The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Weak Warriors

For Free Speech

Read any good poems lately?

I like this photo of local attorney Bill Newman taken by WHMP's Bill Dwight.

However, I was much less pleased to hear Bill Newman and Bill Dwight discussing on the radio the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the rights of corporations to communicate their positons on the candidates in elections. Most corporations probably won't bother taking advantage of their new right, simply because taking sides in polarizing partisan politics is usually bad for business. That's why Snapple ended their long asssociation with Rush Limbaugh, they wanted liberals to buy their fruit drinks too!

Yet a few corporations, in matters of great importance to their owners, shareholders and employees, may occasionally want to inform the public of their opinions and interests, and the court quite sensibly, in my opinion, protected their freedom to do so. That is also the point of view of the American Civil Liberties Union, generally considered the foremost defender of free speech in the country. In fact the ACLU felt so strongly that restrictions on corporate speech were both unconstitutional and unwise that they went to the trouble and considerable expense of presenting a formal brief to the Supreme Court making the argument that those who own, invest and work for corporations should not be denied full access to the political process.

However, some people are very upset that the ACLU got its way. Interestingly, almost all of them are of the liberal Democrat persuasion, and the reason for their concern may be that they strongly suspect that on those occasions when corporations do enter the political arena, it will rarely be in support of those politicians most inclined to tax, regulate and otherwise control private businesses. Businesses might (gasp!) speak out on behalf of their business interests and those of their shareholders and employees. In other words, the critics of the court's decision see most of that money headed towards Republicans, and they understandably don't like that very much.

So it's not that surprising if all over the Left-leaning media you hear calls for laws, even constitutional amendments, designed to give the government new powers to tell corporations to shut up. Bill Dwight and Bill Newman are both liberals, or "progressives" as they prefer to be called, so one might expect them to denounce the court's decision. Earlier the same day Bill Newman was also on the WHMP sister station WRSI where I heard him commiserating with its host Monte Belmonte about what a terrible thing the court had done. Of course the court decision also freed labor unions to spend as much as they need to in order to communicate their opinions to the public, but since labor unions support almost exclusively Democrat Party candidates, neither Newman, Dwight nor Belmonte ever mentioned them as a threat to free speech.

Normally I would dismiss with a chuckle this all too human tendency to see the court decision through ideological eyegoggles, except for who Bill Newman is. He's the local lawyer for the organization that helped make this decision possible in the first place - Newman is the lawyer for the area branch of The American Civil Liberties Union! Indeed Newman was repeatedly referred to throughout the broadcast as "the lawyer for the ACLU" before and after every pause in the interview, as Newman criticized and even ridiculed the ACLU supported court decision.

If you listen to the Dwight interview here, I think you'll agree that it was not in any way made clear to those listening that Newman was not speaking for the ACLU or that he was being critical of the position taken by his employer. That there was no disclaimer is an extremely important point, because Newman appears on WHMP daily - in a segment called "The First Amendment Minute" no less - thereby making him a high profile commentator on First Amendment issues. If he is going to switch sides and talk against the ACLU's official postion on free speech, as he did on the Dwight and Belmonte shows, he really ought to re-consider whether he should continue as the ACLU's attorney and as its local radio spokesman. At the very least Bill Dwight and Monte Belmonte should have made the effort to stress to their listeners that the ACLU officially supports the Supreme Court's decision and that Newman was expressing only his personal opinion - one that had nothing to do with the ACLU and which in fact contradicted it.

Both Dwight and Newman have been able defenders of free speech on some occasions in the past. But I am no mere advocate for the First Amendment, I have lived it. For me free speech rights are very serious matters, having had to depend on the First Amendment enormously over the years. Today Springfield's Democrat Party Machine is universally recognized as having been corrupt, but when I was writng about those villains in the 1990's they were at the height of their power, and it was often difficult and even dangerous to publicly attack them.

Yet I was doing so with nothing but a street zine and a blog (before the word blog had even been invented) with no company lawyer to back me up or prestigious masthead to hide behind. The only thing I had was the truth and the First Amendment to protect me. In recent years when hecklers were repeatedly shouting down speakers at UMass, at events no one in the media would cover but me (as in the video I made below) not once did I hear any words of support from those champions of free speech Bill Newman, Monte Belmonte or Bill Dwight.

So the other morning when I heard the court's free speech decision being attacked on the Dwight and Belmonte Shows, it bothered me. It bothered me because the person you had the right to expect to be presenting the pro-speech argument on behalf of the ACLU instead argued against the ACLU's position, even as he was repeatedly referred to as the ACLU's lawyer. In fact Newman's daily "First Amendment Minute" for the ACLU was broadcast during a break in his interview. I was also annoyed when the hosts of those programs did not call Newman on his contradictions, but instead allowed the audience to falsely assume that they were listening to views consistent with the ACLU. Again, listen to the interview itself on the link above, and judge for yourself what conclusions the audience would have drawn about the position of the ACLU.

I think Bill Dwight, Monte Belmonte and especially Bill Newman owe the public an apology. They need to apologize for allowing their audience to be misled into believing that they were listening to opinions consistent with the ACLU, when in fact they were hearing the exact opposite.

Westfield Penguins

As they do every year for charity, a bunch of crazies jumped into the icy water of the Hampden Ponds this week, as seen in these photos by Lisa Watson.

Even a penguin wouldn't like these temps!

The winter sun was able to provide little comfort.

Emergency medical personnel were on hand in case the sudden shock of icy water caused any heart attacks.

Michael LaCrosse of WGGB-TV40 interviews some local cavemen.

State Rep. Don Humason was among those preparing to take the plunge.

Humason's swimsuit was an actual suit!

No info on whether it was body paint or the temperture that turned this guy blue.

Today's Music Video

I once had a friend that thoughtlessly told his girlfriend that his favorite song was U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." He couldn't understand why she took it personally! He should have said this song.


harry throbhurts said...

that video makes me cry

Anonymous said...

Tommy Devine, you have the biggest balls in the valley. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Tell it like it is Tommy, everyone deserves an opportunity to express an opinion. Sorry libs, the days of pc censorship are over.

Carol said...

Tom, no one has fought for the First Amendment over the years more than you. Shame on the two Bills for selling out for partisan reasons. Dwight should offer an apology to his listeners and Newman should resign from the ACLU.

Tim said...

Nothing like liberals. Ted Kennedy and windfarms comes to mind. Walking contradictions. Watch out for those careening brakeless, Prius' this weekend!

Anonymous said...

Isn't the job of a lawyer to present their client's point of view? If I were the ACLU I'd fire his ass!

amherst 250th screwed 'bach said...

that's EFT UP!

John B. said...

As usual Tommy your aim is true. As a first amendment absolutist I will be making no more contributions to the ACLU until I hear that Newman is gone.

Anonymous said...