(Opinion) The Importance of The First Amendment


(By Ginny Morris) As the country begins the new year and anticipates the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States, there is much being said about the meaning, implementation, and significance of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the First Amendment, its history, or its historical interpretation, but I am one American who believes that the reason it comes first is that it is the most fundamental and important of all of the freedoms given to us by the Framers. Don’t get me wrong — I believe ardently that they are all critically important to the American way of life that we all know and in most cases love. Even if you believe America can be “even better” or substantially better than it is today, you likely share my patriotism for America and all that it stands for. I believe this to be true regardless of who you voted for in November, or if you chose not to vote at all (66.3% of eligible voters participated in the 2020 presidential election).

This message is meant to be painstakingly non-partisan and to serve as a respectful reminder to all Americans that the “America” we know and love did not happen by accident. Each word of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was purposeful and can continue to guide us to that “even better” America if we continue to cherish what has gotten America this far.

The First Amendment has endured many challenges over the years, and the one that, for me, resonates most closely with what we are experiencing today is the McCarthy Era. A time that up until recently was believed to be a chapter in our history that we could not possibly imagine repeating.

The current “chilling” of conservative voices by the digital titans that run the companies that host much of America’s public discourse should be of concern to every American. If your neighbor’s speech can be restricted today, rest assured that your speech can and will be restricted tomorrow. When one begins to make judgments about what speech is acceptable and what speech is not acceptable, all of our words and our most basic freedoms are in jeopardy.

A little over half of those Americans who voted in the 2020 presidential election voted for President-elect Biden, and a little under half of American voters voted for President Trump. We are a country that is politically divided, and it is my greatest hope that all Americans can agree to cherish and protect the rights we all have to freely express ourselves, and possibly even more importantly, cherish and protect those same rights for those with which we disagree most ardently.

One last comment and a link to explore if you wish: It turns out that you possibly can yell fire in a crowded movie theater — but that doesn’t mean you should.

God Bless America.
Ginny Morris
Chair/CEO of Hubbard Radio


  1. We have a Cumulus talk host in central Arkansas, who, as recently as yesterday, said “God still has time to intervene” on behalf of Donald Trump, and insinuated that perhaps the National Guard’s presence was not to protect those at the inauguration, but to arrest President Biden and his cronies in Congress. This is after weeks of amplifying every Rudy Giuliani/Sidney Powell fairy tale about vote-changing algorithms, suitcases full of fake ballots, etc. I don’t know if the host believes any of it, but he knows if he doesn’t echo the fake conspiracy theorists, his audience will abandon him. I believe that future conservative candidates will also find that to be true.

    • The only good news Joe, regarding that talk host you mentioned, is that it’s whackjobs listening to an obvious whackjob. He won’t do any damage to the real, outside world lol.

  2. All the sanctimonious comments here regarding “the big lie” of a rigged election — where were all of you during the three-plus years when Democrats kept saying Trump’s 2016 election was rigged? Clearly the goal of the Democrats now is to silence the opposition. A recent poll showed that 70% of Republicans (and 30% of Democrats) believe there was election fraud in 2020. Telling all those people to shut up is not the solution.

    • No one ever said that the 2016 election was rigged. That was never stated. The big difference is this: President Obama never once said that the 2106 election was rigged…whereas President Trump made that baseless, incendiary statement about the “election being rigged” so many times, you can’t count them.
      And no one is teling anyone to shut up. What people are being advised not to do, is to not make unfounded, incendiary statements that lead to violence.

    • Huh? Hillary never said she won the electoral college. She never told her voters to storm the capitol. She conceded the election within days of the election. She didn’t file legal lawsuits against states. She didn’t call a state SOS demanding that he find enough votes so she could be declared the winner. Shall I continue? No one is silencing the opposition. Had the president not incited a riot, he would still be on twitter.

    • Hmmm. Does anyone not recall three years of “Russian Collusion” accusations, of violent protests on the streets of DC on Inauguration Day 2017, of secret Obama-directed investigations of the Trump campaign before Trump even took office?

      Anyone who dares claim that there were not claims of illegitimacy surrounding the 2016 election is detached from reality.

      Our country is on a dangerous path and it saddens this American that the axiom “I may not agree with your words but I will defend to the death your right to say them,” has now been redefined as hate speech, ca 2021.

