Freedom of Speech?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by chrisdazzo, Sep 28, 2007.

  1. chrisdazzo macrumors 6502

    chrisdazzo

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    #1
    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/09/25/bush.cnnu/?iref=mpstoryview

    This was a pretty big thing at my school when it happened, not just because the quote took up about half a page in the newspaper. Read and see.

    Honestly, I think everything that happened should've happened, consequence-wise. CSU is a great school, with people from all over the political spectrum, so I hope this doesn't make anyone think less of us in any way. :)

    So... Opinions? Huge debate/fight about Constitutional rights? What do you think? :confused:
     
  2. imac/cheese macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    Well this was in the opinion section which is where editorials belong. The only problem is that as a business the paper is responsible to its advertisers and supporting organization. The editor of this paper used his position to express his personal political beliefs in a manner that makes the paper look childish. Since this is a school paper and he will only be editor for a short time, this could create problems for future editors with gathering advertisers. I don't really see this as a free speech issue but more of an issue of bad business practices and lack of maturity.
     
  3. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #3
    I guess I'm a bit confused. How is this a Free Speech issue? What does the tasering incident have to do w/Bush? And couldn't the editor-in-chief of a college newspaper write an editorial that has more substance than a juvenile catch phrase?

    Freedom of Speech does not mean freedom from consequences.


    Lethal
     
  4. adrianblaine macrumors 65816

    adrianblaine

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    #4
    Yes, we have a right to the freedom of speech, but clearly this is shows the consequences of our right to be dimwitted as well.

    If someone feels the need to say bad words and spew gibberish, that's fine, but it should be done on their own time and on their own dime. If he had something intelligent to say, he could have given it a better title and actually have a point.

    I think a paper should respect their advertisers, but not let that sway their moral judgment when it comes to a story. This was clearly just a half-baked way of handling the entire idea of "free speech" and ended up almost mocking it.
     
  5. chrisdazzo thread starter macrumors 6502

    chrisdazzo

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    #5
    I guess I should've picked a different title for the post. Either way, I agree with you in asking why the tasering incident has anything to do with Bush.

    You should work for our school paper, Lethal. You've got a good point in that last sentence.
     
  6. Naimfan macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

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    #6
    It is a free speech issue because the newspaper in question is a part of Colorado State University. That means (almost) anything the university, including the newspaper, does is "state action."

    The First Amendment (in conjunction with the 14th Amendment) prohibits (with very limited exceptions) the federal or state governments from regulating the content of speech--especially political speech, which is accorded the highest level of protection. So if CSU takes any action against the student, it is state action and thus bound by the limits on state action set by the First and 14th Amendments and the relevant case law. Make sense?


    That's certainly true, but it does typically mean the government cannot punish you for expressing a political opinion. Which is what appears to have happened in Ft. Fun.
     
  7. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #7
    But if the paper belongs to Colorado State University than CSU can do whatever they want w/it as it's their paper. If a DJ on the Armed Forces Radio Network gets fired for saying, "Screw Bush up the butt w/a cactus" I don't think that's a government/free speech issues but an employee/employer issue. And along those same lines, if advertisers and readers get really pissed off at a person on that paper CSU is w/in its rights to rectify that situation because they own the paper. CSU bowing to public pressure to remove the editor-in-chief of their paper is not much different than CBS bowing to public pressure and removing Don Imus.

    If a student published his own campus paper, said "Taser This: F**k Bush" and the University came after him that would be government trying to supress free speech.

    Ideally we want to see student papers receive the most "hands off" approach from their schools, but in the end if the school owns the paper the school gets final say. It's not a constitutional free speech issue, IMO.


    Lethal
     
  8. Naimfan macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

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    #8
    It is most definitely a constitutional free speech issue because state action is involved (at least potentially) in punishing the very speech that is supposed to have the highest level of protection.

    The issue is not whether CSU "owns" the newspaper in question. It does. However, because CSU and therefore the newspaper in question are state entities, they are bound by the Constitution. Therefore CSU cannot punish the student for the content of his speech (absent a very limited number of exceptions that do not apply here). For CSU to take almost any action would be to have the government punishing someone for exercising their right to free speech. As Justice Kennedy wrote in Romer v. Evans, "this Colorado cannot do."

    If this happened at Colorado College or the University of Denver, which are both private schools, there would be (almost) no question that the schools could remove someone purely for the content of their speech--whether political speech or not.

    CBS is a private company--it is not a part of the state. It is not limited by the First Amendment to nearly the same degree (I say that because, as a user of public airwaves, CBS is subject to certain limitations). A DJ for AFN is subject to a whole other set of regulations as they are, AFAIK, either servicemembers or employees of the DoD.
     
  9. imac/cheese macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    CSU could fire the guy for upsetting advertisers or for incompetence or for poor judgement in managing the paper. They can not fire him for stating his opinion.
     
