Thursday, January 13, 2011

Political “Miranda” Warning: Everything You Say Can Be Used Against You

Anyone who has watched a TV crime show has heard the police or a detective read the Miranda warning to a person being arrested. The basic Miranda rights are as follows (there are some state variations):

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

Well, maybe it’s time to have something like the Miranda warning to cover political commentary, geared to politicians, journalists, the media, bloggers, Twitter and Facebook users – well, let’s just say everybody who wants to make any public statement, political or otherwise. This warning could be something very simple, something like what I have developed here:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to your own opinions, but you will be accountable for them and others have the right to disagree with you. If you understand these rights as they have been given to you, then go ahead and say or write whatever you want.

Here in the United States, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. People should not confuse this with being able to say anything one wants without consequence. I am perplexed when politicians make statements or post things on their website (or on Facebook or Twitter) and then they become upset or defensive when others hold them accountable for what they say. To rewrite a metaphor: those whose political lives live by their words and actions, their political lives can die by those same words and actions. The lesson here is that there may be times when one should just remain silent.


Check out my blog home page for the latest information,
The Frequent Critic, here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sarah Palin’s “Target” List: Incited Murder, or Unfortunate Coincidence?

Last March, I wrote here expressing my alarm over ex-Governor (and currently holding no elected office) Sarah Palin, and her publishing of a list targeting public officials who were supporters of health care reform (see ” Domestic Terrorism: Sarah Palin Puts Democrats in the Crosshairs, Tells People to “Reload”.)

The worst thing imaginable has happened. One of those people on Palin's list – Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D - AZ) – was shot in the head yesterday while making a public appearance. While she is still alive and in intensive care, others were not so lucky. Six people were also killed, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, and 14 others were wounded. The “alleged” shooter – you know, the guy who had the gun and was wrestled to the ground, nothing “alleged: about that – is in custody.

As of this writing, the motivation for the shooting remains unclear. But Sarah Palin’s earlier call to arms mentioning Giffords’ name along with many others, is still is fresh in the minds of many. I believed then and I believe now that her anti-health reform rhetoric was dangerous and could be perceived as a literal call to action by those with a gun looking for an excuse to use it. If there does appear there was a connection with Palin’s call to action and this shooting, then I think there should be some way that she should be charged for something, like threatening elected officials or conspiracy to commit murder. It is simply not excusable to let anyone encourage others to shoot and/or kill in the name of their personal beliefs without paying the consequences if someone takes them up on their suggestion.

If it turns out that there was no connection with Palin’s words and the shooting and this is all a horrible and unfortunate coincidence, let this be a lesson to Palin and other big talkers who incite and rile up people for their own causes or political gains: learn to keep your mouth shut and your threats to yourself. (And for voters: don’t support or vote for people who stoop to this type of rhetoric.)

All Original Text Content © unless otherwise noted

Check out my blog home page for the latest information,
The Frequent Critic, here.