A lesson in the First Amendment for an obtuse thespian
I don't often comment on the celebrity culture. There's two reasons for this. First, it's Holly-weird. These people A) Play act for a living, and B) Have enough yes-men to make the average member of Congress jealous. Second, they think that because they're in the acting field that they're far more intelligent and nuanced than the average American. Enter Sean Penn, idiot extraordinaire:
First Amendment be damned . . . If Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn had his way, any journalist who called Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a dictator would quickly find himself behind bars.
Penn, appearing on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" on Friday, defended Chavez during a segment in which he detailed his work with the JP Haitian Relief Organization, which he co-founded.
"Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it" said Penn, winner of two Best Actor Academy Awards. "And this is mainstream media, who should -- truly, there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies."
It was just the beginning of a busy weekend for Penn. When asked on CBS' "Sunday Morning" about those who question his motives for his humanitarian work in Haiti, he said:
"Do I hope that those people die screaming of rectal cancer? Yeah. You know, but I'm not going to spend a lot of energy on it."
Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst, said the same constitutional protection that applies to journalists also applies to Penn, who can say pretty much anything he wants in the "political arena" -- aside from an immediate incitement of violence.
"What he is saying is protected, as wacky and weird as it is," Napolitano told FoxNews.com. "But the substance of what he's saying would be absolutely contrary to the First Amendment, which fully protects all political opinions. So if a journalist says Dick Cheney should go to jail, the journalist is privileged to say that."
"Mr. Penn is calling for a communist-like regime in which journalists who criticize the government are sent to jail because of that criticism," Napolitano added. "That is utterly un-American and hasn't happened here since the Civil War."
The First Amendment states, emphasis mine:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment specifically prohibits what Penn is calling for. We have the right to sound off on virtually anything here in America. Yes, there are exceptions to that freedom, such as shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, engaging in slander, libel, or defamation of character. But in the case of Hugo Chavez, the man is, literally, a dictator.
Penn forgets that Chavez attempted to seize President Carlos Andres Perez back in 1992 when President Perez was returning from a foreign trip. This was a coup d'etat, and one in which he had a handful of rebels backing him, but the military didn't. Once out of prison, after two years of incarceration, Chavez ran for the presidency of Venezuela and won with 56% of the electorate backing him. In 2009 he won a referendum to remove all presidential term limits making him the president for life of Venezuela. The Organization of American States (OAS) in 2010 had serious misgivings about his actions as president with regard to human rights, press freedom, erosion of the separation of powers, and political intimidation. In short the OAS was basically calling him a dictator and tyrant; sentiments echoed by longtime ally Raul Baduel back in 2002.
Penn's assertions that it's wrong for anyone to refer to Chavez as a dictator is simply obtuse. Chavez is a dictator, end of story. (Hey Sean, I live in Mesa, AZ. Please, send your jack-booted thugs to arrest me. I can assure him that not only will I take a few of them with me, but I'll be happy to send him to Hell in the process.) See, that's freedom of speech. I can sound like an @$$, and it's my right, just as it's his right to sound like one. That's the beauty of America and the First Amendment.
We all have the right to speak out, and sound like an @$$ if we choose to, but NOTHING can make us listen to nonsensical blather. No offense to those who believe Penn is a good actor (myself among them), but when it comes to politics, he's wholly inept and uneducated to speak intelligently on such matters. And Penn is notorious for supporting dictators across the globe; like father, like son. He apparently picked up a good deal of his father's Communist beliefs, and uses them regularly to make an unbelievable @$$ of himself when it comes to politics.
This is my main gripe with celebrities that appear to be out of their league when it comes to politics, current events, and real-world issues ... These people live in a fantasy world 90% of the time, and they think that things should run as they see them. The problem is their reality doesn't mix with real-world reality. And when they speak out, they sound like idiots. Granted, Penn is free to speak his mind, but when he, and those of like-minds speak up, the media needs to ignore their sheer lunacy. The First Amendment guarantees their right to speak out, but it doesn't mean we need to be informed of it, or be forced to listen to it.
Hugo Chavez IS a dictator, and is openly hostile to the United States. If Penn likes Chavez so much, maybe he should move to Venezuela. Maybe he can head up Chavez's thought/speech police. He might feel more at home there than in America.