Sunday, October 30, 2011

Has Freedom of Speech Gone Too Far in the U.S.?

Moms think marijuana candy has crossed the line.
If you are an American, you live in one of the best countries in the world ... a country characterized by personal freedoms that extend beyond those offered in just about any other place you could call home.

But, there are times those liberties extend a bit further than some people desire. Take the Freedom of Speech guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, for example. While we raise our children espousing the virtues of freedom of speech in our nation's classrooms, are there times when people push the line on these liberties?

Recently, candy shaped like marijuana has been showing up on store shelves across the country. These candies are marketed under names like, "The Pothead Ring Pots," "Pothead Lollipops" and "Pothead Sour Gummy Candy."  A group of Buffalo, NY moms believe that the manufacturer has crossed the line and are questioning whether retailers should be allowed to sell candy shaped like marijuana to children. They allege that illegal substances should not be positioned as something fun for children to eat.

According to Fox News, parents contend that while the candy does not contain anything illegal, "its marijuana leaf, the word "legalize" and a joint-smoking, peace sign-waving user on the packaging is not only in poor taste but an invitation to try the real thing."

This debate conjured up images of the candy cigarettes I had as a child. On the few occasions that we were able to talk mom into buying us a pack, I must admit that I felt pretty grown-up smoking my fake cigarettes. Of course, that was at a time when the dangers of cigarette smoking were only just being exposed; so, one could argue that they were perceived as fairly harmless.
Candy cigarettes
Remember the old Joe Camel cigarette ads? If you're in your 20s or younger, probably not, since the Federal Trade Commission determined in 1997 that the image of Joe Camel was designed to appeal to children under the age of 18 and, thus, violated federal law. Now, the only place you'll rub shoulders with Joe is in antique stores or museums.
Joe Camel ads banned in 1997 by FTC
Or what about this: do you think it's acceptable that pro-rights protesters demonstrate with graphic images of late-term, illegally aborted babies at family fundraising events? Whether you are pro-rights or pro-choice is not the issue here ... should young children be exposed to these images? And, from a marketing standpoint, why would you advertise at an event filled with families who obviously chose to bring their babies into the world rather than abort them?
Pro-Life protestors show graphic images of late term abortions.
All of these examples are only made possible because of the innate rights of Americans to exercise Freedom of Speech ... a very special freedom that makes America the Land of Opportunity for millions of new immigrants each year.

What do you think? Do these examples fall comfortably within our Constitutional rights as Americans? Or have they crossed some invisible line that demonstrates we have gone too far as a country? Just how far is too far?

I'd love to hear your opinions.


  1. It's America and it's far from perfect. There are no Edens in this world. Let the laws decide how far is too far, yes?

  2. Yes, agreed Dan. Thanks for commenting!

  3. In ancient Rome, children were privileged to go to the Colosseum and watch some of the most tantalizing violence we've ever known - as a sport. That given, they produced some of the greatest thinkers of all time.

    Through modern psychology, we know that ads have influence, but so does everything else. If one mother tells her 10 year old he can only watch PG movies, and another tells her 10 year old he has no restriction, which one is right? These decisions will probably have an impact on these children, so should an outside party step in?

    Truth is relative when discussing such topics. People are influenced in different ways, so the "truth" is not "self-evident."

    The beautiful thing about our Constitution is that it allows for truths to be relative that aren't self-evident. This is the freedom of the states - granted through the 10th amendment.

    People draw their own lines on these subjects. That's freedom.

  4. Great commentary Noah. I'm happy this blog encouraged you to think and to share your thoughts. It's nice to know that I'm not the only contemplative thinker out there!

  5. How prophetic your comments were, in light of the anti-Islamic movie and the horrible acts it has sparked. As a Christian and an American, I am shocked by the violence against our embassies and citizens. Yet, I am also dismayed that we have allowed freedom of speech to extend to what amounts as hate crimes. We need to clean our act up. And, Noah, of course it's subjective. But we aren't allowed to call people of color Niggers on TV and we're not allowed to walk around with Nazi flags shouting anti-semitic statements. So why are do we allow the making of such a hate filled movie? Why have we allowed pornography to grow to become such a huge industry? (The maker of the film "Innocence of Muslims" is a soft core porn producer - that is not shocking)
    Children were "privileged" to go the Colosseum? That's like saying cracker kids from Alabama were privileged when their parents took them to see lynchings. Some truths aren't relative. Some are absolute. Killing is absolute. And those acts which lead to such violence need to be held in check. The framers of our Constitution didn't want freedom of speech so that porn and hate films could be made. They would have banned such filth as it does nothing to lift us up, to make us a better society. That is what the framers wanted for all of us. Contemplative, Sue? I think not. Too many Americans are hiding behind the freedom of speech to profit, to remain lazy, to live a selfish life. Immanuel Kant wrote that: "For a will to be considered "free", we must understand it as capable of affecting causal power without being caused to do so. But the idea of lawless free will, that is, a will acting without any causal structure, is incomprehensible. Therefore, a free will must be acting under laws that it gives to itself." - wiki
    So, as Dan Perez said, let the law prevail. But let's tighten them up, because the natives can no longer control themselves. Thanks for listening.

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