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Freedom Of Speech Hits New Low

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In a new low in the destruction of Americans’ right to free expression and free speech, a woman got in trouble this week over the wearing of a t-shirt.

First, she was forced to cover up a t-shirt and then had to choose between removing it or getting off a plane she was on. She chose the latter and now litigation is likely.

Interestingly, not only did the message upset others on the plane, but even news articles about the incident avoided actually stating the most interesting part of the story – namely, what did the t-shirt actually say?

For example, The New York Times article about the incident avoided spelling it out. Figuring out the t-shirt message becomes like a puzzle. Let’s see, the Associated Press says the shirt has a photo of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condi Rice and says it contains an expletive.

Ok, so that begs the question: What is the expletive? Some googling showed the Sacramento Bee solves the mystery in an editorial criticizing the wearing of the shirt.

Seems the shirt contains a takeoff on the movie title Meet the Fockers but with a different vowel inside it.

Funny? Not really. Dumb? Maybe. But offensive enough to warrant making someone leave an airplane? I don’t think so.

Ed/Pub:LisaM

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • http://www.zerohq.com Rich Powers

    Let’s review the First Amendment, shall we?

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    I don’t see how Congress is involved in this situation. Southwest has every right to dictate what kind of clothing passengers can wear while on its airlines.

    In fact, I call it good business sense. Why risk offending 20 or more passengers just so one person can freely express themselves?

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    Now that corporations are being given government powers, such as the right of eminent domain (which is where we seem to be headed with the recent landmark decision of Kelo vs. New London), perhaps it’s high time we start demanding private corporations also fulfill the responsibilities of government power, starting with adherence to the principles of freedom embodied in the Bill of Rights.

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    I’d certainly go for that.

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    Rich, from the “litigation” link:
    Marilee McInnis, of Southwest Airlines, said rules allowed the airline to deny boarding to anyone whose clothing was “lewd, obscene or patently offensive”.

    But Ms Heasley said nobody had complained about her top when she boarded.

    The American Civil Liberties Union in Las Vegas said that under the constitution, the T-shirt was protected political speech. Ms Heasley said she had been in touch with ACLU lawyers and wants Southwest to reimburse her for the last leg of the trip.

    Ms Heasley, who was flying home from Disneyland, ended up defending herself by phone to a combative television presenter from Fox News.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com Michael J. West

    Just wrote this letter to Jim Ruppel, VP of customer relations at Southwest.

    Dear Mr. Ruppel,

    It was with great interest that I read an article today about Southwest’s ejection of a passenger, Lorrie Heasley, from a commercial jet because she would not cover up a shirt that was deemed offensive. While I understand that your airline reserves this right, I find it appalling.

    I am writing to tell you that I will not be booking any flights on your airline again.

    Sincerely,
    Mike West

  • http://www.zerohq.com Rich Powers

    I’m a huge proponent of free speech, but I also support the rights of private enterprises to censor whatever they want because, well, they’re private.

    The owner of a website can deny to publish a post or article for whatever reason he wants; it’s not a violation of free speech. Book publishers can tell you to “shove it” if they disagree with the viewpoint of your piece. Again, it’s not a case of censorship.

    Likewise, I see no reason as to why a privately-owned airline has to let people wear political shirts if they deem it’s detrimental to their business. If you disagree with an airline’s policy regarding the matter, simply fly another airline or deal with it.

    Southwest will probably settle given the price of litigation, though.

    Plus the ACLU is so litigious that I don’t trust their opinion when it comes to what behaviors are constitutionally protected anymore…

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I’ve seen this shirt, and as far as I know there’s no law against the word on the shirt, and there’s certainly not a law agaist Lese Majeste in the US, however the airplane is private property and the owners do have the right to ristrict behavior on their property, so legally she’s got nothing. You can’t stand up in a restaurant and start cussing out the patrons – security will take you out and no one will think twice about it. Same thing here, though I’d say the airline overreacted and it’s bad PR.

    Dave

  • http://www.ryanclarkholiday.com ryan

    worst entry ever. what did you have like 4 lines of commentary?

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    The US gov’t has not banned the manufacture of this T-shirt.

    The US gov’t has not banned the selling of this T-shirt.

    The US gov’t has not banned the purchasing of this T-shirt.

    The US gov’t has not banned the wearing of this T-shirt.

    However, a private company offered a private citizen a choice – cover up your profane T-shirt, or leave the airplane. She chose the latter.

    She is now suing (of course)…

    I listened to a portion of her interview with Sean Hannity. She is, frankly, a witless kook. I assume she was just trolling for a lawsuit and some national media attention.

    Well, it looks like she got what she wanted!

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    Well, I find your responses offensive and since this is a private site I ask that you choose: Remove your posts or leave this site!

    No, seriously, I’m offended so you should have to remove items.

    Ok, just kidding, but does that seem outrageous or not? So what’s the difference?

    As for the depth of this post it is a cog in a larger wheel I’m presently building about the media.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Technically it’s obscene, not profane, RJ.

    Dave

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    I referenced this item in this new
    article

    What bugged me more than the airline’s actions was the media’s dumb coverage of it, i.e. not stating clearly what was so potentially offensive.

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    Obscene is making us have to treat President Bush with respect when he doesn’t treat the citizens with respect.

    I respect the office but not the office holder.

    Profane is what I’d say to him had we the chance to meet.

    :)