What is a Right?

Listening to WJR’s Fred Beckmann morning show while taking walks over the past week has been both informative and maddening.  There were a couple of discussions that really got me to thinking – What is a right?

There are “rights” that are claimed that range from the laughable to the serious.  So let’s take a look at some of these assumptions.

Last Thursday, the day before Game 7 of the NHL championship, was the last day that broadcast television was going to be in an analog format, and the next day would require a converter box to receive and view broadcasts on older, analog TV sets.  We have been notified of this change for over a year, and yet this is still an issue.

A representative of the NAACP was on the show stating that his organization was still helping people apply for coupons for $40 to be applied toward the converter boxes.  During the conversation, he stated that to watch TV is a right because of the information that TV can provide the population.  You have got to be kidding…

David Letterman issued another apology (his 3rd) for tasteless jokes about Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin and her daughter a couple of days ago.  Much has been made of this incident, and somewhere along the line a statement about Mr. Letterman’s right to free speech was made. 

On a related note, Miss California Carrie Prejean answered a question concerning gay marriage that, in my opinion, was very tactful in stating her beliefs in what a marriage should be.  The firestorm arising from her answer was intense and sometimes very derogatory toward her.

And now I’m starting to hear that AT&T’s exclusive offering of the iPhone is being challenged by consumer’s rights groups stating that the iPhone should be offered by other phone companies.

Are you starting to get the idea?

A right, in short, is a legally, morally, or traditionally just claim.  We often cite the Constitution of the United States as the definition of the rights that we enjoy.  And yet very few of the “rights” that these groups have any standing with our country’s founding document.  Yes, technology has evolved and changed the face of the country, but it is the principles of this important document that need to be applied and not abused.  And abused they are.  Let’s take the above examples…

The “right” to watch TV is about as bogus as they come.  A TV is a consumer item, an appliance, something that someone buys for their use.  Since buying a TV is a choice, it is not a right.  This is true for buying newspapers and radios (which, by the way, would serve the same purpose as a TV), and yet no one is stating a newspaper and radio for every man, woman, and child is a “right”.

Free speech is a little bit more tricky to apply in today’s world of political correctness and potential allegations of hate speech.  Expressing an opinion is bound to offend someone somewhere, and yet the standards are often fuzzy, blurred, and often ignored.  For instance…

Concerning the Letterman/Palin jokes:  While Mr. Letterman does have the right to entertain in his own way, he does not have the right to slander or degrade another person.

Concerning the Miss California incident:  When asked a question concerning gay marriage in a public forum, Ms. Prejean answered truthfully with her opinions and belief.  It wasn’t the answer that the “judge” wanted, and she was unmercifully attacked.  So who is defending Ms. Prejean’s right to free speech?  Certainly not any national organization that I’m aware of.

We all have the right to express our opinions.  The listener has the right to reject the opinion without discussion, change the channel, or express their point of view.  It can be done without personal attacks.  Our current problem is that people are taking the different points of view from their own as personal attacks, and attack in kind.  People claiming to be tolerant of others and their beliefs & opinions really aren’t all that tolerant of different belief systems.  Case in point: The Miss California incident.

And we wonder why the courts and laws are so screwed up.  We have people suing each other over crap that a little common sense and thought would solve.  This is our society going to Hell in a hand-basket on the express train.

Oh yeah, the iPhone “controversy”:  It’s a consumer product that is offered only by AT&T – they signed the contract with Apple.  Get over it.


About Tom Roland

EE for 25 Years, Two Patents - now a certified PMP. Married twice, burned once. One son with Asperger's Syndrome. Two cats. Conservative leaning to the Right. NRA Life Member.
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9 Responses to What is a Right?

  1. Indigo Red says:

    I waited til Saturday to exercise my right to digital tv. I wanted to see history in action when my analogue set went dark. I was under-awed. I plugged in the converter, turned on the tv and was under-awed again. Programs were just as crappy in digital as they were in analogue, but at least the picture is frequently pixilated.

