Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Here's a stupid (but typical) recent story:
MIAMI — A couple returning home from a Costa Rican vacation was ejected from an American Airlines flight because the man was wearing a T-shirt depicting a bare breast.

Oscar Arela and his girlfriend, Tala Tow, were removed from Flight 952 on Saturday after he refused to change the shirt or turn it inside out at Miami International Airport. The flight left 90 minutes late without them.

The couple, making a connecting flight from Costa Rica, said nobody on the earlier flight objected to the shirt and claimed the airline violated their constitutional right to free speech.
Obviously this guy is no brain surgeon to begin with, but it's still worthwhile to ask the question: Exactly how is the United States government involved in all this?

The answer, of course, is: "It's not." Which means the First Amendment has no application here whatsoever. Yet I find it's not unusual that people somehow believe that the First Amendment means they can say whatever they want, whenever they want.

It doesn't.

If you or I walk into our boss's office and call him a "stupid mongoloid" this afternoon, we will be fired. The First Amendment does not guarantee us the right to such displays. It guarantees that the freedom of speech cannot be abridged by the government.

I've always been amazed by how many people are impervious to this simple fact.

When I was doing sports radio, I'd inevitably wind up with a caller here and there who would accuse me of violating his constitutional rights by cutting him off. Over and over I'd explain to such people that there's nothing in the Constitution guaranteeing them the right to spout off on my radio program, just as there is nothing in the Constitution that guaranteed me the radio show to begin with. I could get fired at any minute with no damage to my constitutional rights whatsoever. "But," I'd tell them, "today I still have the job and the hang-up button, so have a nice life."

The First Amendment is designed to protect your speech from the federal government. It does not protect you from the natural consequences of being a jackass.

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