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Our Irrelevant Constitution

Posted by Rick · May 29th, 2004 · 7 Comments

This blog has a small number of readers ranging from a low of about 80 to a high of about 125 per day and an even smaller number of commenters. In other words, it cannot be said that this is a very influential blog.

It provides, however, a microcosmic view of what’s going on in the United States generally and of why the Constitution of the United States is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Since I started the blog, it has naturally (until quite recently) tracked primarily my own concerns; I wrote about the things that interested me. I haven’t been overly concerned about who will or will not read what I write.

And the reason for this is that years ago I learned that writing is a form of thinking; thus, for me at least, a way of learning. For many years, I had the good fortune of not needing to work long hours to make an acceptable living. My needs were, relative to the rest of the world, meager and I made more money than I actually required to survive. Consequently, I decided to return to school, studying whatever I found interesting — after all, as a consequence of my lifestyle and income, I did not need even a college degree. I merely desired an education.

In an earlier draft of this entry, I started to give you more detail about all that. Memories of it really feel good. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t put you to sleep. And the only important point from all that is this: Writing — and thus blogging — is a form of thinking.

But blogging on the Internet brings with it something new. Unless I allowed others to read my journal entries — something I did occasionally do — there wasn’t much discussion with others about what I had written. Blogging and, more importantly, allowing comments on the blog, changes that.

And of late, it’s the number, type and character of the comments that has caused me to do a lot of thinking. In particular, there is a gNat here, flitting in, out and around the comments.

As the summer starts, I’m struck by how appropriate the name is. Last night, as my wife and I sat sipping wine, enjoying the backyard and talking, I was constantly interrupted by pestering gnats that flew about me. These gnats contributed nothing — not one thing — to the conversation. On the contrary, they distracted us from it. Eventually we moved indoors and the pleasant conversation stopped as we redirected our energies to picking up the house.

Right now you’re asking, “What does all this have to do with the Constitution of the United States? You titled this blog entry ‘Our Irrelevant Constitution’! Where’s the connection?”

Remember that above I noted that the blog is a microcosm of the United States. More accurately, it’s a microcosmic picture of discourse in the United States. The one benefit of this blog is that now that it has its own gNat, the ecology is rounded out enough to provide a small model of political discourse in the nation-at-large.

Another piece in the connection between what I’ve said above and the irrelevance of the Constitution of the United States was given by me on May 7. I didn’t realize I was adding a piece to the puzzle that has become an interesting picture, but that’s just what I did. And that other piece, re-stated recently in a comment that constituted the first jelling of the idea that I write about today, was this:

I allow [gNat] to post garbage because ? although I do not have to do so because I am not a government or a government official or agent ? I believe adherence to the First Amendment principles is a good thing, despite whatever the Bush (“There Ought To Be Limits To Freedom”) Administration says.

“Okay, but that doesn’t help. I still don’t get it. What do you mean by saying that our Constitution is irrelevant?

Stick with me for a minute.

The Constitution of the United States guarantees freedoms for the citizenry. The Constitution of the United States does not restrict citizens, except in one significant arena. And that’s when the government of the people, by the people and for the people uses it’s governmental power to infringe an individual’s freedom. (The question of the relationship of the freedom of individuals relative to the group — as important as it is — is an issue for another day.)

And of these freedoms, the ones most known to the average American — indeed, the ones most known to the rest of the world as being part of our Constitution — are contained within the First Amendment; to be even more specific, there is perhaps no guarantee more well-known, nor more important, than the so-called “Speech Clause.”

Why is this? In former times, the reason would be self-evident. An informed citizenry is a necessary precursor to a functioning democratically-oriented society. A functioning dictatorship has no such requirement. A government that tells people what to do — even if it doesn’t tell them when and how to do it — doesn’t need an informed citizenry. And an educated citizenry would be anathema for such a government. When government controls the people, rather than people controlling the government, an informed citizenry is not a requirement.

And that leads to the last piece of the puzzle. Because as our government becomes less a government of the people, as it becomes less a government by the people, less a government for the people, and more a means for corporate control of the people, an informed citizenry is transformed from a necessity; it becomes anathema.

The last piece of the puzzle then is supplied by the party of Corporate America, the Republican party which, for the first time since 1929, controls all four branches of government: the three “official” divisions of Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, with the newest division, not just controlled, but owned and used to great advantage by Corporate America — the Press, the acquisition of which has made the Constitution irrelevant.

