Thursday, March 3, 2016
Name-calling President Obama: "You Call It 'Freedom of Speech'?"
We live in America where the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and the right to dissent. In fact, the idea that the expression of dissent or subversive views should be tolerated, not censured or punished by law, developed alongside the rise of printing. Without such freedom, a democracy cannot exist. Our Constitutional right to free speech is one of our greatest gifts of citizenship.
We all cherish our freedom of speech and relish the opportunity to exercise our views without fear of arrest or imprisonment. Free speech allows wide and even unpopular expression. In the United States, we understand that we must even tolerate extreme speech, such as that promoted by hate groups like the KKK and the Westboro Baptist Church.
But, with every right goes responsibility, and certain exceptions to the freedom of speech are routinely upheld. For example, speech cannot be used for incitement, for advocacy of the use of force, for offensive purposes such as uttering “fighting words” (threats of violence or words that create severe emotional distress), for copying speech owned by others (copyrights and patents), or for obscenities that violate contemporary community standards.
It is true that public figures voluntarily place themselves in positions that invite close scrutiny, so they become frequent targets of the press. Whereas private citizens have a greater interest in protecting their reputation, public figures – such as politicians, actors, or sports stars – are at risk of defamation simply because they are popular. They are often ridiculed, justly and unjustly, for their actions. Tabloid journalism survives on rumors and half-truths, and a segment of the public loves to read of scandals and celebrity missteps.
Still, a private citizen's reputational and privacy interests tend to outweigh free speech considerations and therefore deserve greater protection from the courts. In New York Times V. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S. Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1964), the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment protects open and robust debate on public issues, even when such debate includes "vehement, caustic, unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials."
The Supreme Court decided that, in order to recover damages, a public official must prove actual malice, which is knowledge that the statements were false or that they were made with reckless disregard of whether they were false.
It seems natural that we accept any negative view of a public figure that supports our own personal belief system. Why? Within our “comfort zones,” we have certain understandings – confirmed in our own limited frame of reference – that blend with emotion and memory to enable us to abhor the questionable actions of that very visible person. Doing so affirms our own beliefs while counteracting what we assume is bad conduct.
Thus, public figures become the frequent victims of name-calling and vicious verbal and written attacks by ordinary citizens. It is a practice as old as the history of society. Propagandists typically use the name-calling technique to incite fears and arouse prejudices in their hearers.
By calling a public figure a name, people attempt to encase their opponent under a label deemed as negative by the whole of society. Name-calling minimizes the victim and everything for which he or she stands. As it reduces the target to a disgusting name like “bitch” or “retard” or “mother fucker,” it begs others to condemn the subject in the same manner.
Really, this verbal abuse occurs because the name-caller refuses to find logical arguments to support his position. Instead of developing a good line of reasoning to support his disapproval, a name-caller relies upon simply confirming their right to free speech in a cheap, cowardly, and completely unnecessary attempt to discredit their opponent.
There seems to be a disturbing trend that it is all right to use name-calling and abusive speech no matter how disgusting the language. Hand-in-hand with name-calling, nounism is defined as “a tendency to use nouns in preference to other parts of speech.” Reducing a person to a derogatory noun is a practice used frequently on social media.
Oliver Burkeman of The Guardian Weekly says nounism is our inclination to make the abstract solid. “Nouns”, Burkeman writes, “are the language of certainty, of things than can be grasped and dealt with.” In the process, people who use offensive nouns often distort our perception of the world, “bestowing on certain things an added reality they don’t deserve.” Thus, our perception of reality is shaped by the particular structure of each language.
Nounism is basically leaning lazily into name-calling rather than thinking. Jeremy E. Sherman, social science and science writer, explains ...
“We intuit that nouns are what practical people focus on. They're what make the world feel solid. Nothing is more solid than a thing. Feel that table in front of you. It's a hard thing, a hard truth.
“Using nouns, especially loaded ones, to describe people is the simplest way to telegraph your view of which ones to trust and which not to trust A person is a thing, either a good thing or a bad thing depending on what nouns we assign.”
Sharing Some Name-calling and Nounism
I am amazed at the people who constantly use name-calling when they refer to President Obama. It seems nothing is considered too spiteful or too offensive to those who blame the President for every ill. Not only has this practice been routinely accepted by many, but people go beyond name-calling and nounism to make veiled threats against the leader of the free world.
Evidently spurred by political malcontent, people in the last few days have make some nasty remarks on social media in reference to President Obama. They have the right to speak this way, so evidently they have chosen to share these comments. Where is the obligation to decency?
The authors of the posts will remain anonymous, but I assure you the content is genuine and unedited. These comments are real.
In reference to our President, I found the following (original spelling preserved) …
“Low down dog!!!”
“He is one big POS (piece of shit) covered in slime.”
“Piece of Muslim crap.”
“This is the SHIT that O'BOMA has created , AREN'T YOU PROUD O'BOMA , THIS SHOULD BE YOUR NEXT job , you PUTZZZZZ.”
“He has 'COMPLETELY' lost, what 'little mind,' he had. One sorry 'SOB!'"
“A piece of crap should have been impeached long ago, but we have a bunch of spineless RINO'S (Republicans in name only) who don't have the courage to do the right thing.”
“Hey if they censure the southern heritage then they need to blow up the country of Africa.” (Country?)
And, most disturbing …
“Hate to voice this, but I'd like to take this sucker out. HOLD ON!! The secret service is knocking on my door...................”
“We need another 'James Earl Ray.' VERY BAD! Please someone, anyone, to our country a 'huge favor!'"
Many of these comments were proudly shared on social media with others. The words are hurtful and even grossly threatening.
I fear many intelligent people in our nation continue to talk the talk about “don't bully” and “don't call names” and “don't be prejudice,” but fail to walk the walk unless they derive a direct benefit. I rest my case. I feel as if nothing more can be added to this post. You can decide about the sickness of name-calling and nounism yourself.
Posted by Frank Thompson at 11:47 AM