Saturday, October 31, 2009

Free speech is for people, not for corporations

I'm a big fan of street theatre -- all theatre, really. Earlier this month, activist actors who call themselves "Yes Men" pulled off an amazing bit of theatre when it held a fake press conference. The "characters" wore the guise of suits from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They were announcing the Chamber's turnabout on climate change. During the press conference at the National Press Club in D.C., the fake Chamber spokesman was interrupted by a real staffer from the Chamber who contended that something foul was afoot. For several minutes, the reporters in the room were confused. Who was the real spokesman and who was the fake? The fake one was at the podium and he seemed genuine. Other reporters began firing questions about climate change policy to the supposed real staffer and he became the guy who was confused.

The activists put up a very funny video on YouTube. View it above while you still have the chance. The U.S. Chamber of Commerice is suing Yes Men. Says one of the Chamber's many lawyers: this is "a customary response by any organization faced with this type of misconduct by the defendants."

The Chamber contends that Yes Men "are not just merry pranksters tweaking the establishment."

But they are. The group regularly poses as corporate executives to show "how corporate greed negatively influences public policy."

The past eight years have revealed enough examples of that corporate greed. Yes Men have just thrown it into sharp relief.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one of the great newspapers from America's heartland battleground, featured an editorial recently blasting the U.S. Chamber. The ultra-conservative Chamber is an activist org in its own right, bullying its members into towing its conservative anti-climate change, anti-Obama stances. According to the Post-Dispatch, the Chamber is a proponent of tort reform and an opponent of "lawsuit absue."

Concludes the editorial: "The U.S. Chamber's complaints about our litigious society shouldn't be taken seriously."

The editorial was reprinted today in our local paper headline under the headline: "U.S. Chamber tries to stifle free speech."

That's right. Corporations have come to believe that they are the only entities worthy of free speech. The Bush adminsitration took the same line. The Supreme Court has worked overtime to give speech protections to corporation. Our senators and reps have been paid handsomely to go along with this sham.

So we have to leave it up to actors to tell us the truth. The pretend suits are being sued by the real suits and it appears to be a one-sided court battle. The people wrest control of the First Amendment back from the corporations.

Meanwhile, watch the video and have a laugh at the expense of our corporate overlords.

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