Free speech hysteria need perspective

nbruce writes "
Michael Medved thinks his fellow broadcasters, left and right, are not thinking clearly.

“At the Talkers conference in New York, many commentators made the point that if the FCC gets tougher in regulating obscenity today, then they may attempt to crack down on controversial political ideas tomorrow – especially if John Kerry wins election as president and wants to try to punish talk radio.�

He makes 5 key points to gloom and doom prophets, and compares U.S. laws to Canada’s.

Story here."

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Free Speech Crisis

It is interesting that when there is an attack on Howard Stern it is a threat to free speech and when there is an attack on Hannity or Limbaugh it is giving a perspective. Just because everyone enjoys and uses off color language and obscene metaphors doesn't make it right or protected. Imagine if the FCC stopped regulating the airwaves, we would have Brazil, Europe, or any other place where simple morality and taste have been pushed aside for anything goes. Look at some of the posts here regarding definition of free speech, vulgar behavior, etc. Unfortunately, there are members of our profession that feel that "anything goes" is protected speech. Vulgar language in the library doesn't bother some, and using porn sites and partcipating in the library is deemed free expression. The constitution and our laws are there to make society open to all ideas and speech. However, if one group is forced to accept what is openly offensive and vulgar then their rights are compromised. Remember the left can be oppresive and force it will. Society accepts behavior but that does not make it right. If you think society is not crumbling, it is amazing what is acceptable work clothes in public places.
The slippery slope has begun.

Medved

Didn't he used to be a second-rate film critic at some time, sort of a road-show Ebert?

Re:The slippery slope has begun

The slippery slope has begun? Slipping to where? Who is slipping?Just because everyone enjoys and uses off color language and obscene metaphors doesn't make it right or protected. "one man's vulgarity is another man's lyric"Brazil, Europe, or any other place where simple morality and taste have been pushed aside for anything goes? When were you there to make those assertions?How will we define openly offensive, vulgar, acceptable behavoir, what clothes should be worn in public, simple morality, taste? This should be defined by law? Shall we use the bible? The Koran?

Re:Medved

Read the article, which isn't about films, then determine if you think he is second rate. Wanting worthwhile, honest and first rate films doesn't automatically make the reviewer second rate.

Re:Free Speech Crisis

Not to agree or disagree, but to offer another viewpoint, I have to comment on some of the above statements. First off:

Imagine if the FCC stopped regulating the airwaves, we would have Brazil, Europe, or any other place where simple morality and taste have been pushed aside for anything goes.

I hate to be the one to inform everyone of this, but "simple morality" (whatever that is) and tase already have been pushed aside in America. Watched any TV recently? We have reality shows where people play with marriage, where people eat ants while covered in bees, and where we strand several shmucks on some island and tell them to go at it. The news is of the opinion that you can put damn near anything on the screen as long as you preface it with the words:

"The following images are graphic and may disturb some viewers."

Then quick cut to Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Indonesia, or just plain downtown Manhattan for some shots of dead people. Note the quick cut. Even if you might be disturbed by such images, you don't even have time to close your eyes before they come on the screen.

Taste and so-called morality left the airwaves, both television and radio, long ago. My solution? I probably don't watch three hours of TV in a week, and I listen to radio almost not at all anymore. Though radio is more because DJs who think they're funny, usually aren't. Besides, you can't compare our morals to those of another country. In Brazil, nudity is pretty widely accepted. Topless salsa dancers shake in the streets during carnivals. It just happens that America is extremely prude when it comes to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, there are members of our profession that feel that "anything goes" is protected speech.

And I concur, within standard limits. I think everyone has the right to yell fire, but not in a crowded theatre when there really isn't a fire.

If you think society is not crumbling, it is amazing what is acceptable work clothes in public places.

