The biggest story so far surrounding this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is the announcement that Phil Robertson, the controversial star of the hit A&E show Duck Dynasty, will receive the second annual Andrew Breitbart First Amendment Award.
No matter how much new buzz the announcement brings CPAC, the decision betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how free speech works, and where the future of nationally competitive conservatism lies.
At the end of 2013, Robertson was briefly suspended by the network over remarks he made in a GQ interview calling homosexuality sinful and comparing it to bestiality. At the time, his suspension sparked a culture war flare-up between gay rights supporters and social conservatives, who felt Robertson’s freedom of speech was being suppressed.
However, the Duck Dynasty flap (pun intended) was a dispute within a private organization well within its rights to take the action it did. A&E had the authority to suspend Robertson as soon as he voluntarily signed the contract for the show, no how it handled the controversy afterwards.
Had the government taken Duck Dynasty off the air, I’d be up in arms, even as a member of the very LGBT community he marginalized. But that is not what happened here.
The First Amendment protects Americans from government censorship. A network’s decision to craft the messages it broadcasts is itself an exercise of free speech.
And let’s not forget that A&E’s decision to reinstate Robertson after vociferous protests proves that the First Amendment was as healthy as ever. The government didn’t force anyone to do anything here.
Just as many argue that evangelical Christian bakers should not be forced to make wedding cakes for marriages they oppose, consistency demands that neither should a private television network be forced to air opinions it doesn’t want to promote. Freedom of speech cuts both ways, and conservatives who truly care about promoting the values of the Founding Fathers will defend it regardless of its popularity.
Read the rest at Rare…
Young Voices Advocate Rachel Burger was published in Townhall.com about how Ferguson is the latest instance of shackled American journalism.
The United States, and its people, need to emphasize the importance of freedom of the press. This country cannot function as a “democracy” if its constituency is ill- or uninformed. Yes, a great deal of the media’s misreporting and click-baiting is its own fault. But let’s make it easier for the press to report on how our government is behaving–because for many, that’s what we’re interested in above all else.
Read the rest of the piece here.
If you’d like to speak with or book Rachel or any of our other Advocates, please contact Young Voices now.
Advocate Nick Morphus was published in PJ Media on a recent Pennsylvania controversy that highlights the tension between constitutional rights and public schools.
On the issue of religious freedom and freedom of speech, where do we allow the United States government and the public school system to draw the lines? This is precisely the question that parents at one Pennsylvania elementary school are asking after a student was reprimanded for exercising his religious freedom. Park Lakes Elementary School punished a fifth-grade student named Giovanni for reading the Bible.
You can find the full piece online here.
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Young Voices Associate Cathy Reisenwitz’s Talking Points Memo article, Revenge Porn Is Awful, But The Law Against It Is Worse was referenced in a recent Slate article on the topic, How to Make Revenge Porn a Crime.
Free speech advocates worry that revenge porn laws are too broad and vague, and thus risk chilling protected speech. Is there a collision here with the First Amendment? These concerns are real, but not insurmountable. Careful and precise drafting is the key. Revenge porn laws can and should make clear that it is a crime to distribute someone’s sexually explicit images without consent if those images do not concern matters of public importance. Worded that way, a law wouldn’t apply, for example, to the woman who published Anthony Weiner’s crotch shots.
If you’d like to speak to or book Cathy or any of our Advocates, please contact us today.
Young Voices Associate Cathy Reisenwitz was quoted in Wired magazine on the free-speech implications of banning revenge porn.
Many of the discussions of revenge porn — including the exchange between Amanda Marcotte and Cathy Reisenwitz in Talking Points Memo – have focused on free speech, forcing us to consider a false dichotomy between speech and gendered harassment.
Many of the discussions force us to consider a false dichotomy between speech and gendered harassment.
A haze of uncertainty surrounds the definition of revenge porn, as Reisenwitz points out. An overbroad definition of revenge porn could net a reporter publishing screencaps of Anthony Weiner’s more infamous tweets. Although we have in our minds the perfect-paradigm case of a sympathetic victim — a nice girl with a penchant for selfies — and an unsympathetic perpetrator — a spurned, vindictive ex-boyfriend with a blatant streak of misogyny — the web of liability becomes nebulous when we think about cases that fall outside this paradigm. (And things get more problematic when we think about websites and website operators beyond the horrifying IsAnybodyUp.com and the entirely unlikable Hunter Moore.)
The entire article can be found here. The referenced article can be found here.
If you’d like to speak with or book Cathy or any of our Advocates, please contact Young Voices now.