Citizens United, fear, hyperboly, and hard positions

The recent SCOTUS decision that freedom of speech applies to organized groups of people as well as individuals has some folks in a froth. Even the court had vocal and vociferous disagreement. Lisa McElroy describes Citizens United v. FEC in plain English Re-argument, a special session, and Stevens’ oral dissent. Fabius Maximus thinks that The sky darkens over America, as we (the little people) are made smaller than we were last week.

It’s difficult to accurately describe the horrific consequences of the Supreme Court decision in “Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission”. I oppose most limits on election spending, but this goes to an extreme in the other direction. It’s the equivalent of empowering free speech by allowing people to falsely scream “fire” in a crowded theater. Conservatives have justified it by just making stuff up about it, the usual form of dialog in 21st century America. It’s not the end of America, but does make the task of reform much more difficult.

Some think it is the left that has this view but that begs the question of why the ACLU and AFL-CIO both supported the decision. The key is the perception of the corporation. If you see corporations as evil, greedy, rich, morality and ethics depraved entities that are a cancer on society and that elections are totally dependent upon who has the most money, then, yes, allowing corporations to spend money selling their viewpoints to the public could indeed be seen as Fabius Maximus describes.

On the other hand, if you see corporations as entities formed of individuals and governed by those individuals operating within the nature of contract law, and you note that money doesn’t always win elections, then perhaps the quote might be considered a bit hyperbolic. It is quite a stretch to claim that allowing a voice is the same as screaming fire in a crowded theater.

The feelings are very strong on this one and touch deeply held values. That means that reason and reality have a tough time entering the debate.

Comments are closed.