Monthly Archive for October, 2008

Misconceptions, Episode 1: The Bill of Rights

I’m starting a short series on some amusing misconceptions that people commonly have.  Here’s the first; enjoy!

We all remember being small kids on the playground, yelling “this is a free country!” at one another while generally being miscreants.  The idea of the American “free country” is something I suppose we are all indoctrinated with early in our lives, but while a portion of it is indeed a key essence of who we are and where we came from as a people, it seems like a lot of people were never taught quite what it all means.

Take, for instance, this bright young lady:

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”

Now, to be fair, she’s far from the only sadly misguided American.  Nothing titilates me more than people on online forums who have been moderated complaining about their freedom of speech being limited, and threatening to bring lawsuit.

So here, simply, is a breakdown of what the Bill of Rights is, and what it isn’t.

The Bill of Rights is a list of what the Government cannot do.  Specifically, it’s a list of rights that the government can never take away from its citizens, either informally or by law.  It gets hairier if you are an employee of the government, however…

The Bill of Rights is not a list of what you are entitled to do.  For instance, if you’re on private property, such as an Internet forum, you have to abide by whatever rules they enforce.  Again, there are hairy exceptions, involving reasonable expectations of privacy and so on, but that’s the general gist of it.

Join us next time as we deal with swimming polar bears!