Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

Free Speech Ends Here

Source: Reuters

A West Hollywood homeowner has hung an effigy of VP candidate Sarah Palin from his home in time for Halloween.  Local officials have already spoken to say that the homeowner is covered by free speech rights.

As you may know, I believe in free speech in its entirety (so long as such speech is not used to incite violent acts) and do support the homeowner’s choice of Halloween decor (though it would not be my own choice).  That said, I should make it clear that whatever I believe for one politician should be true for another and therefore reluctantly say that, were the effigy of Obama, I believe it to be equally within the rights of free speech.

I do wonder, however, if someone were to hang an effigy of Obama in such a way, would it be a hate crime?  And is it not a hate crime when done to Sarah Palin?  She is a woman*, and to quote John Lennon, “woman is the nigger of the world” (which, as John intended it, is still true today by most accounts).  Should a crime against a woman not be treated in the same manner as a crime against a minority?

*You’ll note in the comments below that I changed this statement to better reflect my intent.  I had, incorrectly, stated that women were a minority, which is not true, at least in the United States.

Photo Credit: Reuters

6 Comments

  1. Women compose 51% of the population. Minority? Please.

  2. Apologies, I wrote too quickly. I didn’t mean to say that women are a minority, rather, the implication was the oft-used phrase “women and minorities.” Women are a minority in politics, in the workplace, in the public sphere. They are paid less, diminished by men. Crimes against women should be considered hate crimes IF crimes against minorities are.

    Personally, I don’t like the concept of “hate crimes.” A crime is a crime, and punishment should be equal regardless of who such a crime is committed against.

  3. Politics aside, what does this homeowner have to say to the increase in crime and recent spats of homocidal violence on college campuses? I hope if someone sees this image and commits a hanging that the homeowner is willing to serve time, too.

    Morons.

  4. I believe 100% in free speech. I think the only reason that law enforcements are allowing this is because Palin is not the popular vote right now.

    If that homeowner put a black person, Islamic woman covered with traditional Muslim clothing, or a Jew up there then the law enforcements would say it is in fact a hate crime punishable by law.

    Let me start by saying that I do not care what color of skin you have or religious beliefs you uphold. I’m merely pointing out that this country has freedom of speech but only when it goes along with the majority.

    Do I think that hanging a figure that represents Palin is sending the right message for children, NO but neither is having grave stones with hands coming out of the ground. It’s rather morbid and often scary to young kids. However, we do it because its tradition and people think oh its Halloween so no worries.

    We also tell our kids to not talk to strangers but yet we hire clowns for birthday parties and get dressed up for Halloween so that we can go to stranger’s homes and eat their candy.

    I’m just saying that this country is hypocritical. It’s all about the majority vote. If your popular then you get away with it and if your not, well you fill in the blank.

  5. If I understand the law correctly, a hate crime typically has to be a crime to begin with, but one motivated by prejudicial hatred. Since this isn’t a crime to begin with, because there’s no victim, I don’t think you could prosecute it as a hate crime.

    I’m strongly against hate crime extending to the area of speech and expression in general, although I think it depends on where the expression occurs. If you were to hang an effigy on someone else’s lawn, for example, that should obviously be prosecuted as a hate crime.

  6. @Ari, really? Do you really think this prankster should be held responsible if a crime is committed against Sarah Palin or someone else? That’s placing a fairly heavy onus of blame on one person with a sense of humor. Needless to reiterate, I disagree.

    @Nicole, I also sense that were the effigy of a minority, the “crime” would be handled much differently.

    @CM, I agree with your first statement, and I suppose your second as well. Violent hate crime is one issue (on which I’m not so sturdy), but when “hate crime” is used in free speech issues, I wince.

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