Thursday, February 19, 2009

Court Is Now In Session

Enter hallowed halls of the highest court in the United States, The Free-Thinkers Hall of Public Justice. The honorable Pierre "No-I-Don't-Play-Basketball" Lafortune presiding.

Today's case: Don't Hate, I'm A C-H-I-M-P

The defendant, New York Post, published a cartoon showing police shooting a chimpanzee dead; with the caption "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." The plaintiffs, Black America, represented by the Reverend Al Sharpton, claim that the cartoon is a blatant form of racism aimed at ridiculing the first black president and his stimulus plan.

Plaintiffs, you have the floor.

"Your honor, if it may please the court, we are outraged that a prominent newspaper would be so brash, rude, and condescending that they would publish a cartoon featuring chimp getting shot by cops, and saying that we will need someone else to get another plan. This is an obvious reference to our president and his recent attempt to revitalize our struggling nation.

We were referred to as apes, chimps, and monkeys at a dark time in this country's history. We thought those days were behind us. Obviously we were wrong! President Obama is getting enough death threats in the mail already, do we really need irresponsible newspapers adding fuel to the fire of bigotry with blatant disregard for decency and respect?

The New York Post should be found guilty of publishing hate-speech designed to intimidate, and degrade Black America and the president of the United States. We've worked too hard to change the backwards mentality of the past, and have come too far to turn back to prejudice. They think we're chimps? They will soon find out that we're lions, and we're ready to roar. The plaintiffs rest their case, your honor."

The defense may now take the stand.

"Your honor, if it may please the court, this is a terrible misunderstanding. The cartoon is in no way a joke against the president or the black community. The cartoon plays on the recent incident in Connecticutt wherein police officers shot and killed a chimpanzee that was attacking its owner.

That news event coincided with the writing of the stimulus package by members of Congress. The cartoonist placed Congress into the character of the chimp, since they were the authors and editors of the bill. Not the president. The president did not write the bill and in no way is the target of the joke.

Why would we publish a cartoon about the president getting shot? And then make him a chimp for good measure? Do they think we're insane?"

"Order. Go on."

"There is obviously a better explanation. The president didn't even write the bill. The joke is clearly about the writers of the bill. The authors, not the preisdent. Black America understands that we did not aim the cartoon at the president. It is only a small, politically motivated few who have gathered hear today. We do not believe that they have the power to speak for the Black community. And we dismiss their criticism as missplaced and unjust. The defense rests its case."

The honorable judge will consider all points of view and will then rule on the case after a brief recess.

All rise! The judge will now read his ruling on the matter.

"Our newspapers have historically been a source of public comment. The New York Post has a history of publishing provocative headlines and cartoons that push the envelope. Our nation was founded on the principle of free-speech and the court system must protect that right.

That being said, newspapers are printed for the public. And any content, whether substantive or satirical, must not exceed the boundaries established by the Constitution.

This type of humor is crass and reproachful. Any reference to the shooting of a government official is in bad taste. And the news story to which it is allegedly referring to is a sad story about a citizen who almost losing their life and an animal that, unfortunately, did. But having bad taste is not prohibited by law. That is for the consumers of the content to decide.

What is prohibited is hate speech. Which is any speech that is intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence against any person or group that might have any distinction that might be considered to some as a liability. If the cartoon in question made a veiled reference to the assasination of the president, it would be, no doubt, prima facie evidence of hate speech. But this cartoon does not appear to be making that statement. The cartoon appears to be aimed at Congress. On the charge of hate speech, I find the defendant not guilty."

*Yells from the back, mixed with sighs of relief*

"Order in the court. Order.

I hope the defense doesn't think that they are completely innocent regarding this matter. You do not publish your newspapers for yourselves. You cannot be careless about the messages that you are sending. There are racist images that run very deep into the roots of our history. Images that have the power to bring back wounds from a shameful history that our nation struggling daily heal from. You can not pretend to operate outside of that reality. That is why I am ordering you to publish a public apology addressed to anyone who may have been offended or hurt by your distasteful humor. We have come a long way, but we will never move forward by pretending that race does not exist. Remember that the next time you get a bright idea for a piece. Case closed."

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