When free speech means porn

I checked a blog that was new to me. Called “NewsBusters,” this site has multiple contributors and dozens of postings each day. The posts take on a strong conservative slant. Judging from the comments, so do its readers. The “About” page  says the site’s goal is “documenting, exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias.”

The first post I considered from this blog was an open letter from country-singer Charlie Daniels, which in successive paragraphs calls President Obama a socialist, an elitist, and naïve. He also suggests the president has Muslim alliances.

Sedition laws would have outlawed this speech and put Daniels in jail. Attacking the POTUS in modern times is accepted practice. Daniels isn’t likely to have G-men show up at his door tonight, though he also might not headlining music act at the next White House dinner.

Cammaerts calls American rights to free speech “absolutists.” I think this is foremost a characterization of the laws in regards to political speech. Our society and Constitution put the right to attack a politician, even with what may be lies, above the politician’s rights to privacy and ability to protect his reputation.

Political speech can “advocate the end of democracy” (560) or use the platitudes of democracy to suppress others (561), and its all protected.

I thought the debate among the com mentors was interesting because it discussed if Daniels had enough standing to do this….or should he “just shut up and sing.” Some people recognized they were being hypocritical by telling Barbara Streisand not to talk politics, and others justified their stance, saying Daniels is more intelligent than the soprano.

The second post I examined was simply about two jagoffs (excuse my Pittsburgh-ese) who discussed on TV their thoughts on seeing former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in either Playboy magazine or the White House. On the face of it, I wouldn’t have claimed this to be “particularly decisive,” but the comments perked my Internet antenna.

About 10 comments down, “NavyBuckeye” defends the rights of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco to talk about Palin’s body and his right to buy porn magazines.

“That’s the beauty of freedom… you can be immoral and its your right,” the former military man from Ohio says.

In much of blogosphere, the speech is comparable to porn. It’s quick and dirty low-level communication. But, even still, I would never advocate that it be hindered by the government. After giving a bunch of examples from Belgium, Cammaerts surprised me by coming to the same conclusion.

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  1. #1 by Lord of Arbuckle on September 27, 2010 - 6:55 pm

    Sedition ended when one Federal “black robed dictator” in the late ’60′s or early ’70′s ruled that person can even advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. Government as long as you did not make plans to do accomplish that task.

    In a way our democracy is like Christianity. You have a choice as to what you can do. But we must remember we have to live eternally with that choice. You may not want to go to Heaven, but you can’t stay here.

  2. #2 by paulacunniffe on September 29, 2010 - 11:15 pm

    Seditious libel was only taken out of Irish law in the last year! No-one was ever prosecuted for it but still, it’s long outdated. I’ve really noticed how privacy laws don’t seem to exist here… I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m used to laws where a person’s private life is private. If they are a public figure or a politician their private life is not in the ‘public interest’ i.e doesn’t affect their role in public life then it’s none of the public’s business! I know the tabloids have put an end to some of that but I feel that ‘celebrities’ who put themselves in the public eye and use the media to make money need to accept bad press as well as good press.

    • #4 by Mindy McAdams on October 21, 2010 - 9:28 am

      Your comment on Jonee’s blog was especially good!

  3. #5 by Mindy McAdams on October 21, 2010 - 9:26 am

    I think our author Cammaerts concluded that it’s just too hard to draw the lines — but I sensed he was very reluctant to come to that conclusion.

    You’re correct that the absolutist position is focused on political speech. But is burning the Quran political speech? Some would say yes, some no. And then there’s hate speech. In fact. we CAN compare hate speech to porn in that there’s an attitude of “I know it when I see (or hear) it.” Could we ever be satisfied with that as our standard for whether to censor?

    A lot of speech can be offensive (like talking about Sarah Palin as a sex object), but offensive speech does not always fit the definition of hate speech.

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