This is scary and it is the true threat to our national security, because, as noted above, the reason for freedom of speech and freedom of the Press is that a democratically-driven system requires an informed citizenry. And, as also stated above, a government that controls the people cannot afford an informed citizenry.

What a quandary, eh? Think about it. The freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution would seem to make it impossible for government to control the population. Yet Corporate America must control the population. If the population of Inglewood, for example, says “No Wal-Marts here!” Or if Vermont declares itself an endangered historic site worthy of protection as a national trust and thereby stops Wal-Mart from taking over, this is a problem.

Thus, for about the last 30 years, Corporate America, which first began to subvert the Bill of Rights in the 1800s and finally convinced the Judiciary that “corporations are persons, too” in 1893 (Noble v. Union River Logging Railroad Company (1893) 147 US 165) and which in recent years has learned that advertising really works, has increasingly consolidated its control of the means by which citizens get their information.

The details of how this structural change in our political landscape was pulled off have to await another post; this post is already getting too long. Also, those details aren’t germane to understanding why this post is titled “Our Irrelevant Constitution.”

Mark King has noted in comments on this blog that Republicans — the party of Corporate America — cannot argue with Democrats (and I’ll add, “or anyone else”) on the issues. Whenever they argue issues, they lose. As David Brock, once a part of the Press arm of the political machinery that did these things himself, notes,

When Republican National Committee polling showed that the Republicans would lose the election to the Democrats on the issues, a “skillful and sustained 18-month campaign by Republicans to portray the vice president as flawed and untrustworthy” was adopted, the New York Times reported.

                                                                                        * * *

The right-wing media broadcast this attack and similar attacks relentlessly, in effect giving the GOP countless hours of free political advertising every day for months leading up to the election.

                                                                                        * * *

The well-orchestrated media cacophony had its intended effect….Gore won substantial majorities not only for his position on most specific issues but also for his overall thrust. The conservative Bush theme of tax cuts and small government was rejected by voters in favor of the more liberal Gore theme of extending prosperity more broadly and standing up to corporate interests. Yet while Bush shaded the truth and misstated facts throughout the campaign on everything from the size of Gore’s federal spending proposals to his own record as governor of Texas, by substantial margins voters thought Bush was more truthful than Gore. — Brock, The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy (2004) Crown Publishing, p. 5, emphasis added.

Corporate America and its current toady, the Republican Party, cannot win on the issues. The Constitution of the United States, unfortunately, prevents the government from silencing those who would speak about issues. And so Corporate America had to own the media.

When I said that the First Amendment, which restricts the right of the government, didn’t apply to me because I’m not a government, nor a government agent, nor a government official, the thing I neglected to immediately recognize is that it also doesn’t apply to Corporate America. In fact, because of the successes of earlier Corporations in having themselves declared to be actual persons, entitled to the protections of the Constitution against governmental intrusion into their increasingly politicized “news” stories — well, let’s call them what they are — their advertising campaigns, the Constitution, particularly the First Amendment, have become irrelevant.

Ordinary people can still speak. They just can’t be heard.

And it was our own personal little gNat who helped me figure this out. Read this blog. Read the comments. Since gNat arrived, things have changed. And in exactly the same way that things have changed in the United States as a once free and democratically-driven nation.

Because I chose to follow the principles of the First Amendment in the administration of my blog (not gNat’s blog), we have a perfect opportunity to see the ways in which the nation at large is suffering from the methods of Corporate America’s toady, the Republican Party. For just as in the situation on America’s airwaves, cable stations and in the print media, so it is here. Just as the Republicans cannot win a debate against the American people if the issues are discussed, so it is here. Just as the methods used in politics are to attack people, and avoid discussion of ideas, so it is here. Just as Corporate America, which is to say the Republican Party, must distract, confuse, or drown out that which is important to the average American — even to the extent of trumpeting “news” about the war they started in Iraq all the time, to the exclusion of other issues — so it is here.

There is one difference, though. And it’s the difference that should have you thinking hard. It’s the difference that should cause you to reconsider your interactions with Corporate America. It’s the difference that should have you lobbying your congressional representatives to re-establish a rule of the people, by the people and for the people. It’s the difference that should change the way you vote.

gNat cannot completely shut out my ability to speak. On the contrary, should I decide to do so — and so far I have decided not to do so, because he demonstrates the dangers I’ve tried to explain so very well, proving my point for me time and again — I can stop his speech. That’s because I own this blog.

