Tag Archives: free speech

Sliding Down That Slippery Slope


We saw this one coming:

NY transit system to ban all political advertising

Just wonder if there’s going to come a time when they need to clarify what they consider “political advertising.” Seems like that slope is still a little slippery.


It feels like just a few weeks ago that those of us railing against selling advertising on public spaces warned that it was a “slippery slope” — that if you allow KFC to advertise on your firetrucks and manhole covers, it won’t be long before the NRA is gloating about cop-killer bullets at your airport and the KKK is demanding its free speech rights on your public buses.

Oh wait, it was just a few weeks ago!

So, here’s what’s happening in New York City:

Last week, the federal courts chalked up another victory for the defense of American freedom—or, rather, for the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Judge John Koeltl of the Southern District of New York ruled that the MTA must display an advertisement known as “the ‘Killing Jews’ advertisement.”

“Killing Jews” (the court’s abbreviation, not mine) is a response to an ad campaign run by the Council on American-Islamic Relations about the concept of “lesser jihad.” As part of its #MyJihad ad campaign to “take back Islam from Muslim and anti-Muslim Extremists Alike,” that group ran a series of ads attempting to promote tolerance and understanding of the concept of “jihad,” or “struggle.” In response, the American Freedom Defense Initiative developed a series of ads with quotes from Islamic extremists, including the one from “Hamas MTV” at issue in the most recent case: “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.” MTA refused to run the ad, and the group sued.

I’m not saying the court was wrong here. I am saying the MTA set itself up for this kind of nonsense when it first started using its public buses as an advertising venue. Just as I’m saying any municipality — including Nashville — is wrong for turning its public spaces, regardless of what they are, into advertising venues.

Here’s the deal. We’ve reached the era of “trollvertisements” — inflammatory hate speech litigated onto the public square by activists. It’s a tactic deployed effectively by Fred Phelps’ “God Hates Fags” group and has been perfected by anti-Islamic extremist Pamela Geller:

In practice, the group—which is run by Pamela Geller, a right-wing activist—is largely devoted to creating incendiary ads for display on public transportation, then litigating when transit authorities shy away from accepting the ads. “Killing Jews” thus joins the pantheon of offensive advertising that the group has placed on public transit around the country, teaching everybody an important lesson about the First Amendment and causing innocent commuters’ eyes to bleed. Beyond their utility at getting travelers from point A to point B, Geller has noted that “[Buses] are a very effective form of advertising,” adding, “I like the bus purely as a marketing vehicle.”

These aren’t advertisements, they’re shoving bigotry and intolerance down the public’s throat under the guise of the First Amendment. Do they have a right to do it? Absolutely. Is it smart for cities to open themselves to this kind of hate speech? No.

Cities have been arguing about this forever. But a contentious KKK rally down Main Street requires having actual people show up to don their white sheet and take their message to the public square. And Fred Phelps’ merry band of hate-mongers, despicable though they are, actually showed up to put a face to their hate.

This is a different thing altogether. This is some faceless person or persons writing a check to plaster their awful message on a public space. And while we know who people like Pamela Geller and Laurie Cardoza-Moore are, it’s easy to see some unknown non-profit doing the same with anonymous donors.

I just think if you’re going to take a dump on the public square we should know who you are. But we can’t see your face when you’re hiding behind an advertisement. And, of course, that’s the point.

Cities opened themselves up to this stuff when they decided that filling a budget hole with ad revenue was more important than opening themselves to the PR disaster that is trollvertising. Good luck presenting yourself as America’s Friendliest City when your city buses portray your Muslim citizens as “Jew Killers.”

And let me say, I’ve devoted more than enough bandwidth to expressing my anger at the dehumanizing experience that is the constant barrage of advertising messages we Americans are confronted with on a daily basis. I’m personally sick of it, have been for a long time (indeed, one of my very first blog posts was on this topic). The surest way to turn me off is to advertise to me (and yes, that goes for the damn megachurch that sent me a direct-mail marketing piece today.)

It would be really refreshing to be able to go somewhere in public, say the town square, and not see an endless stream of messages telling me to think this, buy that, or vote for this person. It’s time our city governments got out of the advertising business for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least one being, you have no control over what you’re selling.


Filed under advertising

Stupid Damn Kids

So, last night at around 11:45 pm some kids came through my neighborhood and stole all of the Obama signs out of everybody’s yard. I was actually fast asleep when it happened but my dog started barking like crazy and woke me up. The kids then turned down a side-street to collect those signs before heading back up my street to get the rest. So that gave me time to grab my glasses and car keys and follow them. I didn’t catch them — thank God, I was in my PJs and fuzzy slippers — but I did hear them shouting and hollering and having a good ol’ time, and I got enough of a look to see they were young kids, probably College Republicans from either Belmont or Lipscomb, but I really don’t know.

Frankly, I’m surprised it took them this long. My yard sign has been up since May; normally it would have been removed at least twice by now. Some of my neighbors have had their signs up since March, believe it or not. I took the fact that our signs have remained unmolested this long as evidence of a conservative enthusiasm gap. Also, I’ve seen very few Romney signs around town, and many of the ones I have seen have been in the public right-of-way. My rule of campaign signs is this: if most of your signs are in the public right-of-way (*cough*cough*RON PAUL*cough*cough), that tells me you can’t find enough real people willing to display support. And yes, Phillip North, I’m looking at you, too.