Don't even get me started on dress codes, but quick story anyway. I am known for wearing extremely loud shirts. The more colourful the better. I frequent a shop which sells such shirts. I walked into said shop once and looked around. The week before they had these shweet dragon shirts. Lots of colour bursting from the fabric, and the dragon print was gorgeous. I couldn't afford it at the time, so I came back the next week. The area where the shirts had been was empty and I couldn't find any others in the store I liked. I mentioned to my friend that they must have sold out of them and a sales girl overheard me. She asked what I was after and I told her. She asked me to wait while she nipped around in back to see if there were more. A few minutes later she reappeared with three shirts. All of them different, all of them with dragons, all of them really cool. She explained that they received new stock last night and hadn't put it out yet. She brought all three styles out so I could choose which I wanted. It was some of the best customer service I ever had.

The punch line? I was standing in a Hot Topic store. The store caters to the punk/goth set and the sales people dress the part. Not because it's mandated, but because they're allowed to. The girl had flaming orange hair. She had piercings in both eyebrows, her nose, her lip, one under her lip, and a stud in her tongue. She had multiple ear rings in each ear. She had exotic tattoos up both arms and she wore a v-neck type shirt that showed off tattoos across her chest and back. She had the coolest knee-high black leather boots too.

I received better customer service from a woman dressed like a gothic nightmare goddess than I have ever received from some stuck up bitch commissioned sales clerk at Nordstrom's. My point? Acceptible dress matters little in the face of exceptional service.

Re:Free Speech Crisis

It is interesting that when there is an attack on Howard Stern it is a threat to free speech and when there is an attack on Hannity or Limbaugh it is giving a perspective.

An attack on anyone's right to free speech is threatening.

Just because everyone enjoys and uses off color language and obscene metaphors doesn't make it right or protected.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Hmm, I don't know about you, but that "abridging the freedom of speech" bit makes it fairly clear-cut in my opinion.

Imagine if the FCC stopped regulating the airwaves, we would have Brazil, Europe, or any other place where simple morality and taste have been pushed aside for anything goes.

Other nations tend to be as badly regulated (or worse!) as the US when it comes to the airwaves; those regulations just happen to cover different areas depending on the jurisdiction. Try expressing a Nazi-sympathetic point of view on German radio and see how far you get.

And as far as "morality" and "taste" go, these matters are hardly "simple" -- hence the importance in having a society which goes as far as possible in the direction of allowing people to freely lead their lives.

Look at some of the posts here regarding definition of free speech, vulgar behavior, etc. Unfortunately, there are members of our profession that feel that "anything goes" is protected speech.

*coughs* *glances up at that funny "First Amendment" thing*

Vulgar language in the library doesn't bother some, and using porn sites and partcipating in the library is deemed free expression.

If a private library doesn't like someone's speech, they have every right to toss them out. Even a public library has the right to toss someone who is genuinely being disruptive (e.g. yelling, harassing patrons).

The constitution and our laws are there to make society open to all ideas and speech.

Oooh, interesting idea! (Not their only ideal purpose, but you're on the right track here.)

However, if one group is forced to accept what is openly offensive and vulgar then their rights are compromised.

How is anyone forced to "accept" anything when all speech is free and allowed? We have this funny thing called choice - and that includes the choice not to tune in, not to read, not to keep watching, and so on. No one should have their rights compromised because you're too lazy to make use of your rights and then complain that your delicate sensibilities are offended.

Remember the left can be oppresive and force it will.

*cough* I'm a libertarian. Anyone against free speech can be oppressive if they have the ability to turn their notions of "freedom" into law.

Society accepts behavior but that does not make it right.

Wow, a point we agree on... hence the need for a tolerant (not necessarily respectful - just minimally tolerant) society.

If you think society is not crumbling, it is amazing what is acceptable work clothes in public places. The slippery slope has begun.

LMFAO! This is your evidence that society is "crumbling"? *rolls eyes* Oh, what a weighty issue you bring up here!

Non-ASCII Characters

There were a few non-ASCII characters in the post that don't necessarily render for people not running Windows and/or Internet Explorer (*cough* likemyself *cough*). I ask that submitters and posters please check for non-standard characters (most relevant if you're copying from MS Word, but still crops up in other cases) before hitting Send. (It's an Internet-standards thing.) :)

Re:Free Speech Crisis

ha ha, Great Western Dragon shops at Hot Topics! I never figured you to be so trendy!