But because Corporate America, which owns the Republican Party, owns nearly all the media now, the tactics that gNat uses here ensure that America is no longer a land of informed citizens.

The next step? A return to serfdom.

And now, stand by while we turn to gNat, who will prove the truth of what I’ve been saying above.

Categories: Culture Wars


7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nat // May 30, 2004 at 11:01 am

    Despite the Bob-like rambling and Bob-like lack of organization, I was beginning to take this piece seriously until you started ranting about how the Republicans control the Press. After I gathered myself from rolling on the floor laughing my a## off, I then realized that you have become seriously detached from reality.

    Let me put it like this: if the GOP owns the media then they have a mystifying strategy in place in that they hires ULTRA Liberal truth-twisters sich as Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw to heavily spin and distort the truth AWAY from Republican interests. Nobody mocks obejective journalism more than these 3 frauds.

    If Republicans control the media then why is the Communist News Network (CNN) simply a vehicle for every leftist idiot to spew his bile? If the Republican were in charge of the Press then why would the NYT and the LAT have an agenda of pumping nothing but pure poison about President Bush into the nation’s discourse?

    To say that Republicans control the Press may well be the stupidest statement ever made on this blog.

    Mark King is a fool. For you to source him quoting the buffoon clown Gore only further diminishes what little shred of credibility you might have left. Mark King is a Terry McCauliffe clone – capable only of the most mean-spirited, puerile insults and false statements with respect to the President.

    To quote Mark King as some sort of authority is raising Liberal disingenuousness to a new level. If you didn’t already have proof of how the United States dodged a bullet by NOT having Gore as President, you have only to witness his latest meltdown to come to the ready conclusion that Gore is mentally unbalanced and totally unfit for executive leadership.

    Finally, if Republicans cannot win on ideas how do you explain the fact that Republicans are the majority party in the Congress? Clearly, the American people do not concur with your preposterously silly notion. There goes the third leg of your trifecta of idiotic illogical statements.

    Finally, your bleating about the Constitution also rings hollow. The Constitution has survived for 215 years. Even though much of the Constitution is a reflection of the anti-monarchical mood of America in the post-Revolutionary era, on the whole it has worked pretty well ever since.

    Only the leftwing would whine and carp about it the way they do. The leftwing wants rules for everything and they fail to recognize that the Constitution is a set of principles not a set of rules. Find some other cause to be concerned about.

    I know. Why don’t you start getting upset about all the millions of American children that are slaughtered via abortion every year? Now THAT would be a worthwile cause for you to be up in arms over. The Constitution is just fine. Leave it alone.

  • 2 Nat // May 30, 2004 at 4:56 pm

    Recalling a time when setbacks didn’t deter us

    Mark Steyn – Chicago SunTime

    “But that’s the difference between then and now: the loss of proportion. They had victims galore back in 1863, but they weren’t a victim culture. They had a lot of crummy decisions and bureaucratic screwups worth re-examining, but they weren’t a nation that prioritized retroactive pseudo-legalistic self-flagellating vaudeville over all else. They had hellish setbacks but they didn’t lose sight of the forest in order to obsess week after week on one tiny twig of one weedy little tree.

    There is something not just ridiculous but unbecoming about a hyperpower 300 million strong whose elites – from the deranged former vice president down – want the outcome of a war, and the fate of a nation, to hinge on one freaky jailhouse; elites who are willing to pay any price, bear any burden, as long as it’s pain-free, squeaky clean and over in a week. The sheer silliness dishonors the memory of all those we’re supposed to be remembering this Memorial Day.

    Playing by Gore-Kennedy rules, the Union would have lost the Civil War, the rebels the Revolutionary War, and the colonists the French and Indian Wars. There would, in other words, be no America. Even in its grief, my part of New Hampshire understood that 141 years ago. We should, too.”


  • 3 Rick // May 30, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    I knew gNat wouldn’t let me down.

    Editorial warning: This post uses some of gNat’s techniques (but mixed with real arguments). It’s not actually that I’m trying to keep him interested enough to get him to read the whole post and not just partial sentences. It’s that I know actually reasoning with him is a waste of time — after all, if you read his posts, you’ll see he forgot to put up any actual counter-arguments — so I thought I’d just have some fun, instead. But for those who can diagram an argument (that would be just about all the others except you, gNat), you’ll still find something here for you, too.

