I like reading nonlawyerly takes on the law, and I found a good one in the comments at Screaming Into The Void, where the header tagline currently reads “Scaring women-haters with my hairy legs since 1987.” Amananta, who blogs there, sometimes posts about the trolls that feminist blogs have to deal with. Here is “Cool Aunt’s” take on the First Amendment (with permission):
I don’t even have a blog and still I get so fucking sick of hearing – uhm, I mean reading – idiots insist that they can comment on anything anywhere because of their First Amendment rights. Not only is that an extremely US-centric way of thinking (hey! the World Wide Web is world wide!) but it proves how ignorant they are about the freedom of speech rights that they hold so dear.
Firstly, the First Amendment guarantees that the government won’t shut you up, not that other people won’t tell you to shut the hell up. That means that you can rant and rave about how much you hate Bush, for instance, and the government won’t stop you. Try doing that at on a conservative blog, for example, and the blog owner is within his or her rights to tell you to go away and to refuse to publish your rant.
Secondly, only the government can censor. It’s not censorship when Amananters won’t publish your comment nor is it censorship when Walmart won’t carry your music cd due to lyrical content. Both are simply practicing their rights, the first to own a blog and to only publish what she wants on it and the latter to select what they will and will not buy and sell in their stores.
Thirdly, the First Amendment guarantees you free speech but not an audience. The KKK is within their right to rally and the rest of us are within our rights not to attend their rally.
Fourthly, the First Amendment guarantees you free speech but doesn’t guarantee that what you say will be the final word. No one has to agree with you.
Finally, the First Amendment guarantees you free speech but not that you won’t be judged by the shit that you say. You can say it and if anyone listens to it they may decide by what you said that you’re an idiot, an asshole, or that they hate your guts.
Now, go practice your First Amendment rights by writing a letter to the president or organizing a rally for something you believe in. The rest of us don’t want to hear your shit, which is within our rights.
I would note that the tagline here quotes Alice Walker for the proposition that”No person is your friend who demands your silence,”and if your comments are not getting posted, it’s probably because this blogger is not your friend. I’d also like to thank some folks for recent kindnesses. The blogosphere has a lot of very nice people, and they make everything worthwhile.