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.
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