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Insulting congresscritters, revisited

July 7, 2019

A couple of days ago, I talked about the Honorable Representative from the State of Florida, Frederica Wilson, and her apparent belief that people who insult/mock/taunt members of Congress should be prosecuted. There is a tendency, common to us all, to take ourselves entirely too seriously. When this human tendency is combined with some greater-than-normal degree of power and influence, that tendency is often increased. So it is, I believe, with the good representative from Florida. She truly believes, if she is to be taken at her word, that insults are threats and that those who insult her and her colleagues are therefore proper subjects of prosecution.

There is a concept that existed (and arguably to some extent still exists) in Europe called lèse-majesté. If you’re not familiar with the term, that’s okay as Merriam-Webster provides the following definitions:

1aa crime (such as treason) committed against a sovereign power
 ban offense violating the dignity of a ruler as the representative of a sovereign power
2a detraction from or affront to dignity or importance
It seems to me that Representative Wilson (perhaps much like the current occupant of the Oval Office) is inclined to view criticism and insults as examples of lèse-majesté. 
Here’s the problem. That concept does not really exist in the American political lexicon. I would argue, in fact, that during the formation of this country, such a concept was specifically rejected. Instead, Americans tend to view insulting politicians as something that is almost a sacred rite, and certainly a sacred right (see what I did?). The tendency to view lèse-majesté as having any legitimacy in the US is unfortunate at best. If the First Amendment does not serve to protect the right to criticize and even insult both government in general and specific politicians in particular, it protects not much of anything at all.

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  1. OldNFO permalink

    That would assume any of them have any dignity to start with… And since Wilson looks like she escaped a pimp convention most of the time, that’s really not even a question. Sigh

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