There’s a long and storied tradition of mocking politicians, one that can be traced back to doubtlessly as long as they’ve been in office. However, one Georgia lawmaker wants to put the kibosh on a very specific type of satire: Putting someone else into an obscene image.
Representative Earnest Smith (D – Augusta) co-sponsored a bill that would make it illegal when someone “causes an unknowing person wrongfully to be identified as the person in an obscene depiction.” The law would impose a $1,000 fine or up to a year in prison for people who violated it — and as I’m sure you can imagine, the internet response was predictable.
Talking to Fox News, Smith said “everyone has a right to privacy. No one has a right to make fun of anyone. It’s not a First Amendment right.”
While decades of obscenity trials will doubtless point to the fact that the government certainly is allowed to prevent the sale of certain materials, I’m pretty sure the resounding mocking of politicians falls outside of those bounds. Political humor has long been pushing the boundaries of good taste, and satire — even if distasteful — is still protected speech.
Smith has now found himself on the receiving end of the Streisand Effect, with this topic being covered widely and humorously all across the internet. While the law seems to have started as an anti-bullying measure, it has now ballooned into the skewering of someone who is seen as attempting to limit free speech.