Friday, August 7, 2009

The Guy on the Corner with the Offensive T-Shirt....

The guy on the corner with the offensive t-shirt….

This is a very interesting debate. When does “free speech” become a public nuisance? When does personal and public safety come into play?

A person was observed, on a street corner in Athens, wearing a t-shirt that said something that I cannot bring myself to say here, or anywhere.

Someone complained, with these results:

"...Discussion with the local police revealed that in Athens people and animals like that one can say, parade on a sign, or wear any words they choose without limits...."

I'm pretty sure that is not true that there are no limits to “free speech” in Athens. I can think of several religious or non-religious slogans that would have the wearer arrested as a nuisance or threat to public safety.

It really depends on WHO you are offending....

When is "hate speech" mislabeled as "free speech", and who gets to do the labeling?

Are there any lines left to cross? Is all speech "free speech", or can some speech be considered assault?

For instance: that guy on the corner of Court Street can get away with wearing the t-shirt that says "Jesus is a ----", and probably gets quite a few - unfortunate - snickers of approval from some of our populace.

But put the same guy in a "Mohammed is a ----" t-shirt, and he probably gets physically assaulted. Say his shirt is saying "All ---- go to ----", or "Kill all the (whoever)". He would definately be confronted.

Is one part of the populace so cowed that they won't stand up for their beliefs, while another group feels empowered by the fact that minority status can be a pass to say literally anything? Is this to be considered a double-standard, or just desserts - the 21st century version of "Stickin' it to The Man"?

You can boldly wear a shirt that proclaims "Police LIE". I've seen it, and I don't disagree with the statement... BUT, if you put on a shirt that accuses a popular politician/public figure of the same offense, and do it in Athens, you are gonna get your --- kicked.

I could go on with even more obnoxious examples, but it's pretty clear that in Athens, as in many other and diverse communities, you can get away with certain publically expressed opinions - in fact, they kinda blend in... - BUT, reverse those opinions and they not only draw a crowd, it would become both a personal and public safety issue.

Proof abounds that we, as a nation and a culture(s) have lost any sense of common decency - and we have lost it to the point that we really can't find it, or even know when we have crossed any line.

When did we begin to believe that in order to make a "point" we have to shock and offend? It seems we don't enough command over our language to express ourselves without resorting to intellectual shortcuts.

These shortcuts continue to work their effect on any public discourse.

Right now we're reduced to TV spouting one-line sound bites that totally disregard truth. Indeed, our elite, educational tribe views truth as pretty much subjective in all contexts. So much so that a large portion of our "intelligencia" regard the oaf on the corner with the offensive t-shirt as enlightened, and his vile statement a wonderfully insightful observation. Not, the sick, twisted offront to civilization that it actually is....


terri said...

I don't know if someone wearing a T-shirt insulting Mohamed would be assaulted. Maybe if they live in a heavily muslim area.

I don't think you can wear things/parade with posters that level "kill all---"

Look at it this way...wearers of offensive T-shirts are showing people what their level of intelligence is. That could save us loads of time. Instead of having to actually talk to people and find out they are offensive jerks, bent on insulting people, we can just read their T-shirts and save our breath


jackscrow said...

First of all, thanks for the comment, Terri.

I check in on your blog, and unlike myself, you seem to be a thoughtful person.

The context here is Athens, Ohio. It is unlike any city in Ohio, except perhaps Yellow Springs.

It is a wonderful place to live, especially if you reside out of the city limits where they can't tax you, but it is definately not typical middle-America mainstream flyover land, even though it is way out in "the sticks".

A public display in favor of any type of diversity is considered normal, but any display of what we might call "traditional values" would be subject to public derision. I've seen it.

I've witnessed nasty comments to wearers of Scripture verses on t-shirts or a Christian Cross on a ballcap.

My brother wore a t-shirt from a "walk-for-life" event to a concert in Athens, and while he did not fear any physical assault, he was cursed at and called names in public.

I think I can safely say that an anti-Mohammed t-shirt wearer would be publically ridiculed, hasseled, and possibly physically assaulted. Possibly an overreaction to the Bush administration's policies, or that there is a very active pro-Islamic campus movement.

It's an interesting inversion of a little town in Eastern Kentucky where I once lived. Take every bigotry from that backwards place and turn it around and that's the norm in Athens.