Silly Redneck

by Jason Fischer

Anyone with a law school education knows that state action is required before anyone can whine about having their free speech rights taken away.  Well, okay — you can whine about it, but that’s about it.  You can’t get a court to step in and fix your problem, unless some government entity is involved.  Not to go too far off track here, but this is the whole idea behind the Constitution.  It’s a big long list of the things that government isn’t supposed to do, and a really short list of what it *may* do.

redneck-sign

Enough 1790’s background; let’s talk 2010.  If you’re a redneck (this is not necessarily a requirement, but it helps), and you decide to publish a “newspaper” (not sure what else to call it) that describes your political ideas, don’t get all uppity if the local KFC won’t let you put it on the take-one-free rack, between the Auto Trader and the Keels and Wheels.  It’s not a constitutional issue.

The scary part of this story is that you have to wade two thirds of the way into this Fox News article before they reveal that little tid bit to the reader who isn’t in the know.  How many of those readers have the kind of attention span necessary to make it that far?  More than likely, the majority start seeing red after reading the headline, and three sentences in, they’re sputtering some nonsense about “they’re ruinin’ are country” and clicking over to something more soothing.  Gold star for journalistic integrity to Fox News on this one!

13 Responses to Silly Redneck

  1. Jay says:

    How, exactly, is Fox News to blame here? The headline characterizes it as a business dispute. They never claim it is a 1st amendment issue, but rather that the local paper is claiming 1st amendment violations. Then, after further exposition of it being a business dispute, they have an expert debunk the 1st amendment claim.

    It is a common misunderstanding that the 1st amendment prohibits all intrusions upon free speech and press, rather than simply prohibiting federal (and via the 14th-state) intrusions. You are certainly entitled to lambast the local paper for its misunderstanding. But it looks like you’re just trying to take a cheap shot at Fox when it painted a full picture.

    For you, you have a legal issue bias and want it addressed above the fold. Most readers aren’t lawyers. The story isn’t the legal issue, it is the business fight. They didn’t bury the lede, they simply didn’t write it for an audience of lawyers.

    Feel free to accuse Fox News of bias, but use better examples.

    • DMG says:

      Awfully convenient, that…

      “Those idiots don’t understand the legal issues anyway, so why bother informing them?”

      • Jay says:

        Kindly reread what I wrote. I neither called the readers idiots nor argued that Fox should not provide the information. The author of the article wrote it for a general audience, and it should be understood in that light.

        If a general article (non-sports section) mentions the infield fly rule, the general audience likely doesn’t understand its intricacies or its application. So, one would expect an explanation at some point. This is precisely what happened here. The core is not the 1st amendment, it is “free speech”. However, as expected, the general audience of non-lawyers was given a perspective on the application of the 1st amendment.

        For an example of how the issue of “free speech” is broader than the 1st amendment, see: http://www.slate.com/id/2079885

        • DMG says:

          Really? We’re going with “free speech” is different from the 1st Amendment.?

          Not even worth my time, but I still looked at the article. It says no such thing. It’s still a discussion of the 1st Amendment.

        • Jay says:

          Kindly reread the article. As I have said before, the idea of free speech exceeds the scope of the 1st amendment. At no point does the article state that it is a feud solely over the 1st amendment, but rather that the owner of the paper is contemplating a 1st amendment lawsuit. That is not the only vehicle to resolution, as market forces may come to bear.
          Law students and lawyers need to realize that newspapers aren’t written with them as the primary target reader. Reading the article, as I have, in its proper context demonstrates that it is organized to be read by the average reader. An article about a surgery gone wrong might mention a medmal suit, but exploration of the standard of care is not going to be the focus of the article, even if it gets a short mention.

        • jfischer1975 says:

          Hang on a minute, Jay.  There’s no potential lawsuit here.  You can’t sue a private business for allegedly violating your First Amendment rights.  When the article leads off with the statement, “the paper is threatening to sue, saying this is a blatant breach of its First Amendment rights,” that’s irresponsible.  The paper can’t sue.  There’s nothing to sue about.  That’s not about dumbing the article down for its audience, its reporting something that clearly isn’t possible.

        • Jay says:

          Ms. Fischer, I have never stated that the lawsuit was a good idea. But, as I’ve noted and documented, the notion exceeds government interference. Some of the early history included the fight for freedom of speech within the Church.

          The article isn’t about a lawsuit. It’s about a feud between businesses. One aspect includes the threat of a frivolous lawsuit. Another aspect includes the court of public opinion bringing pressure on the distributor. It’s not about dumbing down, it’s about reporting the bigger picture.

  2. Darren says:

    News articles often hide inconvenient or even contradictory details late in an article in the hopes that it simply won’t be read. This is done constantly, everyday, by every news agency in the world. Fox didn’t accidentally leave that out, Jay. They absolutely claim this is a first amendment issue in the first sentence:

    “A small Tennessee-based newspaper has become the center of a free speech firestorm…”

    This article is written to be read as the story of an embattled small-business owner who braves the evils of political correctness in the interest of free-speech. This isn’t really the case, but damn does Fox try.

    • Jay says:

      If Fox were trying, it wouldn’t publish the legal analysis. There’s a difference between governmental interference with the exercise of free speech and business decisions to regulate content. Net neutrality is also about the same type of non-interference principles. “Free speech” is a term that colloquially embodies freedom from non-interference by government and non-government alike. When Al Sharpton or Ann Coulter is shouted down, both of their supporters will respond in the language of “free speech”.

      Sorry, still nothing to see here.

      • Marc says:

        I think you’re being awfully generous in referring to that as a “legal analysis”….

        The lead in to the expert is wishy-washy at best, implying that this is not cut and dried. And they lead out of it with a quote from the expert himself opining that the spirit of the First Ammendment is not neccesarily being upheld. They’re going out of their way to make this sound like some kind of fancy lawyering tricks.

        • Jay says:

          Marc,
          Certainly, I concur that there’s better legal analysis out there. [Though, to be fair to the analyst, his analysis was presented in summary fashion.]

          I don’t think they’re going out of their way. They’re simply focusing on the “free speech” overarching issue. In fact, I’m amused that this piece is used to accuse Fox is of supporting a conservative paper’s rights against naysers, when the meat of the article seems to imply that the conservative paper’s supporters are all a bunch of Muslim hating bigots. And we all know that ain’t cool.

          Thus, is Fox biased towards the conservative paper or against the conservative paper? I continue to believe the post is trying to make something out of nothing. If the article came from msnbc.com instead of foxnews.com, we would not be having this discussion.

  3. DMG says:

    If this weren’t par for the course when it comes to Fox News burying facts inconvenient to the sensationalist headline, maybe you could say it wasn’t a big deal.

    But it’s typical. Easier to overlook if you like having your faux outrage spoon fed to you, I suppose.

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