A tribute to people or entities who have stood up for free speech and deserve our respect.
In no particular order:
Ed Lee for the reasons outlined on this site, but not for what he did to Kiri Kelly. Interview with Kiri Kelly
Pandora Blake for opposing censorship and small-mindedness in the U.K. and winning. She didn’t run away to Spain, she stood her ground. The Guardian Newspaper June 5, 2016.
Penguin Books Ltd. U.K. for publishing
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence in 1960 and defending and winning a prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959.
Melville Nimmer for appealing a nineteen-year-old man’s conviction for disturbing the peace for wearing a jacket that said “fuck the draft” in a California courthouse. In Cohen v. California (1971) the Supreme Court found this to be “speech” and not “conduct” and any attempt by the state to abridge speech unconstitutional.
William Kunstler and David Cole for defending expressive conduct in Texas v. Johnson
(1989) even if it involved the burning of the American flag.
The New York Times for appealing a libel judgment in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) establishing that a public official must show knowing or reckless falsehood on the part of the paper before succeeding in a libel action. The Supreme Court reasoned that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.
Lenny Bruce found guilty in 1964 of obscenity for a performance at a New York coffeehouse and granted a posthumous pardon by the Governor of New York in 2003.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jake Ehrlich publisher and defense lawyer of Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked …”
Here is the line considered obscene by customs’ officials which led to an obscenity trial in 1957 “… who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy …” Here is the complete poem: Howl by Allen Ginsberg.
Aaron Swartz posthumously inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2013. He believed in net neutrality and was unjustly prosecuted for Federal crimes relating to free access to information important to the public.
To help you brush up on your rights, the ACLU is giving away FREE pocket Constitutions: The Bill of Rights
Time to dust off your old copy and read again. The book has become a recent best seller. NYT 1984 a best seller.
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
The 1996 Communications Decency Act was ruled unconstitutional, in Reno v. ACLU (1997), since it was overly broad and vague in its regulation of speech on the Internet, and since it attempted to regulate indecent speech, which the First Amendment protects.
The Child On-Line Protection Act violated the First Amendment, in Ashcroft v. ACLU (2004), because it was overbroad, it resulted in content-based restrictions on speech, and there were less-restrictive options available to protect children from harmful materials. (Editor’s note: like parents’ taking individual responsibility for their children rather than having the government act as a nanny).
After 1984, maybe it’s time to read Fahrenheit 451 again, a novel by Ray Bradbury, published in 1953. It is regarded as one of his best works. The novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and “firemen” burn any that are found.
“Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord.”