Astonishingly ignorant and un-American

I don’t normally get into examining candidates’ off-the-cuff remarks, but this one by Sarah Palin really pisses me off, mainly because I’m in the media and I’m a diehard First Amendment advocate:

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”

This comment demonstrates Palin’s utter ignorance when it comes to the First Amendment, which is really short and not that hard to understand. In fact, here it is:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Nowhere does it come anywhere near the idea that a person should not be subject to criticism for his or her exercise of free speech, but it does state very clearly that the press is free, and indeed the reason for press freedom is specifically to protect the right of the people to criticize the government!

To use a phrase that her side has been throwing around lately, her misuse of the First Amendment is truly un-American.

Update: Glenn Greenwald says it much better than I did:

“Maureen Dowd recently made an equally stupid comment when she complained that her First Amendment rights were being violated by the McCain campaign’s refusal to allow her on their campaign plane.

The First Amendment is actually not that complicated. It can be read from start to finish in about 10 seconds. It bars the Government from abridging free speech rights. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether you’re free to say things without being criticized, or whether you can comment on blogs without being edited, or whether people can bar you from their private planes because they don’t like what you’ve said.

If anything, Palin has this exactly backwards, since one thing that the First Amendment does actually guarantee is a free press. Thus, when the press criticizes a political candidate and a Governor such as Palin, that is a classic example of First Amendment rights being exercised, not abridged.

This isn’t only about profound ignorance regarding our basic liberties, though it is obviously that. Palin here is also giving voice to the standard right-wing grievance instinct: that it’s inherently unfair when they’re criticized. And now, apparently, it’s even unconstitutional.

According to Palin, what the Founders intended with the First Amendment was that political candidates for the most powerful offices in the country and Governors of states would be free to say whatever they want without being criticized in the newspapers. In the Palin worldview, the First Amendment was meant to ensure that powerful political officials such as herself would not be “attacked” in the papers. Is it even possible to imagine more breathtaking ignorance from someone holding high office and running for even higher office?”

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