    A small, green (is that envy?), buzzing insect — in other words, a gNat — wrote:

    Finally, if Republicans cannot win on ideas how do you explain the fact that Republicans are the majority party in the Congress? Clearly, the American people do not concur with your preposterously silly notion.

    Yes, the fact that Republicans are the majority in Congress would clearly prove that they win on the issues. Not.

    Setting aside the fact that you apparently can’t identify an issue when it’s staring you in the face, based on your reaction to most postings, I didn’t say that Republicans can’t win. I said they can’t win on the issues.

    That’s why they, like you, work so hard to avoid them. Instead, they, like you, resort to calling people names, just as we did as children. Only instead of “He’s a big fatty!” now it’s “He’s boooring!” Oh…wait…Republicans still do the “He’s a big fatty!” which they think “proves” claims made by Michael Moore are wrong. Oh…yeah…and we did say things like “He’s boooring!” when talking about other little kids at school as if that proved our superiority.

    But, just as children have immature reasoning skills that make them believe these approaches are valid, so, too, Republicans cackle together over having utterly defeated others when they say “fatty! boooring! poodle!” Don’t dare ask a Republican to solve a real problem, though, like, say, the economy, or education, or social security, or — hey! what about the war? Oh…yeah…they mucked that one up, too, didn’t they? (Now, children…er, Republicans…Mr. Rogers wants to know, “Can you say ‘exit strategy’?”)

    If Republicans control the media then why is the Communist News Network (CNN) simply a vehicle for every leftist idiot to spew his bile? If the Republican were in charge of the Press then why would the NYT and the LAT have an agenda of pumping nothing but pure poison about President Bush into the nation?s discourse?

    Show me something in those comments, for example, that is a reasoned response to anything I said. Not only is there nothing there that is a response, there’s just “nothing” there. Just as I said in my post: The gNats contribute nothing — not one thing — to the conversation. They bite. They pester. They swarm. They do not add anything of value.

    The Republicans add a little more to it. They swarm loudly. But, again, where is the substance? Like a Cialis commercial, it’s nothing but innuendo.

    Does a Cialis commercial sell Cialis? You bet!

    The day a Republican wins an issue argument based on, well, an actual logical argument, is the day we won’t have to worry about doom and destruction anymore: Hell will have frozen over.

    For example, does the fact that there are some few non-right-wing-controlled magazines and some occasionally-objective news reports prove that right-wing Corporations don’t control the media well-enough to pump out crap, instead of real news or even opinion pieces based upon issues, rather than that someone is fat or (in their estimation) boring? Is it the case that so long as there isn’t total control and a complete black-out of objective reporting, this is the nail in the coffin of my argument? Does the occasional liberal bias in the news show that there is not a greater amount of conservative bias? I suppose it would be, if it were an all-or-nothing thing. In that case, though, there’d be no argument to make anyway, because, after all, wouldn’t the fact that I own this blog and that I don’t write right-wing articles thereby prove my argument wrong from the start? So long as there are any “Liberal” voices left, then what I wrote must surely be pure hogwash — even if we get to the point where it’s just one “Liberal” voice.

    I account for the showing of the Republicans in Congress to taking a page from the Citizen Kane Book of Politics: “If the headline’s big enough, it makes the news big enough!” By blaring out phrases like “Poodle! Botox!” every time someone says, “What about jobs? What about Social Security?,” the right-wing makes the headline big enough regarding non-issues, while simultaneously pushing issues off the front page. To the extent that the voters are tricked into thinking that Poodlehood and Botox are more important that their children’s futures, our entire country loses. The issues never get discussed, but eventually they do get addressed — by the very people who worked desperately to make sure the American public never got to hear what the Republicans planned to do about those issues.

    I believe I said, quite clearly, that gNat and Republicans cannot win on the issues. I believe I said this is why they don’t discuss them. This is why, instead, they do what gNat did above in his posts. Lots and lots and lots of noise.

    As I said, this blog is a microcosm of what’s going on in the nation. I know — because they’ve written to tell me — that some people have stopped reading the blog because they’re tired of wading through gNat’s crap to find comments worth reading. And so it is with the nation. Many people claim to have tuned out of politics for this very reason: The Republican Noise Machine makes it impossible to have a worthwhile discussion.

