Victory! The Slants Are Officially Rock Stars of the First Amendment

The Supreme Court today struck down portions of the Lanham Act, a 1946 federal trademark law that allowed the government to deny “offensive” trademarks as a violation of trademark holders’ free speech rights. Agreeing with arguments made by the ACLU in its brief to the court, the justices held that the First Amendment prevents the government from withholding a substantial government benefit just because it doesn’t like what you have to say.

The court’s ruling makes a second, less formal determination: The Chinatown dance-rock band The Slants are the new poster children for the First Amendment.

The justices unanimously agreed that The Slants’ First Amendment rights were violated when the government claimed the right to control their speech in exchange for offering a trademark. The opinion warns against government moves to “silence or muffle the expression of disfavored viewpoints.” Fortunately, the risk of that kind of broad censorship is much lower after today’s decision.

The Slants chose their name to reclaim and redeem a racial slur often used against Asians and Asian-Americans.

Years ago, The Slants applied for a registered trademark, a massive financial benefit handed out by the federal Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). For any band with an aspirational following, a registered trademark means a lot: the right to brand yourself — and your products — with an expression of your choosing and a strong right to enforce your claim against fakers and counterfeiters. That makes the registration of trademarks a substantial government benefit. And if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the government can’t hand out benefits based on how much it agrees with the views you express.

There is absolutely no doubt that this particular trademark expresses a very clear message: The Slants chose their name to reclaim and redeem a racial slur often used against Asians and Asian-Americans. After they applied for the registration, the PTO examiner handling their application denied them a trademark — after Googling the band and discovering it was made up of Asian-American rockers. He thus determined that the band was using “slant” as a slur and denied their application under the Lanham Act.

That was censorship, pure and simple.

The Lanham Act is a federal law that — until today — permitted the government to deny registered trademarks determined to be “disparag[ing],” or otherwise “offensive” or “immoral” to a “substantial composite” of an affected group. And despite the fact that the members of the Slants are themselves part of the “affected group” in question, the PTO found the name too offensive for a registered trademark.

The Slants weren’t satisfied with that decision. And like the rock stars they are, they didn’t take it lying down. The band appealed the PTO’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where we filed an amicus brief and provided oral argument to the court on the glaring First Amendment problems with the Lanham Act. The band — and the First Amendment — won. But the federal government appealed to the Supreme Court.

Watch: The Slants Perform at the ACLU

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And thank goodness it did!

Today the Supreme Court affirmed a core value of free speech: The government cannot withhold a benefit in order to limit or punish what it perceives to be offensive speech. And hopefully today’s decision will put a stop to the absurd practice of PTO examiners acting as formal speech police, Googling people to find out if they’re the “right kind” to receive a government benefit.

As with many things under the First Amendment, this decision may lead to uncomfortable results: Products with truly racist or sexist names will (continue to) appear on shelves and a certain Washington football team now undoubtedly gets to retain its own offensive team name, which lost its trademark in 2014 in a decision upheld by lower courts.

Let’s be clear: Unlike in the Slants’ case, there is no cultural reappropriation going on with the NFL team. But there’s no way to lawfully censor speech that offends us without allowing the government the power to censor speech that offends anyone — including The Slants’ band name. When we object to ideas that appear in our marketplace, the default response shouldn’t be to sweep them under a rug and pretend that they aren’t there, but rather call them out, boycott companies that make products that offend us, and ensure our spending reflects our values.

Censorship doesn’t just violate the First Amendment — it often doesn’t produce its intended results. As many activists who lived through the civil rights era, or protested in the streets just this past year, could tell you: Restrictions on free speech are often applied most stringently against groups trying to challenge the status quo.

The Slants are no exception. Decades of history have taught the ACLU that freedom of speech and racial justice are inseparable. And The Slants are now officially rock stars of both.

The ACLU’s brief on behalf of The Slants' First Amendment rights was filed along with the ACLU of Oregon, the ACLU of the District of Columbia, and a group of racial justice organizations.