      • “Does anyone not recall three years of “Russian Collusion”

        The Republican AG assigned a Republican special prosecutor to investigate something that the FBI had charged. This all was done and overseen by the Republican president’s government. Not Democrats.

      • Bob,

        There are over 1,500 evidence items of election fraud — statements, signed affidavits, and so on. It is posted at HereIsTheEvidence(dot com). No doubt, the media sources where you get your news have no interest in telling people about this.

        • Yet, the AG, Supreme Court, Federal Courts , Federal Election commission, most who have Republican control say they are is no evidence of fraud.
          I have a question, do you support the siege upon our Capital as well?
          The truth is, Biden won the election and our Democratic system worked.

        • The president’s own AG says there was not enough evidence to change the outcome of the election. Do you doubt him? There were also the 60 challenges in state courts and two in the Supreme Court. The president has taken all legal routes. So now he’s trying illegal routes. That’s where broadcasters need to stop.

          • OK, I’m confused that this discussion went down the election rabbithole rather than presenting cogent arguments in favor of the suppression of speech or thoughts we do not agree with…

          • “OK, I’m confused …”

            Because there’s a difference between saying things I don’t agree with and saying things that incite a mob to riot. Two different things. Trump would still be on Twitter had that not happened. Lots of things changed because of that. There is no equivalent to that at all, and why people have reacted the way they did.

  3. What’s being ignored here is the FCC has a rule about radio stations broadcasting false information. So we have a situation where station owners know what the truth is, while they air radio shows with hosts who are still telling their listeners that certain things are “unconstitutional” or certain elections were “illegitimate.” At some point, a new FCC will take over, and that issue will have to be addressed. It might be prudent for some of these stations to place disclaimers before some talk shows in order to minimize liability. Because there will be liability if this continues.

    • Very good point. Maybe the FCC should strip some AM licenses from iHeart and Salem, if their far right wing hosts continue to rant on about a rigged election, inciting violence, and other egregious actions that are flat out irresponsible, and a misuse of public airwaves.

  4. Tom Kent mentioned a couple of times “The Big Lie”. Maybe a little history of that coined phrase would help in deciding what is free speech and what is dangerous and damaging propaganda.
    The term “The Big Lie” finds its orgin in Hitlers book Mein Kampf. The big lie that was that the Jewish people were responsible for Germany’s loss of WW1.
    The concept of “The Big Lie” was if you say it often enough, loud enough and never, ever give up ground on it, people will start believing what you are saying. Using outside outlets like Newspapers, Radio and today TV and the Internet turn the lies into propaganda. We have first hand knowledge of the result of what damage lies can do. Hitler and his propaganda cost the earth 50 to 60 million lives.
    I too am a strong believer in the first amendment. Anybody can say anything they want, but expect consequences if what you say is a lie and especially if that lie incites insurrection.
    In America, there is no government controlled TV, radio, Newspaper or even internet site. Thank God we live in America!!
    Any and all of those mentioned above have not only the right but also the responsibility to censure lies, hate speech and negate anyone who promotes insurrection.
    It is there ball and bat and if they don’t like the way the game is being played they can pick it up and take it home.
    Last week Cumulus made a statement that if any of their on air hosts challenged the results of the 2020 election they would be terminated. I applaud the company for making an effort to stop “The Big Lie” about a rigged and fraudulent election.

  5. This is very simple. Incendiary rhetoric that encourages violence is not free speech, period. The far right – fueled by evangelical dogmas and social darwinists (those 2 groups often overlap) – want an all-purpose “freedom of speech” umbrella so they can continue unabated their inflammatory, divisive comments that support their agenda. Wrong. If the President is being held accountable for his incendiary comments that led directly to the attack on our democracy, you will be held accountable too. This includes names like Lara Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Dennis Prager, because a microphone in front of you does not give you a free pass from accountability.

  6. I’m on board with Tom. While I abhor the eventsbofnthe McCarthy era, I do agree that much of the conservative media entertainment industry has veered out of control with a mountain of misinformation which has become increasingly angry and violent.

    While I’m loathe to agree with the “shut em down” crowd, it seems that we have enough smart and sensible brainpower to understand how harmful this has become to our republic and our citizens, who take it as manna from heaven.

