Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Calling Bushit On The AJC

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

It was 9:30 on a recent Friday night when Denise Grier saw blue lights in her rearview mirror.

"The officer asked if I knew I had a lewd decal on my car and I thought, 'Oh gosh, what did my kids put on my car?' " As it turns out, the decal was an anti-Bush bumper sticker Grier slapped on her 2001 Chrysler Sebring last summer. The bumper sticker — "I'm Tired Of All The BUSH—" — contains an expletive. The officer "said DeKalb had an ordinance about lewd decals and wrote me a ticket" for $100, said Grier, an oncology nurse at Emory University Hospital who lives in Athens.

...."This is all about free speech," Grier said in a telephone interview Monday. "The officer pulled me over because he didn't agree with my politics. That's what this is about, not whether I support Bush, not because of the war in Iraq, but about my right to free speech."....

....Grier, 47, the mother of four grown sons, is due in Recorder's Court on April 18. She has not removed the bumper sticker in question, or six other mostly politically oriented decals on her car. "I used to think that one person could not make a difference," said Grier. "Now I'm beginning to think one person can, and should. We shouldn't be afraid to stand up for what we believe in."

Which, apparently, is the right to display lewd bumper stickers?

Speaking purely personally, if Ms. Grier wants to make a difference, there's...well, lots of ways to do so that actually matter. Like, say, volunteering time for the needy.

But what's interesting (on two levels) isn't Ms. Grier's weird sense of political priorities. It's the fact that 1) the bumper sticker in question apparently isn't "lewd," except in the most schoolmarm-ish sense, and 2) this article reports otherwise, despite supplying the evidence for lack of lewdness.

Here's the bumper sticker:

Get it? It's supposed to look like it says BULLSHIT, but it DOESN'T. It says BUSHIT.


So, the "obscenity" in question isn't actually an obscenity. Now, it may very well be the case that anything resembling an obscenity qualifies as "lewd" under state law. Stranger things have happened. But, still.

More interesting to me is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution treats the word as an expletive, despite providing concrete evidence for us that it is not.

I quote: "
The bumper sticker — "I'm Tired Of All The BUSH—" — contains an expletive." No. It doesn't. There are no "L's" in the word you've excerpted for us, AJC. Just the words "Bush" and "It," mashed together for "comedic" effect. Whether that's funny is, I'd argue, a matter of opinion. Whether it's obscene is, I'd argue more strenuously, not.

So why does the AJC go out of its way to paint it as such?


At 1:40 AM, Blogger RC said...

why does AJC care???

--RC of

At 6:12 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

Hey, RC. Great to have you commenting on Codemorse. Feel free to say whatever you'd like, but please be so kind as to not advertise your site in every post. If people like what you have to say, they'll click your name and visit your blog.

Thanks in advance, and we hope that you'll continue to share your comments.

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

That da__ liber__ media at work again.

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Does anyone here seriously doubt that the media tilts liberal and slants its coverage that way?

I'm actually curious to see whether anyone thinks this is a subject of legitimate debate.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

Loving this, my man. As far as my answer goes: Yea, I seriously doubt it, if only in the sense that I see it as a vast generalization. :)

First, what does "liberal" mean in this context? Does it mean "progressive?" "educated?" "socialist?" "blood-sucking freaks?" It seems like everyone who talks about this liberal slant seems to differ as to what that slant consists of.

Second, I'd argue that, even if portions of the media possess a liberal tilt, they're more than counterbalanced by a thriving right-wing media culture that's, if anything more visible than the liberal propaganda machine.

There's Fox news, Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Michelle Malkin, Jonah Goldberg, Rush Limbaugh, large swathes of CNN, Andrew Sullivan, etc, et al.

Now, does the "left" have counterparts for these guys? Yes, of course. For one thing, it'd be a failure of democracy to have no disagreement in the fourth estate. But saying that the media as a whole is slanted seems a little like saying that the government is corrupt. What does that mean, really?

(Sidethought: Can we get the latest news, or the up to date information on any given subject without the people bringing us that information being exposed to diversity of belief, culture and thought on a minute by minute basis? Isn't the process of cultural exposure a natural equalizer/liberalizer in some sense?)

At 11:04 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

First thing:

1) I could really care less either way, but the obscenity is the use of the word "shit." It would not be worth using if it was merely a collection of "Bush" and "It." It shouldn't come as a surprise that it is considered obscene, when frankly, that is really the whole allure of the message. [Note: My favorite message incorporating the use of the word Bush was caught at my first date with my now fiancee'. A lesbian rock bank kept on shouting throughout their gig, "Lesbians for Bush!" Although they were decidely against our President.

2) I don't know where you get that Chris Matthews or "large swaths of CNN" are conservative. That's news to me.

