What can you say on Facebook?
Can you say something mean or degrading to someone? Most people would say NO.
Can you disagree with your government? Yes, most people would agree.
However, MOST people would be wrong. In a recent incident reported in the New York Times, Professor Cronon was forced to turn over emails related to a blog post that was negative of the Wisconsin Governor’s efforts to decertify the teachers’ union and reduce teach salaries and benefits.
While you might argue that university professors are protected by the same 1st Amendment rights as anyone else, that doesn’t appear to be the case here. Instead, the Republican party, which subpoenaed the emails, is welcome to go on a fishing expedition trying to find something embarrasing.
Before you start defending them by saying that the email account belongs to the university (a state entity), think about whether there is an implied right of privacy to these emails. Might there not be embarrasing (and confidential) statements in these emails regarding legitimate evaluations of other faculty as required in peer evaluations of journals and tenure applications. How safe are these statements or might they be “leaked” to embarrass the faculty member. Aren’t there things in your emails you wouldn’t want broadcast to the entire world?
This tactic is working so well, Republicans are now going after faculty at the University of Michigan, Michigan State, and Wayne State (in Michigan). The obvious desire is to create such a chilling effect that no one will dare speak out against Republicans in any forum — electronic or otherwise.
Of course, what can you expect from the bunch who tried to defame scientists presenting research supporting global warming. Republicans found a few minor discrepencies in their data and have nailed them to the proverbial wall.
So, you might think the Civil Liberties Union would be jumping to the defense of these scientists and faculty. However, in a report on NPR this morning, journalists were defending the actions by stating that bloggers are NOT journalists, so they don’t have the same protection under the first Amendment as journalists. However, I know a number of journalist over at Huffington Post who would disagree. Just because you don’t work for a published newspaper, doesn’t mean you’re not a journalist.
Besides, a careful reading of the Constitution shows the first amendment applies to freedom of speech regardless of your journalistic status.\
However, this freedom only applies to speech regarding the government (and literal interpretation only protects the freedom to speak out against the FEDERAL government, not state governments).
Now, I usually avoid politics in this column, as a BUSINESS JOURNALIST, however, in this case I think we all need to speak out loud and clear. We all need to ask why the same party complaining about infringement of rights by the HealthCare Law and other illegal actions of the government supports abolishment of the first amendment of the Constitution?
However, where is the