Shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre ain’t what it used to be. In the old days, when I was a teenager, a person who did that got arrested. An usher would come down the aisle with a flashlight and if necessary, forcibly remove such an individual while the theatregoers, terrified, left, hoping not to get trampled. The suspect would be brought to the office and kept there by management until the police arrived to haul off the perp and take him away.
Today everybody has rights. Yes, they have constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from persecution because of color, race, sex or creed. But in recent years, so many other things have been declared rights that people from other countries look at us Americans with all our rights and then run in the other direction. Democracies around the world are failing. Hopeful foreigners use the English model.
I think today, it is probably possible to shout fire in a crowded theatre and then become a plaintiff in lawsuits against the usher, the theatregoers, the management and the police.
The usher will be arrested and charged with assault, including with a deadly weapon — the flashlight — which caused momentary blindness.
The theatregoers will be arrested and charged with interfering with the right to freedom of speech and the right to enjoy freedom of religion, which includes shouting about fire and brimstone; the management will be arrested and charged with kidnapping and the police will be charged with false arrest and unnecessary restraint — the handcuffs. And the particular police officer who holds the perp’s head down as he gets into the back seat of a police cruiser will be sued for causing a neck injury. After that, the perp, acquitted but in a neck brace, will appear on social media and nighttime TV, leading to media stardom with 2 million followers and copycat outbreaks by others crying fire in crowded theatres.
By most accounts, the swing to this extreme started when courts made liberal rulings against what was then a straight-laced conservative society where couples in the movies slept in separate beds and never uttered a curse word. Before then, people endured government censorship laws that prevented the publication of a photo of any American soldier dead on a battlefield during a four-year span. They also cheerfully endured football coaches hollering at their players to make them win games. Coach Vince Lombardi, a legendary hero, was celebrated for winning. Today he’d be fired and his career ruined.
*At the present time, and as a result of all this, the U.S. Supreme Court, whose liberal and conservative members believe it has gone too far, are requesting cases be brought to them to result in new rulings. Many in today’s media are alarmed, saying this will limit freedom of the press. But they are wrong. This is about social media, not traditional media. Traditional media consists of people trained in the rules of proper journalism. Facts. Research. Opinions. People who network on social media are the great unwashed and untrained horribly abusing these laws and, in the name of journalism, freely utter the most outrageous lies without enduring the slightest accountability for it. They say, “I am an American. I have my rights.”
I recall in the early stages of the pandemic, an American woman, finally disembarking the COVID-ridden cruise ship Diamond Princess on the gangplank going down to Tokyo saying that somebody was going to have to pay for this, and that as an American she had her rights.
And then there was former President Donald Trump last week, telling his followers to get vaccinated. He framed it this way.
“I believe totally in your freedoms, I do, believe me, but you gotta do what you have to do…But I recommend, take the vaccines, I get it, it’s good, take the vaccines, but you do have your freedoms … you have to maintain that.”
This from a man who got up in front of a crowd and shouted fire in a crowded theatre to get them to trash and pillage the Capitol building. And he’s still out there doing his thing.
With this blind belief that we have all these co-called “rights,” we see results that include the return of chicken pox, polio and measles from parents who won’t get their children vaccinated. And they are willing to die for these rights. And do. What happens to others is not their problem, is their philosophy.
Here are two cases of law that have recently been brought to my attention.
One is the new anti-abortion law in Texas where the police are relieved from enforcing the abortion laws. Instead, private citizens turned vigilantes get bounty hunter cash rewards up to $10,000 for suing abortion clinics, doctors and anyone who tries to help a woman get an abortion more than six weeks after she becomes pregnant.
The other is right here in Suffolk County. Under consideration right now is a bill to allow a police officer the right to sue citizens who they think abuse them. If passed, it will mirror current law that allows citizens to sue abusing police officers. A hearing about this bill took place in Suffolk County just this past week. It’s called the Blue Lives Matter bill.
The police deal with criminals and others endangering the general public every day. 99% of the police are excellent at this. But there are a few bad apples among them who shouldn’t be doing what they do. They need to be fired. And they are. But social media then, without consequence, pins this problem on the entire police force which results in resignations and even suicide on the force.
There are probably better ways to deal with this besides the slogan Blue Lives Matter, equating one with the other. They are not equitable. Find a different slogan.
I have a friend who has been taking care of his mentally ill grown son for 20 years because he loves him. Last week, he told me the following was posted anonymously on social media about him and his son.
“People are talking about B… K…. who the other day said, ‘I wish somebody would shoot my son in the back of the head.’ Everyone is so upset he said this.”
If Congress can’t act, bring on the Supreme Court. They want to choose between common carrier rules such as telephone laws and journalism. Maybe consider a third way. And if none of that works, God help us.