A Democratic state representative from Georgia was thrown into the media spotlight on Friday for his strange campaign to make Photoshop a crime if it used inappropriately, Fox News reports.
Meme-makers across the Internet should fear State Rep. Earnest Smith, one of two co-sponsors of a bill that would make it illegal to Photoshop someone into an obscene image. Smith is supporting the measure after he became a victim of (not very good) Photoshop tomfoolery himself. The image Smith is upset over shows his head Photoshopped on a porn star’s body and of course, it went viral.
"No one has a right to make fun of anyone. It’s not a First Amendment right," Smith told Savannah Now, a Georgia news site.
The bill, co-sponsored by Pam Dickerson, would slap a $1,000 fine on anyone who "commits defamation when he or she causes an unknowing person wrongfully to be identified as the person in an obscene depiction."
The bill was first introduced a year ago after a teenage girl became the victim of obscene Photoshopping and the two Democrats decided to support the measure, Fox News reported.
British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail named Andre Walker as Smith’s Photoshopper. "Rep. Smith needs to grow some thick skin if he’s going to be an elected official," Walker wrote on his blog."Trust me when I say the altered photograph shown above was not the worst I could have done.
"I pasted a picture of Smith’s head onto the body of a male porn star," Walker added. "The first Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects all forms of speech, not just spoken word. It attempts to regulate speech and I doubt it would stand up in a court of law. I cannot believe Rep. Earnest Smith thinks I’m insulting him by putting his head on the body of a well-built porn star." Walker made a similar Photoshop image of Dickerson.
Web Piles on Smith
Apparently, a lot of people agree with Walker that the First Amendment actually allows citizens to ridicule public officials. Not only that, but most people seem to believe that making fun of people is a tradition as old as the country -- older, actually. The colonists loved to make fun of King George III in ribald tavern songs that branded him as a drunken tyrant.
"There is a lot of First Amendment protection for pictures and speech," Peter Swire, a professor of Internet law at Ohio State University told ABC News. "Politicians have been the subject of cartoons for as long a we have had cartoons; calling it photoshopped doesn’t change that."
Swire noted that, in a landmark 1998 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Christian right-wing leader Jerry Falwell when he sued Hustler magazine for an article that savaged his imagined first sexual experience.
Smith’s own hometown paper, the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, in a blistering editorial, "It’s hard to believe, even in a state that gave rise to U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson -- who once worried the island of Guam might tip over -- that an American citizen would be so ignorant of our rights. It’s mind-boggling to think that people who help write our laws are that out to lunch.
"Must we? Really? Must we refute the representative’s asinine assertion?" the editorial continued. "Americans have a fundamental right to mock others. It’s an integral part of free speech; ridicule and satire simply cannot be boiled out and separated from free speech. It’s impossible."
But perhaps the last word on Smith came from an anonymous lawmaker, who told Fox News, "He’s the conductor of his own crazy train."
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