Ad Blockers

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Today a federal judge in Washington is scheduled to hear arguments against the congressional ban on mass-transit ads that criticize the war on drugs. In a striking example of drug warriors' disregard for civil liberties, the law authorizing transportation spending for 2004 threatens to withhold federal funds from transit authorities that accept ads promoting "the legalization or medical use of any substance listed in Schedule I…of the Controlled Substances Act." In February that threat led the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to reject an anti-drug-war ad submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union, Change the Climate, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the Marijuana Policy Project. Those groups are seeking to overturn the ban on First Amendment grounds. That should not be hard, since this is a clear case of discrimination based not just on content but on viewpoint.

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  1. Sorry for the double post. I thought the first one hadn’t gone through.

  2. Comparing Ashcroft to a noxious gas is a particularly apt analogy. Comparing him to a Nazi is particularly thick-headed. He’s a pig who clearly has no respect for the constitution, but he isn’t exactly guilty of genocide or executing political adversaries. Mark, why don’t you go hang out at moveon.org or something. They seem to appreciate Nazi analogies.

  3. Federal courts have held that a transit system’s ad space amounts to a “designated public forum” if the authority accepts messages on controversial topics. If it accepts anti-abortion ads, for example, it has to accept ads that support abortion rights. In this case, the federal government is demanding that transit authorities reject ads opposing the war on drugs even as they accept ads supporting it–e.g. those sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy or private prohibitionist groups. (In fact, as Mark S. notes, prior to to the federal ban the WMATA had been accepting Change the Climate messages, which is what provoked the funding provision in the first place.) If a transit authority had a general policy of rejecting political ads, that would be a different matter.

    I discuss the First Amendment issue in these columns:

    https://reason.com/sullum/092600.shtml

    https://reason.com/sullum/020102.shtml

    https://www.reason.com/sullum/022004.shtml

  4. That John Ashcroft isn’t guilty of genocide or executing political adversaries proves nothing. At one time, the Nazis weren’t guilty of those things either.

    One of the reasonable uses of Nazi comparisons is to use that history to raise a warning, i.e. “Ashcroft may not be killing his enemies now, but he appears to be following the same dark path as the Nazis.” Whether this is true is another matter.

    Most times, the real problem with playing the Nazi card is that without some background and explanation, it’s just lazy theatrics: Name calling in lieu of actual argument. Those folks with “Bush=Hitler” signs aren’t making an argument.

    In any case—and this is another reason for Godwin’s Law—the Nazis were evil because of the things they did, not the other way around. If people are doing evil things now, they’re evil regardless of whether or not the Nazis did the same thing.

    You shouldn’t need to bring up the Nazis to explain why elected legislative bodies should not try to prohibit the people from discussing the merits of the law.

  5. Too bad Rush Limbaugh fans don’t consider Godwin’s Law when spouting off about Femi-Nazis.

  6. “The only possible explanation for that is that you are pathetically ignorant of the entirety of human history, as well of the policies of most of the world’s governments.”

    No, it’s because I’m fed up with dealing with a side of the political spectrum who thinks that every aspect of my life is subject to their approval. I am well aware of what the Nazi’s did, and I’m well aware of what the GOP has done and wants to do socially. Therefore, when I use the term “Republi-Nazi” it’s only because I’m beginning to fail to see any real difference anymore.

    However, as I read this particular thread and think about “Godwin’s Law,” I’m beginning to think that the only people who ar losing the argument over these pro-marijuana ads are the ones who compelled to change the subject of my usage of the term “Nazi.”

    Let’s get back to the topic at hand, or shut the fuck up.

  7. “You shouldn’t need to bring up the Nazis to explain why elected legislative bodies should not try to prohibit the people from discussing the merits of the law.”

    I’m sorry, but there is no justification for this sort of censorship in a society that calls itself “free.” This is totalitarianism, pure and simple, and as long as that is so then the allusions to totalitarians people and movements of the past (Hitler, Nazis, Stalin, Communists, whatever) are valid.

  8. I’m sorry, but there is no justification for this sort of censorship in a society that calls itself “free.”

    There’s no justification for public transportation in a country that calls itself “free”.

  9. I am well aware of what the Nazi’s did, and I’m well aware of what the GOP has done and wants to do socially. Therefore, when I use the term “Republi-Nazi” it’s only because I’m beginning to fail to see any real difference anymore.

    Let me explain the difference to you in terms even you’ll be able to understand:

    Under Nazi rule, you’d be a snivelling little shit languishing in a concentration camp.