    So the fact that Republicans have, for now and possibly for the foreseeable future, the majority only shows that they are masters at marketing empty messages. They’ve got the Cialis commercials — hell, they’ve got the Cialis!

    And believe me, America, they’ve got a hard-on for you!

  • 4 Mark // May 30, 2004 at 7:03 pm

    On more than one occasion, I have noted on this site that Republicans never argue issues (because they lose on issues), so they resort to juvenile, boorish personal attacks.

    Apparently, one Republican visitor to this site is determined to prove my thesis correct.

  • 5 nick meyer // May 30, 2004 at 10:26 pm

    I was pleased to see today that our great leader met with the motorcycle group “Rolling Thunder” and took their valuable endorsement from Mr. Kerry. Not that this has anything to do with Rick’s post but as a fellow harley rider I thought that my friend Nat would also enjoy this good news!!!

  • 6 abi // May 30, 2004 at 10:30 pm

    Quoth Nat:

    The leftwing wants rules for everything and they fail to recognize that the Constitution is a set of principles not a set of rules. Find some other cause to be concerned about.

    Sudden flashback to the Pirates of the Caribbean here: “The Pirate’s Code is actually more of guidelines than actual rules.”

    The Constitution, however, is not just a set of “principles”. It’s the first and most important law of the land, the foundation of all the other laws in the United States. That makes it, um, rules, mostly rules about what the government cannot do.

    If I thought that that comment were serious, rather than the usual level of rhetoric, I’d be worried.

  • 7 Rick // May 31, 2004 at 7:41 am

    I know Abi knows this (and gNat doesn’t), but just to clarify for anyone else that might need this:

    The Constitution is not only not just a set of “principles” and not only “the first and most important law of the land, the foundation of all the other laws in the United States.” It is — as it says in the text of the Constitution itself and as has been affirmed numerous times since — the supreme Law of the Land which overrides all other laws. No state law or state constitution that conflicts with the Constitution of the United States may stand. (See Article VI, Clause 2 of the Constitution of the United States.)

    This is pretty much what Abi said, but a little clearer for the gNats of the world. No law may override the Constitution.

    In the next few years, however, look for several Republican attacks upon the Constitution to weaken it.

    Some have already been made, including simply re-interpreting it so that, for example, “freedom of association” is interpreted as only being a right when linked to “freedom of speech.” Imagine the uproar if the religion clause were attacked this same way. But weakening freedom of association makes it easier for the government to control crowds that oppose governmental policies, by pretending to come up with content-neutral methods for dispersing crowds.

    Over the next few years, I predict that Article V of the Constitution will be amended to allow for simple majorities to change the Constitution. (I don’t believe it will take longer than about 4-6 years for this to be seriously attempted.)

    The First Amendment, too, will be significantly changed. President George Bush, while campaigning for President, was teased by a website owner. The Press caught wind of it and asked the President what he thought. “There ought to be limits to freedom.” Why? Again, because someone made fun of him.

    As early as 1973, Kevin Phillips, who (literally) wrote the book that is the blueprint for the success of the Republican dominance of presidential politics (The Emerging Republican Majority; written at a time when there was no such thing: 1969), said the First Amendment was “obsolete”; government — or corporate — censorship of non-conservative ideas has been advocated by other conservatives such as Reed Irvine, William Simon, Irving Kristol and Lewis Powell, to name just a few. Interestingly, Kevin Phillips is now one of the Bush Administrations strongest critics.

    He rails against the growing inequality of wealth in America. He bemoans the unprecedented influence that private corporations hold over public institutions. He attacks the “smug conservatism” of George W. Bush and accuses the president of attempting to establish a family dynasty better suited to royalist England than to democratic America. — Bates, “The House of Bush,” Rolling Stone.

    Phillips’ newest book, by the way, American Dynasty, notes among other things that the Bush family has “made the presidency into an office infused with an almost hereditary dishonesty.”

    There’s so much lying and secrecy and corruption to it. Just look at the way Neil and Jeb and Marvin and George W. have earned their livings, with all these parasitic operations: profiting from their political connections, cashing in on favors from big corporations and other governments. It’s a convergence of arrogance — the sense that you don’t have to pay attention to democratic values. It’s happening again with Halliburton. They can’t help but let their old cronies in there to make buckets of money off the war. — Bates, supra.

    How much easier will all this be once the First Amendment is gutted?

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