Michigan Legislator With No Understanding Of The 1st Amendment Wants To Fine Fact Checkers For Pointing Out His Lies

from the incredible dept

Michigan State Rep. Matt Maddock has quite a reputation for lying:

Michigan state Rep. Matt Maddock, who has repeatedly spread lies about election fraud and falsely said COVID-19 ?is less lethal than the flu,? wants to make it harder for fact-checkers to challenge unsubstantiated claims by politicians.

That’s really only the start of a much longer list of problematic statements by the elected official:

Maddock made several attempts to overturn the election. In late December, he and Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, joined a federal lawsuit filed by Trump supporters to challenge the results of the election. The suit asked a judge to allow lawmakers to certify states’ election results, a move that would enable the Republican-led Michigan Legislature to reject Biden’s victory. But a judge turned down the suit, calling their arguments “flat-out wrong” and “a fundamental and obvious misreading of the Constitution.”

It appears that Maddock’s “fundamental and obvious misreading of the Constitution” extends to the 1st Amendment as well. He’s now introduced an astoundingly unconstitutional bill that seeks to “register” and then fine fact checkers who fact check his lies. You can read his Fact Checker Registration Act (which somehow has eight other unserious co-sponsors) and just marvel at the blatant unconstitutionality of it all. I mean beyond all of the big problems with it, there’s the fact that it literally calls out the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network as requiring registration into his scheme.

Under the bill, any “fact checker” has to put up a $1 million bond, and then any “affected party” can sue any fact checker for the money put up in the bond, if they can show the fact checker engaged in “wrongful conduct that is a violation of the laws of this state.”

What does that even mean? Well, Maddock made the unconstitutional intent of his bill abundantly clear in a Facebook post about it:

Social Media companies deplatform people, politicians, and businesses on the basis of ?Fact Checkers? who relish their role punishing those whom they deem ‘false?. Many believe this enormous economic and social power is being abused. Who are these Fact Checkers? We?re going to find out. My legislation will put Fact Checkers on notice: don’t be wrong, don’t be sloppy, and you better be right.

I mean, if we applied the same rules to him, he’d be paying out a ton of money, since he’s so often wrong about things. But, also this is pretty obviously unconstitutional in multiple ways. Forcing fact checkers to register with the state is already highly questionable because the setup is designed to intimidate fact checking, which is a core form of protected speech, and some of the most important kinds of speech protected by the 1st Amendment. If, as is obviously the fact, the registration (and bond) requirement is designed to intimidate fact checkers, then it’s clearly unconstitutional.

Second, courts have ruled over and over again that merely being “sloppy” and even making mistakes is not grounds for the speech to be deemed a violation of the law. This is why cases like NY Times v. Sullivan and United States v. Alvarez are so important. They recognize that the 1st Amendment means that the government can’t willy nilly try to shut down speech, even if it’s false.

Finally, the structure of the bill is just… weird. It says that a fact checking organization can get fined for “wrongful conduct that is a violation of the laws of this state.” And while he claims that this includes being “sloppy,” any such law that says being sloppy with your fact check is illegal in Michigan would, separately, violate the 1st Amendment.

This whole thing is just more victim playing by the modern GOP, who seems to feel that anyone calling them on their bullshit, disinformation, and lies, is somehow violating their rights, while having no qualms at all about stamping out the rights of those who actually tell the truth.

Of course, after lots of people started pointing out what an attack on free speech and a free press this bill was, Maddock tried to defend the bill, but only ended up producing a word salad of nonsense.

?This isn?t about journalists or free speech,? he said. ?It?s about the fact checkers who have been injected into our First Amendment right to be wrong if we want to. If a fact-check entity is bankrupting businesses and cancelling people with lies, they should be held accountable. If they have high standards and are doing good fact checking, they have nothing to worry about.?

Fact checkers are journalists, dude. And what does “injected into our First Amendment right to be wrong” mean here — especially given that he’s trying to fine them if they’re wrong?

Elect better people, Michigan voters.

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Comments on “Michigan Legislator With No Understanding Of The 1st Amendment Wants To Fine Fact Checkers For Pointing Out His Lies”

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49 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Thad (profile) says:

Elect better people, Michigan voters.

It’s a little unfair to blame the voters in a state that’s gerrymandered as fuck, Mike. In Michigan, voters don’t choose their legislators; legislators choose their voters.

Fortunately, it looks like they’ve set up an independent redistricting committee, so hopefully by next year voters will have a chance to elect better people.

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Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes. Then, voters who weren’t born there don’t have a say.

I’m trying to figure out just when, exactly, the voters did have a say. Michigan’s legislature has been empowered to draw its own district lines for as long as it’s been a state; the courts didn’t establish that there was any other constitutional mechanism for handling the process until 1982, by which point the current system was well and thoroughly entrenched.

And the movement toward independent redistricting committees is a relatively new one. I’m in Arizona; we were one of the first states to introduce an independent redistricting committee, in 2000, and the state legislature’s been fighting like hell to try to eliminate or disempower it ever since.

