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Home Video InTheoryVid VIDEO: CSU Hearing on “Taser this… Bush” Editorial

VIDEO: CSU Hearing on “Taser this… Bush” Editorial

The following hour long video is presented for those that are curious as to how the hearing went instead of those interested in sound bites. I was unable to get the whole hearing filmed due to the battery on my camcorder running out, but I have over an hour of video.

For those that don’t know what this is about, search the web or check out this article: HERE

My Take: It is a 1st amendment issue. This countries media has been weak for so many years, allowing lies to be spread and beholden to its corporate sponsors and political masters in Washington, that I found it refreshing to see my alma matter’s paper actually take a stand against the free speech violation incident in Florida. Why Bush being used as an example in the free speech exercise and not someone else like let’s say Senator Obama? My thoughts are that maybe it is because Bush is the leader of our country during a time when our civil liberties are being taken away and replaced with a police state. To the advertising people who work for the Collegian that are worried about maybe losing over 5% of their advertising income for the year, I say “Freedom of expression isn’t about the bottom dollar, in fact, the media kissing ass for cash is a big reason we have such an ill informed society.” I say those that on campus that actually read the paper and believe that it was free speech should boycott those companies that pulled advertising.

What are your thoughts?

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8 Comments  comments 

8 Responses

  1. Ben

    Your take: “It is a 1st amendment issue.”

    My take: Read that amendment again.

    They can be fired for this. If they broke a contract, they can suffer severe consequences for this.

    However, the first amendment protects them from being arrested if, in a public arena, they say these things.

    But an employer can fire them. The first amendment doesn’t protect that. It says CONGRESS can’t make a law that would punish them. An EMPLOYER can fire them, however.

  2. Ben,

    When I wrote my post in the middle of the night as I awaited the video to encode I had been meaning to put in “It is a freedom of speech issue…”

    The laws of our country and Western civilization are based on precedence of prior court cases. Freedom of the press and speech has grown as ideals in America.

    The Collegian is an semi-independent paper with oversight from the school through the board that is reviewing this matter.

    I agree that if you violate a contract you can be fired. However the bylaws of the paper have conflicting parts as to obscenities being used in the paper.

    The Collegian is tied to CSU on many levels though not directly. The board that is reviewing and the professors that hire the Editor-in-Chief as examples. Though the connection is not direct, it is there. If McSwane is fired and he sues, are you guaranteeing that he wouldn’t have a case that he could win in court based on the first amendment? I think he would win that case, but I’m not a lawyer.

  3. Ben

    He couldn’t win.

    The courts would probably not throw the case out immediately, but he wouldn’t win.

    He’d have to have a LAW to support his case. And I know of no such law.

  4. From Saturday’s Coloradoan:
    Lawsuit looms as Collegian hearing proceeds
    Mike Hiestand, a Washington state-based attorney and legal consultant with the Virginia-based Student Press Law Center, said McSwane’s legal position is strong either way. He said that even if the BSC decided to fire McSwane over lost advertising revenue, that would still violate the explicit freedoms set out in the First Amendment.

    “The First Amendment is very clear on this. Neither school officials nor the communications board – which includes representatives of the university – can lawfully remove a student editor for reasons related to content,” Hiestand said. “The speech here is protected, and the board cannot legally remove Mr. McSwane simply because members of the CSU community complain about it.”

    Hiestand said things might be different if the university or the paper were private, but they aren’t.

    “The courts have said that student editors are responsible for determining student content. School officials can play no part … in controlling or manipulating the content of the publication,” he said. “Otherwise you’d end up in a popularity contest and print only the things that make people happy.”


  5. nerdbert

    You might want to check out the case of the OSU Lantern in ’91 when OSU fired or accepted the resignations of 2/3s of their student editors after demanding prior restraint of materials to be published, something normally forbidden by various Supreme Court decisions. OSU won that one since it was a laboratory newspaper published by the University. Essentially, the editors were working for college credit on a newspaper staff as was required for graduation.

    It’s all very dependent on how the newspaper’s relationship to the state university is structured so I wouldn’t be too hasty to say the students can win something like this. It’s gone the other way before.

  6. Kevin

    you know of know law cause you have never read the constitution.
    The First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    Now the important parts of this are obvious. The no abridging of freedom of speech AND the freedom of the press. Now i am no constitutional lawyer, but i am pretty sure that i could win a case for him having the right to do what he did WITHIN the limits of the bylaws.

    And since you cant argue the he doesnt have a right to do it, then you are clearly wrong based on the Constitution of the United States.

    That means you are upset about him saying ” FUCK BUSH”. But if you try to defend the actions and words of our president then you must have you head in the ground. He has trashed the Constitution and invaded TWO countries, the second of which had nothing to do with 9-11 or was any threat to us.

