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The Rights of Jerks

One note of blog housekeeping: if you decide to mention specific biographical details about me and my real life identity, your comments will be deleted.

In cyberspace, I try to maintain a thin veneer of anonymity, despite the fact that most of you likely know who I am, know where I live, and know how to contact me in the real world. For those of you who who would like to communicate with me and find it impossible to restrain yourselves from using my real name and life circumstances, please send me an email at stallioncornell@hotmail.com.

This note of housekeeping was brought on by a series of comments last night that truly baffled me. I thought yesterday’s post was a candid admission of my own electoral failures, my acceptance of same, and of the stark realities that ensure that I’m out of politics for good. But one commenter saw the thing as a whiny statement of liberal entitlement and/or a lamentation that I’m being denied the rightful station of nobility endowed to me by virtue of my supposedly royal birth. He attacked both my integrity and the integrity of my mafioso family, and, once his initial comments were erased, he sarcastically berated me for not allowing him to use my own blog as a public repository for his piles of slung mud.

I had rather a similar experience a few years back, when an old missionary acquaintance found me on Facebook and sent me a friend request. I accepted, whereupon he proceeded to launch a lengthy ideological diatribe as to why I was the most politically malevolent and nigh-unto-treasonous human being who has ever lived, and why both me and my family deserved to be boiled in used motor oil. I tried to respond with a shrug and a kind word, but he took that as an invitation to double down and insult me even further.

So I defriended him.

Within minutes, I received a missive in my inbox telling me that I had violated his First Amendment rights to free speech, and I ought to be ashamed of myself. And, candidly, I was ashamed of myself, but only because I wasn’t savvy enough to block him completely instead of merely defriending him.

But even after I blocked him, I received another message from someone I didn’t know, who told me how angry this guy was that I had so little respect for the Constitution and its free-speech protections that I wasn’t willing to give him a forum on my Facebook page to bash both me and my family senseless.

Two observations:

1. Far too many people are too stupid to understand that the right to free speech does not include any right to a forum in which to speak. All it means is that the government can’t arrest you for stupid things that you say.

That’s it.

So if you want to go outside and say stupid things on a public street corner, sure, knock yourself out. But if you’re on television, and you say things your sponsors don’t like, please bear in mind that they have no constitutional responsibility to keep signing your paychecks. When S$&@ My Dad Says was canceled, William Shatner was wise enough to understand that he had no First Amendment right that could prevent his wretched sitcom from getting the axe.

Case in point: fired Oscar producer Brett Ratner. Did he have an unassailable First Amendment right to casually use a crude anti-gay epithet in conversation? Sure. Does that extend to an ironclad legal right to produce the Oscar telecast? Dream on. Speech always has consequences. All the First Amendment guarantees is that government suppression is not one of them.

Similarly, if you want to barge into my home, my blog, or my Facebook page and start spewing bile at the rate of thirty-three gallons per second, don’t be surprised if I show you the real and/or virtual door. When you’re on my turf, the First Amendment provides no legal or constitutional impediment to my giving you the boot. If you doubt that, then go ahead and sue me. You’ll quickly discover that even Gloria Allred won’t be able to win that one.

On to point number two:

2. Political discussions are not exempt from basic considerations of kindness and common decency.

It is always astounding to me that people who would never say an unkind word to anybody in almost any circumstance suddenly become firebreathing, vicious, insufferable twerps when they start talking about politics. Please be advised that it is possible to disagree with a politician without calling attention to the fact that their mother wears combat boots.

I must confess that I, myself, fall into this trap far too often. For instance, it is very hard for me not to publicly note the fact that Jon Huntsman is a goober when he is so manifestly a goober. But I have met Jon Huntsman live and in person, and I would never have the chutzpah to call him a goober to his face. The relative anonymity of the Internet allows us to be far ruder than we would ever dream of being if there were a live, flesh and blood person standing in front of us.

Yet even when there is such a live, breathing person in the room, too many people think their political affiliation gives them license to be rude, crude, or socially acceptable. I’m just not cool with that.

So, to sum up: Rick Perry’s weird gaffe in last night’s debate was the final nail in his political coffin. Thank you.

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