Monday, September 22, 2003

The 1st Amendment is a 2 Way Street

As my regular readers will note, I've touched on the subject of the controversy surrounding Mel Gibson's film, The Passion before in this space (here -scroll down to Strange Bedfellows post). This morning Frank Rich, who has previously taken this subject on, only to be threatened by Mr. Gibson, along with a threat against Mr. Rich's housepets, has returned to the subject. It is an excellent piece and I commend the entire article to you (Click here).

One of the points he makes is that in this controversy, Mr. Gibson and his supporters, such as Bill O'Reilly, have been very quick to argue that critics of his movie are somehow violating his first amendment rights. This is something that I am seeing more and more in political discourse. I liken it to what Eric Alterman calls "Playing the Refs". Accusing the other side in advance of any actual foul. (Think Vlade Divac).

What does the first amendment guarantee us? Not protection from criticism by other citizens. That is what the first amendment in fact grants us. Actually it should be just this, the right to criticism without fear of retribution, that we are guaranteed. It is neither libelous nor is it in any way limiting Mr. Gibson's rights to express himself for people to criticize his film. Mr. Gibson has received a massive amount of free publicity for this movie. Mostly from his detractors. One can argue what the best tactic would be in this case, let it quietly die the death of a film with limited interest that few people would be able to sit through, or oppose it vociferously as anti-Semitic. And Gibson can make whatever counter arguments he likes. But to cry censorship in the face of criticism should be considered laughable.

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