Radio DJ’s and the 1st Amendment

Xavi Pereda, Managing Editor

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   Listening to radio during a commute seems to be one of the most common forms of passing time while sitting in rush-hour traffic. However two popular bay-area voices have been absent from the radio waves. Two “Shock-Jocks”, Todd “MJ” Schnitt and Todd Clem (also known as Bubba the Love Sponge) faced off in a long courtroom showdown that finally concluded two weeks ago.

   Schnitt was suing Clem for civil defamation after he used multiple derogatory terms while on air, targeting Schnitt’s wife. The judge ruled in favor of Clem, clearing him of all liability last week. Schnitt’s attorneys, livid at the judges’ verdict, clamored for a mistrial on the grounds of misconduct on the side of Clem’s attorneys.

   While the trial may enter a new phase, a simple question remains: Where does freedom of speech cross into defamation?

   Verbal abuse can be a form of domestic violence. Newspapers are libel for what they print, should the information be false. Burning the cross is illegal if used to intimidate members of a community (an action used by the Ku Klux Klan). Yet, Central’s students can go to a sporting venue, and be heckled by opposing fans with little remorse, without consequence.

   In other nations like the United Kingdom, members of the commonwealth can be brought to trial for racial abuse. In one high profile case, English footballer John Terry was brought in for calling a member of an opposing team a derogatory term.

   While up for interpretation, the United States Supreme Court has often been static in its defense of the first amendment. In the past, lawmakers have attempted to make flag-burning illegal. Even this action, clearly protesting the union, is not against the law.

   Legally, Schnitt didn’t win his case. But what he has done is shown the disc-jockeys may not speak as freely as listening audiences may like to think. So be careful next time you scream at the opposing fans at the next football game; you may just end up in court.

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