Monday, July 1, 2013

Hi, We're From ACT-UP, and We're Doing an Act of Civil Disobedience

I've been watching the documentary How to Survive a Plague, and I wish I'd seen it before, so that I could have put this bit in some earlier posts about freedom of speech and the First Amendment.  The film includes a clip from CSPAN showing Senator Jesse Helms denouncing the AIDS activist group ACT-UP, who had sheathed his home in a giant canvas condom.  Helms said that there'd be no problem if homosexuals would just keep their dirty business to themselves, and shut their mouths.  Another senator, who wasn't identified as far as I could tell but he was another old white guy, said to Helms:
Sir, when we started this colloquy, I thought I was on your side, especially the First Amendment.  And under the First Amendment people don't have to shut their mouths.  They have a right to speak.
Helms, evidently slightly nonplussed, responded:
Well, uh, they can speak, as long as they don't offend anybody else, I suppose.
So there you have it, all my fellow GLBTQs and all liberals everywhere who think that freedom of speech doesn't extend to offensive "hate" speech: you're on the same side as Jesse Helms.  He was all for your freedom of speech as long as you didn't offend anybody.  By "anybody" he meant right-thinking people who agreed with him, just as you want to shield yourselves and those who agree with you.  You see?  People can come together on contentious issues of civil liberties.