There's nothing to worry about with California's proposed 'Fake News' advisory group — right?

Apparently, we can't talk enough about the First Amendment and what it means. Because according to the annual Constitution Day Civics Survey, over one-third of Americans cannot name a single one of our First Amendment rights. People that don't know their most fundamental rights are asking to be taken advantage of. And that's what is happening right now in the People's Republic of California.

The California state senate is considering a bill that would create a government "fake news" advisory group to supervise information posted and spread on social media. This group would develop criteria for what is considered fake news, then create a plan to fix the problem.

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Here's why we have to talk about the First Amendment, early and often – because a giant state in our union is about to create a special government censorship "advisory" group and most people won't bat an eyelash. Even worse, a lot of Californians will nod and applaud the effort.

Fake news may be annoying, and both the Right and the Left generate plenty of it, but the very last thing any American should want is the government giving thumbs up or down on what can be considered legitimate news. Besides that, censorship like this would be against the law. The Left hates to hear this, but for now at least, the Bill of Rights remains law. And that means you have a right to say and publish what you believe, even if it's made up news, and even if it's about the government.

We can survive fake news, but we cannot survive the shredding of the First Amendment.

George Hay was a U.S. District Court Judge in Virginia in the early 1800s. He knew and served alongside many of the Founding Fathers. Hay was a passionate defender of the Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment. In 1799, he published An Essay on the Liberty of the Press. With insane things happening like California's fake news advisory board, it's worth revisiting Hay's essay, because he gets it. He writes:

It is obvious in itself, and it is admitted by all men, that freedom of speech means the power uncontrolled by law, of speaking either truth or falsehood at the discretion of the individual, provided no other individual be injured. This power is, as yet, in its full extent in the United States. A man may say every thing which his passions suggest; he may employ all his time, and all his talents, if he is wicked enough, to do so in speaking against the government matters that are false, scandalous, and malicious... [and yet he should be] safe within the sanctuary of the press… [even if he] condemns the principle of republican institutions... censures the measures of our government… even if he ascribes to them [meaning government officials] measures and acts, which never had existence; thus violating at once, every principle of decency and truth…

He may endeavor to corrupt mankind, not only by opinions that are erroneous, but by facts which are false. Still however he will be safe, because he lives in a country where religious freedom is established. If then freedom of religion, will not permit a man to be punished, for publishing any opinions on religious topics, and supporting those opinions by false facts, surely freedom of the press, which is the medium of all publications, will not permit a man to be punished, for publishing any opinion on any subject, and supporting it by any opinion whatever.

We can survive fake news, but we cannot survive the shredding of the First Amendment.

This article originally appeared on Glenn Beck

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