Eternal Hope Springs
The Scene: Inside Bob-Ed’s community store. Broderick, Pete, Grady, Luther, Parson Paul, and Alphonso are lounging in the back after a hard day, for most of them, of doing not very much. Bob-Ed is puttering about and drifts in and out of the conversation.
“There was an interesting program on the television the other day about the freedom of speech,” said Broderick.
“You ain’t got a television,” said Pete. “In fact you ain’t even got electricity.”
“I opine,” returned Broderick.
“What’s that?” asked Alphonso, cupping his hand to his ear.
Parson Paul leaned into Alphonso’s good ear and raised his voice, “He’s giving his opinion, Al.”
“Too early for onions,” replied Al. “Won’t be ready ’til mid-August with this weather. Have you seen my teeth?”
“It’s a delicate balance of rights,” said Broderick.
“What about the wrongs?” asked Pete.
“Generally protected. Statements do not have to be true to be protected by the Constitution,” said Broderick.
Parson Paul turned to his left and whispered to Grady, “Have you seen Alphonso’s teeth?”
“Not since this morning, Parson,” replied Grady, “when they were in his head.”
“You mean to tell me that exaggeration, fibs, fabrication, falsehood, trumped-up stories, lies, damn lies and statistics are all protected by the Constitution?” said Pete.
“What do you think Luther?” asked Alphonso.
“What about?” replied Luther.
“Mid-August sounds about right.”
“That would appear to be correct,” said Broderick. “Part of the general rule is that a statement is unprotected if the body saying knows it is false or recklessly disregards whether or not it was false. Therefore, it would appear, if a body is careful about disregarding whether or not a statement is false or the body is too ignorant to know the difference then they are protected by the first amendment.”
“That would have to be true,” said Grady. “Otherwise the bottom would fall out of the second-hand car and real estate markets. The economy would collapse. We’d all be out of jobs and the country would be in deep trouble.”
“We are all out of jobs except for Luther here doing the farming, Bob-Ed running the store, and maybe the parson at a pinch,” said Pete.
“I found your teeth, Al,” said Parson Paul. “They’re in my tea.”
“Hang on Broderick,” said Bob-Ed. “You mean to tell me if a body believes that what they say, no matter how stupid it is, is true then they can just go ahead and say it?”
“If not the whole political infrastructure would fall apart,” said Broderick.
“Have you seem my tea?” asked Alponso.
“So what kind of protection do we have from everybody packing the airwaves with a bunch of lies?” asked Grady.
“It’s there,” said Parson Paul, “the blue mug.”
“In theory through civilised and reasoned argument, fairness in discourse, objectivity and a willingness to engage with all facets of society in a constructive manner,” said Broderick.
“Is there no alternative?” asked Grady.
“None that are practical,” said Broderick.
“We’re in trouble,” said Pete.
“That can’t be my tea,” said Alphonso. “My teeth aren’t in it.”