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Helen Thomas: The Consequences of the First Amendment June 13, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Law, Ethics & Society.
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Free speech is a sacred tenet of democracy and humanity.  However, free speech does not absolve an individual of the consequences of her speech.  Legally, as a society, we have decided that there are limits to free speech.  The fact that the  proverbial example of  yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater ( when there is no fire) and  thereby causing pandemonium and physical danger is impermissible is established law.  And of course, lawyers are generally not allowed to disclose their clients’ confidences or defame judges.

However, even when you are well within you broad legal rights to say whatever is on your mind in our country, there still are and should be consequences for your speech.  Leonard Pitts, who received the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award in April, has a terrific column explaining that even someone of Helen’s age and accomplishments doesn’t get a pass on bigotry.  And Sara K. Eisen, the Word-Well blogger, did a wonderful piece explaining why the anti-Semitism “thing” continues to inflame, but in the context of history is really nothing new. 

The historical and seemingly innate predisposition of human beings to judge other human beings based upon a limited view of the distinctions among us, will only change, I submit, when we begin to view ourselves with an emphasis on our similarities and the collective consciousness to which we all ultimately belong.



1. Ruth - June 16, 2010

What an end to a long career in journalism! Perhaps when we hold someone in such high esteem as to even reserve and plaque their front row seat at every press conference, we enable them to feel so secure that we get to hear not only the best but also the worst of their thinking. Helen Thomas’s racist views were probably long held and strong when finally revealed!

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