Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fox's false choice

Fox News Network on Monday aired a segment about a student who was suspended from school after he held a banner proclaiming "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at an Olympic torch relay while not on school property. The student is now taking action against the school for infringing upon his First Amendment rights.

Fox posed the question "Free speech or just out of line?" in an interactive poll. Aside from this being a pretty obvious legal question — I don't see how this isn't an example of a school over-reaching its authority in censuring student speech — the poll is obviously flawed: It presents a false choice that doesn't benefit a nuanced exchange of ideas.

Why can't something be free speech and out of line at the same time? I bet the pundits at Fox News never thought of this, but it happens. Frequently. Not everything is pure, unvarnished truth or a vile, despicable lie. There's a lot of stuff in between. And when it comes to freedom of speech, pretty much everything's fair game, which includes a lot of things many people would consider "out of line."

For instance, there's a religious group that attends the funerals of U.S. soldiers and holds signs thanking God for the deaths because the deaths are America's punishment from God for inching toward equal rights for gay people. Out of line? Any reasonable person would think so. Protected by the First Amendment as free speech? You bet. See, both at the same time!

When nuance is defeated in favor of absolutes, discourse becomes a matter of who can shout the loudest. It's a wonderful world with infinite shades of gray, it's just too bad those framing much of today's political debate see the world only in terms of black and white.

1 comment:

Erdos56 said...

Fox is often the gutter of political discourse and should be regarded as light entertainment at best. To be, well, nuanced, very Left media is often focused on bizarre speculative conspiracy theories that are counterproductive and strain credibility. I keep thinking both will dry up from lack of viewers/readership, but the angry fruits of stylized outrage keep appearing on those withered trees. "Manichaeistic platitudes" kept echoing in my head while thinking about FOX, Rush, etc. in reading this post. But using subtlety when insulting idiots is just deliciously self-serving.