Sometimes, I’m really quite the talented prognosticator. Back in October, I suggested that the Snyder v. Phelps case, involving this so-called religionist protesting at the funerals of American soldiers killed in action would be decided 8-1 or 7-2 in favor of Phelps, and it was 8-1 in Phelps’ favor. Again, I think it was the right decision constitutionally; indeed, if it had gone the other way, one could reasonably complain about the Court making law. Do not, though, confuse my First Amendment backing for the SOBs with any kind of theological support. In fact, that handful of inbreed charlatans, like the Florida pastor/rube last year who threatened to burn the Koran, represent such a small segment of theological thought that it’s painful to come to their defense in any way. Nuance sucks.

Yet, I’m reminded of a just as repugnant SCOTUS case, involving a band of Nazi sympathizers wanting to march in Skokie, Illinois. The Supreme Court refused to review the lower court ruling allowing the assembly; ultimately, the march did take place, albeit not in Skokie.

So where should government draw the line regarding free expression? I’m particularly interested in opinions of those living outside of the United States, and thus without First Amendment traditions.
***
And sometimes, I’m a lousy prognosticator. My NCAA men’s basketball picks were SO awful that I haven’t even checked them since the first weekend. I had Pitt, who lost in the second round, in the finals, which should give you some idea.

4 Responses to “Westboro redux QUESTION”

  • Uthaclena says:

    Likewise in the 1988 Hustler Magazine v. Falwell decision (8-0); sometime you must uphold principles, even when the result is repugnant.

  • I think the first thing I have to say, as an American citizen now living in another country (have I established my bonafides?), is that just because a country doesn’t have “First Amendment traditions” doesn’t mean they don’t have a fierce dedication to freedom of expression.

    In New Zealand—the only other country about which I can speak with SOME authority—freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights Act and many pieces of legislation passed over many decades. We have, I would argue, as fierce a dedication to free expression as do Americans. The difference is in where the boundaries lie.

    In New Zealand, we accept that the newsmedia may not necessarily publish details of a person accused of a crime before a trial. We have restrictions on broadcast speech similar to the US, except we can have swear words and nudity on free-to-air television later in the evening if it’s not gratuitous—which is more than the US is allowed. A brief flash of Janet Jackson’s pastie-covered nipple would get little notice and even less outrage.

    My point is this: The US presents itself as the epitome of guaranteed free expression, but countries that have restrictions on things like hate speech, as NZ does, have arguably freer expression in everyday matters. We have something that works for us, and if American don’t like, well, tough—we don’t care.

    The US is simply ONE example out of many, and not necessarily the best—though I know Americans may be aghast to hear that. Each country must find its own path, what works for their society, and the US model is not always the best.

    So I reckon that outside the US, countries should draw the line where it makes sense for their society and culture.

  • Roger says:

    Arthur – there is one thing NZ has thart I absolutely agree with, and thaty’s pretrial publicity. I think that, once upon a time, discretion reigned it in. But now there is no filter at all.

  • Uthaclena-

    Falwell vs. Flint 1984 did not uphold the repugnant side. Falwell, who is currently in Hell occupying a pit filled with s–t with Ronnie Reagan as his room mate, basically demanded that the entire 1st Amendment be overturned. Flint, at most, was an irritant. Falwell was a deadly threat.

    Obviously, the Supreme Court could not comply with Falwell’s wishes in 1984. If they had, then in the 1990s the corporate media couldn’t have blasted us with all that made-up slander about Bill Clinton.

    They’re still not ready to shut down the 1st, they still need it. Give them a few more years.

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