Re:Medved

Sorry. I didn't say anything about what he wants in films, I just commented on the quality of his film criticism. You seem a little defensive. I read article and he really isn't saying much of anything. I'd rate it one/half a shrug.

My call on it

The single, most important issue that Medved failed to address is that the FCC has already tried to ban anything "indecent" from being broadcasted, although it has been fifty years or so since then, and the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the attempt as illegal and required that the FCC establish the Safe Harbor. Nor does he once address the issue of reasonable time, place, or manner restrictions.

but those of us who talk to the public for a living certainly understand that the explosion of indignation after the notorious "wardrobe malfunction" was very real, very broad, and very deep.

I dare say that those of us who study social trends in free speech and censorship would say otherwise. Real? Yes. Broad? Hogwash. Deep? The idea is laughable. Only a very minute segment of watchers were indignant enough to file a complaint. For more about how the incident was statistically misrepresented, see the Lies, Damned Lies, and Statisics section of my commentary on the Janet Jackson Affair.

The FCC responded to demands from below, not dictates from above: popular concern about broadcast indecency suddenly exploded, without any notable encouragement from politicians who merely followed and exploited, rather than initiating, the protests.

Off hand I would say that this is a clear and present misreprestation of the case. Michael Powell was fulminating and showering dung and derision in all directions the next day.

DESPITE THEIR CLAIMS TO THE CONTRARY, EVEN THE MOST STRIDENT BROADCAST CRITICS OF THE FCC DON'T REALLY WANT GOVERNMENT TO STOP REGULATING THE RADIO BUSINESS.

I will grant him that, but again he misrepresented the situation. The reason broadcasters don't want the government to stop is a matter of dog in the manger business economics. The negative affective connotation here is that the broadcasters are operating on a basis of "freedom for me but not for thee."

Imagine that a law-abiding citizen feels a powerful need to experience nude lap dancing on a regular basis. He can probably arrange for that service in the privacy of his home, at a private club, or certain public businesses in "adult entertainment" enclaves of most metropolises.

Now, imagine that there are groups of people who are not satisfied with such activity being kept under cover and who want to remove from Joe Citizen his right to participate even in the privacy of his own home. Under the grounds that it is immoral, indecent, obscene, and We Must Protect The Children.

Well, they haven't gone that far, but adult entertainment businesses have come under attack by ultra-conservatives and fundamentalists. And given the precedent established by the Taliban, I have no doubt that the ultra-conservative would invade the home to enforce morality laws. It was just a such an invasion, after all, that resulted in the striking down of Texas sodomy laws.

Just as you need a government license to drive a car on the public highway, you need a license to broadcast on public airwaves.

Excuse me! -- but it is the government that says you need a license? I will be able to drive just as well tomorrow as I do today if my permit should lapse? Having or not having a piece of paper does not mean that I am any more or less capable. This point is an egregious piece of bovine scatology.

. . . we enjoy a popular culture filled with off-color alternatives unimaginable just ten years ago. Much of this material flows to the public through media unregulated by the FCC and as a result the consumer faces far more choices, not fewer choices, than he enjoyed in the past.

I tend to rank this statement up there with the rationale, "We don't need to allow people to burn the flag, there are a thousand other ways they can express themselves, they don't need this one." Actually, yes, they do need that one. However, I'm willing to chalk this one up to a missatement of the case. Here is where the reasonable time, place, or manner restriction argument would have served him very well.

SUCCESSFUL SHOWS DON'T REALLY NEED RACY MATERIAL OR "THE SEVEN DIRTY WORDS" TO SUCCEED IN THE MARKET PLACE.

BINGO!

Finally nailed that photon torpedo right on the detonate button. Still, even this argument can be countered with the " . . . make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech" provision. The Bill of Rights does not guarantee quality, it only quarantees that every person, regardless of who they are or what they like, will have unfettered access to the full marketplace of ideas and that they may, for themselves, and of their own free will and volition, pick and choose among those ideas as to
which to embrace and which to reject.

Somehow, though, that just ain't good enough for some people.

. . . going back thirty full years, "PG" and "PG-13" releases always drew bigger average grosses than "R," and Hollywood has finally caught up to the reality.