3) Many Conservative commentators have commented on this, but I'd be willing to bet that any of them would trade Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Andrew Sullivan for ABC (whose producer emails about how George Bush makes him puke), CBS, NBC, CNN, NPR, NY Times, Washington Post, Dan Rather, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Hollywood, University Education. What makes Rush, et al., so popular with so many is that there are so few conservative outlets in what we consider the mainstream media. For those of us from New York, it's sort of hard to spot, but for a large percentage of the country not from New York or San Fransisco, the results are striking.


At 11:46 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Shit is an obscenity. Bushit is not. (My "liberal media" crack was just me being "funny".) The "media" (it's funny to me that anyone can see the media as a hive mind) tilts and slants whatever way that pays the bills. There are liberal outlets, conservative outlets, you can get whatever slant that tickles your fancy.

The fact that she got a ticket for this is just as stupid as a kid getting kicked out of school for carrying in a steak knife.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Ok. Then "FucKerry" isn't an obscenity. Sure sounds like one though.

I mean, I don't think anyone should be punished for it, but we're not supposed to be intentionally ignorant about it by pretending it isn't what it basically is.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Calvin peeing on something is obscene. I'm willing to bet that no one's been pulled for that (in spite of the fact that it's copyright infirngment). Bushit isn't an obscenity any more that FucKerry would be. Yes it is intended to sound like "Bullshit", but if you think that there were no political motives here then you're being "intentionally ignorant".

At 2:30 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

For my part, I don't think I speculated at all as to the officer's motives. For that, I'll rely on the omniscient. If failing to speculate as to the motives of a police officer who is unknown, except for the fact that he's an officer and pulled over the lady for the "Bushit" sticker, is intentionally ignorant, then it is so stipulated.

As far as what qualifies as lewd, I honestly don't know, and am merely ignorant (if only intentionally so because I'm too lazy and/or busy to look up the Georgia statute). It would not surprise me that using a curse word as a decal on your car would qualify as lewd under the Georgia Code. You'd be amazed about what you can't do that you don't know about.

Meanwhile, some legal questions arise: Am I allowed to drive a car around with all sorts of curse words over the car? Can the state stop that? Does it make a difference whether the curse words are placed to interpose a political point of view? These are the interesting sorts of legal questions that are spawned from such an instance.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

From the Gorgia Statute (effective July 1, 2006)

Material is obscene if:
(1) To the average person, applying contemporary community standards, taken as a whole, it predominantly appeals to the prurient interest, that is, a shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sex, or excretion;
(2) The material taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value; and
(3) The material depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined in subparagraphs (A) through (E) of this paragraph:
(A) Acts of sexual intercourse, heterosexual or homosexual, normal or perverted, actual or simulated;
(B) Acts of masturbation;
(C) Acts involving excretory functions or lewd exhibition of the genitals;
(D) Acts of bestiality or the fondling of sex organs of animals; or
(E) Sexual acts of flagellation, torture, or other violence indicating a sadomasochistic sexual relationship.

This doesn't sound obscene based on that statute. Especially if you consider it to have political value in terms of the statement it makes.

While I'm not omniscient, I don't think it's a big leap to see being pulled in a red state by a police officer for having an anti-Bush sticker that could be seen as obscene if you squint as having a basis in politics.

"Am I allowed to drive a car around with all sorts of curse words over the car?"

Probably not.

"Can the state stop that?"

Probably so.

"Does it make a difference whether the curse words are placed to interpose a political point of view?"

It could. Obscene is often not considered obscene if it has serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

I am just guessing at this, but I'm guessing that "lewd" under Georgia law is different than "obscenity."

Obscenity generally deals with things like the zoning of strip clubs. Lewdness generally deals with day to day behavior. I would be surprised if they were found in the same statute or attempting to remedy the same problems.

At 10:40 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

I think Michael's probably right about the difference - which I brought up in my original post - but I agree with Scott's assertion that it isn't obscene. And it's lewd only in the most schoolmarmish sense.

Should I no longer be able to write "Push it" or "pussy cat" in public? Those "contain expletives," but you'd have to be some sort of Puritan pilgrim settler to object to them.

At 8:51 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

All references to the word "lewd" in the GA Statutes regard sexual behavior. "Obscene" covers things scatological in nature so I think obscene applies, but I'm willing ot admit that I could be wrong. I'm not a lawyer or anything even close. I'm just a geek with a search engine (a dangerous combo). ;-)

At 8:51 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

For my part, I'm inclined to say that we should tolerate as much lewdness and obscenity as possible. And I hope we do, because I just got a "Pussy Cat" tat on my back. Oh, who am I kidding...

At 11:12 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

No need for embarrassment, my friend.

I think your tattoo's adorable.


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