Tag Archives: libel

How Far Can Satire Go

Many people use satire to express and exaggerate points and ideas, people may use it for humor. This can cause an unwanted focus of negative attention to the person getting targeted. This brings the question of is there a line between satire and libel. People argue that satire is a way to humor and criticize people, the news, and the government. Which is protected under the First Amendment, but can this go too far. One Example of this happening is Hustler Magazine, Inc. et al. v. Jerry FalwellIn this court case the company Hustler Magazine known for there pornography magazine started to put inappropriate ads of Jerry Falwell a well respected public preacher in there magazine. These Ads of him would include pictures of Jerry having drunk sexual encounters with mother and also other men. Obviously people knew this was not true but Jerry Falwell felt as if he and his career were getting targeted. Jerry Falwell tried suing  Hustler Magazine but didn’t get anything out of it.  One way that satire is acceptable is when it is being used in the right way. You may be thinking that there is no “right way” to use satire but I believe that when it is used to target someone and push humor to someone that is irrelevant just hurts someones image, spreading fake news in a way. Talk show comedians such as Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah are excerpts in using satire to make there shows knowledgeable and entertaining. They do a good job of taking a topic that the public is familiar with, or explaining news that is currently happening so that everyone is on the same page for the joke. Then they will make fun of the topic by over exaggerating it and adding many sarcastic comments. What I like about these comedians is that they don’t make jokes at overly sensitive topics, and will let you know when they are being serious. This makes is so that there is no confusion they are making fun of something they shouldn’t have. This way of bringing news in an entertaining way has had a giant impact on how we perceive the news. Overall Using satire is a great way to lighten up topics and make jokes, but this humor needs to be obvious and appropriate. Because if you are not clear your words might be perceived and something else.

Works Cited:

N.a. “Freedom of Speech – Why Satire is Protected – HG.org.” Hg.org. n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2018. <https://www.hg.org/article.asp?id=34438&gt;

N.a. “Parody & satire.” Newseuminstitute.org. n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2018. <http://www.newseuminstitute.org/first-amendment-center/topics/freedom-of-speech-2/arts-first-amendment-overview/parody-satire/&gt;

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. “How Jon Stewart changed the world.” Bbc.com. n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2018. <http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150806-how-jon-stewart-changed-the-world&gt;

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How Far Can Satire Go Before Becoming Libel?

There are many sources of satire in media today that come in a variety of different forms, from articles to television.  Two very popular sources are, The Onion, and Saturday Night Live. Both of these sources poke fun at a wide variety of topics, and no one is safe from the humor that they bring about. However, how far are they able to go before their statements turn into libel? Satire falls under the topic of “Fair Use” and therefore allows copyrighted works to be parodied. An ex-CTO of The Onion explains,” The Onion’s office walls are filled with letters from companies expressing delight in being satirized, not because they love it but because they cannot fight comedy. You can only defeat comedy by being funnier.”(1)  SNL uses satire in the parodies that they make about companies, products, and people. Stanford Copyright & Fair Use Center states, that Parodies are allowed to use more original context because they need lots of the original work in order to make a parody.

Satire can never be taken to far; it is a problem when it isn’t taken far enough. If something like a business is being ridiculed and the statement goes above and beyond to point out their every fault in an attempt to get people to laugh, that is better than it being similar to an actual representation of the business. If people are starting to believe that the statement is an actual, realistic model of the company, then it becomes a problem because it is turning into a defamatory statement. If people are going to believe a somewhat ridiculous statement, they should take the source of the statement into account. If the statement is coming from a show like SNL or is in an article by the onion, these statements should not be taken seriously at all. Sources that do not have a history of satire could be taken for libel. However, SNL and The Onion have a long history of satire, and therefore should not be taken seriously. When it comes down to deciding, could it be mistaken for a real model, or where is the statement coming from, are the two biggest factors that set the boundary between satire and libel.

 

Slander or a lie? Who knows!

Slander and Libel is a big debate topic, with today’s technology it is easier than ever to slander someone. Before we can go any farther, we need to know what Slander and Libel. Slander is where someone tells one or more people a lie about another which the lie will harm the reputation of the person being lied about. Libel is the same thing only in written form. When it comes to Slander there is always a question of when are these lies to much? When will to many lies or when will the lies be to big? Libel has been one thing that the media loves to use. For example, according to law.com, David Beckham sued a magazine company for saying he hired a prostitute even though he didn’t. His case was however tossed out because he could not prove that the magazine was acting maliciously towards him. Now is this an example of going to far? Some people would say that accusing someone of hiring a prostitute and cheating on his wife is a horrible thing, especially if he didn’t do it. Yet the media was allowed to do it under free speech. Freedom of speech is very important to the constitution, and the press are allowed to print what they want. In recent years, the current president has accused media of fake news and bias towards him. Saying that they are making him out to be an evil person. Yet they are allowed to so regardless of what he thinks. There are some cases though where the line was crossed. For example, according to theguardian.com, Cameron Diaz was in a relationship with a man, The British Sun newspaper hinted that the she was cheating on him. She sued them for defamation and she won her court case. The line of slander is drawn on the affect. If they information that is said or printed affects the person lives in a serious way then it will not be allowed in most cases. The Cameron Diaz example cause there to be problems in her personal relationship. While as in the case for David Beckham, it did not affect his marriage. They are still married to this day. Slander is one of those topics is really hard to tell when it is okay and when it is too far. Hopefully this allowed you to find where that line is.

