Helen Thomas: The Consequences of the First Amendment June 13, 2010Posted by legalethicsemporium in Law, Ethics & Society.
Tags: First Amendment, Free speech, Helen Thomas
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.