  7. I found this letter posted over at the Rocky Mountain Chronicle’s blog (http://rmholla.blogspot.com/)

    Well written and sets out legal arguments and cases that support the 1st amendment and how it relates to the editorial. Check out thefire.org for more information about this non-profit group whose mission is “he mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.”

    Now the letter they wrote:

    October 3, 2007

    James Landers
    Interim President, Board of Student Communications
    C225 Andrew G. Clark Building
    Colorado State University
    Fort Collins, CO 80523

    Sent via U.S. Mail and Facsimile (970-491-2908)

    Dear Dr. Landers:

    As you can see from our list of Directors and Board of Advisors, FIRE unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, due process, legal equality, voluntary association, freedom of speech, and religious liberty on America’s college campuses. Our web page, http://www.thefire.org, will give you a greater sense of our identity and activities.

    FIRE is deeply concerned about the decision of Colorado State University’s Board of Student Communications to hold a formal hearing on charges against J. David McSwane, editor-in-chief of The Rocky Mountain Collegian, for a constitutionally protected staff editorial printed on September 21, 2007. The editorial reads, “Taser this…FUCK BUSH.”

    In his September 21, 2007, statement in response to the editorial, President Larry Edward Penley correctly noted that “Colorado State, as a state institution, is prohibited by law from censoring or regulating the content of its student media publication” (emphasis in original). Indeed, as a public institution of higher learning, Colorado State University and its Board of Student Communications have a constitutional obligation to uphold students’ First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press. President Penley also noted that Colorado State University’s Board of Student Communications derives its authority directly from the university:

    The Board of Student Communications has the authority – granted by the Board of Governors of the Colorado State University System – to hear any and all grievances and complaints related to student media operations and performance.

    The Board of Student Communications (BSC) is thus equally prohibited by the U.S. Constitution from punishing McSwane simply because the Collegian printed “profane and vulgar words” in an editorial. Although the BSC has the authority to “remove from office” the head of a student publication, that authority must be exercised within the clear parameters of constitutional obligation. Colorado State University may not perform an end-run around its First Amendment responsibilities by delegating its authority to the BSC and then suggesting that the BSC may remove McSwane from office because of his publication’s protected speech.

    Moreover, the BSC’s own bylaws state that it has the responsibility to “assure students’ First Amendment rights are protected.” But the language restrictions on student media, given at length in the BSC bylaws, are plainly unconstitutional. The threat of punishment for constitutionally protected speech likely prevents many ideas from ever appearing in student media. This is known as a “chilling effect” on free speech, and it is something the First Amendment abhors. Even when protesters’ expression is coarse or vitriolic, CSU and the BSC are constitutionally and morally bound to protect it.

    Let us be clear that while the content in question—an editorial containing an expletive—might offend members of the campus community, it is unquestionably protected expression under the First Amendment. The principle of freedom of speech does not exist to protect only non-controversial speech; indeed, it exists precisely to protect speech that some members of a community may find controversial or “offensive.” The Supreme Court stated in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989) that “[i]f there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Similarly, the Court wrote in Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri, 410 U.S. 667, 670 (1973) that “the mere dissemination of ideas—no matter how offensive to good taste—on a state university campus may not be shut off in the name alone of ‘conventions of decency.’”

    Editorial comments about political figures—even when they include “offensive” language—comprise the core of our country’s honored tradition of political dialogue. The landmark Supreme Court cases Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971) and Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988) clearly protect—as core political speech—shocking or deeply offensive material, farce, profanity, and exaggeration, and they confirm the essential role of parody, satire and hyperbole precisely because such rhetorical instruments effectively challenge readers’ deepest assumptions and beliefs. No campus that claims to take seriously the free speech rights of students may retaliate against students or a student publication because others on campus felt offended by fully protected speech.

    Further, a public university such as Colorado State cannot lawfully ban “four-letter words,” no matter how offensive some may find them. In Cohen, for example, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a man for wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words “Fuck the Draft” into a county courthouse. The Court held that the message on Cohen’s jacket, however vulgar, was protected speech, writing that “one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.” In Papish, the Court determined that a student newspaper article entitled “Motherfucker Acquitted” was constitutionally protected speech. Indeed, the Supreme Court has held that the Constitution protects many kinds of expression arguably much more offensive than what was printed in the Collegian editorial. For example, in Hustler v. Falwell, the Court ruled that the First Amendment protected a cartoon suggesting that the Reverend Jerry Falwell lost his virginity in a drunken encounter with his mother in an outhouse. Under these standards, there can be no question that the Collegian’s speech is protected by the First Amendment.

    We hope to see this matter resolved with respect for the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Because of the urgency of this situation and the continuing investigation of David McSwane, please respond to us by Wednesday, October 10, 2007.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


    Adam Kissel

  8. David McSwane was not fired. Click on the Media catagory above or go to the front page of intheory.tv to see my latest post with links.

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