And now I’m sure one of my conservative readers will want to tell me about their neighbor/friend/relative who had a Republican yard sign stolen. Right, “both sides do it,” yada yada. I’m not going to say that someone, somewhere, who is not serial victim Phil Parlock, never had a Bush or Romney sign stolen. But let me just say, this is now my fourth presidential election in this house, in this neighborhood. And while most of my neighbors are Democrats, there are a handful Republicans who each election display their support of the GOP ticket with a yard sign. I have never, ever, in my 12 years of living in this neighborhood, ever seen their signs stolen or vandalized.


Which tells me that College Democrats are too busy doing stuff like trying to organize GOTV and registering voters, instead of wasting their time with stupid pranks like violating citizens’ property rights and free speech. Go figure.

I really don’t understand the point of doing this, either. It’s not like we’re not all going to go out and buy more signs. In fact, I buy mine in bulk because I’m just so used to having them stolen all of the time. One sign disappears? Two replace it. In 2008 I ended up with five signs in my yard, one nailed to a tree, out of reach of thieves. I mean, it’s not like we’re not going to be even more motivated to express ourselves.

So it seems the kids are up to their their stupid pranks. Last week they decided to clean out everyone in the Belmont University neighborhood, last night it was my neighborhood. One large sign on Belmont Boulevard was brutally vandalized, just slashed in half. Incidentally, that homeowner caught the culprit on video and has filed a police report. So you kids who think this is all fun and games had better watch out. Piss people off by denying them their free speech and you’ve poked a stick at a hornet’s nest. People do prosecute this stuff because of the larger principle at stake.

Some people even boobytrap their signs. I’ve been known to place dog poop strategically nearby. So, if anyone wants to steal my yard in the dark of night, you’ve been warned. Bwaahaaa.

Also, a final message, to be filed under awesome:


Filed under 2012 presidential election, free speech, Nashville, politics, Tennessee

Free Speech Or Free Hand?

I don’t know why conservatives are always confusing the two. Yet they do. Here’s Ben Stein, suing Kyocera for not signing him as a pitchman because they didn’t want to be represented by an idiot:

According to the complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Kyocera approached Stein in December 2010 to inquire as to his availability to appear in TV advertisements for Kyocera printers. Stein agreed and they began negotiating a contract. Three months later, before the contract was executed, Kyocera learned that Ben Stein is an idiot who denies the reality of global climate change. So they changed their mind and withdrew the offer, because they didn’t want to be represented by an idiot. That’s how capitalism works, right? Companies make decisions based on their interests, and contracts are the law of the land.

No! Capitalism works by suing people when you don’t get your way. To hear Stein tell it, even though they didn’t sign a contract, they still had a contract since Stein really, really, wanted the $300,000 Kyocera had offered contingent on signing the contract, which never happened.

Also, according to Stein, he has a right to the $300,000 under the Constitution, which guarantees him freedom of religion. See, Stein believes that global warming isn’t real because “God, and not man, control[s] the weather.” When Kyocera declined to pay Stein $300,000 to represent the corporation in part because it doesn’t want to be associated with that belief, it violated Stein’s constitutional right to $300,000. He also accuses Kyocera of violating his “freedom of speech” and “political freedom.” Stein has no political freedom, because Kyocera robbed him of the freedom when it refused to pay him $300,000.

No, you do not have a constitutional right to be a Kyocera pitchman.

News flash: Kyocera Corp. is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of solar panels and other PV systems. While Stein would not have been hawking its solar products, I can see how having a vocal climate change denier pitching any of the company’s product lines would be a little awkward, to put it mildly. So a big boo to whatever genius suggested Ben Stein for this gig in the first place: advertising agency Seiter & Miller, I’m going to assume. That was just a dumbass move all around.

And I’m sorry, but Ben Stein? Hello? Try reading your own damn columns and books about the free hand of the market. Also, I haven’t had a chance to dig into the memory hole, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t find something in there from him decrying the burden of frivolous lawsuits and advocating tort reform and all that.



Filed under advertising, Ben Stein, free hand of the market, free speech

Free Hand Of The Market Bitchslaps Islamophobes

Sorry, Tennessee Islamophobes: you’re going to have to take your little Muslim hate-fest somewhere else! Nashville’s Hutton Hotel has told the anti-Sharia Preserving Freedom Conference to take a hike, rather than be associated with a bunch of nutballs and bigots. Ouch.

Predictably, chief hater Lou Ann Zelenik has started whining about censorship, because the conservative mind is too narrow to grasp the difference between free speech and the free market:

Zelenik said her group is being censored for opposing radical Islam, and the hotel’s action shows Shariah law is a threat to free speech.

No, honey. You don’t have a “right” to hold your merry little hate-fest wherever the fuck you please. It’s called the FREE MARKET. Something your side always yammers on about when it suits you.

You know what people do have a right to do? Practice whatever religion they want, in whatever church/house of worship they want. And that includes Islam, in a mosque in Murfreesboro that you’ve been trying so desperately to stop.

Get lost.


Filed under free hand of the market, free speech, Islam, Nashville, religion