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Archive for the ‘Free Speech’ Category

It’s difficult for non-lawyer/law student types to appreciate who Erwin Chemerinsky is.  But he basically wrote the text book on constitutional law used by many if not most law students.  He is a giant in the field of constitutional law and would have been a huge get for any brand new law school trying to establish its credentials. 

And apparently UC-Irvine, which is starting its own law school, thought so too.  Until they realized that some conservatives were going to complain.  (See also here).

And why were they going to complain?  Because he had radical views about the constitution?  No.  His views are pretty much the standard. 

But because he’s had the temerity to point out that Bush’s views about the constitution are radical.  For examples of this radical hippie beatnick’s writings and public comments see here and here about wiretapping and here about habeus corpus. 

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The media watchdog group Parents Television Council has issued a report which states that sex and violence are on the rise during what is traditionally called the “Family Hour” on network television. 

The group studied 180 hours of original programming on six broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, MyNetworkTV and the CW) during three two-week ratings sweeps periods in 2006 and 2007. It found that instances of violence had increased 52.4% since a similar study in 2000-2001 and that sexual content had increased 22.1%.

The Parents Television Council is hoping that the FCC begins to regulate violence on television the way they already regulate “indecent content.”

The network response is that with the vastly increased number of options available to families, with so many more channels now available in the basic cable package, there is less need to provide that type of programming. 

 To be honest, I agree with the networks on this one.  One of the reasons the FCC had the authority to regulate television was a combination of two factors – 1. the finite number of frequencies used to transmit broadcast signals were publicly owned and 2. there was a scarcity of options in broadcast television.  To the extent that #2 becomes less of an issue, the authority of the FCC to regulate broadcasting should be diminished. 

What the regulate-television-on-behalf-of-families crowd seems not to be able to understand is that television is a value neutral tool.  Like the internet, it has nothing to say about what it is transmitting.  It is not a substitute for parenting in respect to instilling values and exposing kids to what’s out there in the world.  Developing technology that allows “parental controls” to prevent kids from watching whatever they want while the parents are not around is appropriate.  

But the world is a dangerous place sometimes.  And people have sex all the time (at least that’s what I hear…).  I’d like my television shows to have something thoughtful to say about reality.  It’s an art.  Sometimes good.  Sometimes very, very bad.  But it should be free to tell stories that are important and relevant to all of us, even if often it does not.   

Artificial restraints based on someone’s notion of “sensible family” programming simply isn’t the appropriate role for the government.  Especially if there is a vastly less intrusive way to accomplish what is purported to be the goals of the movement. 

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Sometimes the questions raised in a legal battle bear only passing resemblance to the facts of a case.  Neat abstract legal principles are extrapolated from messy realities and the court rules on the principles, often times emphasizing and embellishing certain facts over others in order to make a point. 

So I don’t know exactly what’s going on over at the Santa Barbara News-Press

After a year of name calling, serial litigation and dozens of newsroom defections, American journalism’s nastiest in-house squabble debuted in a courtroom here Tuesday.

Attorneys for eight fired journalists accused Santa Barbara News-Press owner Wendy McCaw of trying to quash a union organizing drive, while the publisher’s lead lawyer argued that the employees overstepped their authority and tried to seize control of the newspaper.

But among other things the dispute raises an issue which should get more attention, as it is an issue being played out nearly everywhere. 

“These are employees who will testify that their sole goal was to take control of the newspaper,” Cappello said, “so the publisher [would have] no control of what is written in the newspaper and how it is written.” He added in his opening statement that McCaw was merely trying to rein in workers who had an inflated “sense of entitlement to write what they wanted, when they wanted” and who, when challenged, denigrated their own paper and publisher.

McCaw bought the newspaper in 2000 from New York Times Co., raising hopes that local ownership would insulate the venerable newspaper from the economic woes plaguing other dailies. Internal disagreements at the paper exploded into public view last summer, when Editor Jerry Roberts, four other top editors and venerable columnist Barney Brantingham resigned en masse.

The journalists said they were protesting improper meddling by McCaw and editorial page editor Travis Armstrong in news decisions. They cited management’s decision to block publication of a story about Armstrong’s drunk driving conviction and a reprimand issued to journalists for publishing actor Rob Lowe’s address in a story about his proposed home construction, something McCaw said was an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

Union activists said the exodus now totaled about 50. Although the News-Press has hired replacement workers, the city desk reporting staff has been reduced to four from 14, according to several journalists who have left the paper. McCaw’s spokeswoman would not confirm or deny those figures.

