Sadly, but not unexpectedly, politicians rushed in to save the day and trampled over the Constitution to get to the side of the grieving mother. Even more sad was that one of those was State Senator Mark Schauer who obviously is trying to prove that he's no liberal and that he can restrict free speech as good as any Republican. As you may know Schauer has announced he is taking on radical right wing nut Tim Walberg who sits in the U.S. House of Representatives after beating moderate Republican Joe Schwarz in the GOP primary with lots of money from out-of-district special interest right wing groups like Club for Growth. Schauer is a well-liked moderate Democrat who has built his career on community and constituent service who would be an obvious improvement over the radical idealogue he seeks to replace.
Schauer has co-sponsored a bill which would make it illegal to make a profit using someone's name or image without their permission.
Obviously, one feels for ALL the mothers who've lost their sons and daughters in a war most Americans think was a mistake, but this bill is so obviously and deeply flawed that it should never even be considered by the legislature. However, if our current political system one has to wonder if even one politician will be willing to stand up and do what's right and vote this thing down if it makes it to a vote.
"No one should be allowed to make a buck by exploiting the name and image of someone else, particularly someone who has fought and died for this country," Schauer said in a statement released by his office.
"This measure will prevent greedy profiteers from taking advantage of people and protect the identities and reputations of private citizens."
I was reminded of this controversy when reading the letter column of a national magazine which, in its year end issue, had published the names and photos of American soldiers who died in Iraq in 2007. There was no anti-war message or "exploitation" but one could reasonably argue that publishing those photos would have violated the law proposed by Schauer and others. After all, when someone paid for that magazine, doesn't that mean they profited from the publication of the names and photos? Or does the proposed bill only apply to those who oppose the war?
This bill would open a can of legal worms that I almost can't even wrap my head around: would news broadcasts be forbidden from naming the soldiers who've been killed in the war until they get permission to do so? Obviously, this would even extend far beyond just the debate over the war as many works of journalism, art and literature are based on using people's name or likenesses. Often, it's often simply impossible to get permission from everyone pictured in a news story, a documentary film or even a t-shirt. One can imagine numerous examples where the participants would obviously be unwilling to give permission even though the now-outlawed activity might serve a vital interest. I for one would argue that political expression is a vital interest and the impact of the anti-war shirt would be muted considerable if it didn't contain the names of the REAL people that died in a war that someone believes was started because "Bush Lied."
While many people see nothing more than a grieving mother, I think there's more to it. Sadly, this seems like just a back door way for someone to silence opposition to the war in which their child gave his life. The mother almost admits as much when she says:
"I support my son, and I don't worry about whether I support the war. I support my son, and I support the troops. My son would be upset with this man.""Supporting the troops" has become both a meaningless catch phrase (often used by those who extend their tours of duty but don't see to it they have body armor or adequate health care) as well as a bludgeon with which to crush opposition of the war- all criticism of the Pentagon, the generals, the Commander in Chief, etc. can be said to "hurt the troops." If the war goes badly because it was a dumb war to begin with, or because it was poorly executed, or because the intent was to sow destruction and chaos to destabilize a region in order to maintain control of it's natural resources, no one can ever point this out because one will "demoralize" the troops. One has to wonder how the troops face the bullets and bombs of the enemy if they can't even tolerate a Congressional debate- obviously, it's not the troops who fear the debate but the politicians and war profiteers who fear losing the debate and resort to cheap straw man or bait and switch rhetorical tactics to prop up the unpopular war. How sad that so many can't see through the cheap theatrics used to stifle this important debate.
Lawmakers should quit trying to score cheap political points by caving in on the rights these soldiers are said to be protecting. I worry that Schauer's support of this bill is just yet another sign that too many Democratic politicians are willing to sell out the core principles of the party to curry favor with supposed "moderates." Too bad the mythical moderates are too often turned off by Democrats who pander on important issues instead of standing up for what they believe in and the base of the party is left without anyone to carry their message and the political debate once again drifts further to the right. After all, why should voters send Mark Schauer to Washington if he's going to try to strip us of our right to free speech and to political dissent? We already have Tim Walberg to do that.