 

Sources.

  1. https://www.law.com/insidecounsel/2014/11/18/6-most-successful-celebrity-libel-and-slander-case/

2. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2005/jul/29/news2

Speech Codes: Are They a Scourge or a Savior to Free Speech?

Many people know the First Amendment: the right to expression, the right to peacefully assemble, freedom of the press, the right to petition the government, etcetera. However, not many people know where the boundaries of these rights lie. People push these boundaries all the time and right now college campuses are but one example. Administrators at colleges are attempting to enforce speech codes. Yet, does enforcing speech codes violate the right to free expression described in the First Amendment? How far can speech codes go before the contradict the rights to free expression and peaceful protesting described in the First Amendment?

There are many ways speech codes could be enforced. But depending on how they are applied, they could break the First Amendment. A few forms of expression, specifically in regards to free speech, that are not protected by the First Amendment are slander or libel, fighting words, and obscenity. This means that someone can not go in front of a crowd and defame, insult, threaten, or say anything that may be considered hate speech to someone without consequences. One example of hate speech can be seen in a video of Milo Yiannopoulous at UW Milwaukee. In this video, he verbally attacked and degraded a transgender student. They still were spoken with no point other than to make fun of a subject and way of life that Yiannopoulous did not agree with. Another example of hate speech and fighting words is threats. As stated by Ben Shapiro, some people “greeted the birth of [his] second child by calling for [him, his] wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber”. There was no purpose to this statement other than to express a disagreement with his religion. Under the First Amendment, hate speech is not something you can say without consequences. Speech Codes cannot be used to prevent speakers with controversial opinions from speaking. They cannot prevent people from peacefully disagreeing and debating about topics. However, speech codes can apply consequences if that speech becomes hateful or slanderous since that speech would no longer be protected under the First Amendment.

Some Speech Codes are also attempting to limit the student’s right to peacefully protest a speaker. The First Amendment specifically says “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. To restrict the right to peacefully assemble is a direct violation of the First Amendment. Yet, as seen on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education website, also known as FIRE, some college campuses are restricting the student’s rights to peacefully assemble and protest on the grounds that they are disrupting the speaker’s right to freedom of speech. Furthermore, the Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act states that “protests and demonstrations that interfere with the expressive rights of others are subject to sanction”. There must be a line drawn as to what qualifies as disruptive and interfering demonstrations. The line is whether or not there is any form of violence or hate speech. If a protester simply said the speaker was wrong, held signs, and argued about right versus wrong, nothing can be done about it because they are protesting peacefully, as the First Amendment says they can. However, if a protestor started doing damage or cursing out the speaker, then they would have to face consequences. Recently at UC Berkeley, protesters became very violent at a speech by Yiannopoulous and had to be escorted off the premises. UC Berkeley encompasses what a protest that is not protected by the First Amendment is, and what Speech Codes can restrict.

In the end, Speech codes can be useful to make speeches more peaceful and clearly define punishments for breaking that peace, however, they must still subject to the First Amendment.

Sources:

EBSCO: The New Battle Over Campus Free Speech

Milo Yiannopoulos verbally attacks a transgender student (1:30-3:05)

The Atlantic: The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus

Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act

A few examples of Hate Speech against Ben Shapiro

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

UC Berkeley

Satire or Fake News? Which Would You Choose?

Satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. We see satire all around the media today from The Onion to TV shows like John Oliver and The Daily Show. These are primarily examples of satire, but what makes these satire instead of fake news? Fake news is one of the biggest things on social media nowadays. Fake news is false information that refers to propaganda and false information under the guise of being authentic news. The first amendment states, under freedom of speech, that the government must respect citizens rights to express themselves, therefore satire is protected by the first amendment. The main reason for media is for people to be informed on what is going on in the world. Is fake news protected by the first amendment or is it an example of slander/libel? Many past presidential elections have been won because of fake news. For example, many Republican websites posted claims about Hillary Clinton this past election helping boost Trumps support.

