Or to put it another way, Stephen Colbert’s ugly, vulgar and uncivil slur against President Trump may have been unfunny, biased, demeaning to the audience and the network (CBS), and corrosive to political discourse and the culture—it was all of these—but he didn’t violate any regulations or laws.
Yes, it’s always legal to be smug, pandering, hypocritical jerk.
The FCC spokesman confirmed the commission was not launching an investigation regarding the episode in which Colbert broke new ground in gutter language on network TV.For one thing, the “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” is exempt from the FCC’s policies on profanity and indecency because its indecent rules only apply to TV and radio shows airing between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when children are supposedly not in the audience.
That would not save Colbert if his words were judged legally obscene (and thus not protected speech), but Colbert’s comments would not be found obscene under established court standards. Concludes Constitutional law expert (and Supreme Court appointee-in-waiting) Eugene Volokh:
In July 2016, Donald Trump said, in one of his more accurate public statements:
Homicides last year increased by 17% in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent.
In July 2016, “Last year” meant 2015, as absolutely everyone understood. Homicides in D.C. did increase by 54 percent in 2015, from 105 in 2014 to 162. The statement was accurate.
Now, however, it’s 2017. This means that “last year” doesn’t mean 2015 any more, but 2016! Figures on the year just completed show that homicides in D.C. fell in 2016 to 135. Thus the New York Times–you know, that flagship of trustworthy American journalism—through its reporter Emily Badger, decided to “fact-check” that statement by Trump from July, and found that he deceived us. Again. Badger wrote:
“Another end-of-year fact-check, while we’re at it: Mr. Trump claimed during the campaign that the homicide rate in his new home in Washington rose by 50 percent. In fact, it fell by 17 percent in 2016.”
There he goes again! Lying his head off! Citing fake statistics! But trust us, folks, we’ll be right there at the ready for the next four years, so he can’t get away with this constant deception!
Notice how the Times uses “claimed” to imply that Trump was making stuff up. But he wasn’t making stuff up. The Times was making stuff up by “claiming” in this fact-check that Trump misstated the facts, when he did not. He wouldn’t have even been wrong, as Eugene Volokh points out, if he had been comparing 2016 to 2014, the year he was comparing 2015 to in July. The homicide rate in D.C. rose by 28 percent from 2014 to 2016.
‘Trump falsely stated that crime rose in Washington D.C.’ is a lie. It is fake news.
Writes the law professor, using far more restraint than I would (or will):
There’s a lot to be said for not focusing too much on year-to-year changes in homicide statistics, which can be volatile. Even a rise over two years doesn’t tell us that much, though it’s troubling. And we should indeed remember that homicides and other crimes have generally declined sharply from their 1991 peak (though of course we want to be watchful for any reversal of the trend). If the argument is simply in favor of caution about reading too much into yearly statistics, I’m all for that.
But the New York Times “fact-check…” suggests that Trump got his facts wrong (he “claimed” one thing but “in fact” it was something else), and I think it misleads readers into missing the fact that, even counting the 2016 decline, the homicide still rose sharply from the reference year Trump was using — 2014 — to the present.
Halloween costumes, political correctness, law, privacy, and the Niggardly Principles—this one has it all.
Last Halloween, University of Oregon law professor Nancy Shurtz dressed as Dr. Damon Tweedy, the author of Black Men In A White Coat , as an homage to the African American physician and author. She did this at a Halloween party in her own home. Nobody at the party appeared to misunderstand the gesture or the intent of the costume, in part because she could explain it on the spot, and because they knew that Shurtz was no racist. Shurtz had also told the students who were invited that she would be “going as a popular book title,” hence the blackface, Afro wig, white coat, and stethoscope.The university report on the episode states that Shurtz “was inspired by this book and by the author, that she greatly admires [the author] and wanted to honor him, and that she dressed as the book because she finds it reprehensible that there is a shortage of racial diversity, and particularly of black men, in higher education.”
But as always happens now because there is no such thing as a reasonable expectation of privacy even in one’s own home, reports of Shurtz in costume and make-up got out into the campus at large, and inflamed the predictable outrage. The university launched an investigation that culminated in a critical report prepared by an attorney and the university’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity. Shurtz issued an apology—for her private conduct within her own home that was pounced upon by Political Correctness Furies, since she appears to be one herself-–on November 1. Some of her colleagues on the faculty and many students demanded that she resign, and she may have to yet. Shurtz has been censored and suspended, and is now on paid leave. It being claimed that her wearing the costume–within her own home as a gesture that all agreed was intended as benign and that nobody at the party either objected to or failed to understand— created “a hostile environment” at the school. This is apparently because
“as part of the uproar, students said things of which the administration disapproved: The report specifically notes that students used “other offensive racially-based terminology during class times in the context of discussing this event and broader racial issues.” It related that “some of the witnesses reported that the students’ reactions to the event were racially insensitive or divisive.” And it apparently viewed such statements as relevant to whether Shurtz’s own speech was properly punished.”
The report, meanwhile, concludes that the costume constituted “harassment,” and that her intentions are irrelevant.
Writes First Amendment expert Prof. Eugene Volokh: Continue reading