Unethical Billboard Of The Year



1. What kind of community allows this kind of eyesore? Are there no ordinances about appropriate billboard content?

2. Sure, it’s constitutional speech, but it is as articulate as a grunt and as persuasive as a fart. This is what four years of Congresswomen calling the President of the United States a “mother fucker” and comediennes holding Donald Trump’s rubber severed head in the air have done to public discourse. We should never forgive progressives for this (social media is also responsible.)

3. Only because the Democrats, media and the Biden administration have no fairness, sense of responsibility or shame is there any valid political message on the thing at all. That message would be “Don’t blame Trump!” Like the previous Democratic President, President Biden seems to think he can duck accountability for his own failures and botches by blaming them on his immediate predecessor, apparently forever. It’s the mark of a coward and a weak leader, if not a “shithead.”

14 thoughts on “Unethical Billboard Of The Year

  1. On observation 2.
    Sometimes it is not all that vulgar such as when anti-Trump and presidential wannabe Gov. Larry Hogan (R) MD defends his neo-con brethren by comparing Trump to a North Korean dictator by referring to him as “Dear Leader” – this was used in his response about Liz Cheney’s censure by the Wyoming Republicans.

    The only person issuing direct orders that affected my rights as a citizen came from him. Hogan shut things down, Hogan outlawed gatherings, Hogan fines people, Hogan blames everyone else. I cannot point to a single thing Hogan has done to improve Maryland’s infrastructure, education system, or public sector efficiency. Maryland needs another leader like Schaeffer and fewer politicians with grandiose aspirations.

    As a Marylander, Hogan will never get another vote from me. His principles seem to always be in a state of flux just like Joe Biden. I don’t need a party to represent me. They need me and others like me.

  2. The US Supreme Court held any local ordinance regulating sign content to be unconstitutional. You can limit (but not eliminate) time, place, and size, but not content.

    • Would that the opinion were that authoritative. https://www.freedomforuminstitute.org/first-amendment-center/topics/freedom-of-speech-2/advertising-first-amendment-overview/billboards/

      Four states ban all billboards, and a proliferation of visual pollution like this would lead to more bans. I’d like to see a test case with a giant billboard showing a late term aborted baby. The culture was very different in 1981, and the Court couldn’t even agree then.

      The last line in the article linked above: “The question of “First Amendment right or visual blight?” will continue to be asked.”

      I call that billboard visual blight.

      • My town went through a revision of our sign regulation in light of Reed v. Town of Gilbert in 2015 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reed_v._Town_of_Gilbert), as did many towns, to remove regulations based on sign content.

        Prohibiting the “two shit heads” sign in particular would have to survive strict scrutiny.

        Banning large billboards is a content neutral approach that is unaffected by Reed. Certainly billboard owners who rent space to such signs invite their medium to be banned. Even if new billboards were banned, my state provides for indefinite preexisting non-conforming use, so existing billboards could continue to be used even if banned by local zoning.

  3. I think this goes back a lot farther than outrageous behavior during the Trump administration. There were columnists with poison pens long before the advent of social media, not to mention the fairly ubiquitous “shock jocks” like Howard Stern, Michael Savage, etc. The difference was that the columnists with the poison pens were not mainstream (Dan Savage’s column used to run next to ads for gay escort services) and the shock jocks dealt mostly in talk, not the written word or the visual medium. So you laughed on the way in to work as Howard Stern described the arrangement of his genitals and remarked on there being “enough blacks for a riot,” and you gasped on the way home as Michael Savage told a gay caller to catch AIDS and die. Or at least that’s what you did if you were normal. Then you got on with life. However, there were hardcore fans of both that really believed this stuff.

    Then we moved into the 1990s and it became possible to not only make a living, but do well from turning jerkass behavior into entertainment. That’s where you go Beavis and Butthead, the Jerky Boys, the Crank Yankers, and so on, who posited that it was funny to act like an ass. Again, most normal folks just laughed and moved on, but hardcore fans actually tried stuff ranging from as relatively harmless as making a crank call using jokes that were cruder but just as tired as the one about Prince Albert in a can, to as harmful as dropping a bowling ball from an overpass to see how big of an accident they could cause. We also started to get the late night comedians who played the clown-nose-on, clown-nose-off game, encouraging their audiences to take their shallow and stupid approach like it was profoundly serious.

