Tag Archives: free speech

The Notion of Privacy: Spenserian sonnet

A private notion turns to public act
when it is witnessed by someone outside
your circle; once unloosed, it won’t come back.
These days, it quickly wends its way world-wide.

Your signal will of course be amplified;
within a moment’s span, your words extend
forever – an opinion, glorified
no matter whether real or let’s pretend.

A single line of text can make a friend,
or spawn a heartless legion filled with hate;
and no apology nor logic can defend
your thoughts, undo your speech. Too late,

expression, like an arrow through the air,
seeks out its target and is buried there.

02 JUN 2017

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On South Park

First, it’s a situation comedy. A situation comedy that deliberately offends some in order to humor others. That’s not really so unusual. It’s not really “teaching us to be tolerant,” however. The majority of comedy has always been (since Euripides, anyway) based on belittling, verbally abusing, mocking and perjorating other people, their beliefs, their way of life, the way they talk; or finding glee in their misfortunes. Particularly people that you either don’t know, don’t like or are afraid you might somehow be associated with. I agree, you have a right to say what you like. But do you have a right to hurt other people with that speech? Isn’t that really a form of hate speech? Or is it only hate speech if you or someone you like are the targets? In other words, did the burning of witches start with bonfires, or hateful, ignorant people striking matches while making fun of strange looking women digging along the roadside for medicinal herbs?

Second, it’s a TELEVISION program. Granted, it may be about entertainment, or cultural commentary, even, but its first and foremost function is to serve as the delivery mechanism for advertisements. And if that delivery mechanism reduces the warm, fuzzy feeling in a percentage of consumers, it will not continue to be broadcast. It’s not in the network’s best interest to incur boycotts, protests, hate-mail or anything that might threaten its bottom line, or the inclination of its advertisers to continue their patronage.

Thirdly, I don’t think it’s free speech issue, and using the example of Jesus defecating on Bush and the flag as an “acceptable” substitute for an image of Mohammed doesn’t prove the tolerance of Christianity over Islam regarding free expression. Suppose, instead, that they portrayed Jesus smoking a joint, fondling a transvestite prostitute and voting Democrat or attending a Klan rally (either one, both demonstrate extremes). THAT would have caused outrage. But the bulk of the South Park audience is probably in agreement with any of these scenarios as possible, if not probable; it’s only people who don’t GET the show (they would posit) that would be offended. But then again, that’s where your definition of humor fits into the equation. Satire and irony are one thing. The question I have for South Park is this: could they have made their point without being offensive? Without belittling anyone? Who would have thought it was funny? The dilemma here what people think is funny. If it’s not funny in a way that pushes the envelope, no one would watch, and the advertisers would suffer. On the other hand, if it’s too funny (in a way that makes poignant insights into the way we live and suggests a better way), most people wouldn’t get it, wouldn’t watch, and the advertisers would suffers. And finally, if it’s over-the-top top funny in the traditional belittling, mocking, smug way of most humor, someone’s bound to get offended (because we all take ourselves a bit too seriously, anyway) and the advertisers suffer.

Is this worth even talking about?

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Obscenity and Free Speech

Is it real obscenity, or just a lack of taste?
To legislate morality seems such a useless waste.
For standards vary by observer, and from day to day;
Leaving little black or white, but only shades of gray.

Let Washington decide the content, and it won’t be long
Before no matter what you say, it will be judged as wrong.
If personal objections are imposed by a select few
You can be sure that who decides will not be me or you.

I wonder if those who cry out against culture’s decline
Have paused to look at their actions, their own state of mind?
It seems to me that feeling tempted comes of false pretense
that man cannot discern between paths to experience.

And worse, to think that being tried is not required for faith,
that we can become wiser by remaining stale and safe,
leads only to destruction as we weaken from within
and learn to label evolution as some kind of sin.

So, what is real obscenity? And what makes it obscene –
The context, or the message, or delivering machine?
If you would have your own opinion, mind the censor’s might,
Before you want to disagree, and do not have the right.

22 MAR 2004

Instead of letting each of us choose what we want to watch and hear, Congress is moving quickly to require large fines on “indecent” content. This economic censorship would dramatically infringe on the First Amendment and would hinder the diversity of programming available to consumers. We each have a right to watch what we want on television, and change the channel if we don’t like what we see. If a television show is offensive we can complain to the broadcaster and choose never to watch that show again. This market process allows us to find programming that meets our individual tastes and is free of government interference. New legislation, the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2004 (S. 2056), would allow the government to levy large fines on broadcasts that the Federal Communications Commission considers “indecent.” This vague definition would lead to broadcasters censoring their content and forbidding their staff from playing controversial material. The proposed legislation would even allow the FCC to impose large fines on Musicians, comedians and other artists who it considers “indecent.” — ACLU Free Speech Alert

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