    Miss California Prejean was replaced with Miss #2 California who’s name no one remembers, but her gay marriage stance is exactly the same as Miss Prejean’s. Where’s the uproar?

    Letterman does have the right to free expression as an entertainer, such as he may be. And so does anyone responding to his babbling. As a social critic, letterman has the responsibility to accept any blowback that comes his way. Fortunately, a hundred years from now, few of his utterances will be remembered like the witticisms of Will Rogers. Besides, our freedom of speech only extends between me and my government short of open advocacy of violence. Otherwise, our speech is circumscribed by many laws of slander, libel, common decency, and incitement.

    iPhones are far more informative than television ever was. I want a free iphone from the gubmint… it’s my right to watch telebision on my iphone at the welfare office!

  2. Debbie says:

    People are confusing “a right” with a “privilege”. Which brings us to healthcare, home ownership, and any other number of things. There are those who will say all of these things are “a right” to American citizens, but there is nothing in the constitution about these as rights.

    (Thanks for the comments at the Grouches’ place. He really needs to write more, ha.)

  3. Tom says:

    Indigo – The only reason that Ms. Prejean was targeted was that she had the audacity to answer a question on television with a view that a self-inflated “judge” didn’t agree with. Letterman is an idiot for telling the joke. And the only reason that the analog TV signals were changed to digital was so the FCC could sell the frequencies the change would free up. You won’t get your iPhone until the gubmint takes over both the wireless telephone companies and Apple.

    Debbie – I heard on the radio this afternoon a person was stating that it was a person’s right to stay in a house that he couldn’t afford if the bank was foreclosing on it. You are correct – people are confusing rights with privileges (I still remember that question from my first driver’s test).

  4. Jennifer says:

    I think many people don’t realize the difference between rights and privileges. While unfortunate that many don’t have healthcare or can’t afford their houses, it’s not imperative that the government provide it for them.

    I remember a while ago an instance with the Dixie Chicks making a remark about President Bush. Now they had every right to say it, fans or ex-fans also had the same right by the Constitution to never watch or buy a CD again. With free speech, comes responsibility but too often there are double standards.

  5. Z says:

    It’s the right of someone who can’t pay for the house to stay IN that house?
    Nope…that’s insanity. If we hadn’t looked at home ownership as a RIGHT, we might not have come to this horrid economic state.

    Jennifer brings up a good point; remember how Bush reacted to the Dixie Chicks? Imagine what Robt Gibbs would say for Obama? Oh, man…the OUTRAGE!! Bush knew it was A RIGHT of hers to say what she wanted to. I hate it, but she had the right..and we had every right not to buy another Chicks CD. RIGHT?

  6. Tom says:

    Jennifer – You are right with one very important addition – People have a sense of entitlement, which they believe is their right to something. The only entitlement that I have a right to is something that I have worked for, not something that was given to me.

    Z – I remember a news video of a person that was locked out of her house because the bank had foreclosed on it (presumably due to non-payment). In full view of the cameras, a representative of ACORN broke the lock and let the person back into the home. The justification was that this residence was her home, and it was her right to live there no matter what the greedy bank said. Yes, there is an entitlement mentality that is clouding what rights and privileges really are.

    And I didn’t listen to the Dixie Chicks before, during, or after the incident. Nor do I have a reason to. There are consequences to actions.

  7. Seane-Anna says:

    A right to watch television?! Now I’ve heard everything!

  8. Indigo Red says:

    My basic right of ‘entitlement’ is to refered to as Mr. just as Madam Boxer is entitled to Senator. So why is it that when I get emails from Senator Boxer, she greets me by my first name?

  9. Tom says:

    Seane-Anne – Their is no speed limit on stupidity.

    Indigo – I would suggest that you return the emails to Senator (Ma’am) Boxer stating that you have worked hard for your title, and that by not referring or using “Mr.” as a salutation is derogatory & offensive. Yeah, right…

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