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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Battle In The Mind

The Mom in me is having an argument with the Pundit in me, and it's getting ugly. Thought I'd let you have a ring-side seat for the brawl.

Let's start with the facts.
1. The First Amendment of the US Constitution states: 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.

2. A woman was given a warning because of a... well... rude bumper sticker she had on her car. She claims it's a First Amendment issue.

3. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent United States government agency, directly responsible to Congress. The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. The FCC's jurisdiction covers the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions.

4. Lawmakers are asking the FCC to investigate a radio station for airing a tsunami relief song parody.
Those are the facts. Here are a few more details. First the woman and the bumper sticker:
Shasta Bates, 26, was standing in the shopping center store when a man walked in and started arguing with her about a bumper sticker on the back of her truck that had "F--- Bush" in white letters on a black background.

"He was saying it was very sick and wrong and you shouldn't be doing that," Bates said. "He was very offended by it. I said, 'You didn't have to take it so personally.' " McCrimmon, who had followed the officer into the store, said Karasek wrote down the woman's license-plate number and then told her: "You take those bumper stickers off or I will come and find you and I will arrest you." Colorado ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein said that the alleged threat of arrest clearly violates First Amendment protection.
Now the radio station stuff (I couldn't find the actual lyrics to the song, but, well, it was bad):
Several New York City Councilmembers gathered on the steps of City Hall to denounce the station which played a song that used racial slurs when referring to Asians and had lyrics about God laughing at those drowning in the waves.

Now City Council members want the Federal Communications Commission to take action. Queens Councilman James Gennaro said station management has to be responsible for their product.

The station's owner issued an apology after it pulled the song off the air. The station added that the seven-person staff has agreed to contribute one week's pay to the tsunami relief efforts.
Now, I'm sure you're sitting there, trying to figure out why "Mom" and "Pundit" are having trouble getting along. Maybe it's because "Pundit" thinks that the government needs to stay out of almost everything, and "Mom" wants to protect her babies.

I may surprise people on my opinions about the radio station (or not- some of you know me pretty well). "Pundit" wins hands down. ("Mom" would have a say in this if my kids listened to radio stations like the one that played this. But, they don't, and I know my kids. They would have maybe chuckled at first, but, in the end, it would have made them mad.) Everything that needs to be done, has been done. The radio station has apologized. The crew who recorded the song has made a donation to tsunami relief. And the market will do the rest. If people (not lawmakers, but The Public™) are truly upset with what happened, then they will contact the radio station, and the radio station will get rid of that lineup. That's the way it works. The FCC need not get involved (in the same way that they really didn't need to get involved with Janet's "wardrobe malfunction"- CBS lost enough revenue on its own without the FCC's fines.

Now, the bumper sticker. This is where the battle lines are drawn. "Pundit" says that this woman needs to be able to express her political opinions without regulation (but "Pundit" would also like to point out that the woman's choice of language takes away from the power of her opinion and shows her as simple minded, but we digress). "Mom" wants something done, NOW! Yes, this woman has the right to voice her dislike of the President (according to the article,"She said she put the sticker on her truck because she disagrees with Bush's stance on homosexuality and 'other issues.'" ) But this woman does NOT have the right to display profanity where my kids might see it. Does she? I mean, they can't go to R-rated movies (and, last time I checked, that particular word gets an auto-R) without an adult, and you can't say that word on tv (well, you're not SUPPOSED to be able to say that word on tv). So why should she be allowed to have that on her bumper?

Well... seems the Supreme Court had something to say about that:
"The Supreme Court considered a case about 30-some years ago where a person was prosecuted for wearing a jacket that said, 'F--- the draft,' on the back. The Supreme Court said states could not prohibit people from wearing such a jacket," he said. "They said, 'One man's profanity is another man's lyric.' "
"Mom" is real unhappy about this. So, the Supreme Court said, in a nutshell, that anything goes, as long as it's framed as political speech. There's no place for decorum, or decency, or common sense?

And, could it be said that this woman has violated some right of someone else with her bumper sticker? (ok, I'm not sure which one- any ideas?) I just can't imagine that it's ok to subject people who do not care about this woman's political view to this kind of language. (And, yes, I would be just as offended if it said "F--- Clinton" or "F--- Kerry". It's not who the message is about that's the problem- it's the way the message is delivered that is the problem.) If there is a rally, I can choose to listen, or I can choose to walk away. If there is a political commercial on tv, I can watch it, or I can turn the channel. I would argue that she's forcing her opinion on every person who drives behind her, and she's subjecting them to language that has been determined (by some governing bodies across the country, but not all) to be offensive and not in the public interest.

So, where does all this rambling lead to? Didn't I say that I want as little government involvement as possible? Well, last time I checked, the First Amendment says you can say what you want, but it doesn't say that anyone has to listen. I want government to intervene when my right to not hear what you have to say is violated.

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