute, the FEC could likely bar publication of a book that fell within the statute's definition of electioneering. Again, last I checked, books are pretty clearly a form of speech.

Thus, even if you're right and money is not speech, that's totally irrelevant to this case, which is clearly about the right of associations of individuals to engage in political speech.

Oh, and by the way, your concern with the nature of the group that brought this suit is a perfect example of why we need the First Amendment: Why should the name or nature of a political advocacy group affect the degree of speech that group can engage in? It's precisely because petty minds that find these qualities relevant to the question of whether speech is permissible or not inhabit the FEC, the FCC, and even the halls of Congress, that we need a First Amendment.

Peter V. Bella said...

Brilliant. Idiots.

Brilliant idiots are in politics because they are idiots. They are too incompetent to survive in a real career. They do not have the skills necessary to work for a living- show up every day, on time, and actually do something.

That is the reason they have such large staffs- populated with people much smarter and possessing more skills.

We are being ruled by brilliant idiots!

SMGalbraith said...

Corporations don't have rights?

Then that means the government can ban/limit all of the material produced by the NY Times or movie corporations or publishing firms?

They're all corporations.

This is an astonishing claim.

Completely baseless but still astonishing.

Ann Althouse said...

"Well I think you're an idiot, because you think a corporation is the same thing as a person... 'In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant.'"

Do you know much about moviemaking? Freedom for the lone guy on a soapbox or a blog, but let people join together — or, heh, let a community organize — and we can't have that sort of power.

garage mahal said...

But this case was about whether the FEC could bar distribution of a movie, which under pretty much any definition that's not Orwellian, is undeniably speech

The case was about C.U.NT. having to disclose corporate contributions. A relatively simple matter tasked to the Supremes. Instead they took a hatchet 100 yrs of settled law. Legislating from bench anyone? Activist judges!?

SMGalbraith said...

Apparently, if two people get together and form a corporation, either for proft or non-profit, the government can limit the ideas or views they agree to disseminate?

But this doesn't apply to media entities like the NY Times or Washington Post?

Talk about making it up as you go along.

Richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard said...

The case was about C.U.NT. having to disclose corporate contributions. A relatively simple matter tasked to the Supremes.

That was one aspect of the case, and the Supremes upheld that requirement. But the case was also about the FEC's attempts to criminally punish the mere distribution of the film because of the electioneering "content"; its attempts to force the producers to make specific modifications to the film under threat of criminal punishment; and its requirement that a film producer seek pre-publication approval of political speech. It was these elements, and not the disclosure requirements, that the Supreme Court invalidated.

For a member of the reality-based party, you have a remarkably tenuous grasp on, you know, actual reality.

t-man said...

Once again, garage your facts are simply wrong. The 100 years of settled law boils down to one 20-year old opinion that itself had deviated from the Court's prior rulings.

They did take a hatchet to Austin however, which was a good thing.

garage mahal said...

It was these elements, and not the disclosure requirements, that the Supreme Court invalidated.

So much for "minimalism", eh.

Richard said...

What the hell does minimalism mean to you, garage? There were at least two questions before the Court: The disclosure requirement and the ban on electioneering speech. The court decided both of them. That's not activism; that's the Court doing its job.

Perhaps you mean that the Court is rejecting minimalism any time it upholds a facial constitutional challenge to a statute. But you're going to have to make that argument rather than just tossing out "minimalism" like a talisman to keep the straightforward application of the text of the First Amendment at bay.

Two lessons to take from this exchange: (1) garage apparently doesn't have a clue about the decision (except for what he's read in the NYT) or the governing law in this area, but (2) garage is perfectly content to allow mid-level bureaucrats in a government agency conduct pre-publication examinations of political films, books, pamphlets, and other speech; direct the editorial process; make judgments about who qualifies as a "legitimate" media organ (or director or author) and who does not; and to back up such censorship (and if these activities don't fall within the definition of censorship, nothing does) with threats of criminal sanctions.

It's really no surprise, however, since ignorance and censorship complement each other so nicely.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

Alright then, no more bitching about George Soros, wingnuts.

garage mahal said...

What the hell does minimalism mean to you, garage?

Not cutting summer vacation a month early to re hear this case, and specifically ask the parties to brief the question whether to over turn two prior rulings?

VegasGuy said...

Once upon a time I took a law course in which I was taught that a corporation had all the rights of a human citizen except the rights to vote and hold public office. Has that fundamentally changed, in a constitutional-amendment sense? Because if it hasn't, objections to McCain-Feingold et al taking one in the shorts have no basis. Arguing that free speech is sort of OK but [selectively] funding it is not is just being disingenuous, or stupid, or both. And McCain needs to learn that the overwhelmingly likely consequence of "reaching across the aisle" is drawing back a nub.

t-man said...

