While I agree that FOX News is stirring the uglier baser aspects of their constituents I must point out that popular speech doesn't need protection. Only unpopular speech needs the protection of the 1st Amendment. When someone begins to suggest that anyone or anything must be prevented from freely expressing themselves I begin to worry. [my bold]Recall that when the First Amendment (photo right) was passed in 1791, the right of free speech had not yet been extended to "anyone or anything."
The "anything" in question today is a corporation, Fox News, owned by News Corp.
By the late 1800s courts had come to view corporations as "legal persons," and subsequent high court decisions over the years have come to accord corporations many of the Constitutional rights of persons -- including free speech.
I believe that the courts made a mistake. Public corporations such as News Corp. should never have been extended any Constitutional rights -- such as free speech -- in the first place.
As with every other universal right, free speech was originally predicated on the assumption that free citizens will find it in their own self-interest to exercise this right responsibly. In the case of a public corporation -- which has no purpose other than to maximize its shareholders' return on investment -- such an assumption does not apply. As constituted, public corporations are simply not capable of -- and ought not be expected to bear -- the responsibilities of person-hood and citizenship.
Therefore, it was illogical for American courts ever to have decided that the peculiar legal entity that is the modern public corporation ought to have been accorded any of our human rights. Look at it this way: Under the law, human individuals are routinely held fully liable for their actions. But the owners of a public corporation have only "limited liability." That is, if I buy News Corp. stock, I cannot lose more than than my investment should News Corp. get fined heavily for a crime. Suppose its crime was to have cut down all the trees in a national park for newsprint. The courts can go after a public corporation's owners can be held liable for no more than the amount they invested in the stock, no matter how much loss to society their investment caused. On the other hand, suppose I bought a chainsaw and cut down all the trees in a local park to sell for firewood. If convicted, I would stand to lose more than my investment in a chainsaw. Human individuals can be held accountable for their actions to a greater extent than the owners of a publicaly-traded corporation; meaning that people have more incentive to behave responsibly than do corporations.
The First Amendment of the Constitution establishes the right of the people to a "free press." When the country's news media is controlled by a handful multinational corporations it is no longer has a free press. Accordingly, the large multinationals ought to be divested of their news media holdings.
This ought to be Fox-hunting season.
Background: In connection with this post, I recommend the book/documentary entitled The Corporation by Joel Bakan. Incidentally, Bill Moyers, in recent HBO interview, explained that corporate funding of US political parties is considered "free speech" and protected by the Constitution.
Follow-up post: "Protecting free speech in an age of megaphones"