  10. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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  11. Naimfan macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

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    #11
    Right. The problem here is that if they remove or punish him at all, it may well be seen as a pretext for punishing him for his speech. And that is not permissible--you cannot change the label of why you did something and pretend that's the only reason you took the action. Put it this way--if he hadn't written those four words, would CSU be looking at taking any action against him? No.

    Not to mention--I can't believe for a second that this kid was able to just put in an editorial without ANYONE else screening it--if only a copy editor. If he could, that's a failure of whoever oversees the newspaper.
     
  12. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #12
    Yep- if you're going to talk about free speech, then please have a point. If you just want to drop the "F" bomb, you're not going to get a ton of sympathy.
     
  13. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #13
    Here is a snipet from the CSU press release:
    So the school itself can't interfere w/the paper, but the BSC has oversight power. Snippet of BSC bylaws:
    Although the details are different than I originally thought, I still think my original questing of whether is a 1st Amendment issue is correct. The CSU administration has publicly re-affirmed that they have no control over the paper (so no government censorship), and are directing complaints to the BSC which can remove people from the paper.


    Lethal
     
  14. Naimfan macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

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    #14
    Here's the critical phrase: "The Board of Student Communications has the authority – granted by the Board of Governors of the Colorado State University System. . . "

    CSU cannot escape or avoid the prohibition by passing along responsibility to the BSC because the BSC is still, itself, a part of CSU. Thus, any action taken by the BSC is still "state action."
     
  15. j26 macrumors 65832

    j26

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    #15
    He is the editor giving editorial opinion.

    Where's the problem?

    He has the right to say what he likes, however well or ill-conceived they are, or how offensive they are. Republicans should remember that this is the very right they are talking about when they talk about "freedom", and the behaviour of the Republicans on campus, campaigning to get advertisers to withdraw is the reprehensible behaviour in this situation.

    Edit: Are the republicans annoyed over the F word, or the facts it's associated with their poster boy? It this an issue of freedom of speech, or partisanship?
     
  16. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #16
    I don't believe that such a rant with poor language deserves to be published. It shows poor judgment and a lack of vocabulary, as well as the attitude of a 5 year old.

    Dismissing him was likely over the edge but there was as likely a history of poor judgment with this writer.

    There are better ways to say things. I suspect the Freshman Composition classes could use some help there.
     
  17. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #17
    Of course you know the answer. You should also know that this whole thing is also about the low maturity level of all the students involved. They're ALL being ridiculous. What should really happen here is that every student who's involved should be required to take civics classes for the remainder of their time in school.

    From what I've seen, the issue is a bunch of spoiled brats who have nothing better to do other than waste their own time as well as others'. They should all be forced to sit in a room together and have discussions on the issue of free speech, rather than staging boycotts and dropping "F" bombs. The whole thing is ridiculous.
     
  18. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #18
    Then what is the function of the BSC if they can't actually do the things their bylaws say they can do? And how do you get someone off the paper if everyone who is on the paper is an employee of CSU and therefore they themselves could be considered entities of the State? What keeps every student from suing for 1st Amendment violations because CSU won't let everyone have their own newspaper column? There has to be a hierarchy that, basically, chooses who can write for the newspaper and who can't.

    Contradictory much?
    Yeah, the editor has a right to his opinion and other people have a right to their opinion regarding the editor's opinion. That includes the right to protest. Free Speech goes both ways man.

    The campus group isn't campaigning to get advertisers to withdraw (they are doing that all on their own). The group is letting students know they can "vote with their wallets". It's democracy in action.

    How does the saying go, "the problem w/freedom is people might make choices you don't agree with."


    Lethal
     
  19. Naimfan macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

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    #19
    Of course the BSC can do the things they are authorized to do. I must have missed the part where I ever suggested otherwise. But it cannot punish someone for the content of their speech. Because it is still a state entity.

    As far as getting someone off the paper--that can still be done for reasons OTHER than the content of someone's speech. For example, if someone consistently missed deadlines, or failed to show up for meetings, etc., they could be removed without ever implicating the content of their speech.

    The problem the BSC faces if they try to remove the editor is that it will be obvious that they are motivated by the content of the editor's speech. Otherwise, if he were so bad, they would have taken steps to remove him before. I don't know that every member of the paper is an "employee."

    The reason everyone can't sue to get their own editorial column is just what you said--there is an organization in place that establishes who may write for the editorial page. In this case, the editor was one of those who could write for the editorial page. To remove him for writing something that offended a number of people is, at its core, to punish someone for the content of their speech. And that is precisely what a state entity may almost never do.
     
  20. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #20
    But there is a conflict in what you are saying. The BSC is authorized to set standards and practices, but if what someone writes violates those set standards you are saying the BSC can't remove them because it would be the government violating the writers free speech.

    So, hypothetically, if a columnist decided to just repeat the phrase, "I love bumblebees" over and over the paper couldn't remove that person's column because it would violate the columnist's 1st Amend. rights?