Garage, if the court's procedure of having reargument and additional briefing on the issue was unusual, here is the possible explanation (from scotuswiki):

Because a government lawyer pushed his argument as far as logic would carry it, an alarmed Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed poised to create a new exception to federal power to regulate what advocacy groups can say during national political campaigns. At a minimum, a 90-minute documentary, even though a bitingly critical attack on a specific candidate, leaving little doubt of what it wanted voters to do, may wind up with constitutional protection, it appeared after the Court had heard Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (08-205). But, if that is the outcome, federal regulation of other forms of campaign expression may be put in doubt anew.

When the argument turned to such First Amendment horrors as banning books, banning Internet expression, and banning even Amazon’s book-downloading technology, “Kindle,” the members of the Court seemed instantly to recoil from the sweep of arguments made by Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm L. Stewart.

Even Justice David H. Souter, who tends to support government regulation of campaign spending, looked and sounded stunned
when Stewart argued that the government would have power to forbid a labor union to use its own funds to pay an author to write a campaign biography that would later be published in book form by Random House. And, across the bench, incredulity showed when Stewart said the government could ban an advocacy group from using its own funds to pay for a 90-minute documentary if only the first minute was devoted to urging voters whom to choose, and the rest was a recital of information about the candidate without further direct advocacy.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Give due credit to Garage for guts: even when hopelessly exposed as an ignoramus and a hack, he doubles down.

garage mahal said...

So where am I wrong, wise one.

Rob said...

I feel better knowing we live in a country where (by a 5-4 vote) freedom of speech still means something.

PastorSteve said...

So if people like Obama are against corporations being able to fund political campaigns why is he so in favor of unions having that opportunity and influence? Unions are not individuals and are precisely like corporations with union leaders with big pay checks and are just as likely to not really care for their members. When the shoe is on the other foot it hurts. The Supreme court made a good call precisely because of union power. I am thankful. It is time that this country had a conversation about how unions like SEIU and others are growing uncontrollably, gaining more power than they should...and it is not power to the people really...just a way for socialism to steal our great nation.

edutcher said...

Don't be surprised if this turns into an opening for Hilla. She comes out for free speech as Barry and the rest of the usual suspects declare war on who can spend how much after The Zero reneged on his promise to abide by campaign finance rules in '08.

If I'm not wrong, McC-F allowed unions to go hog wild, which Monatagne and garage think is OK because all they spend goes to the Demos.

Harsh Pencil said...

Constitutional law has become a bad joke.

Four Supreme Court justices are just fine with criminalizing political speech.

It's not much use having a Constitution when one party puts in judges which 1) refuse to enforce the plain meaning of the Constitution when doing so fails to achieve their political objectives and 2) make stuff up regarding what is in the Constitution in order to achieve their political objectives.

Constitutional law has become a bad joke.


Ever since John Marshall decided the Supreme Court as defined in the Contitution was too pedestrian a post for so august a person as he, it's been a bad joke.

kent said...

Now that President Present (and his mingy minions) have spent an entire calendar year demonizing American "big business" and corporations, 24-7, non-stop: said whipping boys will now be free to respond in kind, during the upcoming electoral cycle.

Can you say "karma," boys'n'girls...? ;)


Not so much karma as payback, and it will rhyme with ditch.

PS Don't agree with everything in your comment, tg, but the first part, about free speech, was pure poetry.

PoNyman said...

while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates

This quote got my goat the most. I have no personal interest in being a politician and 50% of my political leanings are not addressed or are fought against in one or both of the major political parties. My issue would be if there were an idea I'd like promoted, but there was no candidate promoting it then I would like the option of donating or giving money to an organization whose purpose was promoting that idea. I don't want my speech suppressed just because that organization happens to take corporate money too.

PatCA said...

"It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."

Right, and usually they're sitting in your office, Obama, along with Andy Stern.

Good for Hillary. She knows the movie is coming out anyway, and she made a graceful statement to freedom instead of carping.

RJ said...

This is a great ruling for our republic because it moves us closer to plain meaning of the original clause in the Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech

There is nothing in that statement about free speech for individuals vs. corporations, or unions, or PACs, or elected officials vs. private citizens, or even foreign interests. It says, simply, that no law shall be made abridging the freedom of speech. Of course, there has been wrangling over the years over exactly what constitutes protected "speech" - but there is NO question whatsoever that it applies to political advocacy.

Even if the idea of corporations involved in electioneering worries you, it should pale in comparison to witnessing our slide down the slippery slope of ever tightening controls over political speech by the federal government. This is not a Democrat/Republican issue. Both parties have been equally responsible, which is not surprising because incumbents from both parties have the most to gain from any restrictions.

