Mythology: The Filters Through Which We View The First Amendment
As an oyster coats a grain of sand in a coating of pearl, so is Constitutional text coated with the glosses of false perception. Our understanding of the facts is obscured (or obliterated) by opinion -- in this case, demonstrably false opinion which masquerades as fact. For too many people, their opinion of what the First Amendment says is the First Amendment! The Amendment then effectively becomes what mythology declares it to be, contradictory though the mythology may be.
Mythology, as transmitted by Presidents, trade groups, advertisers, legal commentators, judges, and the mass media, has three characteristics:
1) It is not truth; it is illusion based on and substituting for truth.
2) It is stratified: different classes in society have opposing myths (public and private) transmitted to them, allowing for opposing behaviors.
3) The fact of stratification enables two laws to co-exist simultaneously; public law (the one for show), and private law (the one for tell). If government doesn't "go by the book", the book is really a cover.
Note that mythology is generally not totally false. Both public and private mythologies gain their legitimacy from partial truths. Their mythological character is only revealed when we put them side-by-side with each other (and the truth), and show them to be incompatible. You peel off the mask to reveal -- a mask!
You've seen the text of the First Amendment. Now let's examine
these twin views of reality, and see how well they correspond to the
world. We'll start with public mythology (the mythology of our
dreams), and then move to private mythology (the
mythology of our nightmares).