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Don't Bogart the Constitution, Dude
2007.06.28 (Thu) 16:59
Joseph Frederick held up a banner in Juneau, Alaska, back in 2002. The banner read: Bong Hits 4 Jesus. Personally, we feel that Jesus himself would probably endorse this statement...if he could read English. And if he, you know, still actually existed (assuming, for a moment, that he ever did). The clues are ubiquitous in the bible, and heavily implied in many depictions of the Last Supper. (Man, can you imagine sitting through Haggadah passages, dealing with the munchies for four hours, before you finally get a bite of Passover dinner?) Hell, the signs are everywhere — just ask Dan Brown.
Of course, when Joseph Frederick's school principal, Deborah Morse, confiscated his sign and suspended him, it was a hell of a buzzkill. Lawsuits ensued, appeals escalated, and this ridiculous situation — sparked by a fucking sign — managed to get all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Given the current composition of the court, the result wasn't hard to guess:
A high school student's "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner got slapped down by the Supreme Court in a decision Monday that restricts student speech rights when the message seems to advocate illegal drug use.
There's a big problem, here, folks, and it isn't limited to Joseph Frederick and his unoriginal but certainly fun sentiment. There are several ways to look at what happened here, both in the initial incident, and in the final decision by the Supremes.
First, you have the linguists' view. This seems to focus on the fact that "bong" is an accepted and acceptable term for the physical object to which it refers, and it seems silly to take that specific word and make a ruling based upon it. The conclusion to this hypothesis is that, if Tommy Chong had been selling "water pipes" instead of "bongs," he never would have done time. We can get behind that, though only because we think that any ruling against any use of words, phrases, references, or speech in general is fucking insane and incredibly fucking stupid.
Next, you have the idiots who think this is some kind of school discipline situation. Nice try, though it's utter bullshit — Joseph was off school property at the time, holding up the banner as the Olympic Torch was passing through Juneau. The school, of course, claims that this was a "school-sanctioned event" — they brought the kids off campus to watch the torch pass, and "therefore" Joseph's behavior was still governed by school rules. We disagree, but in the end, it's a moot point anyway. We honestly don't give a shit if this was a "field trip" or not, because even if Joseph was governed by school rules, we're still talking about a silly, nonsensical sign which may have been inappropriate, but which nonetheless certainly should have fallen into the category of protected speech.
But this whole thing gets even more inane. Because next, you have the idiots in black robes who are pretending that Joseph's banner was in some way a promotion or endorsement of drug use.
In their concurrence Alito and Kennedy said that the decision "goes no further than to hold that a public school may restrict speech that a reasonable observer would interpret as advocating illegal drug use."
This is just ludicrous. A "reasonable observer" would interpret this as advocating illegal drug use?
First of all, no. A reasonable observer (we have yet to see Alito or even Kennedy qualify there) would interpret this as a silly kid making a silly sign for fun and/or attention. Period. That's reasonable. Jumping to the fucking asinine assertion that this is some way for Joseph to say "Hey, kids, smoke pot!" isn't quite as "reasonable."
In fact, we defy anyone to explain what this statement means beyond a reasonable doubt. The point is that the statement is so vague and nonsensical that it is almost entirely open to interpretation. It could be a statement about the hypocrisy of the Religious Right, who both embrace Jesus and deplore the very drug that the image of a besandaled, bearded, robed wanderer who preaches peace and tolerance inevitably conjures up. Or it could be a statement sarcastically condemning Christians who use drugs. Or it could be a statement rallying Christians to support the legalization of marijuana. Or it could just have been something that some sky-high kid wrote on a snowboard that another kid thought would be funny on television. (No way! Kids imitate catchy sayings they've seen in previous venues? Wow. And did you know that stuff costs more than it used to? Incidentally, the sun is hot and, this just in, water is fucking wet.)
But that's all utterly beside the point; even if Joseph was endorsing drug use, this decision is fucking incredibly obtuse. Books and papers have been banned here and there for centuries because "somebody" thought they meant something — but the fact is, it doesn't matter if they're right about what it means or not. Either fucking way, O Mighty Protectors of the Constitution (remember that rag? The one you're supposed to be paying attention to?), we free citizens of this democratic republic have the right to endorse or promote whatever opinions we wish, even if those opinions are contrary to the current laws.
Guess what, dickheads? As long as we aren't actually breaking the fucking law, we get to express our opinions about the legitimacy of that law as much as we fucking want. We grant this privilege to fucking NAMBLA, for fuck's sake, and others (like the Ku Klux Klan) — specifically so that all other citizens get the same privilege. That is the point of the freedom of speech in the First Amendment. A point which a majority of the Supreme Court Justices appear to have utterly fucking failed to grasp. In fact, the concurring opinion penned by Alito and Kennedy, as quoted in the ABC News article, illustrates perfectly how they have failed to grasp the situation:
In a concurrence, Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy said the court's opinion "goes no further" than speech interpreted as dealing with illegal drug use.
"It provides no support" for any restriction that goes to political or social issues, they said.
Wrong, fellas. Depending on your interpretation of the message (as discussed above), the case in question could very likely have been about a social or political statement. And if it's possible — and even likely — that Joseph's message was socially or politically motivated (even if only as an exercise in his First Amendment rights), then this ruling does in fact restrict the very type of speech that it claims not to restrict. How can anyone be so fucking thick-headed as to miss this obvious point?
For his part, Joseph claims his "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" statement was just something that struck his fancy when he first saw it printed on a snowboard. He claims he didn't mean anything by it, nor was he really endorsing any "message." He just found something "witty" he wanted to throw up at a public event to annoy his principal, because he could. Oops — sorry, Joe; as it turns out...you can't. Not with this Supreme Court, anyway.
Perhaps the big double whammy comes from the fact that his banner referenced both drug use and the Christian Lord 'n' Savior in conjunction; and those are both very hot buttons for the idiots on the Right. Would it have been more palatable if Joseph's banner had said "Nitrous Oxide 4 Buddha"? Hey, nitrous oxide has legitimate, legal uses (of course, so does marijuana). And Buddha isn't the patron fucking wunderkind of the majority of the Supreme Court Justices. So that should be just fine, right?
Or perhaps, it should have been fine anyway:
[Dissenting Justice John Paul] Stevens said the First Amendment protects student speech if the message itself neither violates a permissible rule nor expressly advocates conduct that is illegal and harmful to students.
"This nonsense banner does neither," Stevens said.
See that word, folks? NONSENSE. That aptly describes Joseph's sign — purely harmless nonsense. It also aptly describes the Supreme Court decision — absolutely fucking horrendous nonsense that can easily be compounded over the next decade or so into more and more limitations on our freedoms. As we've said before, we'll be rid of Dubya soon enough, but we'll be living under the burden of his Supreme Court appointees for a long time to come.
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[ Filed under: % Government & Politics % Media & Censorship ]
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