    The news article said that because of the lost ad revenue the student employees at the paper had to take a 10% pay cut. It didn't go into specifics about who exactly is no the payroll though. Even if they were all volunteer though I don't think that would change the argument that they all could be considered agents of the State.

    But by selectively choosing who can, and cannot write for the paper one could argue that many students are being censored before they even get a chance to be heard. What is the difference between saying, "I don't agree w/what you are writing so you don't get to write for the paper" and "I don't agree w/what you are writing so you don't get to write for the paper anymore"?


    Lethal
     
  21. Naimfan macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

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    #21
    No, there is not. The BSC cannot set standards and practices as to the CONTENT of the writer's speech, nor can it punish someone for the content of that speech. The BSC cannot set standards and practices that violate the First Amendment, because the First Amendment is superior to any standards and practices established by the BSC. Put another way, the standards and practices established by the BSC must comport with the First Amendment, not the other way around. Favoring one form of content over another is what is forbidden.

    No offense, but that's a poor hypothetical. Is it a public paper? A private one? Why was it "removed?" Was it published? What happened to the columnist?

    While acting in a capacity as a representative of the CSU paper they would all be considered under Colorado law to be state actors. Whether they are paid or not is irrelevant.

    Heh. Bad employment law advice. :D

    Seriously: That is not the issue here. Neither are likely to survive a First Amendment challenge if the speaker is a state actor. The fundamental right to free speech does not obligate the government to provide a platform for anyone who wants to exercise. If someone can show they were excluded because of the content of what they wrote they would have a very good claim. That's why an application process exists--or should exist.

    Oh, and "one could argue" that not being allowed to write for the paper constitutes censorship. One would lose with that argument absent a showing they were excluded purely on the basis of the content of what they wrote.

    The issue here is whether the CSU editor's right to free speech would be infringed by his being punished after publication. The analysis begins with whether state action is involved. Here, yes--CSU, the paper, and the BSC are all state actors. Next, the question is why would the editor be punished? Here, because of the content of what he wrote. Third, is there a legal justification for prohibiting or punishing such speech? Here--no. Accordingly, the editor's speech may not be punished--it is protected under the First Amendment.
     
  22. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #22
    The BSC would be allowed to set standards in regards to content that adhered to the accepted legal limits of the 1st Amend. though, right?


    Since all we have been talking about is the CSU paper I thought it would be assumed that any hypotheticals would be in regards to the CSU paper unless otherwise stated.



    If the government isn't obligated to provide a platform then how could CSU be infringing his right to free speech by not giving him a platform? Or is it that once one is given the privilege of a platform it cannot be taken away because of one what says on the platform?


    Lethal

    EDIT: Why are we pretty much the only ones here in? Doesn't anyone else find this fun?:D
     
  23. Naimfan macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

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    #23
    Believe it or not, no. The reason is that almost any type of content restriction can constitute a "prior restraint," which is almost always forbidden. You list "editor" as your profession--surely you've read New York Times Co. v. United States?

    So was it published? What happened to the writer? How do you withdraw something that has already been published? If it wasn't published, why not? Did it not express the editorial position of the newspaper? Etc. That's why I said (still no offense intended) that it doesn't provide enough fact to be a good hypothetical. If your question is "suppose instead of 'Taser this, *!$@ Bush,' the writer used your example, then yes, the removal of that person as editor based on his/her expression of content would indeed be problematic. The government may not favor any content over any other...


    Because CSU did give him a platform. Thus, it may not punish/sanction him based on the content of his speech without running into First Amendment problems. CSU could, as I have pointed out before, remove him for a variety of other grounds and as long as he is provided due process CSU would be unlikely to get in trouble. The problem for CSU now is that ANY effort they take will be seen to be based on the content of his speech--and any protestations to the contrary would be effectively laughed out of the courtroom.....

    I'm going to suggest you read these: The First Amendment, by Daniel Farber; and Speaking Freely, by Floyd Abrams. And then come back..... ;)
     
  24. CorvusCamenarum macrumors 65816

    CorvusCamenarum

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    #24
    I'm going to ask a dumb question - is all the hoopla about what he said, or how he said it? The online version of the CSU paper has the F word spelled out in all its glory; I couldn't find a link to or picture of the print version. Would this even be an issue if he had said "SCREW BUSH" instead?

    Maybe one of our more journalism-savvy fellows can offer some enlightenment - are there laws that speak to this sort of thing, akin to the FCC regulating what can or can't be said on network television?
     
  25. j26 macrumors 65832

    j26

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    #25
    Really???
    That sounds like a campaign aimed at advertisers to me.


    In relation to your other point, sure the Republicans have a right to free speech, but when the aim of that exercise is to strangle free speech in others, I consider that reprehensible. At a basic level, is it right that the newspaper is put in jeopardy because of the opinions of one transient person?
     

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