One of the many catastrophic decisions of the Supreme Court when it was being driven by the right-wing bullying of the late Justice Antonin Scalia was Citizens United in which all the First Amendment’s protections of free speech were extended to paid speech.
This indiscrimination allows the messages of rich speakers to drown out through repetition and distribution the expressions of those who can’t afford such amplifications.
American politics has never been the same, and another aspect of everyday life has been monetized and corrupted.
Now, a new test is headed for an even farther right-wing Supreme Court. The question at issue: Do First Amendment protections cover lying speech, commercially generated and widely distributed?
No surprise that the long-term liars have filed their case in the home of bogus Constitutional claims, the State of Texas, whose own Supreme Court is being asked to validate ExxonMobil’s claim that lawsuits against its decades of conscious prevarication on the effect of fossil fuels on climate change violate the corporation’s First Amendment rights.
The nut of this nutball case is that the lawsuits trying to hold Exxon Mobil responsible for decades of public denial of scientific facts they knew to be true were filed in California, which the fossil-fueled lawyers call an infringement of the sovereignty of Texas, because that’s where their branch of the oil “bidness” is based.
The home courthouse is where Exxon wants lawyers for eight California cities and counties to answer charges that their attempts to claw back Exxon profits to pay for California’s climate change-related damages like wildfires and drought amount to “lawfare,” an abuse of the legal system for political ends.
The strategy is aimed at preempting even legal consideration of the alleged connection of oil and gas to fire and drought by extending the self-pitiful question asked by the Coasters in the rock ‘n’ roll classic Charlie Brown: to wit — “Why is everybody pickin’ on me?” In the ExxonMobil argument the expansion is, “How can these out-of-staters pick on us homeboys?” Because everybody knows the answer to the “Why?” question.
Chris McGreal writes for Guardian US and is a former Guardian correspondent in Washington, Johannesburg, and Jerusalem. He is the author of American Overdose, The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts. This reporting was republished by The Nation as part of the Covering Climate Now project.