Be Careful What You Wish For – SOPA and the 1st Amendment

by Mike Wendy on January 31, 2012

Free Press, and similar groups who want to put the 1st Amendment on its tail and let the government police private speech so that it’s “fair and balanced,” has been screaming of late about how PACs “corrupted” the SOPA debate.  What this roughly translates into – legal resources used to promote points of view they don’t like, such as those from the content owners’ reps, MPAA and RIAA, do not deserve 1st Amendment protections.

Spoiled sports that they are, Free Press demands that those congressional representatives who received PAC support from the content industry promptly return it.

Pay no attention to all the “costless” lobbying and grassroots support coming from some large Internet “edge providers” (er, Google, etc.) to sink the bill, of course.  You see, free speech applies to Free Press’ friends, but no further.

The following pull quotes, the first from the Wall Street Journal, “We Are All Citizens United,” and the second from Manhattan Institute’s Ted frank, entitled “SOPA shows why we need limited government,” pick up on this rich irony.

Wall Street Journal:

…Speaking of money in politics, one more irony. The hallelujah chorus praising the online mobilization that brought down SOPA are the same folks who claim free business speech corrupts the political process. It seems like only yesterday that Mr. Obama was ripping the Supreme Court for enabling “America’s most powerful interests” with Citizens United.

…Remember when liberals used to argue that corporations aren’t people and therefore aren’t protected by the First Amendment?

In this case, millions of citizens united did protest SOPA but so did “powerful” corporations. Google used its search homepage to encourage users to sign a petition against the bill. Wikipedia shut down and asked wikipedians to “imagine a world without free knowledge.” Many other sites blacked out content in support of the political cause. Much of this outpouring to inform and educate (or miseducate) the public may well have been illegal under McCain-Feingold if we were closer to November 2012. Where does Justice Anthony Kennedy apply for an apology?

Ted Frank:

…[T]he successful opposition to SOPA demonstrates the importance of corporate free speech. It has become trendy on the left to assert after Citizens United that corporations are not people, and thus have no free-speech rights; there’s even a constitutional amendment to that effect pending.

…Corporate free speech made a decisive difference in the SOPA/PIPA debate. The media, generally SOPA supporters, were unwilling to cover the issue until corporations like Google and Wikipedia forced them to pay attention. The Left should re-evaluate its attempt to limit political speech.

So, what’s the 1st Amendment leave-behind for fair weather free speechers?   Be careful what you wish for.  You might need every bit of that amazing Right to address policy issues you want to challenge, change or defeat.

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