    THEN came social media and anyone could say anything about anyone or anything whenever, wherever, and however they damn well pleased, and they did. Despite Michelle Obama’s protestations, the left has always been more willing to go low than the right. Rarely is it someone from the right who works blue first or drags a conversation down into the gutter first. The left also judges themselves by their best intentions and the right by their worst examples, and gives themselves a pass for any and all behavior they wouldn’t tolerate from the right, though once saying someone should shit in Sarah Palin’s mouth was a bridge too far. I’m not sure it still would be.

    Now the right has finally figured out that the way to win is not to try to elevate discourse or win on substance, but to beat the left at their own game. Voila.

    • 1. I don’t think those are valid analogies, Steve. This is: screaming obscenities and racist screeds with a bullhorn in the middle of Times Square. You can turn off Howard Sterns and unfriend an asshole, but if you are driving on a highway, you’re stuck with this, and it might make you run off the street.

      2. How does proving you’re a rude, inconsiderate, vulgar jackass “win”?

      • 1. Not sure about that. Can you really escape the reach of nasty social media now?

        2. I’d say ask the other side, but I think you win by ginning up hate for the other side and encouraging your side to get loud and vulgar, louder and more vulgar than the other side.

        • 2. I’d say ask the other side, but I think you win by ginning up hate for the other side and encouraging your side to get loud and vulgar, louder and more vulgar than the other side.

          It only works because the general public accepts it.

  4. I am familiar with two incidents involving outdoor advertising that had somewhat-related ethical implications.
    1. Not too many years ago, the first (and only) “adult” bookstore in my county had a good-sized billboard put up along a state highway advertising their business using a picture of a scantily-clad dominatrix wielding a whip. I guess someone got tired of explaining the hot pink and black billboard to their children because one dark night the three wooden support poles for the billboard got cut in two, apparently with with a chainsaw, allowing the billboard to fall face-down into the brush. The business got a terse phone call the next day advising them not to put up another billboard. (The outdoor advertising company also got a similar call, advising them not to rent any billboard space to the adult bookstore). There was no more outdoor advertising by this business for several years and, when they did, the new billboard (somewhat smaller than the first one) showed only the business name, address and phone number displayed in black and white, with no accompanying illustrations, and was placed on the business property itself at the edge of their parking lot. I halfway expected the new billboard to meet the same fate as its predecessor, but it has survived nearly a decade now. There was a thorough criminal investigation into the cut-down billboard, but no suspects were ever developed. No evidence other than sawdust was found at the scene and whoever did it was smart enough to keep their mouth(s) shut; even a cash reward offer generated no leads. Most people in the community didn’t care about the business or their billboard.
    2. A few years later, a local realty company put up a very big and gaudy flashing electronic sign (about four by eight feet, about six feet off the ground) in front of their offices in a mixed-use area, on the border of -but not within- a historic zoning district. At night, the bright flashing sign could be seen for many blocks. The realtor rebuffed the appeals from neighbors both inside and outside of the historic neighborhood, and refused to remove (or dim) the sign, which met all local legal requirements at the time.. A lawsuit by area residents was decided in favor of the realtor. A couple of months later, the sign was mangled in the wee hours of the morning by a couple of well-placed shotgun blasts that penetrated only one side of the sign but destroyed all the electronic internals. Again, no evidentiary leads or viable suspects were ever identified during the investigation. Shotgun rounds leave few forensic clues at best, and the spent casings were not found at the scene The realtor eventually replaced the blacked-out sign with a more tasteful, conventional business sign. The city’s sign ordinances were soon revised to prohibit, except in strictly commercial areas, the type of lighted flashing sign that was the subject of this incident. .As in the first incident, few people (outside the real-estate industry) were very concerned about it.
    Now, of course placing both these signs in the first place these acts were, in my opinion, unethical acts, and the destruction of the signs was also obviously unethical in addition to being illegal, but these two incidents illustrate what people will do, even in an extremely law-abiding community like ours, when their ethics alarms get superseded by their perceived need to “balance the books,” so to speak. I see similar “book balancing” intentions in the billboard that is the subject of Jack’s original post. Not ethical, but not unexpected in today’s political climate.

  5. The worst part of that billboard is that it clearly depicts the two shitheads as having shit for their bodies, not their heads. That’s just incompetent cartooning, right there.

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