Devil’s Advocate

August 14, 2017 Comics Comments (0) 1203

(Click panels to embiggen. Get the comic in a single image here. Click here for more comics.)

 

I am, as has been stated many, many times elsewhere, personally a hard-liner on the First Amendment. Nazis do, unfortunately, have the same right to speech and assembly as everyone else, and that is as it should be. It is, as the saying goes, the high price of freedom — because any effort to legally stifle hate speech will inevitably be exploited to harm the people it seeks to protect.

However, there is a time and a place to argue for free speech. If you are the ACLU, maybe that time is “always.” If, however, you are a decent human being seeking to engage with other human beings on the Internet, the time to argue for free speech may not be the immediate aftermath of a Nazi rally that killed three people. Sometimes it’s good to say “Yeah, Nazis are bad.”

You may not sound like the greatest intellectual in the room, but you will also avoid sounding like a complete asshole.

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Nathan McLendon Explains It All Wrong

July 21, 2015 In The News Comments (0) 670

I’m slightly hesitant to publicly criticize an undergraduate for misunderstanding history and civil rights, but since Nathan McLendon (pictured at left, without what I assume is his customary fedora) is apparently a guest columnist at the Albany (Georgia) Herald, and therefore popped up among the Google alerts in my inbox, I’m going to make an exception.

First, I invite you to read the jumble of accreted right-wing talking points the Albany Herald, an esteemed publication with a 125-year history and a 29-word Wikipedia entry,* thinks qualifies as a guest column. Following the thetical headline “Political Correctness Threatens Free Speech,” McLendon asserts the following:

  • That activists seeking to remove the Confederate Flag from popular use are attacking free speech. Which is counter to reality, because those activists are employing free speech in advocating for the removal of a government-sanctioned symbol. It’s McLendon who opposes free speech by suggesting that those raising complaints are somehow committing an offense against public discourse.
  • That public outcry against unpopular opinions attacks free speech. This is a right-wing canard: “If I express my opinion, that’s free speech. If you express criticism of my opinion, that’s oppression.” McLendon backs it up with another deceptive canard, the “bakery owner fined for refusing to participate in a gay wedding.” In fact the fines in question resulted from the bakery owner encouraging harassment and violence against the gay couple in violation of court instructions.
  • That “it’s easier to call someone a racist than to think for yourself.” This follows a lengthy repetition of farcical Civil War history, which I’ll get to in a moment. In the minds of many right-wingers (especially racists), one of the worst things anyone can do is call someone a racist. I just find it so bizarre and slightly amusing that so many Americans frame their opposition to free speech as a defense thereof.

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First Amendment Friday: 05.02.2014

May 2, 2014 ACLU, Gay and Lesbian, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 519

This is a feature I started in my time working for the ACLU, that seems worth continuing here. It’s a roundup of news stories about First Amendment rights, not only from the United States but other parts of the world where such rights may not be guaranteed. As with any roundup of news stories, please consider the integrity of the linked source–I try not to link articles that feel bogus, but sometimes stories slip through.

  • In a new book, retired Supreme Court Justice Paul Stevens suggests six new amendments to the U.S. Constitution, including a revision to the First Amendment that would place “reasonable limits” on political campaign contributions. [NPR]
  • The NCAA believes the First Amendment gives them the right to profit from using the images of the players it doesn’t pay and doesn’t educate in video games, and they want the Supreme Court to agree. [Bloomberg]
  • Several Christian groups that perform same-sex weddings, including the United Church of Christ, have sued North Carolina because the state’s marriage equality ban, enacted through both state law and the state constitution, violate their religious freedom under the First Amendment. [Wall Street Journal]
  • Defense attorneys for alleged gang leader Ronald Herron argue that his rap recordings, in which prosecutors claim he journaled his crimes, are in fact protected free speech, analogous to Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” and inadmissible at trial. [AP]

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First Amendment Friday: 04.25.14

April 25, 2014 In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 475

This is a feature I started in my time working for the ACLU, that seems worth continuing here. It’s a roundup of news stories about First Amendment rights, not only from the United States but other parts of the world where such rights may not be guaranteed. As with any roundup of news stories, please consider the integrity of the linked source–I try not to link articles that feel bogus, but sometimes stories slip through.

  • Eight rappers who sell CDs of their music in Times Square are suing the NYPD, saying the police violate their free speech and target them unfairly for persecution and arrests. [AllHipHop]
  • Dallin H. Oaks, a leader of the LDS Church, says he believes protections for religious freedom of speech are eroding. [AP]
  • A Pennsylvania student’s family is suing after administrators removed religious notes he inserted into Valentine’s Day cards. [The Express Times]

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