- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2017


Walmart just pulled a T-shirt from its sales ranks that blasted the message: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Require.”

But why? After all, what’s good for the First Amendment gander is good for the First Amendment goose. Private citizens, privately-run companies have just as many freedoms of speech and expression as members of the media.

A journalism advocacy group convinced the corporation that the shirt was a tad over-the-top.

Walmart had been selling it online through an outside company, Teespring. But that was before members of the Radio Television Digital News Association stepped in and expressed outrage.

“This item was sold by a third-party seller on our marketplace and clearly violates our policy,” Walmart said in a statement, Fox News reported. “We removed it as soon as it was brought to our attention and our conducting a thorough review of the seller’s assortment.”

And RTDNA Executive Director Dan Shelley said he was “grateful” for Walmart’s speedy address of the situation. At the same time — he was “dismayed,” he said, that anyone would “offer such an offensive and inflammatory product” for sale in the first place.

Well, that’s the First Amendment for ya.

It’s meant to protect offensive speech — there’s no need to protect tame, unoffensive speech. And despicable as the message of that T-shirt might be, fact is, journalists ought to be on the side of supporting the rights of those who would sell it. Opposing rings rather hypocritical, yes?

A better approach to show disgust is to take a creative path.

That’s what editor Chris Cobler of the Victoria Advocate in Texas did. He designed shirts that read, “First Amendment. Journalist. Your support required,” and distributed them among his newspaper staff. Much better; much more in line with the spirit of America.

That’s how you fight First Amendment offensiveness — with the exercise of the First Amendment, not with the clampdown of its provisions.

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