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Eli Samuel Goldman

In relation to free speech and free press (the very core and base of our nation's laws: The thing I worry most, however, about some of my fellow *conservative* leaders is their tendency to leak misinformation about people via their followers into mainstream media. Sometimes this misinformation makes its way into popular music, magazines, or books both in the U.S. and abroad. That kind of misinformation could not only be damaging, but become a permanently remembered part of history. People believe what they see in print, long after it comes out to be a rumor, history records it as fact and it becomes a person's legacy. Like all these rumors that world leaders and media personalities abroad who dislike Trump are saying about having positive confirmation that two of our beloved Presidents wives (current as well as former) were common prostitutes. Such rumors (although allowed by free speech) might become well documented (alternative) facts. It bothers me deeply. Though some seem quite convincing. Like the rumor that Eric Trump had two former gay lovers leak information about their secret love affair to several foreign media outlets in countries not on good terms with Donald. I found that rumor hard to believe till I was told that Donald, with his homophobic right-wing views suppressed the articles out of shame for his son. Then I realized it did seem likely given Trump's voter-base, and their deep-seated bigoted disdain for the gay community. --If true, I think Eric should hold his head up high with pride, and not fear the judgement of ignorant people. Similarly, I can totally empathize with Trump about his concern with leaked information. When the information got out about Tiffany Trump's brave battle with methamphetamine addiction I was surprised at first. But it does explain her demeanor and her bone thin physique as well as some of her former associations. Frankly such damning and private information, regardless of how well verified by foreign media outs, should not be leaked (if as accurate as purported to be.) ...My best advise to Tiffany Trump on her brave battle with her methamphetamine addiction is to "take it one day at a time." I only hope Trump is not as harsh on his daughter while she struggles with such a difficult battle as he is with other addicts like Tiffany Trump is claimed to be. --Please know, Tiffany, you have the support and encouragement of the American People to get clean one day, and stay clean. :-)

Eli Samuel Goldman

My previous last post about the rumors was an example of what Trump's OWN PEOPLE did to me and others who opposed him. The Trump camp attacks others then discredits those they've attacked. There is likely no leaks that aren't privately-Trump-approved-leaks. It has been my experience here that Trump creates his own *problems* then offers his unconstitutional propositions as a solution. ....On a side note, any time I point out what Trump's supporters do, he end up having thrm drive driving by the "Budweiser" truck on the show as a way of saying "wiser buddy" as if I support him...meaning he can use my complaints about his supporters unethical tactics to either employ them, or proclaim he's being attacked using them when the opposite is true.

Eli Samuel Goldman

In the hypothetical discussion-- (now that I finally remember and figured out that they turned sarcasm of a sleep deprived physically disabled man into forced indentured servitude on a show I didn't know I was on) --using signs on vehicles was discussed. From watching the vehicles in relation to peoples actions the next few days, and what happens in the Trump camp in the coming days after I see the Budweiser truck park nearby I've figured out that it's a sign of Trump approval. Every time I make a negative complaint about his supporters actions, or read something I find an atrocity in history if I see the Budweiser truck the next few days I find out or notice on the internet he took it as a suggestion of an underhanded dirty trick he can use against me, or others who oppose him.

Eli Samuel Goldman

I've learned Trump's whole campaign and life is about dirty tricks and winning at any cost to anyone but him, so no matter what him or his supporters do to me or others, there really isn't any reliable way to fight him as he/they seem to see everything as something to use to their advantage. Ifhe has me harmed or victimized in any way And i speak out about it, he and his group just use what they did to me to play victim themselves to the press, when they're the ones who order the hsrm to be done. If I try to show what Trump has his supporters do he just pretends that is what his opponents are doing to him and uses it as a nonsense excuse to complain about leaks of misinformation Trump himself ordered.

Eli Samuel Goldman

The truth is Donald Trump IS the "conservative leader" that has been "leaking misinformation" to the press and other outlets for years now. He and members of his camp. Remember, Trump is an expert manipulator of media spin and manipulation of people. He's Mr reality TV. Read the stories of what these people put contestants and their families through if they talk to lawyers or online. They literally terrorize people and their whole family. With me they tried to set up crimes for years on end to try get me to commit one and entrap me, or make it seem I did. And that was only one of their tricks. They involved all my Ex's, family and friends misrepresenting each side to pit us against each other and more.