Taking power away from your own legislature is not an easy task. It’s not surprising that it took Michigan voters more than thirty years to accomplish it; it’s impressive that they accomplished it at all.

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Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Voters chose the assholes who gerrymandered. These districts didn’t just spring forth at the founding of the country; Michigan voters wanted corrupt politicians to have this power, and so enabled it.

Michael, the current Michigan constitution was ratified in 1963, and the state supreme court didn’t establish that voters could change the redistricting rules until 1982.

Michigan voters have been trying to change the redistricting rules for over 30 years. That hasn’t been easy to do, because, y’know, they’ve got a legislature that got elected under the existing rules, and likes them just fine the way they are. But despite those decades of resistance from their elected officials, the voters have finally succeeded and introduced an independent redistricting committee.

Your knee-jerk "it’s all the voters’ fault" victim-blaming is tedious, and just demonstrates you haven’t bothered to spend five minutes researching the history of the issue.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Adding: our various electoral systems are often the results of trial and error, of things that seemed like a good idea at the time but had unintended consequences.

We got the Twelfth Amendment because hey, it turns out that having the second-place finisher become the vice president wasn’t such a hot idea after all. We got the Seventeenth Amendment because people had come to believe that senators should be accountable to voters.

An increasing number of states and municipalities are introducing changes like independent redistricting committees, ranked-choice voting, and proportional assignment of electoral votes. The reason they’re doing this is that people have identified problems with the existing electoral process. Those problems often were not foreseen at the time the process was first ratified, and have only become clear over time.

And of course there have been changes in how people think about the purpose of government, and who should run it, in the couple of hundred years the US has existed as a sovereign nation. The word "democracy" has a much more positive connotation now than it did in the eighteenth century.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Your knee-jerk "it’s all the voters’ fault" victim-blaming is tedious"

He’s part right. if he’d been saying it’s all the fault of the massive numbers who did not vote.

It’s not just the people voting for the "Leopard Eating Faces Party" who are responsible for the leopard eating someone’s face. More often than not it’s all the damn morons who chose not to vote against that party. They’re the bystanders. The ones who don’t care if someone else gets hurt.

The ones who end up saying "First they came for the socialists…".

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

He’s part right. if he’d been saying it’s all the fault of the massive numbers who did not vote.

No, fuck that victim-blaming horseshit too.

"It’s because they’re lazy" is conservatives’ favorite lie. Somebody can’t get a job? It’s because they’re lazy. Somebody can’t get healthcare? It’s because they’re lazy. Somebody can’t vote? It’s because they’re lazy.

And as long as people see nonvoters as lazy, instead of deliberately disenfranchised, there won’t be any will to stop the deliberate disenfranchisement.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Michigan voters wanted corrupt politicians to have this power, and so enabled it."

Well, true in a sense, but the enablement is mainly from the relatively vast proportion of citizens who can’t be arsed to vote.

It’s been true for thousands of years that the one who didn’t bother to cast a ballot doesn’t get to complain when the asshat who gets elected makes a law which renders it harder for the abstainee to ever cast a ballot.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'I have a right to lie to the public unchecked!'

Ah modern day republicans of Trump’s GOP, not even pretending they’re there to serve the public but instead making clear their beliefs that the public serves them.

“This isn’t about journalists or free speech,” he said. “It’s about the fact checkers who have been injected into our First Amendment right to be wrong if we want to.

Freudian slip much?

If a fact-check entity is bankrupting businesses and cancelling people with lies, they should be held accountable. If they have high standards and are doing good fact checking, they have nothing to worry about.”

Boy, if million dollar fines are a reasonable penalty for ‘bankrupting businesses and cancelling people’ then I wonder what truly heinous punishments someone should face for, oh I dunno, downplaying a deadly disease that’s killed half a million and counting in the US alone and attacking and undermining the US election system because they don’t like what the result was and/or are too cowardly to stand up to the GOP’s Dear Leader?

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Anonymous Coward says:

How do you respond when a news organization fact checking you?

Do you:
A) Do nothing, as freedom of press is protected by the 1st Amendment.
B) Use your own free speech rights to respond to the fact check.
C) Table an unconstitutional bill that infringes on freedom of press.

If C, I recommend you get a copy of Constitution (maybe an easy read version) as you clearly do not know the Constitution.

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Bodger says:

Bondo?

"has to put up a $1 million bond, and then any "affected party" can sue"

Can we apply that to the politicians themselves? With a suitably higher dollar amount of course. Then any "affected party" who objects and can prove lying or any other misconduct can take the pol to court. Some pols will easily warrant a $1 billion bond and for some that might not be high enough but their PACs can surely cover that trivial amount.

Anonymous Coward says:

How bout them facts ...

If a fact-check entity is bankrupting businesses and cancelling people with lies, they should be held accountable.

So that means if that doing it with facts is A-Okay… right?
I’m not sure if he’s actually saying anything here… any business that’s bankrupt due to lie’s must be rather questionable to begin with and/or already on the publics sh*t list… there’s already a way to hold liars accountable (ie. libel/slander)… so… um… huh…

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

"If a fact-check entity is bankrupting businesses and cancelling people with lies, they should be held accountable."

