This has been a week where lessons have been demonstrated as to why self-regulating First Amendment rights are necessary. In this politically fraught nation, the lessons came from both ends of the spectrum. In each case, a poor decision was made. Whereas, neither Vicki McKenna nor Maxine Waters would ever think they had anything in common, after this week they can no longer make such a claim.
At the start of the week, we heard about Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a Democrat who represents southern Los Angeles, making comments to protesters in Brooklyn Center as the jury was about to hear closing statements in the highly charged murder trial for Derek Chauvin.
“I hope we get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty,” Rep. Waters said. “And if we don’t, we cannot go away. We’ve got to stay on the street. We get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”
There is more than ample evidence to prove that police reform in this nation is required and that Black Americans have received a disproportionate share of the abuses from unprofessional officers. But Waters is an elected official who took an oath to uphold our laws and support our democratic institutions, such as the judiciary. The jury process is central to the framework of that system. To make inflammatory statements at that moment of national tension and to in any way aim the comments at a jury for a specific outcome is not acceptable.
This week Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson was interviewed on Vicki McKenna’s radio show. True to form, Johnson, aimed the conversation for the most ridiculous in the listening audience.
Johnson stated he sees “no reason to be pushing vaccines on people,” arguing their distribution should be “limited” to those most vulnerable to coronavirus, and asking, “if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?”
I heard the interview online–certainly not as a listener to conservative talk radio–and was taken aback when McKenna did not interrupt Johnson and explain “herd immunity” is necessary to end the COVID-19 pandemic, As such, it is absolutely necessary that higher numbers of people get vaccinated. Such vaccinations are not to be determined if one does, or not, consider themselves “vulnerable.”
One can make a most compelling argument about the low level of intelligence that is housed inside of Ron Johnson. While Vicki McKenna is a harsh conservative I think she is intelligent but knows how to make money by pedaling her rhetoric for conservatives.
McKenna made a huge mistake by not interjecting facts and needed direction for her listeners, which polls and data prove are the ones most susceptible to being fearful and leery of getting the vaccine. In not using her smokey voice–as a former broadcaster my sense is her voice has been roughened from tobacco–she misused the First Amendment by allowing false and dangerous words from Johnson to go unchallenged.
This week two separate stories, and two politically divergent women, have proved why it is important to know how to use the freedom of the First Amendment when speaking to the public. Judgment is essential when we express ourselves. McKenna and Waters, in equal measure, have shown us what happens when that is lacking.
And so it goes.