Tatiana Talks

The First Amendment: A Primer

I interrupt our quest through the five stages of a break-up because I have to get something off my chest. I promise to have the next stage to you shortly – I won’t even make you wait a week.

So, the Reddit Troll Violentacrez was outed last week. If you have no idea what I am talking about click here.

I am not going to get into just how disgusting, despicable and detestable I find this man’s online persona – mostly because as a troll, that is what he wants. I do, however, need to address his defenders. Those decrying Gawker for exposing his true identity. Folks flying the First Amendment flag in our faces.

Here’s the thing about the First Amendment (big fan, by the way). It gives every American citizen the right to speak his/her thoughts freely without having to fear persecution by their government.

That last part is the important part. So, I’m gonna say it again: by their government.

If you want to say you hate our president. Our president can’t aim a drone missile at your house and press send. He can’t call the Secret Service and have you detained until you publicly apologize and then tell everyone that will listen that you think he’s an awesome guy. You can lie about our president (because he is a public figure and libel and slander laws are a little more lax for them, not to mention the all the political speech protections). You can protest our president’s residence (you might need a permit, but you can do it). You can Photoshop our president’s head onto a donkey’s body and set-up a Tumblr account with all sorts of nasty captions and compromising positions and the government can’t touch you.

However, if your boss, or your father, or your girlfriend sees it and doesn’t like it. They can take offense. They can stop talking to you. Withhold sex (not your father. Your girlfriend and maybe your boss). And in some states (like my home state of Pennsylvania), if you work for a private company, they can even fire you.

A long time ago I had another blog. I openly blogged about people I worked with (though I did my best to protect their identities) and one day I blogged about a guy that I thought was an asshole. And a few days later that asshole approached me about the blog and called me a bitch for writing it.

When he did (he was actually really respectful about it – asked me into the hallway so as to not do it in front of my co-workers, though that may have had more to do with identifying himself as the asshole) I listened to what he had to say, said something placating back, turned and walked away.

I didn’t apologize (I wasn’t sorry. Besides, apologizing would have confirmed for him that he was the asshole I was talking about) nor did I throw my freedom of expression in his face. I didn’t even bring up my first amendment right weeks later, when I was asked to stop blogging about my co-workers.

Why you ask? Because while I enjoy the liberties that the First Amendment allows me, I know that it doesn’t free me from consequences of my actions. I called someone a name. He told on me and I got in trouble. My rights were not violated.

The First Amendment doesn’t protect you from consequences. For instance, if you are head of a corporation – say a fast food chicken restaurant – and it comes to light that you support organizations that are anti-gay marriage, and a bunch of people get together and decide to boycott your restaurants; those folks are not trampling on your First Amendment right. They are merely exercising theirs.

Now, if one of those folks decides to burn down your fast food restaurant, the government (whether they agree with you or the protesters) has to prosecute the offenders. Otherwise, your rights would be violated.

In relation to VA – he absolutely has the rights to post half naked pictures of 14-year-old girls. Just as the author of the Gawker article had a right to post his real name (if you read the article you will know he obtained this man’s name lawfully). And now VA has to face the consequences of his posts and opinions.

Something to consider as we make our way “anonymously” through this new world. We are accountable for what we are putting out there.