If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth!

Funny how he speaks about lies being a bad thing, while he uses his position to blatantly lie to people & helped cause a bodycount.

I swear to the FSM if these assholes had been alive Dec 7th 1941, they would have told us the Japanese didn’t really attack us, it wasn’t that bad, all of the "dead" were crisis actors.

I think a much better bill would punish/remove elected officials who lie from office.
How many people might still be alive today if Rand Paul had been run out of Congress the 2nd or 3 or 50th time he claimed he was a doctor & knows more than the experts & its just the flu.

Idiots are entitled to their opinions, they are not entitled to use their position to pretend they are facts.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Unlike some other theories, the idea that 9/11 was, in part, done by the US government isn’t as out there as you might think. Do some research on nano-thermite, for example. Also, earlier that year, both buildings had new "fireproofing" done in the exact locations where the planes would later hit. And nano-thermite is applied by spraying it on surfaces. Also, there’s the incredibly swift removal of the debris after the towers went down. Not to mention the fact that every company leasing space in the towers at that time had connections either to the Bush administration, technology like nano-thermite that could bring down the towers, or both. Check out https://www.ae911truth.org for more information – these are not wackos, but architects and engineers, people who actually design and build skyscrapers and other such buildings and know what they’re talking about.

And as far as Pearl Harbor, it’s been suggested that FDR found out about what the Japanese were planning and had all those ships out there on purpose as bait to goad them into attacking so the US would have a reason to enter the war. If Churchill could allow the bombing of Coventry to preserve the secret that they’d broken the Germans’ code, is this really so hard to believe?

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Unlike some other theories, the idea that 9/11 was, in part, done by the US government isn’t as out there as you might think"

It really is, if your argument is that steel needs to completely melt in order to lose structural integrity, for example. Especially since the whole argument is an attempt to justify 2 bloody wars and the continued funding of the place the terrorists actually came from.

"If Churchill could allow the bombing of Coventry to preserve the secret that they’d broken the Germans’ code, is this really so hard to believe?"

There’s this thing called evidence, which is usually needed to support a theory, no matter how nice the fiction is to your ears.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Unlike some other theories, the idea that 9/11 was, in part, done by the US government isn’t as out there as you might think."

It really is.

I think that by now I’ve read through quite a lot of conspiracy theory about 9/11 and it all begins with false assumption and rapidly spirals through "explanations" which require the existence of mind control and time travel.

The Twin Towers collapsed because – surprise, surprise – they were built during the most corrupt era of New York construction and dozens of materials experts picking up the pieces after the collision quickly realized and published the reason for the collapse;
Namely that the concrete in both buildings was so diluted it might as well have been sand glued together with guano – Those buildings were barely kept standing by the rebar alone. When they took a solid hit they crumbled like china hit by a hammer.

Meanwhile the overengineered early example of skyscrapers, Empire State, could have taken a dozen airplanes amidships without collapsing because they were ridiculously generous with the cement.

But the conspiracy theorists instead assume that months of planning with suicidal morons would result in a picture-perfect detonation of demolition charges which somehow none of the thousands of experts in criminal forensics managed to pick up on. Or the coverup being so vast that by now you’d have to wonder if the conspiracy theorists are the only ones in all of the US not in on the Big Plan.

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Bobvious says:

Re: Re: speaking of false flags

Don’t forget that now that China has landed a probe on Mars they can spread COVID throughout the Solar System undetected, which is part of their Masterplan that began with faking the US Moon Landing to pretend that NASA had achieved it, but diverting the conspiracy talk to Hollywood, thus masking their real intention of establishing a base on Nibiru, conveniently hidden by Gamma-ray scattering, and best implemented terrestrially with 5G towers, which although normally diminished by tin-foil, is now impervious because all tin-foil since 1957 secretly has been molecularly altered to subsume eddy-current islands which resonate at the precise frequency that allows mind control of those who wear it as hats.

Every time it’s used in microwave ovens it’s being domain-hardened so that the recycled material entering the daily consumer usage stream is more efficient at achieving this goal, which is why recycling is being promoted as part of the global takeover plan.

Pearly Harbor says:

Re: Re:

I’d rather guess, they would claim it was a false flag by the Mexicans and drop good ol american produced democracy all over the place until Mexico accepts becoming an US territory (without state rights of course).
And for good messures impose hefty taxes on them they can’t vote on, while giving them fuck all in help.

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Anonymous Coward says:

don’t be wrong, don’t be sloppy, and you better be right

Being right is kind of an oxymoron when you subscribe to the ‘alternative facts’ channel. What difference would ‘being right’ be? Their response to facts would be exactly the same as it is now:

‘Deep state!’
‘It’s the globalist Satan cabal at the mall!’
‘Educate yourself!’
‘That’s what Soros wants you to think!’
‘Do your own research!’
‘I have freedum of speach!’

There’s no point in trying to explain things to people like this. They’re akin to religious nutjobs with their devotion to bullshit.

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