Back when the Simpsons occasionally had some funny political commentary; there is a famous clip showing a Christian mother decrying the need to ‘think of the children’. The brouhaha surrounding Patricia Dilascio of Roselle Park, New Jersey chronicled by Jake Dima for the ‘Washington Examiner’ reminds me of that sketch in its logic.
Dima writes that:
‘A New Jersey woman who displayed profanity-laden signs critical of President Joe Biden was ordered by a judge to remove them or face monetary penalties.
Roselle Park Municipal Court Judge Gary Bundy ordered homeowner Patricia Dilascio on Thursday to remove the flags within a week or be subject to $250-per-day fines, though the signs belong to her daughter, Andrea Dick.
The display features the phrases "F*** Biden," "Joe Biden Sucks," "Socialism Sucks, Biden Blows," and "Don't Blame Me I Voted For Trump," among others.
“This is not a case about politics. It is a case, pure and simple, about language,” Bundy said, according to NJ.com. “This ordinance does not restrict political speech. Neither this town or its laws may abridge or eliminate Ms. Dilascio’s freedom of speech. However, freedom of speech is not simply an absolute right. It is clear from state law and statutes that we cannot simply put up the umbrella of the First Amendment and say everything and anything is protected speech.”
Last month, a code enforcement officer issued a violation notice to the home pertaining to a law forbidding “any obscene material, communication or performance or other article or item which is obscene within the Borough."
Before the hearing, Dick refused to remove the signs, citing First Amendment protections, even after receiving a call from the city's mayor Joseph Signorello III, a Democrat.
“It’s been brought to our attention less because of the political aspect of it, but the vulgarity of it,” Signorello said last month. “The real problem is, from a neighbor perspective, is it’s a block away from an elementary school. It’s in a high-visibility area for children. Most of the ire was drawn from a lot of local parents.”
Michael Campagna, an attorney representing Dilascio, argued the move by the judge was akin to "censorship."’
Dilascio has since been ordered to take down the flags by Judge Gary Bundy with a daily fine for non-compliance of $250. Despite denials that this is a political move; it very clearly is since the signs are political speech and are being objected to by politicians such as Joseph Signorello III not by the general public.
The ordinance used to get them taken down concerns regulating ‘obscenity’ which is rather ludicrous precisely because advertising showing nearly nude/nude women for example is commonplace on billboards and the internet, while swearing and the like is regularly heard and seen on television and social media.
Also since when were people being arrested of ‘hurling obscenities’ in New Jersey let alone Roselle Park itself?
This is clearly a political act and whatever you may think of Trump and Biden – not much in either case if you ask me – this is political speech, and the ‘First Amendment’ has to be an absolute right legally-speaking if it is a right at all. This attempt to censor right-wing discourse is merely a return to Comstock Act style smuggling of censorship into political life in the United States.
Now I have nothing against censorship personally as I regard it is a political and intellectual necessity, but if you pretend to be a democracy then you have to have ‘absolute’ free speech as without that then your ‘democracy’… well… isn’t a democracy: is it?