That First Amendment can be Soooooo Annoying
by Daryl Cagle
I syndicate the cartoons of Rick McKee, the brilliant, conservative cartoonist from The Augusta Chronicle, to newspapers around the world. Today Rick sent in a cartoon about a local Georgia legislator that was so nutty, I asked him to explain. Rick writes:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones” and apparently, Internet Photoshops can really get under the thin skin of Georgia State Rep. Earnest Smith, D-Augusta. Recently he became upset, to say the least, over a manipulated photo in which a blogger digitally pasted his head onto somebody else’s very naked body.
So, he’s co-sponsoring a bill that would make it illegal to alter a photograph so that it “causes an unknowing person wrongfully to be identified as the person in an obscene depiction.” I understand where he’s coming from. Nobody wants their head stuck on an obscene image. Problem is, it’s perfectly legal and protected by the Constitution under the First Amendment. You’d think a guy in his position would know this.
Of course, he’s brought the wrath of the Internet down upon him. Bloggers and forums are trying to outdo one another with lewd images featuring the noggin of Rep. Smith.
But then Smith goes further and says, “No one has a right to make fun of anyone. It’s not a First Amendment right.”
Wow. This is truly embarrassing coming from an elected official. If that’s true, then as a political cartoonist I am breaking the law every day. Go ahead and lock me up. Jon Stewart and David Letterman can be my cellmates.
Perhaps, in the future, our elected officials should be required to take a basic middle school-level civics class. Or, at the least, we could include a disclaimer in their job description, “Warning: This occupation may be a hazard to those with thin skins!”
Daryl Cagle runs the CagleCartoons.com newspaper syndicate distributing editorial cartoons to more than 850 newspapers around the world including the paper you are reading now; he is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society. Comments to Daryl may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read Daryl’s blog at www.cagle.com/daryl.
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