There are a certain number of people in America that have the mistaken idea that there is some sort of right to not be offended by the speech of others. This, of course, stands in direct contrast to the 1st amendment, but not everyone is fully up on constitutional law. The problem is that when it's members of the government who are confused, we've got a massive competency problem. We've covered earlier examples of this, such as when some New York State senators thought that curtailing
free speech was a valid reaction to some folks taking offense. Rhode Island had a similar idea
and it was similarly stupid. That said, misguided as these attempts are, at least they are usually made as a result of some vocal minority in the constituency voicing their concern or anger.
Not the case in the story that gort-o-matic
provides. In this instance, Georgia state lawmaker Earnest Smith wants to fine anyone who prank photoshops an image of someone $1000
... after someone did it to him.
You see, some devious, twisted human being placed His Earnestness's head on the body of a porn star. He did this for public consumption on the blog Georgia Politics Unfiltered. The porn star has a very nice body. He is a porn star, after all. And he is not Ron Jeremy.
The human being behind this affrontery has come forward. His name is Andre Walker. It is unknown if he was moved by the boast on His Earnestness's own Web site that says he is both "accessible" and "audacious."
However, Walker told Fox News: "The first Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects all forms of speech, not just spoken word."
It's difficult to imagine anyone disagreeing with Walker's assessment of how free speech in the United States works. Fortunately, that difficulty can be set aside, since Smith earnestly supplied the following reply to Fox News:
"No one has a right to make fun of anyone. It's not a First Amendment right."
Take a moment and drink that in. The statement is as impressive as it is incorrect. I say impressive, because in the world of long-winded politicians, you rarely see such a combination of wrongness and brevity. But, in case anyone in our midst is inclined to agree with Smith (who we have to assume is somehow offended at portrayals of him having pornstar-level man-junk), let me disabuse them of the idea that the first amendment doesn't allow offensive speech.
There is a somewhat well-known anecdote involving a dictionary writer in days long past who is approached on the street by a conservative women's group. The group congratulates him on not including any offensive words in the dictionary. In reply, the writer congratulates the women on their steadfast dedication to looking for offensive words. The point of that story is that there are people in our world who look for any and every opportunity to be
offended. We do not protect the rights of American Nazi's to march in Skokie, IL
because we like
that speech. We protect it because opening the door to the opportunistically offended to censor speech, even vulgar speech, is unacceptable. The end result would be the censorship of Salman Rushdie
The fact is that the first amendment must
include a license to offend, even if that means politician's heads will be placed on porn star's bodies.