    Under “Republi-Nazi” rule, you’re a snivelling little shit who suffers no negative governmental effects at all from the free expression of your inane ideas.

    Is the difference clear to you now, dumbass? Comparing Republicans to Nazis is like comparing the man who called your daughter “a cheap tramp in trashy clothes” to the man who raped her to death and ate the corpse.

  10. ‘There’s no justification for public transportation in a country that calls itself “free”.’

    Tax dollars for pavement, good. Tax dollars for steel rails, bad. Got it.

    Jacob, the feds aren’t forbidding the ads. They’re making funding dependent on them. As I understand, the feds can discriminate against viewpoints in their spending. Still First Amendment?

  11. Seriously Mark, the enormity of the Final Solution was so horrific, that every mention of the Nazis is viewed in that light. If your comparison doesn’t stand up on that count, you just come off looking callous or hysterical.

    Yes, there are similarities between Republicans and Nazis, but when you conjure that image, no one’s thinking about their attitudes towards modern art or radio broadcasting.

  12. “Those groups are seeking to overturn the ban on First Amendment grounds. That should not be hard, since this is a clear case of discrimination based not just on content but on viewpoint.”

    Ahhhh, but it also not hard to imagine a judge ruling that the government has a “compelling government interest” to make sure the ads the WMAT allows on their vehicles reflects the laws and policies of the government. Since marajuana is ilegal, running an ad supporting it’s use and legalization undermines the government’s efforts to prosecute the war on drugs and is therefore not protected speech.

    Just because judges (or other government officials) swear to protect and defend the constitution doesn’t mean they will.

  13. Just because judges (or other government officials) swear to protect and defend the constitution doesn’t mean they will.

    Pretty much. At the very least, if the “letter” of the Constitution is not being subverted here, very certainly the “spirit” is.

  14. When did withholding of federal funding amount to a violation of the First Amendment? I am not compelled to fund your free speech, and by extension the vehicle (pun intended) by which you express it, am I?

    By letting the camel of federal spending into the local tent, we let someone else pay for our pleasure — but wait, they get some strings to play with, too. And Ashcroft, like poison gas, will fill every nook and crack in every room he’s released in.

    Being dependent as the District is on the feds, they may deserve some slack. The rest of us don’t.

  15. Take away the drug issue for a moment – are transit systems obligated to accept and display ads for anyone who wants one? They can’t use any guidelines or set any standards for rejecting ads based on viewpoint? They have to accept ads, no matter what?

  16. Eric: Well it seems that the WMAT found the content and viewpoints of the ads perfectly acceptable up to the point when some Republi-Nazi drug warrior decided that HE deemed them unacceptable.

    Transit agencies may not be obligated to take every ad that comes in, as well use “guidlines or set any standards” regarding them. However, when the Feds swoop in and start threatening and arm twisting because the ads don’t support THEIR political agenda, that screams “chilling effect” to me.

  17. Well it seems that the WMAT found the content and viewpoints of the ads perfectly acceptable up to the point when some Republi-Nazi drug warrior decided that HE deemed them unacceptable.

    Republi-Nazi? Are you familiar with Godwin’s Law?

  18. “Republi-Nazi? Are you familiar with Godwin’s Law?”

    Does it help that call the other party “Commie-crats?”

  19. “Republi-Nazi? Are you familiar with Godwin’s Law?”

    Does it help that I call the other party “Commie-crats?”

  20. For what it’s worth, the Supreme Court has ruled, in similar case, that Amtrak is a government organization to the extent that the First Amendment applies, though not for other purposes. That may serve as precedent for this case. However, that will depend on the facts of this case, which I am not overly familiar with.

  21. One more note: I ride the DC metro every day. I never saw an add for sex and pot, but I have seen plenty of propoganda ads slamming PETA. You don’t hear the Republicans bitching about that particular campaign.. the fucking hypocrits.

  22. Geez, get off of Mark S.’s back already. I’ve been a loyal Republican for many years, and it’s going to take some time to get the stink off of me.

    Republicans are strong supporters of the police state.

    Republicans often race-bait to get votes.

    Republicans are against reproductive choice.

    Republicans viciously defend the status quo.

    Republicans make war against peaceful American citizens and imprison them.

    Republicans are beholden to fanatical, oppressive movements (i.e. Fundamentalists)

    Anyone else want to add anything?

    We need to stop making Nazis mythic figures. They were human beings capable of great evil. The Nazis were evil dickheads. Many Republicans are evil dickheads.

  23. DC sucks

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