There is a long and somewhat venerable history of newspaper owners who feel their paper is soap box for their views.  In fact, it was the norm of the press when this country was founded.  But that history has run counter to a relatively recent trend, started in the early 20th century, of professional journalism. 

Media critic Robert McChesney noted that the rise of professional journalism could be linked to media consolidation and the disappearance alternative presses.  Instead of being one voice in a chorus of various perspectives, with that chorus fading, a newspaper needed to market its credibility in order to be relevant.  Otherwise, it would just sound like noise to the readers. 

It was in the cauldron of controversy, during the Progressive era, that the notion of professional journalism came of age. Savvy publishers understood that they needed to have their journalism appear neutral and unbiased, notions entirely foreign to the journalism of the era of the Founding Fathers, or their businesses would be far less profitable. Publishers pushed for the establishment of formal “schools of journalism” to train a cadre of professional editors and reporters. None of these schools existed in 1900; by 1915, all the major schools such as Columbia, Northwestern, Missouri, and Indiana were in full swing. The notion of a separation of the editorial operations from the commercial affairs—termed the separation of church and state—became the professed model. The argument went that trained editors and reporters were granted autonomy by the owners to make the editorial decisions, and these decisions were based on their professional judgment, not the politics of the owners and the advertisers, or their commercial interests to maximize profit. Readers could trust what they read. Owners could sell their neutral monopoly newspapers to everyone in the community and rake in the profits.

I think on some profound level we are starting to see the media swing back to the practices of an earlier era.  With the entry fee into the new media being so cheap and simple, via blogs, there are far more voices today, even in spite of the excessive big media consolidation. 

So while media owners still have an incentive to sell the credibility of its product, FoxNews, Air America, and especially blogs are showing that bias can be a force in the new media. 

I think that’s a good thing, actually. 

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After banning the use of the word nigger last month, elected officials in NYC are now suggesting banning use of the word bitch as well. Because if people can’t say racist or sexist words, the sentiments behind these words will cease to exist, obviously.

While the bill also bans the slang word “ho,” the b-word appears to have acquired more shades of meaning among various groups, ranging from a term of camaraderie to, in a gerund form, an expression of emphatic approval. Ms. Mealy acknowledged that the measure was unenforceable, but she argued that it would carry symbolic power against the pejorative uses of the word.

The rest of the article focuses a lot of folks who insist the word shouldn’t be banned because it can be a term of endearment or used in non-negative ways. I like that the conventional reasoning against banning the word seems to be based on its linguistic versatility rather than on the fact that it’s downright loony to ban a fucking word.

Anyway, I’m with Sharon here:

The English language is quite durable and can handle its misuse, even when such misuse is designed to hurt or threaten others.

I don’t like the idea of giving words so much power that they need to be regulated. And in the case of the N-word, society has changed enough that, in my lifetime, that word has a level of offensiveness that’s higher than even the F-word. It seems to me that society has done the best job ostracizing that word and that we don’t need legislation.

Edit: When I first read the article, I thought that some of the council members’ quotes alluded to some pretty heavy underlying racial anxieties/fears or just outright racism, what with the several mentions about how this legislation was designed to combat use of the word bitch by hip-hip artists and rappers. These were just vague thoughts, though, that I was too lazy to flesh out in posting. Luckily, Amanda does the good thinking, as always, so we don’t have to:

The dreaded “rappers” have been brought into the debate, which is basically a badly concealed code word for “young black men” at this point, who are presumably the only people who’ve ever called anyone a “bitch.” “Bitch” and “ho”, being popular in a form of music where a solid majority of the artists are black, are wrong, but “cunt”, which is the favorite word of Bill O’Reilly fans when they’re writing me, somehow passed the notice of the council. To make the irony even deeper, they’ve also gone after the word “nigger”, because it’s all over the place in rap music, too. I’m getting the impression they’re trying to ban hip-hop word by word. The sound of scratching records is an assault on my womanhood, I say, and that should help the process along.

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Canadian Justice James J. Keaney found a 75-year-old man guilty of issuing death threats against a city official after the man posted a poem about burying her in a pothole around the neighborhood in which she refused to fix potholes. The man claimed it was satire.

Keaney (said) because Batista does not have a high level of education it’s unlikely he knows what satire is and therefore the poem could not have been written in jest.

(Via Sabotabby)

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