Mol (mollyringle) wrote,

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The First Amendment, misunderstood yet again

Think I'll record an anecdote here as a way to procrastinate. I have an essay to write on grammatical aspect; can you see why I might want to put it off? So here you go:

A couple of months ago, I was at a gathering of about a dozen college students, at someone's house for dinner. One pair in particular was very hippie-ish; I think they attended a city college or community college in the Bay Area. The guy was telling us that their college didn't allow people to put up flyers/announcements on campus. The girl looked offended--her mouth fell open in shock, and she said, "But that violates freedom of speech!"

I actually laughed out loud.

She looked at me. "Doesn't it??"

Well, no. Because I didn't want to get into a political debate at a pleasant dinner, I didn't bother going into the subject with her. But here's the answer: It does not violate freedom of speech. Freedom of speech guarantees your right to speak your mind. It does not give you the right to stick stuff wherever you want it.

Just as you cannot repaint the Social Sciences building mauve without the college's permission (even though it might look much better that way), you cannot paper the campus with flyers which some poor custodian will have to pick out of the gutters next time it rains. Peaceably assemble, by all means. Exercise your right to a free press; be my guest. Put flyers in places that allow flyers. But don't go acting all I've-Been-Unconstitutionalized when your rights have not been trampled upon in the slightest way. How would they like it, I wonder, if the college came and stapled registration announcements on their front door? What? Isn't that freedom of speech?

Hehe. Silly kids.

OK, fine, I'll go write that essay.
Tags: politics

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