Sunday, October 10, 2010

Free Speech Provocateurs

Add Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church to the pantheon of free speech warriors. From George Lincoln Rockwell who, in his own words, sent "My ex-beatnik... onto the floor of Congress on opening day in blackface, with top hat, loin cloth and cigar, shouting. 'I'ze de Mississippi delegation, and ah demands mah seat!'" (Pg. 19 of pdf), to Abbie Hoffman's threat to levitate the Pentagon by urinating on it, to Larry Flynt calling the Supreme Court Justices "eight assholes and a token cunt" in their very presence... These merry pranksters are fighting the good fight for the First Amendment. That is, so long as they win... And they have won so far...

But if not...

First Amendment Ruling Destined to Kill Internet Free Speech

The pessimists at Infowars should take comfort however that the Phelps clan seems to know what they are doing, as is evident in the 5 minute summary of the defense before SCOTUS (or the 75 page brief at SCOTUSblog). The patriarch of the family is, surprisingly enough, a celebrated civil rights attorney who admirably represented Kansas minorities (barring one minority of course) in discrimination cases in the 70's and 80's. Moreover, he argued against Reagan's appointment of an ambassador to the Vatican on the grounds of separation of church and state.

While the logic of celebrating dead soldiers because "god hates fags" may be twisted alright (we would imagine God to be more justified in celebrating dead soldiers on account of the use of depleted uranium), these protests seem to be designed to incite the maximum public outrage while remaining strictly within the letter of the law... It might almost seem as if they are provoking the general public to demand the evisceration of its First Amendment.

Let us hope SCOTUS will not take the bait this time, and will again remind the plaintiffs, lest all our speech is held hostage by the most thin skinned among us:


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