Okay, a little thought exercise for everybody. It goes like this.
The 1st Amendment provides us all with a freedom to speak our minds that was, at the time of its composition, unheard of in human history. We Americans place a tremendous value on this ideology and (even when we misunderstand it, take it for granted, trample on it, etc.) see it as a foundational element of our freedom.
The value of the 1A rests on a deeper assumption about how one drives meaningful political change. To wit, free speech leads to representative government, because it allows us to voice our grievances, share our views, inform ourselves, and ally with others who share our perspectives. This freedom of the town hall or the village common, then, is central to true democracy because it takes as a given that speech equals democracy. That is, a bunch of free people talking to each other = change or justice or reform or whatever you want to plug into this blank.
Now, this is important. What the American ideology, as embedded in the Constitution, does is to undercut whatever violent revolutionary tendencies may exist in the population. Before, you had to take up arms because you weren’t allowed to speak freely, but now you don’t have to kill your leaders anymore because you have a representative system that lets you replace them as a course of law.
Here is where it gets sinister. What if I’m of a class that wants to rape, loot, pillage, oppress, etc., but I’d like to be able to do so without worrying about angry crowds and guillotines? What if I had a tool that would let me plunder to my heart’s content while simultaneously decompressing the predictable outrages of the governed?
Hmmm. If I could convince them that the way to fix things was to get together and talk about it ad infinitum, as opposed to grabbing their guns and rushing to the barricades, I’d be sitting in the high cotton. So what if we had this system of government that gave them all the freedoms to talk and print and vote and meet – and at the core of it was the belief that justice was attained by talking instead of doing? (If, once this is accomplished, I can then find a way to turn them against each other, the job gets almost too easy.)
Then, all I have to do is unhitch the engines of power from the electoral process and embed them in the wealth function, which I control. Of course, wealth lets me reproduce my messages with greater frequency, reach, and elegance – I can afford presses and the best educations and the smartest employees, all of which makes it a lot easier for me to shape the outcome of the electoral process.
Viewed from this incredibly cynical angle, you could thus argue that the 1st Amendment is the most clever, insidious, and utterly brilliant tool for tyranny in the history of the world, because of the way in which it seduces the public into complicity in its own oppression.
I sincerely hope someone can demonstrate to me why I’m wrong.