What is it about Citizens United and Corporate Personhood that crumples, bunches, and tucks deep the underwear of so many progressives? Why the foot stomping screaming spasms? It’s difficult to get a solid understanding of what exactly vexes them so because very often merely uttering the inquiry unleashes a torrential response of vacuous slogans wrapped in anger. “Corporations aren’t people!!!”, “The rich are buying the government!!!”, “Too much money in campaigns!!!”, “It’s ruining our Democracy!!!”. None of that is helpful. So I thought I’d look into Citizens United and try to figure it all out.
Now I understand the state of the person in which I notice this behavior isn’t conducive to reading or edification—it’s more conducive to a dyspepsia fueled aneurysm. But one would think if a person finds something so discomfiting they’d learn more about it before completely flipping out. Sadly, I don’t believe most progressives know much about either Citizens United or Corporate Personhood, at least the ones who sound off about it with snide drive-bys and sneering eye-rolling. I am sure, however, there are progressives who do know the truth about Citizens United and Corporate Personhood, but the distortion is too luscious a propaganda tool to waste. Those are the progressive rousers who prefer firing up a cauldron of civilizational discontent and ladling out dishonesty to the indoctrinated and others who thirst to justify their resentments.
But here’s the deal.
At its core the infamously dire Citizens United case was about (and I’m not kidding) a movie and whether the Federal Government can ban it from being shown. It was about whether the Federal Election Commission could prohibit a movie from being shown because the subject of which concerned a politician and it was too close to an election. That’s it. The movie, Hillary:The Movie, was a documentary on, well, Hillary. And Citizens United made that film and wanted to show it on “video-on-demand television” within 30 days of a primary election. They sought the ability to do so, but were denied—they were banned from showing the movie. Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation, filed suit and made it all the way to the Supreme Court where the Court found in favor of Citizens United that the Federal Government cannot ban the showing of a film or advertising of a politician or any other political speech. And then progressive Left went ape.
That’s it. Despite all the villainous craziness you may have heard about the Citizens United decision and how it’s “going to give” the rich “the opportunity to purchase the U.S. Government”, and that it supports the notion of “giving huge piles of undisclosed cash to politicians in exchange for access and influence” that’s all fatuous nonsense. That is B.S. Seriously. Those words are from Bernie Sanders.
All this is not to say the Citizens United is perfect, nothing ever is. And there may be arguments that it is flawed in some respects. Fine, let’s hear the calm cohesive arguments and have a civilized debate. But let’s hear arguments, not shouts of “Too much money in politics!!” followed by silence. That’s a slogan, not an argument. State the claim, then build the case and point out precisely how banning a movie supports the claim and why it is needed and also constitutional. But be ready to answer: What is the limiting principle? Can all movies be banned? Are only some people allowed to show a movie and others are not? And who gets to decide who can show a movie and who cannot? Under what authority? Does this banning of political content extend to other mediums like television, newspapers, magazines, the web? If not, why not?
Don’t hold your breath waiting for any of that. I read several criticisms of Citizens United and they mainly boil down to “It allows too much spending during an election and we don’t like that.” I think it’s because one thing is clear; after a fair reading of the decision, one is hard pressed to find that it’s unleashing the cataclysm that the progressives claim. Unless, of course, that cataclysm rests on Freedom of Speech and the prohibition of selective banning of political inexpedient speech. Because there is no cataclysm if you’re against the banning of films or speech.
Now, I can already hear the fingertip tapping on keyboards of some of our progressive commenters. “That’s bull s@%#!! It said that corporations are people!!!!”, “Corporations don’t have f——— First Amendment protection!!!”. “Corporations aren’t f——— people!!!” Harrumph, harrumph!! Tap tappity tap tap.
The Citizens United case did base at least part of its decision on Corporate Personhood. But Corporate Personhood is nothing new. The case didn’t invent the idea. It didn’t make it ubiquitous. It simply “recognized that the First Amendment applies to corporations” in prior cases and used it in the decision of this case because Citizens United was indeed denied its First Amendment rights when they wanted to show a movie of a politician but were forbidden to exercise their political speech. People do not lose rights simply by working together.
That wafts up the next pungent rhetorical fog flatulated from the dishonest Left to inflate their spurious “The court ruled that corporations are people” blimp so they can float it high as some looming ominous evil casting a shroud of doom over all we hold dear. This is of course silly. To pretend otherwise, betrays either dishonesty or ignorance.
To be continued…