by Lee, 12/24/2010, 9:26 PM

How is this anything other than a complete contradiction?

Frank Abe, spokesman for Constantine, said the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign has many outlets for exercising free speech, including the purchase of ad space elsewhere.

“It’s been claimed the decision to rescind acceptance of the ad is due to public pressure,” he wrote in an e-mail. “It is not.”

Metro’s policies restrict material that can lead to harm or disrupt public transit, Abe said. “This proposed ad did not originally fit that definition, but now falls within it because of the global firestorm over the ad.”

Our freedom of speech should never conditional upon whether it makes people angry or uncomfortable. That’s why capitulations over a cartoonist’s ability to draw Muhammad are cowardly, and why Metro’s decision not to display these ads is just as cowardly.

20 Responses to “Free Speech (with Exceptions)”

1. Deathfrogg spews:

While in basic principle, the right to free speech really does encompass pretty much every form, it does not include the absolute right to venue.

Transit buses are just that. Transit. Basically unrestricted transportation for everyone. I would look at this as an aspect of freedom of religion. If it cannot accommodate everyone equally, it really should just stay neutral, and not choose to accommodate anyone. If it was the KKK, or the JBS or the Black Panthers there would be no issue with this. The ad in and of itself is not really controversial, it speaks the truth, and as ugly as it is, that truth needs to be illustrated to people.

But maybe on the sides of a public transit bus it isn’t such a good idea. There are just too many fanatics and psychopathic assholes out there on all sides. Seems to me that to err on the side of caution and tact is probably the better choice.

2. Michael spews:

Metro’s decision not to display these ads is just as cowardly.

What puzzles me is why you’d expect anything else from them or anyone else involved in the governance of King County.

3. Don Joe spews:

@1

While in basic principle, the right to free speech really does encompass pretty much every form, it does not include the absolute right to venue.

I would go a step further, and say that an important pert of venue is the extent to which the venue provides an opportunity for a direct rebuttal. Newspapers provide that opportunity. Billboard ads don’t provide a similar opportunity.

4. Randroid spews:

Free speech must always take a backseat to profits. Duh

5. doggril spews:

If you want to paint the ad on the side of your house, Goldy, knock yourself out. If someone were to target the sign for a violent response, then you would be the one to suffer the result of your choices. But if someone were to target a bus due to this ad or the ads that were threatened to counteract this ad, and someone got hurt in a fight they didn’t choose to be a part of, that would just be wrong. It’s not the bus riders’ fight. They shouldn’t be thrust in the middle of it. Constantine was right to consider their safety.
Oh, and @4, seems to me that if this were about money, Metro would run the ads. They could sure use the revenue.

6. drool spews:

From the article:

“Metro’s policies restrict material that can lead to harm or disrupt public transit, Abe said. “This proposed ad did not originally fit that definition, but now falls within it because of the global firestorm over the ad.””

Seems pretty clear to me. It is not a freedom of speech issue.

7. don spews:

@5

Are you saying that some Israelis would target a Metro bus and blow it up because they don’t like the message? Maybe send in a US supplied fighter jet and kill a bunch of innocent women and children? If more people think like you, then the ad did its job without even having been displayed.

8. Roger Rabbit spews:

There are just enough crazies running around the world blowing up busloads of innocent passengers to make me nervous about the idea of having no restrictions on the display of controversial viewpoints on the sides of buses. The venue point is a good one; and I don’t think it’s “cowardly” for Constantine to err on the side of passenger safety. I would expect no less from any public official. Unfortunately, all too often, what we get from public officials is reckless abandonment of public safety as when the Bush administration and Republican congress refused to spend one dime to inspect ship cargo containers for terrorist WMDs.

9. What do you expect spews:

While of COURSE this was caving in to complaints…who cares. The metro bus advertisements are NOT free speech (neither is election spending but that’s a WHOLE other topic). Advertisements can have ANY kind of restriction they want. Metro isn’t REQUIRED to give advertising space to anyone with a checkbook. YOUR ability to speak (to others, in town halls, on a street corner) is free speech, but bus advertisements are not.

Of course the government of Israel acts like jackasses in the West Bank (which they “stole” in a war claiming it was their territory 2,000 years ago…the same claim China made invading Tibet and Iraq made invading Kuwait…funny we called bullshit on that. Huh). That’s not anti-Semitic…that’s not a claim against all Jewish PEOPLE, just the government of Israel. Just like disagreeing with Bush in the Iraq War, or Obama health care doesn’t mean you hate America, it means you disagree with a policy of the current administration.

10. goldy's wife left him because he acts like a female spews:

well sense just as many isreal supporters are paying taxes to run the bus system as palestian It is not appropriate to run that add unless you are willing to run the Palestine warcrimes one. but the supporters of Palestine will riot if anything like that goes up.

11. YLB spews:

10 – I’m hittin’ the reload button and this drivel is not getting any more coherent.

Let me guess. Too much holiday cheer?

12. goldy's wife left him because he acts like a female spews:

not enough actually. but really if its ok to put up a sign that says funding Isreali war crimes then it is equally ok to put one showing Palestinians blowing up a bus or the aftermath of one of their raids.

13. Moag spews:

I hereby announce that if Metro continues to carry any billboard ads for casinos, I will nonviolently disrupt public transit.

There. Done. Now they’re going to ban those ads. Right? …Right?

14. Moag spews:

Various commenters are correct that Metro is not constitutionally required to carry these ads, or any ads. The First Amendment protects speech from government interference; it does not guarantee a venue.

That said, there is another form of censorship not involving government oppression, namely third-party threats against the speaker or anyone who facilitates the speech. The solution here is to stand up in the face of those threats, not to cave to them. Metro caved. Thus Goldy found precisely the correct word to describe the situation: cowardly.

15. Lee spews:

@14
That said, there is another form of censorship not involving government oppression, namely third-party threats against the speaker or anyone who facilitates the speech.

Exactly. This post was more of a quick reaction to seeing the news article than anything else, and so a distinction can be made regarding the venue. But Metro’s rules allowed ads like this. They only capitulated because people were offended and those people were then viewed as a threat. That’s exactly how free speech gets undermined.

16. Lee spews:

And FYI, the two comments from SJ were deleted. SJ is not permitted to leave comments in my threads any more (for repeated violations of HA’s comment rules, particularly sockpuppetry). If anyone has any concerns or questions about this, feel free to shoot me or Goldy an email.

17. notaboomer spews:

as long as those “jesus is___” ads stay on the buses, it’s all good in progressive seattle.

18. Moag spews:

Oops, sorry Lee. I credited Goldy with your excellent choice of words.

19. Nona Desusa spews:

odd concept of free speech if the blogger deletes items!

Oh well, if Metro can censor liberal speech, so can this blog!

Same old thing here in Texas. Try buying a TV ad here against creationism!

20. Lee spews:

@19
SJ’s banning is the equivalent of a restaurant owner refusing to serve someone who is not wearing pants and throwing his own poop. It has nothing to do with free speech. He’s free to say whatever the hell he wants on his own blog or in Goldy’s threads, but he lost his privilege to post here after numerous warnings. If you want more details, feel free to email me separately.