Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just what *is* freedom of speech?

An interesting - and rather sad - story in the sports world is that 3 Atlanta djs were recently fired because they put on a skit making fun of the ex-football player Steve Gleason, who has Lou Gehrig's disease.

It was an awful thing - yes, I did listen to it. They've got someone playing Gleason with a kind of Stephen Hawking type computer voice, and he says stuff like "Smother me," and "I may not be here next Thursday," etc.

Totally unfunny.

And yet, on the message  boards talking about this firing, there are actually people who say they found it hilarious, or funny, or don't see what the big deal is.

A few of them are citing Family Guy (and what a disgusting show that is...for all that Rush has appeared on it!) where the show did something similar with an appearance by Stephen Hawking...

Another trope is that the posters are talking about freedom of speech.

(And it's true I don't think Imus should have been fired for his Rutgers comment, nor Rush for his comments about Susan Flood or whatever her name was... but then, the Rutgers players and Susan Flood aren't suffering from ALS, which is NOT a "life threatening disease" as the posters on this message board keep saying, it is a "Dignity-destroying" disease.

Just think of what people with this disease or condition go through...they can't move. They have to be fed, they have to be washed, they have to be dressed by other people. Quality of life, absolute zero.

And these guys were joking about it. They must have thought it was funny, for all that at least one has apologized for it now.

So, what is Freedom of Speech as guaranteed by the constitution?

Just a bit from Wikipedia:
Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas using one's body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, as with libel, slander, obscenity, sedition (including, for example inciting ethnic hatred), copyright violation, revelation of information that is classified or otherwise.
The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that "[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice". Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries "special duties and responsibilities" and may "therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary "[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others" or "[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals".[1][2]
Freedom of speech may be legally curtailed in some religious legal systems and in secular jurisdictions where it is found to cause religious offense, such as the British Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.

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