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State Rep wants to restrict First Amendment

By   /   February 14, 2013  /   Comments

Georgia representative Earnest Smith, who represents the 125th district, doesn’t like being made fun of.  In all fairness, who does?  However, Smith is now seeking the power to criminalize the act of photoshopping someone’s face onto someone else’s body if that other person doesn’t like it.

Smith made a proposal sometime back, citing concerns of cyber-bullying and saying his proposal would help prevent some of these kinds of acts.  However, now that it’s been done to him, he’s renewing efforts.  Of course, Smith doesn’t really seem to grasp the roll of the press in a free society.

For example, he told FoxNews, “No one has a right to make fun of anyone. It’s not a First Amendment right.”  Unfortunately, it is.  I say this as someone who has been the victim of a lot of such speech.  However, it’s not about whether we like the speech or not.  In fact, it becomes even more essential to protect speech that we dislike, because if we don’t then we could find our own speech curtailed.  After all, there’s always someone who doesn’t like what you have to say.

Smith is upset because an Augusta area blogger photoshopped his head onto the body of a male porn star.  He feels insulted.  Hey, feel insulted.  Use the bully pulpit of your office to call out the blogger for being part of the reason civil discourse has left our political landscape.  All of that is fine.  However, Smith isn’t doing that.  No, he’s trying to restrict the rights of others.

I won’t call the photoshopping of people a “time honored tradition”, but the idea of portraying a politician satirically is.  It goes as far back as this country in some way, shape, or form.  However, it seems that Smith has a warped idea of his own importance.  For example, with FoxNews asked for specifics, he told them this:

The lawmaker did not provide any specifics of the legislation when contacted by FoxNews.com. After being pressed to provide details, he said, “At this juncture, I am not at liberty to share anything with you. I don’t have to. If and when this bill passes we can revisit the issue and if I choose to give you details at that time I will, but until then I don’t have to tell you anything.”

What Rep. Smith is missing is that he actually does have to share the contents of the bill prior to it being passed.  All bills that are introduced make their way to the internet, where the citizens of Georgia have an opportunity to read and comment on the bill.  However, Smith is saying that he doesn’t even have to give the details of the bill after it passes seems to indicate that he feels that his position in the state house isn’t that of public service, but of aristocracy.

I hate to break it to him, but it’s not.

Folks, this bill doesn’t just open up lawsuits for those engaged in political satire, which also includes all the photoshop images of President Obama’s skeet shooting escapades, but opens these individuals up to criminal charges.  The day it becomes a crime to mock those in power is the day when those in power will fail to remember that they are mere mortals, no different from us except that they won an election.

This proposal desperately needs to be killed.  Stopped isn’t the right word.  The bill, when offered formally, needs to be torn up, burned into ashes, and then scattered by the four winds so that no trace will remain of such a despicable bill that would seek to limit the speech of a group of free people in such heinous ways.  Smith, however, needs to be voted out of office as quickly as possible.  Any man who would seek to restrain such a fundamental right as the Freedom of Speech, while arguing that it wasn’t really Freedom of Speech, is the kind of man who would restrict anything and then argue that he didn’t really restrict anything.

Tom Knighton is the Editor and Publisher of the Albany Journal.

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Owner / Editor / Writer

Tom Knighton is the publisher of The Albany Journal. In November, 2011, he became the first blogger to take over a newspaper anywhere in the world. In August of 2012, he made the difficult decision to take the Journal out of print circulation and become an online news agency, a first for the Albany area.

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