Daily Archives: June 25, 2008

This is America, We Have Free Speech. Or Do We?

We do have free speech in this country…..don’t we? 

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.

In Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988), the United States Supreme Court held, voting 8-0, that the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee prohibits awarding damages to public figures to compensate for emotional distress intentionally inflicted upon them unless they can show that the statements that gave rise to the distress were false and that the person that made those statements knew they were false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth in making the statements.

And, again, in the following case, involving the broadcasting of George Carlin’s “seven words” uncensored by Pacifica radio station WBAI, which eventually led to a Supreme Court case, FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (1978), that helped define acceptable free speech limits on broadcast television and radio in the United States

Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978) is a landmark United States Supreme Court decision that defined the power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over “indecent” material as applied to broadcasting.

And yet this week in June, 2008, there has been another media storm concerning Don Imus, who was fired in April, 2007, for saying “nappy-headed hos” in a broadcast, claiming he got racial again by saying, What color is he?” and “Well, there you go” and “Now we know.”  I am not going to recite the entire episode here because it’s already been done.  But Imus is being “monitored” by the likes of Al Sharpton, who is himself being investigated for income tax invasion and who knows what else.  Someone was on O’Reilly last night saying he knew what Imus meant, even though Imus has said he meant something else.  So now we have people who can read minds, and Lord knows, if they read a mind, we have to go with what they saw.

I wish I could put the “seven words that can’t be said on tv” in this post, I am tempted, but I’ll control myself.  What I would like to know is who added to this list the words, “What color is he?” and “Well, there you go, now we know”?

The truth is, he can say that!  And it doesn’t matter what he meant by them.  It is not against the law to say those words, it is not a violation of any rule or FCC regulation, nothing.  He can say that!  This is America! 

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