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You have rights, if you’re trained

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Imagine, you have something profound to say about government and society, and your political convictions burn deep and hot, and so you go downtown, stand on a box on the corner and commence to express your opinion. You might think that you are exercising a right guaranteed by the Constitution, in its very first amendment, which says there shall be no laws abridging your freedom to speak. Then, someone with some kind of government authority taps you on the shoulder and asks for your photo ID and evidence that you’ve undergone a criminal background check. Please shut up until you are cleared.

Or, let us say you are paid by a local newspaper to write a column, in which you regularly express your political opinion, and despite being occasionally annoying and wrong and factually challenged, you labor under the assumption that you are exercising a right guaranteed by the Constitution, in its very first amendment, which says there shall be no laws abridging freedom of the press. Then someone with some kind of authority tells you to produce evidence that you have completed the government’s column-writing training program and carry your official photo and government registration number, and that your employer has signed a waiver taking responsibility for your mistakes. If not, cease and desist.

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