Friday, June 29, 2007

Supreme Conservatism

Americans are beginning to see the anticipated Bush-influenced conservative ideology emerging from the Supreme Court. This past week they've sided with theocracy over democracy in upholding the "faith based" giveaway of the public's tax dollars to the Bush Administration's favorite churches. The court also sided with corporatocracy over democracy in their gift to developers in the case of National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife.

Even more chillingly, we have been given a taste of their activist right-wing interpretation of freedom of speech. Last week two cases illustrated the court's idea that free speech is more about power and money than actual freedom.

The court has ruled that "issue advocacy" ads that were formerly restricted prior to elections are now protected free speech. In theory, I would agree this would be fair. But practically speaking, we see where this will take us. Now such ads are to be allowed to bombard our living rooms with Big Money interests and corporate agendas. Sure, unions and other interests will be allowed air their views as well, but what it comes down to is whoever has the most money will be flooding the media with their message. We know who that will be. Already corporate lobbying and money shuffling has influenced legislation far removed from democracy's intent. From now on, corporate money will be used to not only buy the politicians favor, but to directly influence voters with the powerful propaganda tools of corporate media. The grossly disproportionate imbalance of wealth will be leveraged to benefit the Republican and corporate interests. Thanks to Reagan's repealing of the Fairness Doctrine and removing any requirement for corporate media's obligation to fairness or balance, Big Business wins again. The public's interest will be smothered.

The other free speech case involves the student in Alaska who was suspended from school for displaying a banner reading, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." This was not done on school property, mind you. The Supremes just couldn't tolerate it. They reversed the lower courts decision that this was protected expression. One might even ask what the banner's intent or meaning was. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his dissent: "To the extent the court independently finds that 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' objectively amounts to the advocacy of illegal drug use -- in other words, that it can most reasonably be interpreted as such -- that conclusion practically refutes itself. This is a nonsense message, not advocacy."

Chief Justice Roberts knew precisely what it meant so he condemned it, saying, "The 'special characteristics of the school environment' . . . and the governmental interest in stopping student drug abuse -- reflected in the policies of Congress and myriad school boards, including [that of Juneau-Douglas High School] -- allow schools to restrict student expression that they reasonably regard as promoting illegal drug use."

Oh, well, a good conservative Federalist Society guy like Roberts should know. Isn't it interesting to then see his wisdom looking a lot like hypocrisy when he said in the case of the issue advocacy ads, “Where the First Amendment is implicated,” the chief justice said, “the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.”

That would probably have applied to the kid in Alaska as well, if his banner had not been worded with the politically incorrect, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." I'm sure his free speech would still be intact if his message had, instead, been, "Bomb Hits 4 Jesus."

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