The level of free speech allowed here is one of the most amazing and wonderful things about the United States of America. Let's keep it that way.

Kylos said...

Garage, that's a pretty ridiculous slur, calling Citizens United C.U.N.T. You think you can turn them into misogynists because they opposed Hillary? You debase political discourse. I'm not sure why people even discuss this with you.

garage mahal said...

Garage, that's a pretty ridiculous slur, calling Citizens United C.U.N.T. You think you can turn them into misogynists because they opposed Hillary? You debase political discourse. I'm not sure why people even discuss this with you.

That's the acronym they came up with Einstein. Citizens United Not Timid. The emblem looks like a crotch. So now that you've learned this, who is debasing the discourse?

Paul Zrimsek said...

Wikipedia says Citizens United was founded in 1988. Is there any evidence that they're the same as Roger Stone's group, or did someone jump to conclusions based on the name?

Paul Zrimsek said...

Sourcewatch.org doesn't mention any connection between CU and CU** either.

Chip Ahoy said...

In business school we were taught that corporations are people. When you incorporate, legally you're creating a living entity. I always had trouble with that.

This case was about the freedom of speech sponsored by corporations. A corporation financed and produced a documentary unflattering to H. Clinton intended to affect an election and it was stopped. Yet, Fahrenheit 9/11 was produced by a corporation, Miramax, released four months before 2004 elections with the stated intention,"to see Mr. Bush removed from the White House."

[I've been told I'm not properly educated until I've viewed and absorbed that particular hit piece so it does grate particularly.]

I'm not fond of the prospect of more ideological crap saturating every election but this does seem like the right decision no matter which political party you've indentured yourself, and whether or not a corporation is a legal entity with recognized protected rights.

Richard Dolan said...

It is striking how far some members of the Court (the four dissenters, mostly) are willing to take the 'equal outcomes' idea that animates so much civil rights theory today -- affirmation action, disparate impact, etc. Here, according to the dissent, the Gov't has a compelling interest in equalizing access to an imaginary market for political discourse, by outlawing some would-be speakers from speaking at certain times and thus protecting the market from distortions that would arise from those in possession of a particular form of amassed wealth. The dissent makes that a centerpiece of its disagreement with the majority's analysis.

It's such a weird view of the world, let alone the First Amendment.

SMGalbraith said...

'In business school we were taught that corporations are people'

If a corporation breaks the law, I'm pretty sure that the owners of that entity can go to jail.

The corporation doesn't go to jail; the owners, i.e., people, do.

At this point, the opposing argument doesn't seem to have much merit.

SMGalbraith said...

If Citizen's United shouldn't have been allowed to broadcast their film, I assume that those who agree with the limitations believe that if they published a book that too could have been censored?

How about a newspaper? Magazine? Pamphlet?

In for a dollar.....

iron308 said...

Forgive me Prof. Althouse, but you did vote for him right? How did you not see this coming. (not that McCain is any better).

Wilber said...

Who are these 'bipartisan Congressional leaders' that Obama wants to talk to, anyways? Are they like the 'bisexual Congressional leaders' (men and women)?

dave in boca said...

After the Sullivan case, the NYT was obsessive about defending the First Amendment. Guess Pinch & Keller have no longer any loyalty to the Constitution, so the First Amendment also is a frill.

Congress criminalizing free speech is the direct result of electing elitist criminals to Congress.

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

"Samizdat" -- wow. Must have been one of O'Reilly's words of the day.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

ZPS said: "Alright then, no more bitching about George Soros, wingnuts."

Typical liberal inability to tell the difference between disagreement and suppression.

Bitching is just fine; it is a valuable part of the debate. People should know who put the money in place and what they are doing with it, whether the money comes from McDonalds or Soros or anyone else. Bitch all you want.

Someone bitching about your work is a far, far cry from the distribution of it become a felony.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Re: Garage, MM, et al about corporations as people:

Corporations having the same rights as people is long, long settled law. Plenty of other commenters have made good cases for why that is the case. It would have been huge for SCOTUS to change that; it is not in any way an assault to minimalism to keep that idea in place.

Here's a good wiki piece explaining the history of it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_personhood_debate

jaed said...

If a corporation breaks the law, I'm pretty sure that the owners of that entity can go to jail.

Er. No. If you own stock in Apple, you own a bazillionth of the company. If Apple is found to have broken the law, will you and the bazillion other owners go to jail? No, you will not.

Now if a *corporate officer* breaks the law, that person might go to jail. But that's not the same thing at all. Corporations can be found guilty of lawbreaking and be fined, and the owners do not have to individually pay the fine, either.