By Phil La Duke
We live in charmed times. With the wealthiest man in the world, Elon Musk, purchasing Twitter the cries go up at the threat to the freedom of speech. These waterheads speak with the authority of Clarence Darrow and the wisdom of Yogi Berra. The assertions that Elon Musk charging for Twitter is an abridgment of free speech is so baseless and mindless that I honestly don’t know if I feel like slapping these people for perpetuating stupidity or patting them on the head to reassure the simpletons that everything is going to be fine.
Where do I begin to deconstruct this nonsense? I suppose I might as well start with the fact that since Elon Musk is not the U.S. Congress his rules banning certain people, or topics, or even some forms of punctuation don’t in any way violate the first amendment. If you want to play his game you’re gonna have to play by his rules. And while we’re on the subject of the Constitution, do we really need the third amendment anymore? For my part, I welcome quartering soldiers in peacetime—bear in mind most of what I know about the military comes from watching movies like “Full Metal Jacket” and television shows like “Gomer Pyle” and what I have learned is that military personnel, party harder, swear (a lot), and clean up after themselves. While I have grown used to living in squalor the idea of having house guests that do KP, clean the barracks, police up the mess in the yard, and stand guard duty all seem like a pretty sweet gig. But then I digress…
Even if Musk somehow BECAME the U.S. Congress, even then what he is doing wouldn’t be abridging your right to free (or even reasonably priced) speech. The Supreme Court has set limits on many of our rights including the freedom of speech. You can’t say something that you know to be untrue. For example, you can’t sell a can of crickets in beef suet and call it Vegan alphabet soup (speaking of which, does Russian alphabet soup use the Cyrillic alphabet?) And as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in his Supreme Court opinion that freedom of speech does not allow one to shout “fire” in a crowded theater where a fire does not exist. (I have always wondered why given the fact that more people die of smoke inhalation than from the fire itself people don’t yell SMOKE!! Maybe they were afraid that people would fire up a cigarette. Justice Holmes should have spent a bit more time on his opinion for the good of us all.) The point being is that rights tend to have corresponding responsibilities and we need to be held accountable for them.
If you have an account on Twitter or have agreed to the terms of service of anyone who asks for them, you have probably waived your rights to many things, perhaps even the ownership of your organs so quit whining about it. Unlike a board game, there aren’t any “house rules” that you can just make up when using someone else’s property. It’s their world; you just live in it, enjoy it, and belly ache when they try to make money off it, ironically all the while Tweeting against Socialism and Communism. As Ray Charles’s mother told him in the movie “Ray” “There ain’t nothing free in this world except Jesus,” and some days I even question that.
This is the world of grown-ups albeit mostly inhabited by spoiled, entitled, and proudly ignorant exflower children and the children that they raised. You routinely give away your rights so you can play the hot new game on your phone without realizing that you have renounced your citizenship and are now the sole property of an evil corporation. This reminds me of another constitutional point. If corporations are people, is chapter 13 bankruptcy considered suicide? Are corporate mergers considered marriages? Forget the constitution for a moment, don’t we have to rethink the whole birds and the bees talk?
Even if we were able to sidestep the whole terms of service agreements we would still have to grapple with the warning Uncle Ben gave Peter Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility”. I guess I would have to agree with that, but he should have also warned that with great power comes even greater consequences. And while we are on the subject of Uncle Ben. Why did they have to change the name of Uncle Ben’s rice to Ben’s Original? Ben who? I was raised not to take candy from strangers and now I’m supposed to eat a stranger’s rice? Why not just redraw Uncle Ben to be Spiderman’s Uncle Ben? They could imply that eating Uncle Ben’s rice would make you powerful and imbue you with great responsibility. But enough about Uncle Ben, and rice, and Spiderman, and back to consequences. You are within your rights to claim that your boss worked his way threw finishing school as a third-rate carnival geek, but your boss (even if what you said was true) has the right to fire you.
The great tragedy in all this is that of all the rights given to us as citizens of the United States, the least likely to be exercised is the right to remain silent. Not only do we say things on Social Media that we probably should keep to ourselves we then whine and cry about our lack of privacy. If you want to protect your privacy do what I do: lie in your profile. I am not working as an evangelist for the Digital Bible, I did not attend Harvard (well I did go to the book store and purchase a t-shirt so technically I did go there) and well I think you get the idea.
To quote Calvin Coolidge, “They never hung a man for something he didn’t say” it’s a shame Silent Cal didn’t have Twitter.
Phil La Duke is a popular speaker & writer with more than 2,500 works in print. He has contributed to Authority, Buzzfeed, Entrepreneur, Monster, Thrive Global, and many more magazines and is published on all inhabited continents. He is the author of three books and a contributor to one more.