free speech

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It was painful and haunting to go through old photos and find the World Trade Towers.

It was painful and haunting to go through old photos and find the World Trade Towers.

It’s been a very sad week in America. I don’t need an anniversary date on the calendar to remind me of one of the worst days in American history. There hasn’t been a day that’s passed since September 11, 2001 in which I haven’t thought and gotten angry about how our country and the world have been changed since our nation was attacked by radical Islamists and thousands of citizens died violent, horrible deaths. I did not lose any family members or friends that day, so I can only imagine the pain and emptiness that victims’ loved ones have had to endure this past decade.

It was with some trepidation that I waited to see how this eleventh anniversary would be marked, now that there was the distance of ten plus one years since that infamous attack on our shores. It didn’t take long to be disappointed in how 9/11 perceptions are changing. Good friend and client Wayne Hayward forwarded me two tone-deaf marketing e-mails he’d received, both of which purported to honor those affected by 9/11, but quickly followed those words with a commercial sales pitch. Ugh! What next? 9/11 mattress sales and car dealership discounts?

Later, in the day, we took out-of-town client Secure Wireless (in-town for the ASIS security show) to the Phillies-Marlins game. A few rows below our section was an energetic young lady in a string bikini  top and body paint with the message 9/11 and “Always Remember” on her back. Mostly, she was posing in hopes of appearing on the scoreboard cam. Given that she was probably 10 when the planes hit the twin towers, I don’t think she intended disrespect, but there was a profound disconnect between the event and her freestyle attempt at commemoration.

As for the ASIS show in Philadelphia,  aimed at corporate, academic, governmental, institutional security, I was amazed at some of the latest advances in everything from CCTV analytics to armored bulletproof vehicles, guard houses, and much more. And then came the news about the mob attacks at our embassies in Egypt and Libya and how the latter in Benghazi was a makeshift affair with contracted security and no Marines assigned. The world is still a dangerous place and the bad actors are always poking for signs of weakness.

This explosion of Islamic rage and anti-American hatred should be a wake-up call to those who look at 9/11 as some sort of historical event in the past. Who delude themselves that a continually expanding TSA will protect us from global conflicts such as a nuclear Iran.

The murders of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans at the Libyan embassy, and the anti-American hate mobs in a growing list of Muslim nations should be enough to remind Americans that we are still engaged in a War on Terror. We are being told that a pathetic, badly made YouTube video incited the carefully planned and coordinated attacks on our embassies. This common sense article hammers home the point that this is about Islamists trying to undermine our most basic freedom — freedom of speech.  The fact that Americans aren’t united about an act of war — the outrageous murders of Ambassador Stevens and his associates — represents a terrible way to mark the anniversary of 9/11. On some matters, we should NEVER be a nation divided. And yet, we are.

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A new web site by Ben and Jerry's is lobbying against corporate lobbyists and big money donors.

A new web site by Ben and Jerry's is lobbying against corporate lobbyists and big money donors.

A week after ranting about the politicization of absolutely everything, I find myself ranting again. My Facebook page hasn’t gotten any less political, but it has gotten muddled. Tonight I noticed a paid Facebook ad, promoted by Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, asking for help to Get The Dough Out of Politics. Admirable, Don Quixotic thought, but also a little like trying to make water less wet. What’s more, there are a few contradictions here.

There has been a lot of sound and fury lately about whether corporations are people. The video for Get The Dough Out of Politics helps answer this. A lot of passionate individuals, men and women, young and old, speak to the issue of campaign finance reform. They all are employees who work for two guys named Ben and Jerry, who happen to be a decent sized corporation that makes really fine ice cream. So, yes, corporations are people who have livelihoods tied to common business interests. Sometimes companies or entire industries hire lobbyists and contribute funds to political campaigns to support candidates and programs that advance their business interests.

Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that Ben and Jerry’s would like to see overturned by constitutional amendment, ruled that such corporate efforts, including paid lobbying and political advertising, is free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Ben and Jerry’s and I share a common opinion that it is imperative to protect the free speech of U.S. citizens. Ben and Jerry’s thinks to do so, we must drive money out of the equation. However, they are paying for ads and videos to advance that cause. I am glad to see them exercising their own right to corporate free speech as protected by Citizens United. Actually, I am glad to see anyone investing in anything at the moment.

As Ben and Jerry’s would quickly point out, they are just two peace-loving guys who also love to make ice cream and occasional questionable marketing decisions. In other words, there is a world of difference between them and the Koch Brothers, who the Left is convinced is capable of buying elections. The Koch Brothers are popular targets — Dan Ackroyd and John Lithgow play thinly veiled versions of them in the wildly funny film, The Campaign. Meanwhile, those on the Right lodge the same complaints about George Soros.

Money does buy political messaging and it is ripe for abuse. But it costs a lot to run political campaigns. And not all political messaging is bad. I am sure Ben and Jerry’s is convinced of the purity of its purpose. The problem is that every time Washington DC introduces campaign finance reform, they seldom get it right. They make the process cumbersome. Political committees figure out workarounds (Super Pacs).  And the danger grows that free speech will be eliminated (it can’t be for just the other guy — federal laws cut both ways). I’ve heard others suggest that the way to approach this is to introduce full transparency — make it a requirement to disclose who is contributing to which candidates and how much. However, to that thought, in this political season, personal contributors (not corporations) to one candidate have been targeted in advertising and with questionable allegations about them made by the other candidate. Naturally, the result has been personal harrassment. Money, power, full disclosure, and dirty politics. What a mess.

Might be time for some new Ben and Jerry’s flavors — Campaign Cashew and Freedom Brittle.

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