    I suggest that any media member should copy and post Ginny’s last paragraph as a daily reminder of the responsibility we have in service to our fellow Americans.

  7. Before weighing in on free speech, it’d be wise to watch this Youtube video. It’s Joe Rogan talking to Ira Glasser who ran the ACLU for decades. An uber liberal by anyone’s standards. Someone who’s fought for civil rights, worker rights, constitutional questions and more his entire life. You owe it to yourself to hear his view on the 1st amendment. It probably will give you pause. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kypokn111hU

  8. It doesn’t matter which side defines acceptable speech. The end result is you or I will be silenced because we do not agree with someone else’s opinion of what is acceptable to say! If that is acceptable then we are well on the way to putting everyone who does not agree with the majority or the government ordained dogma directly into prison. How dare you have a thought that does not agree with me? Your unapproved thoughts might slip out of your mouth and offend me otherwise!

  9. Thank you Ms. Morris for your article. As I understand the first amendment the people of the country have the freedom of speech to say what they wish about the government. Twitter is not taking away that freedom. Twitter is taking away the opportunity to do it on Twitter. On your web page it says your company will “build dominant brands that connect consumers and advertisers to build better businesses and communities.”. Respectfully, as CEO would you allow someone…anyone no matter who they were, to put content on KSTP that would incite violence? Would you allow someone to purchase an ad schedule that could potentially damage one of your brands or the community that supports your brand? I feel that leaders of social media platforms and holders of FCC licenses do have a responsibility. If purveyors of a specific agenda want to start their own social media site or obtain an FCC license to spew an agenda they still have that freedom.

  10. Once again, I feel compelled to weigh in. I am an advocate of free speech–but not hat speech. The right wing hard liners have dominated the airwaves and controlled the narrative for years. And big consolidated radio has enabled them because it filled their coffers. We need a balance if we are to have truly free speech. Maybe it’s time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine and provide equal time to all views.

  11. I’m not sure why a radio publication is the place where someone has decided to lay down a bunch of mis-guided thoughts about the First Amendment. This is entirely inappropriate and while stating that there is an effort to remain neutral and impartial it is full of bias and ridiculous falsehoods. Standing up for hate speech or false speech is not the same as free speech when it comes to political discourse – particularly when the layers of falsehoods and lies (Over 30,000 documented lies from the POTUS and counting) are so suffocating that they have created an atmosphere where nobody can believe anything anymore. The fascist playbook being employed by the Trump administration (undermine the media, lie at every turn, etc) has worked extremely well, and that has become what we think truth is. Mitt Romney said it best on the floor of the Senate when he said that maybe it’s time to tell the truth.

    • Brian, it is sad that your polemics reflect such poison — my goodness. Indeed, Radio Ink is THE BEST POSSIBLE PLACE and time for Ginny Morris to remind broadcasters that only with free people and free markets can American broadcasting be sustained. She rightly recognizes that the freedom to speak freely (and therefore think freely) is at the heart of the American promise of opportunity for all. Only with the First Amendment can broadcasters determine editorial content — not the FCC — the Federal Cannot Commission.

      Think there is no danger to the First Amendment? How about the recent $50,000 fine of Salem levied by the bureaucrats for failing to announce that portions of a program were pre-recorded? That rule should have gone the way of the dinosaurs well before Marconi fired up the first transmitter. Well before the Bill of Rights was written.

      You speak of Ms. Morris’ “falsehoods.” This smear cites no facts, nor can it. Her piece honors our hard won freedoms, There is no better place right now, nor a better time, for a reminder that that beautiful Lady, standing at the entrance to New York harbor — holds the torch of freedom –the very torch all broadcasters must continue to light up each broadcast day

      • Mark –

        I am troubled in particular by this passage from Ms. Morris:

        “The current “chilling” of conservative voices by the digital titans that run the companies that host much of America’s public discourse should be of concern to every American. If your neighbor’s speech can be restricted today, rest assured that your speech can and will be restricted tomorrow. When one begins to make judgments about what speech is acceptable and what speech is not acceptable, all of our words and our most basic freedoms are in jeopardy.”

