In a fascinating piece, Angela Rye, the Co-Founder of IMPACT, broke down just how much “words matter” in the political arena.
Throughout the 2012 presidential election cycle and in the political discourse, people continue to recite dangerous words of hatred and division which seem to go unpunished. From media attention seeking billionaire Donald Trump to Maine Republican Party Chair, Charlie Webster, public figures have used their words to spread discord and lies in a country that’s already divided.
Check out Rye’s piece below via the Huffington Post:
Did our parents lie to us? They made us recite and believe: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words… ” Of course, we know the rest of our childhood mantra. Words do hurt.
We must be held accountable for our thoughts expressed in both verbal and written form. While we can spend time arguing the nuances of our constitutional right to freedom of speech, I have now reached a point — with all deliberate speed — that some of the speech, the “messaging,” and the lies, should fall under an exception of freedom of speech. So, the question is how do we begin to change the tide on what has now become common practice in our 2012 political discourse? How do we foster accountability for political speech? Because simply put: words matter. And words have been particularly important during this year’s presidential election cycle.
The fallout of the Citizens United ruling, which makes political spending a form of protected speech, creates a political climate that tries hard to tell us “if we can buy this air time, we can tell you anything.” Our current climate overtly National Enquirer-izes political campaigning and does so at a tremendous cost. In spite of the recent SCOTUS opinion or the subsequent interpretations by super Political Action Committees (PACs) all over the land, the American people, in large part, rejected the very notion of pay-to-play campaigns that coast their way down Pennsylvania Avenue on lies and try to buy their way through the White House doors. Words matter.
Case after case before the Supreme Court of the United States of America from Brandenberg v. Ohio to Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association articulates the protections, limitations, and exceptions of our First Amendment rights. The exceptions to freedom of speech are clear — namely, speech that incites violence is NOT constitutionally protected speech, but there is an unspoken pass for political speech (that far exceeds the protection offered for spending). I wish the exception extended to lies that intentionally cause division in an already immensely frustrated, split country — a country where unemployment abounds especially if you are a young black or brown person. A country where the privileged and entitled few wage war on the many more who lack resources to be able to survive with adequate healthcare, SNAP benefits, financial aid for college, Social Security, and Medicare. A country where hard fought battles to achieve civil rights and voting rights is an ongoing challenge decades after the passage of bills bearing their names and despite the ever-presence of the vestiges of slavery. Words matter.
And yet, on the afternoon of Election Day, I found myself responding to a tweet from Donald Trump claiming an “Obama supporter” pulled a gun on a poll watcher in Detroit despite no mention in the article about whom the individual supported. Read between the lines (here are the lines: Donald Trump wants you to believe the man was black and that “the blacks” all support Obama especially in Detroit).
Later that night, I declined to re-engage the Trumpster when he went to Twitter to call for a revolution because he believed the country was going to hell in a handbasket with a second Obama term.
Read the rest of this article on the HuffPo.