Hey 3.5 readers. BQB here.
Interesting story on FOX news today – there’s an all Asian-American rock band calling themselves “The Slants.” They attempted to trademark their name but were denied by the government on a claim that the term was offensive, racially insensitive etc.
They took their case to the Supreme Court and won. SCOTUS struck down “the disparagement clause” which keeps offensive terms from being trademarked.
(Sidenote: I’m not here to debate whether or not the term “slant” when used in reference to an Asian is offensive. A) it is but B) the issue isn’t whether or not the term is or isn’t but whether or not the government can tell a band they aren’t allowed to name themselves that.)
I’m a free speech purist, so I side with “The Slants” on this. In theory, it may sound great to give the government the power to censor “offensive speech” but offense is in the eye of the offended and once you give the government an inch of power they’ll take a mile of it. Today they’re censoring inappropriate rock band names, tomorrow they will censor political speech as offensive – i.e. “I think Candidate X is wrong on such and such issue” might be deemed offensive and you’d be tossed in the hoosegow for voicing your political beliefs.
Thus, when it comes to free speech purism, you have to rely on the “marketplace of ideas” to sort things out. “The Slants” may have come up with a clever marketing gimmick to get themselves some play in the short term. Hell, even I’m not really a fan of using the term “slant” – maybe I’ll have to start calling them “That Asian-American Rock Band” or something. At any rate, if they want any long lasting staying power, they will have to churn out some super catchy tunes or else the people will vote with their ears.
That’s how this all works, people. That dude on the street corner wearing a sandwich board that reads “Hitler is My BFF” and ringing a bell gets to do that under the law and that’s the price we all pay to be able to speak our own minds.
Don’t worry about that hypothetical guy with the sandwich board. The free marketplace of ideas will be regulate him. He won’t be invited to any fancy dinner parties or getting any positions of power anytime soon. Let the people decide what speech gets you where, but don’t let the government start picking and choosing who gets to say what. In the short term, it may spare your ears from having to hear things you don’t want to hear but in the long run, it will eventually lead to you not being able to say what you want to say.
Sidenote – I’d be curious if “NWA” ever had any trademark issues or did they solve the issue by just calling themselves “NWA” and leaving it to the public to figure out what that stood for? (FYI millenials, I’m not telling you what it stands for.)