        There is no chilling on Conservative voices that understand the rules of discourse and engagement, which would start with being truthful. Between Rush, Hannity, the entirety of Fox News, Breitbart, OANN, etc. there has been an utter and reckless disregard for truth. The false narratives, the made-up conspiracies, the inflammatory nonsense – none of it true or real. The election was not ‘stolen’ and there was zero evidence – zero – of fraud or manipulation, a fact displayed by the 60-odd lost court challenges, and somehow we’re concerned that ‘chilling’ is censorship. The false, inflammatory, reckless, frequently racist, and purposely divisive rhetoric is the issue here. Look at the consequences. Should we protect the ability of media hosts, politicians, and their toadies and hangers-on to continue to foment insurrection by outright inventing mis-truths? The record is clear. Trump himself told over 30,000 lies or half-truths, all of which were amplified by his lying coterie of hangers-on like Kellyanne, Sarah, Sean, Kayleigh, and the other professional liars like Mark Meadows. These people will become pariahs in the political world, as it should be.

        Chill on that? All day. It should and must happen, without delay. Have you watched Biden telling the truth over the past couple of days? Refreshing.

  12. Tom, the silencing and cancel-culture by those on the left that is happening with Big Tech as well as with some of those in the mainstream left-oriented media is not only chilling, it’s un-American. When you have those on the left calling for anybody that voted Republican to be put in re-education camps and bullied out of their jobs, this is way beyond a free-speech issue. We need to get to a place where people can discuss issues without reprisal … without a special interest groups focused on destroying that person financially, mentally and physically. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live under authoritarian rule. I think our constitution is a pretty unique document. I also don’t want to live under one-party rule … either party! I would say that most of America doesn’t want violence to be employed every 4 years when we elect a president, from the right or the left.

    I see much of this violence due to people being silenced. Washington hasn’t been listening to the American people for a long time, instead those in power have put their own interest above those who elected them. Trump was elected by many in order to try and change that, but that has not happened. Leaders in Washington are still deaf. People this summer took to the streets after George Floyd’s death. They had had enough lip-service from cities and politicians that only pandered to them about issues. In essence they were silenced for a long time. Beyond the vile history of slavery in this country, the fact that an entire race of people were made invisible by their lack of a voice contributed to the rage that was burning. Silencing people you oppose will only lead to civil war. The more that voices are silenced and canceled, the more hostility will build and fester and eventually explode! if there’s anything that this country needs more of now is open and free discussion. We also need to rediscover real journalism rather than opinion want-to-be celebrities. Nobody is reporting facts, rather they are spinning a portion of the facts in their own direction for their own self-glorification. Thank you Ginny Morris for your thought provoking piece.

  13. Thank you for your courageous memo. I am truly concerned that the first amendment may be going away!…It’s up to all of us to support both parties rights to express their point of view. We cannot turn our backs on free speech. No matter who you support! But suppression of free speech as we have already witnessed, is the first step towards fascism. We have a responsibility as broadcasters and Americans
    to all stay vigil!

  14. Well put, although I can’t help but imagine what 20% of the trolls on Twitter would write if they were to comment on this thoughtful piece. Then again, I suspect Ms. Morris would defend their right to say and/or write whatever they wanted to.

  15. Yes I agree, we must protect the first amendment but free speech means responsible speech. To your point of yelling “fire in a movie theater”. When a POTUS tells his followers over and over again that an election was fraudulent when it was not and has been challenged by over 60 courts in the land as well as the Supreme Court and has found no evidence thereof, then right wing media proceeds to echo the same “Big Lie” then that is in effect yelling fire in a movie theater. We see the result of that on January 6 with the storming of our nations Capital by domestic Terrorist thugs! Every single platform that enables this “Big Lie” is culpable including and especially talk radio. Also to your point of us being divided. We are more divided at anytime in our history because of lies, propaganda, and misinformation propagated by the right wing media. I’m an independent so I stand firmly in the middle and I see what is happening. One side embraces and pushes lies, conspiracy theories, “alternative facts” and evil rhetoric. The other side embraces actual facts. Yes, it’s yelling “fire in a movie theater” with the volume extremely loud and it has the entire country divided like it has never been before. It’s time our radio industry started being more responsible for our content. Bravo to Mary Berner with Cumulus Media for making a stand and to all broadcasters in our great nation who realize what an awesome responsibility we’ve been given.

    • Wow, how disappointing.

      “The other side embraces actual facts.” The left NEVER lies?!?!

      So, “I’m an independent…”? Hardly.


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