Eli Samuel Goldman

Trump and similar reality TV predators try to entice people, their friends, family, those around them, law enforcement, anyone that will benefit and add controversy to the show...they get them to do wrong if they can and then use it as a blackmail tool over them (threat of exposure, jail time, ruining careers or lives, reputation, etc) and if they cant get them to do wrongs for controversy they make it look/sound like they did or said wrongs or get others to attck them in some way, so they in turn retaliate or defend themselves by telling the other partys secrets. All to create an atmosphere of animosity and hate between groups and people. That's what they did with me and my lovedones, and what they did with the American people during the election. Possibly even how Trump got members of the GOP in his pocket. It's how he got Monica. ...Then they offer you a reward or keep terrorizing you nomatter where you go and discredit you till you break. They also withold whatever information they can to keep you from taking any legal action and of course edit/misapply and twist your word so everyone hates you and attacks/abused you till you hate them back. They also research any weakness you have and use it against you.if you've been the victim of racism by Christians they have Christians act racist. If your a woman who has been violently raped they make you think you'll be violently raped. If your a drug or alcohol addict they have you offered real drugs 30+ times a day every day till you get wasted. If you are promiscuious when drunk they have a group gang bang you after getting you drunk then use the fact youre on drugs and cheated to blackmail you with threat of police and ruining your relatíonship to keep you whoring yourself out. That's how Trump had Monica Jo Moore whored out. The show blackmailed her, and got her to have such low self esteem for the wrongs she committed to save herself that she became destructive and cruelly mean....The man who does this is the sick monster we now have as president of the United States.

Eli Samuel Goldman

I watched them get hundreds of people to commit real crimes thinking it's a show and not real or that they have immunity from prosecution, or repercussions. Then if the person tells anyone what goes on in the show their life gets ruined. I'm fairly sure they even did this with the judge David Smith, lawyers and law enforcement. If they keep their mouth shut they get money, can steal, commit adultery, do drugs, anything they want...if they tell they face dire consequences. The problem they had with me is they couldn't get me to do any wrongs or cooperate. I watched everyone else around me commit every crime I can think of for years now and refused to incriminate myself.. So I became a threat. They used many people to bribe me to shut up (e.g. Richard Harrington who raped Monika with others then told me she was a "real screamer," etc) but I wouldn't shut up so they spent years having people destroy or make me loose everything I care about (my health, family, posessions, good name, safety, clean record [tried to have me falsely arrested hundreds of times] in an attempt to shut me up. But I refused and still do. This is how the show does what it does and get away with it all. Essentially they try to find your weakness and exploit it. If you fear loosing family they arrange for you to loose family. Then let you know "everything will be OK if you cooperate" They'll even fulfill your fantasies if you do. If you always wanted to be with identical twins who bellydance they'll arrange it...otherwise they'll destroy you in any way they can if you become a threat by speaking out. They also try to communicate by no direct verbal means as much as possible, that way they cannot be held accountable for their actions in a court. Signs, people telling stories seemingly about themselves or others they know, whispered messages that can be interpreted later to have a different meaning out of time/context etc. I wouldn't be surprised if Trump has dirt on a great many people in the GOP and even setup scenarios that will ruin their careers or marriage or life if they don't side with him. It's how he and they operate.

Eli Samuel Goldman

From what I've seen they manage to coerce most people into crime or cheating, or violating the rules of their job, drugs, drunk driving, sex with a minor, stealing, discover dirt on them,male them hate and then assault/batter you, create a fear, appeal to their greed, racism, insecurities or something. I seem to be the extreme exception so far. Many people will just do anything they text or ask them to do to be seen on this damn show, sadly.

Eli Samuel Goldman

I wasn't mistaken about the show likely being responsible for my fathers death. I think it's most likely given what I've experienced all these years. If you have a weak heart or a pacemaker and a character in the show fears you dying, they'll arrange for circumstances so you're under/over medicated or terrified so you have heart failure, if they think it'll add suspense to the show. These people are that sadistic and far out there. I've seen/experienced them do things every bit as bad through the course of my years on the show. This is why for the time ive now known I'm on a reality show of some kind (since the start of the election) I've advocated for legislation to regulate reality shows (though perhaps they edited that out) Union membership in SAG and attorneys for reality show cast members, and minimum scale pay. This thing has been so out of control immoral/illegal as to seem like I'm in an alternate world overlapping the normal Oklahoma. The things they do on this show would normally fill a prison with inmates and the people running the show would be in prison for life. Hence why I guessed based on clues early in the election that it is a Trump production. And since then there has been thousands of clues giving no doubt Donald Trump is involved.


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