Even jerks have a right to free speech

Even jerks have a right to free speech

by digby

NEW ORLEANS -- There are several political signs attracting all kinds of attention in one Uptown neighborhood.

On Wednesday, crowds gathered at the corner of Calhoun and Coralie streets, looking at several signs depicting President Barack Obama as either a dunce, a puppet or a crying baby in a diaper.

"It disrespects the nation -- and President Barack Obama represents our nation," said Skip Alexander, as he looked at one of the signs. "He represents everybody, not some people."

Dozens of protesters came by the house in the 1500 block of Calhoun throughout the day, demanding the sign come down.

"He wouldn't do that to [President] Bush, I'm sure. It's just insulting. It's insulting," said C.C. Campbell-Rock. "He's going to have to take them down."

"This is nothing put pure racism," said Raymond Rock. "This is a disgrace."

The home is owned by Timothy Reily, who declined to be interviewed about the signs. Former Mayor Ray Nagin showed up at the house and went inside to speak with Reily. He emerged later and would not comment on what they discussed.

Some neighbors tell Eyewitness News that Reily has been putting the signs up for months. Some of the protesters learned about the signs through a local radio station on Wednesday morning.

"He can put up a sign if he wants to. It doesn't bother me," said Harold Gagnet, a neighbor.

"I think it's fine. It's on his property," said Katherine deMontluzin. "He can say whatever he wants."

The signs have created such a firestorm of controversy, though, that police came to the scene-- called in by City Council Member Susan Guidry. She represents the district where the home is located. Guidry said she was concerned about public safety and was trying to figure out if the sign was even legal. She also said she spoke to Reily, but didn't get far.

Of course it's legal. It's explicitly political and that's the most protected speech of all. The idea that any elected official would try to stop him is disturbing.

I don't care for his message, obviously, and the guy is clearly a jerk. But this sort of political illustration is about as traditional All American as it gets:

That's Thomas Nast in 1861, skewering Lincoln.

Here's another one depicting Andrew Jackson hanging John Quincy Adams:

*Obviously, I cannot speak authoritatively as to whether this man's signs are racist, but I honestly don't see it in that poster or the other ones shown at the link. Hugely insulting yes, but it doesn't seem to me that he's used explicitly racist imagery, or anything that wasn't used liberally against many other politicians over the years. Of course, I could be wrong about that.

Update: Apparently I am wrong about that. I'm told that this is a "synthesis of anti-semitism and racism." It's such a mishmash of rightwing shibboleths that I guess I just didn't see the various strands. Soros, of course, is a widely derided figure on the right as both a "jewish money man" and a Nazi. And I guess that Obama being seen as his puppet is an incompetent puppet plays into longstanding racist tropes as well.