Actually, that's not entirely true. A part of that, at least, and perhaps a large part of it, is that the MPAA ratings system has turned into a powerful chilling effect. Hollyweird is not necessarily producing higher quality films or even films with lower ratings, but certain material is being expurgated on occasion so as to meet the better rating so the film can buy a wider range of advertising. This has no effect on the quality of the director, however, so his G-rated crap is not going to be
any better than his R-rated crap.

As for Shrek, I have no doubt that the fundamentlists who attacked The Little Mermaid as obscene pornography because an early draft for the cover of the video case had vaguely phallus-like castle towers on it, or Toy Story dolls because they couldn't understand what the doll was saying, would not cavil at attacking Shrek for all that Farqhuar sexual
innuendo.

For every Stern or Leykiss or Mancow who managed to establish a successful career, there have been dozens of failed imitators in every corner of the country.

I would imagine that is pretty much true for every field of endeavour, and that it cuts both ways. That for every successful family-oriented type such as Mr. Rogers, there is an equal proportion of failed wannabes.

This line of argument shows a dangerous ignorance as to the true history and purpose of the First Amendment.

Yeah, well, so does the Democratic and Republican National parties, the Bush administration, an overwhelming majority of fundamentalist religionists, and about 96 percent of the general population that's left.

The Canadian crack-down on controversial political speech didn't follow some assault on obscenity; . . .

Yes, well, I'd like very much to say that it's because our president isn't a moron. Unfortunately, Adolph Hitler himself, no less, once said of Canada, "Even an idiot could run that country." And the dozy bastards keep proving him right.

After all, nearly all Americans support some minimal restrictions on the use of public airwaves.

One more time: "REE-SUN-AH-BULL". They must be reasaonable restrictions, and your FCC is in no wise capable of crafting such a restriction. It is yet another lackey of the neo-fascist Bush administration.

We would agree, for instance, that licensed stations have no constitutional right to encourage or glamorize kiddie porn, or to openly urge listeners to engage in rape, or violent assaults of any kind.

Kiddie porn, real kiddie porn, not the kind some reactionary just says is kiddie porn because he is afraid of nudity, and openly encouraging someone to commit a crime are not forms of protected speech. This is a spurious argument.

I remain convinced that an unsupportable assertion of an absolute, constitutional right to any form of broadcast expression (live sex acts, any one?) only makes it more likely that we will face real attempts [...] to stifle our right to express political opinions

Looks to me as if he's overstating his case, here. Actually, one can broadcast X rated films during the Safe Harbor. Us sicko, but not so sexually repressed Quebecois perverts actually do that on three channels that I know of. Nude people having fun together in a full contact sport, but without genitals or gential contact being shown. Although that's over cable, not broadcast. the two triple X channels aren't active any more; not even scrambled.

(à la Canada)

Jeezus! Don't you American dumbasses every get tired of blaming us for your stupidity?

Let's all hear it for the new 'Murcan International Anthem:

Blame it on Canada! Blame it on Canada! With their beady little eyes, and their tuques all full of lies!

This is just as asinine as Bushites saying it's all Clinton's fault.

. . .then perhaps I can join my fellow hosts in leaving behind false, unnecessary worries about a constitutional crisis . . .

And here's where he really blows the mission. The problem with the old saw, "Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty," is that it is a truism. Even taking into account that the interplay between free speech and censorship is the interplay between manifest and latent functions, and such interplays are necessary to a vigorous and dynamic society, that does not mean that one can become
complacent and simply stop opposing the forces of oppression and slavery. The pendulum is not going to stop swinging so easily as that. Better to keep at it and keep things at a rolling boil. A stagnant society is like a pond of stagnant water. It stinks.

Pity, cause the dude's thought processes aren't entirely shabby. It looks very much as if he's reaching for understanding. His problem might be that he is only an interdisciplinary thinker instead of a multidisciplinary thinker.

Re:Free Speech Crisis

I have the same expierences in Hot Topic; me- a nerdy looking mom of two teenagers. I get ignored in the "better" stores and wonderful service in Hot Topic. I have real conversations with them- full sentances and good grammer. And these kids are our future...I hope they vote.

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