The question is: What is the difference between fake news and satire, and what separates the two? Satire is used for a corrective purpose to point out why things are wrong. One of satires purposes is to inform viewers on what is actually going on in today’s world. When comparing satire and fake news, the title of fake news says it all.  Fake news is fake with no purpose to inform whatsoever. In a study by the website “techdirt” called, Yet Another Study Shows US Satire Programs Do A Better Job Informing Viewers Than Actual News Outlets., many surveys have been done showing that satire news has better informed people than regular news stations like Fox and CNN. Instead of choosing the left or the right side of politics, satire shows all sides of every story.  Fake news is false information that misinforms many people and can be very dangerous.

Citizens SLAPPed by Big Businesses

 

The United States Constitution grants every person the right to petition the government along with free speech. Yet, every year, thousands of individuals, community groups, and organizations are sued for exercising these constitutional rights. These lawsuits are known as “SLAPPs” (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).  SLAPPs are often declared by corporations, real estate developers, or government officials against individuals or organizations who oppose them on public issues. Usually, SLAPPs are based on ordinary civil tort claims such as libel or slander, malicious prosecution, abuse of power, conspiracy, and interference with prospective economic advantage.

The difference between an ordinary defamation lawsuit and a SLAPP suit is that the plaintiff in a SLAPP suit does not generally plan to actually win their lawsuit. Instead, SLAPP suits are intended to intimidate, and discourage activists from exercising their right to free speech and protest. The main purpose of a SLAPP case is to decrease public debate on specific issues. Defending a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources, and therefore diverts the defendant’s attention away from the public issue and/or forces them to discontinue the case. Furthermore, a SLAPP also sends a threatening message to others that they too can just as easily be sued if they speak up.

In one example of a SLAPP case was in Dallas, a $1 million lawsuit filed by a pet-sitting company against a couple who wrote a one-star review on Yelp. Prestigious Pets and its owner filed the lawsuit against the couple, accusing them of defamation, business disparagement and a breach of contract after the couple posted the negative review. The case was eventually dismissed due to an Anti-SLAPP law that allows judges to dismiss frivolous suits filed against people who speak out about a matter of public concern. This is just one illustration of how businesses or dominant people can use their power to try to keep citizens from exercising their first amendment rights if it could tarnish their image.

I believe that SLAPP cases violate the first amendment because big businesses are prohibiting the public from exercising their right to free speech by suing them and using the power of the court system along with their own money to silence public opinions. SLAPP cases are just a way for people or corporations to hold their own interests above public interest and protect themselves from any criticism or opposition. Freedom of speech is important because it allows people to form and share opinions that may be different from others. Because SLAPP suits limit the first amendment, I believe that they should be outlawed or at least highly regulated in order to prevent businesses from punishing citizens simply because they exercise their first amendment rights to disagree or speak out against them.

 

“Examples Of SLAPP Suits In Texas”. Slapped In Texas, 2011, https://slappedintexas.com/examples-of-slapp-suits-in-texas/.

 

“Jarrow Formulas, Inc. V. Lamarche”. California Anti-SLAPP Project, 2011, https://www.casp.net/california-anti-slapp-first-amendment-law-resources/caselaw/california-supreme-court/jarrow-formulas-inc-v-lamarche/.

 

“SLAPP Suits | Civil Liberties Defense Center”. Cldc.Org, 2017, https://cldc.org/organizing-resources/slapp-suits/.

 

Hate Speech covered by the First Amendment?

When considering the topic of Hate Speech one must look to the Supreme Court.  They have dealt with issues of Hate Speech both directly and indirectly. From Miller v. California where Obscenity was defined based on the community standards.   To the Beauharnais v. Illinois,  where Joseph Beauharnais expressed his views on the, “harassment and invasion of white people” his leaflets were deemed libel, this is one of the limits of the First Amendment.  Hate Speech has even been examined with a leader of the Ku Klux Klan in the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio.  The court said that Ohio’s criminal syndicalism law violated the right to free speech.  These court cases asked the question is there a difference between Hate Speech and Free Speech, and should crimes be prosecuted/punished differently?  In other words should the motivation of a crime be examined to  determine the punishment.

Hate Speech itself is not covered directly under the First Amendment.  Free speech is the right for someone to express themselves.  However, there are still limits that must be considered like Slander/ Libel, Clear and present danger, fighting words, and obscenity.  The First Amendment is no longer protecting you.  Hate Speech is indirectly protected under the First Amendment, until it crosses one of the limits.  The first Amendment gives of great freedom, but Hate Speech a price.

 

Work Cited:

“R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul.” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1991/90-7675. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

“Miller v. California.” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-73. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

“Beauharnais v. Illinois.” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/343us250. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

“Brandenburg v. Ohio.” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1968/492. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

Freedom of Speech: Crash Course Government and Politics #25. By Raoul Meyer. Prod. Stan Muller. Perf. Craig Benzine. YouTube. N.p., 31 July 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2017