Dishonorable Mentions

Those who just missed earning Muzzle Awards
By DAN KENNEDY  |  June 28, 2006

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STOP SNITCHIN': The fuss over the now-infamous T-shirts was enough to get Mayor Menino a mention here.
There is no higher First Amendment ideal than the right of protest. But when protest is aimed at intimidating someone else into not exercising his or her own First Amendment rights, then surely that’s worth a Dishonorable Mention. Take, for instance, Brian Camenker, a two-fer. Last July, the veteran anti-gay activist claimed victory when Clear Channel responded to his complaints by taking down billboards advertising the news-and-dating Web site Gay.com. Earlier this month, Camenker was back. After he and his organization, MassResistance, protested, Macy’s removed a Gay Pride display featuring two male mannequins from its Downtown Crossing store. Macy’s later apologized and claimed its self-censorship had nothing to do with MassResistance. Camenker took credit anyway.

• Like Camenker, David Parker is an outspoken anti-gay activist. Parker has challenged the school system in Lexington, where he lives, over its insistence on teaching impressionable young children that gay men and lesbians not only exist but have families. Imagine that. Now Parker is the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit aimed at stamping out gay-friendly themes in the public schools — thus depriving students, parents, and teachers of their own First Amendment rights.

• Cameron Walker didn’t show much sense last fall when he posted messages on Facebook.com blasting a campus police officer he didn’t like — especially when he wrote that the officer “needs to be eliminated.” But surely Fisher College overreacted by expelling Walker, who had been the president of the college’s student government. The context was clear that by “eliminated,” Walker meant “fired” — not, well, you know.

• Newspapers are supposed to be bastions of free speech. So what was Bill Ketter, editor in chief of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, thinking? Last July, Ketter suspended editorial-page editor Ken Johnson for questioning an edict ordering reporters to refrain from identifying criminal suspects by race. Johnson got three days off for writing an e-mail arguing that the policy was “so much wrong-headed PC nonsense,” and asking how one might refer to the racially motivated 1998 East Texas murder of James Byrd. (A second staffer was also suspended for writing an e-mail that, unlike Johnson’s, indulged in some crude racial humor.) Ketter, in a message to staff members, defended the new policy, writing, “PC has nothing to do with it. Being responsible and fair has everything to do with it.” Unfortunately, Johnson was treated neither responsibly nor fairly.

• Boston mayor Tom Menino is understandably worried about a street culture in which those who witness violent crime are intimidated into not reporting it. But His Honor stepped way over the line last December when he vowed to send city inspectors into stores in order to seize T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase STOP SNITCHIN’. “We are going into every retail store that sells the shirts and remove them,” Menino said. The mayor soon backed down, asking store owners to stop selling the shirts voluntarily. But anyone who continues to carry them knows he or she is on the wrong side of City Hall — which, when you think about it, is pretty intimidating in its own right.

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  Topics: Media -- Dont Quote Me , Politics, Domestic Policy, Political Policy,  More more >
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