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April 17, 2005

Hollywood and First Amendment Rights

As citizens of the United States, we have the right to express ourselves however we wish, and these rights are available no matter what social status we have. But is there such a thing as abuse of speech? We all know you can't say bomb on an airplane (as Ben Stiller showed in Meet the Parents), you cannot threaten someone (as that would constitute assault), and you can't lie under oath (another crime, perjury). Plagarism is also not protected by First Amendment rights (I'll cover this one further in my next post). However, there is one way which celebrities have an advantage on the rest of America, and that is access to the mainstream media.

Hollywood elites need to do little more than say something controversial to get the attention of the media, and can take full advantage of that attention. The Dixie Chicks made an anti-Bush statement at a concert (probably feeling further shielded being outside of the US). Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have constantly been critical of conservative values. And Michael Moore is able to demand money for his viewpoint.

Unfortunately, they have every right to say what they want. The media goes wherever it feels there is news, using it's freedom of press rights. So no matter how many $100 million documentaries Michael Moore comes out with, he will still have the right to decieve people through his lies.

Does this mean we have to listen to what they say? This is where the good news comes in. We don't have to pay them any attention. This may seem obvious, but it can put a lot of pressure on Hollywood to shut up. Unlike most forms of entertainment, country music has a far more conservative demographic. After the Dixie Chicks complained about President Bush at the aforementioned concert, there was a huge response. Country radio stations sponsered events where country music fans came and had their Dixie Chicks CDs destroyed. There were boycotts of their music. While the Dixie Chicks expressed their right to free speech, people expressed their right NOT to buy Dixie Chick merchandise.

There are some who have argued that that is not a reason to not buy their CDs. There is one major problem with that argument. Who is going to force those people to? A negative opinion is a negative opinion, and it will influence how a consumer spends his money.

The Hollywood elites can continue to whine as much as they want about what they don't like, but if we tell them that we don't care what their opinions are and we don't want to hear them, sooner or later, their smaller paychecks will convince them to rethink how they use their freedom of speech.