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A look behind the curtain at the Show Me Progress corporate headquarters: we’re well aware of it when our posts generate traffic.

Over a year ago, on September 16, 2007, I covered the Harkin Steak Fry – a gathering of Democratic presidential candidates held in a balloon field in Indianola, Iowa. A year ago today (a little over a month after the first post), I wrote about the tempest in the right wingnut teapot over Barack Obama and “The Star Spangled Banner” arising out of videos and still photos from the event.

While traffic on the original story had been steady, over the last week or so I noticed an increase of site traffic on the story.

A graph of site traffic over the last month to the Show Me Progress story “Barack Obama and ‘The Star Spangled Banner'” which was posted on October 24, 2007.

A screen shot of search results. Show Me Progress is No. 2.

On October 25, 2007 I posted a follow-up.

Obviously this presidential election and the memes circulated about Barack Obama are driving people to Internet search engines. I wonder where it’s coming from? Since the interest appears to be here, it might be of some utility to repeat the punch line. It bears repeating:


…Symbols of State often convey political ideas just as religious symbols come to convey theological ones. Associated with many of these symbols are appropriate gestures of acceptance or respect: a salute, a bowed or bared head, a bended knee. A person gets from a [319 U.S. 624, 633]  symbol the meaning he puts into it, and what is one man’s comfort and inspiration is another’s jest and scorn….


…Whether the First Amendment to the Constitution will permit officials to order observance of ritual of this nature does not depend upon whether as a voluntary exercise we would think it to be good, bad or merely innocuous. Any credo of nationalism is likely to include what some disapprove or to omit what others think essential, and to give off different overtones as it takes on different accents or interpretations. 14  If official power exists to coerce acceptance of any patriotic creed, what it shall contain cannot be decided by courts, but must be largely discretionary with the ordaining authority, whose power to prescribe would no doubt include power to amend. Hence validity of the asserted power to force an American citizen publicly to profess any statement of belief or to engage in any ceremony of assent to one presents questions of power that must be considered independently of any idea we may have as to the utility of the ceremony in question….

….National unity as an end which officials may foster by persuasion and example is not in question. The problem is whether under our Constitution compulsion as here employed is a permissible means for its achievement.

Struggles to coerce uniformity of sentiment in support of some end thought essential to their time and country have been waged by many good as well as by evil men. Nationalism is a relatively recent phenomenon but at other times and places the ends have been racial or territorial security, support of a dynasty or regime, and particular plans for saving souls. As first and moderate methods to attain unity have failed, those bent on its accomplishment must resort to an ever-increasing severity. [319 U.S. 624, 641]  As governmental pressure toward unity becomes greater, so strife becomes more bitter as to whose unity it shall be. Probably no deeper division of our people could proceed from any provocation than from finding it necessary to choose what doctrine and whose program public educational officials shall compel youth to unite in embracing. Ultimate futility of such attempts to compel coherence is the lesson of every such effort from the Roman drive to stamp out Christianity as a disturber of its pagan unity, the Inquisition, as a means to religious and dynastic unity, the Siberian exiles as a means to Russian unity, down to the fast failing efforts of our present totalitarian enemies. Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.

It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to our Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings. There is no mysticism in the American concept of the State or of the nature or origin of its authority. We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. Authority here is to be controlled by public opinion, not public opinion by authority.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us….

[emphasis added]

Is this a great country, or what?