Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Man Denied 1st-Amendment Right on Basis of Community Standards

A New Mexico man has been denied his name change because it might offend certain community members.

Free Speech activist, Variable, wished to change his name to Fuck Censorship, but New Mexican officials have decreed the proposed name-change violates local ordinances toward "common decency" and "good taste."

Judge Nan Nash denied Variable's appeal based on these grounds, but noted such legislation can be denied for many reasons which did not come into play in this particular case. And the truth is, The Weirding supports Judge Nan's decision.

This is a case of "FIRE!" in a crowded theater: the concept of "free speech" taken too far. While we fully support Variable's cause and right to petition for the acknowledgment of Freedom of Speech, this guy's original name was Snaphappy Fishsuit Mokiligon.

For fuck's sake.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008


variablast said...

That's the right way to title the article. Unlike the sensationalist presses this gets to the core of the issue. Our ownership of our names is a basic freedom protected under the first amendment. Denying our ability to criticize censorship takes away our freedom of speech. This was a clear Constitutional violation of my rights.

Manodogs said...

Hey man, thanks for dropping-by and speaking-up!

I am following your suit(s) and hope you'll keep us apprised of the situation as it unfolds, but as I mentioned above, while I staunchly defend your right to seek such a name-change, I have to admit, I am opposed to it because I do feel it crosses a (usually) unspoken rule.

The truth is, though neither of us are, some people are offended by your would-be name and since it is an established "dirty word," I believe they have a right to be.

If, OTOH, you wanted to change your name to something someone disagreed with on personal or religious grounds or whatever - something that is far more subjective - I would stand behind you 100%. For example, some may find your current name offensive because they do not feel it "proper" or whatever and obviously, they have a "right" to feel that way, but no right to force you to comply.

However, The Dreaded F-Word is an understood curse word that makes a lot of prudes uncomfortable and since it would be your very name, that would force certain people to use it when they normally would not and others to hear it when they generally avoid situations where it is used.

In this fashion, it goes beyond your rights because it encroaches on others'.

But I wish you all the best in your fight and hope you will keep us informed!

variablast said...

That's not how rights work, sir. I'm not encroaching on other people's rights by choosing my own name.
I'm sorry you feel that way. This seemed worded in a way that I thought you were an ally.
If you don't feel we own our own names, our very identities, then I don't know what I could keep you up to date about that has meaning, besides the vagaries of the courts.
This is a basic freedom, I don't know who owns your name, but I should be allowed to claim ownership over mine.

I actually don't understand your post. First you say "I staunchly defend your right to see such a name-change" then you say a lot of things about people's right to be offended.
I am not infringing on their rights at all. They may be offended or not at the name I've chosen as they please. I, however, have a right to change it to whatever I choose.

Do you think the courts should censor names? Do you think they should censor them based on content? Or is it just surface features, and what you call "prude" concerns that should decide what we are allowed to choose for names?

Thanks for the reply.
Take care.

Manodogs said...

I most certainly am an ally in your cause, I just think this is a poor choice of action.

If, for example, you wanted to change your name to "I. Hate Jesus," then you have every right to do so, but you should expect the court of a predominantly Christian country to say, "The majority of our citizens would take offense to that on [whatever] grounds, so we cannot allow that."

I do not believe the enforcement of community "standards" to be censorship. I would personally be a little taken aback to see a guy walking down the street in assless chaps - unless I was in San Francisco. I would fully expect to see a guy in assless chaps walking down the streets of San Francisco during Pride Week. In no case would it really do much more than shock me, but if it was not SF - specifically SF during Pride Week - and I just so happened to be walking with a lady-friend and her n-year old daughter, I most certainly would be offended!

The community standard here is: it's basically okay to wear assless chaps on the streets of San Francisco, and basically expected during Pride Week (prolly Fleet Week too, I don't know). Not only are people free to wear assless chaps, others do not have a "right" to be offended by it because it is a known, accepted practice within the community.

Just as you have a right to change your name to whatever you wish, others have a right to avoid whatever they find offensive, and while I - and you, and a lot of others - do not find the word, "Fuck," offensive, I hope you are aware of the fact that a large majority of Americans do.

When they go to an R-rated movie, they have no "right" to be offended because they were made aware of the fact that such language would likely be used; if they are walking down the street in Hometown, USA, and they really are offended by overhearing such language, then I believe they have a valid point when they say they expect others not to use that language.

On this latter point, I do not believe people should be punished for such, nor should they be prevented from using such language simply because someone else is offended by it - that's censorship! I do believe those so offended have a right to ask that person to stop doing whatever or even to leave.

This is basically a matter of common sense:

You can say "Fuck censorship" - and basically anything else - in a court of law, on the streets, or at a party; but you shouldn't say it on the streets in front of a school or at a children's party.

All the court is saying here is that they do not sanction your name change; no one can stop you or your friends and colleagues from calling you whatever you wish - and you most certainly have a right to refuse to acknowledge anyone who will not refer to you by what you'd like to be called. And I see their point and, regardless of whether or not I agree with why they feel this way, I agree they have every right to feel so.

Surely you understand that, by allowing you to change your proper name to such, it would force people to refer to you by it in many settings where such language is completely inappropriate. You have every right to use such language in these situations and settings, but by changing your name to such, it would force others to do the same - and that's the very opposite of censorship, but wrong on the very same level.

Further, it would allow all manner of other, specifically more hateful, people to change their names in such a way. This could force people to have to refer to others by such "names" as "I. Hatoll [insert ethnic epithet]s" or "I Luv Banginhorses" and so forth.

But again, I agree with your right to petition the court for such a name change and, it being a court of American law, find it fantastic that (hopefully) some pale-faced, hand-wringing clerk had to read it aloud at least once. Further, no one can prevent you from referring to yourself in any manner you wish, so all the law is saying here is that others do not have to refer to you as "Fuck Censorship."

You are still free to ignore them if they refuse to.

variablast said...

I don't see how you are an ally here. Of course I have the right to petition them. I just don't see why they get to deny my petition. Because you imagine someone will be offended?! That offends me.
Anyway, I have no power over my own official name. That hurts me, and on Independence Day, it makes me not proud to be an American, but ashamed at my weakness in a country that is offended at my very identity.

Manodogs said...

Well, I think the word "Censorship" has been abused to the point where most people do not understand the concept, but - believe it or not - I do appreciate your attempt, here.

Go back to "Fishsuit." I love that name!

Or how about Slappy Mackadoo?

I am also ashamed to be an American, for many reasons, and being the victim of constant police harassment in my current place of residence, I feel we are allied in our interest to see sweeping changes made across the board.

variablast said...


Well, I'd like to move forwards, not backwards. I think you're a good person, and it is a terrible thing that you are harassed. I do wonder what you would do in the judge's shoes.
Do tell me if you would deny the petition, if it was your decision.

This may be one way to get people thinking. It could be very good for America. I'd really appreciate your support. You have a good blog here, and I need public support, or the Supreme Court will ignore the appeal.
I might not be able to convince you that it is wrong to deny someone the name Fuck Censorship!, but maybe you could consider what it is like in my shoes, being unable to express yourself in a way that matters. I really feel my rights are being trampled upon by the court.

Manodogs said...

I'll reserve my remarks until some others have a chance to post, but you definitely have our support! If nothing else, I promise to help get you and your issue at least a little more exposure.

Hopefully, some others will chime-in and let you know their position. At any rate, you have succeeded in this much: opening the doors to more discussion on the matter on censorship vs. community "standards." And for that, I applaud you!