Cuomo: Don’t get the First Amendment confused


(NewsNation) — We need to clear up something that is being abused. It is the constitutional amendment regarding free speech.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment

That doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want without consequence. The First Amendment applies to the government, not to any privately held company like social media or a business. And those places can be influenced by their customer base or by anything they choose to be influenced by.

So, no, antisemitism is not protected by the First Amendment, except from Congress passing laws that restricts the right to say such things. It’s the same with any bigotry, like the people in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, or even hate speech. The First Amendment protects Congress from passing laws not allowing free speech — not the rest of us.

So that means the government can’t pass a law to restrict their speech, but your boss can. Your teacher can. Your co-workers can. Social media platforms can. Organized political actions can. They all can create a consequence for you because that is their right to exercise speech in the form of rejecting you and anyone who supports or employs you.

Now we get to the harder question: What is OK to say and what happens when someone says what is not ok?

This is not a question of law but culture, and ours is in flux. The law has moved steadily toward protecting more and more forms of speech from government proscription, but our culture seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

That takes us to Ye and Kyrie Irving. The NBA star picked up where Ye left off, putting antisemitic material on social media, and then he doubled down at a press conference.

Irving is now being protested at games and he took down the post, but now there are calls for him to be off the team, while the other side is saying he is a free speech symbol.

This is not about free speech. It is about how we treat ideas we don’t like, and there is a problem with silencing, canceling and censoring ideas you don’t like.

First, you empower those messages because in the new media age, there is no keeping something from being said or printed or out there. You only make it more desirable. Wait until Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s book comes out. After more than 600 literary figures wrote an open letter asking the publisher to cancel the deal because they don’t like the Roe decision being vacated, it will sell like hotcakes.

Now, I agree with the complaint, but not the remedy. You give power to ideas when you tell people not to hear them. You make people sympathetic, or even stars on social media. You make ideas more enticing because they seem to scare others into silencing them.

I am on the opposite end of the spectrum, and I think the idea of America points in the same direction. I believe in letting the best idea win and giving bad ideas a full hearing because that is how you get the majority motivated and let a minority that holds to obnoxious or hateful notions know they are the least among us.

Are you ready to step in? Because I don’t think we can get to a better place until people like you want this constant battle of “who and what is worse” to end. I don’t think the players can stop anymore. It is not about working off the same set of facts. It is not real vs. fake. It is not about truth. And it is worse than all of those propositions: We are now in a place where only opposition to the other matters.

Everything is maintaining face with the base. You can’t agree on anything or you are giving in.

You see it everywhere. Investigate Trump. His side can accept none of it. “Vote for us” they say so we, who say these investigations must stop, can then investigate Biden. It’s fomenting baseless attacks on our election process, which is already flawed and fragile.

The fight over this Pelosi attack is about which side drove him to violence, ignoring that it was likely more illness than politics.

We need to get our politics back in line with how we live our lives in every other way.

The way we let these people talk to each other and about each other is acceptable nowhere else. Our campaigns have become collective acts of screaming into a pillow.

The new battle line is that if you won’t admit the facts, if you won’t agree with what is said, if you insist that only what you like is right, then we will start to limit what you can say.

Now we talk about not giving people a platform. I got this all the time when I would have Donald Trump supporters on. “Why give their lies an audience?” I always check lies, but not all the positions were lies, and about half the country believes things that need to be discussed and only through discussing points of disagreement can we get to a better place.

And the proof that I am right is that there is now a legit need for NewsNation because you have outlets that are all about the right or the left and their audiences are in bubbles too often.

You don’t have to listen or watch, but I absolutely have to have different opinions and positions on the show and talk about them. Not just because you may not like them or they may be offensive to what you see as right or true or just, but especially those. It’s not to grow them, but to shrink them by exposing the flaws and failures and having better ideas that make clear where the consensus is on the subject.

It is the essence of what I think matters. The idea of silencing Kyrie or Ye? No; let people see how hollow their hatred is. They may not think they are being hateful but when you promote ideas that are antisemitic that’s what you are doing: Promoting hate.

I hear the same from too many of you about Bill O’Reilly. I would wager he will not be so sweeping about people with health problems that affect brain or emotional function as he was, like most are violent and committing so much crime.

That’s why we talk.

The alternative is all around us. No one listens. We have Thanksgiving coming up, and families all across this country either stay apart or have rules of what not to discuss.

This is a situation that is showing who we are, or what we are becoming.

So many like to quote the idea that I may not agree or even hate what you say, but I would fight for your right to say it. But your right to stay employed, or to be in a school, or not canceled by a social media crowd-sourced consequence? Not so much.

I remember my grandfather explaining to me that he loved that America believed in live and let live.

Do we? How about the ability to work or go to school or hold a position of influence in society or in a company? Then you are increasingly at the mercy — and there is none — of crowd sourced consequences. A few thousand can get the media in a frenzy and then companies start to act. Is that freedom? Yes. it is.

But is it the society we want? Does it make us what we want to be, or are we entering a new form of might makes right? I want to talk about the supreme court consideration of affirmative action. I believe that the practice can work and help, but what if I said it had to be abolished in all forms and that it was racist to help Black students or workers? Would I be criticized? Yes. Would social media players on the left start a move to remove me, boycott me, fire me? And would the media blow on those flames? Probably. Would that make more people believe in the power of diversity, or just fear and want to oppose the sectors of society that is creating a wedge from forming anything like a consensus?

You need to see it and think about it because we are all in it together, for better or worse.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.

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