Georgia State Rep. Earnest G Smith was recently humiliated after some idiot — doing what assholes always do on the internet — thought it would be funny to photoshop the politician's head onto the body of a naked porn star. Now, however, this time-honored tradition of trolls, dickbags and losers is being threatened as Rep. Smith has proposed legislation to make vulgar photoshopping illegal and punishable with a $1000 fine — not because it's sexual harassment, but because Smith doesn't like being the butt of a joke.
"No one has a right to make fun of anyone," Smith told Fox News. "It's not a First Amendment right."
While we shouldn't have to tell a politician this, satire and parody are both protected by the First Amendment. This shouldn't be a question of someone's right to make a joke — the abundance of terrible comedians out should tell you that we're all allowed to say stupid shit — but rather how far people should be able to go in making threats or harassing someone under the guise of humor. Andre Walker, the man who photoshopped Smith's image, is saying that he was just exercising his right to free speech, but the fact of the matter is that his actions cross a line, though we still have to figure out exactly what that means.
Rep. Smith could make this about the bigger picture of online harassment and, initially, he was doing just that, having talked about criminalizing certain forms of online bullying last year. Now, however, he's being cagey and defensive. When asked what his new legislation would entail, Smith's response was apparently "I don't have to tell you anything." (Rep. Smith, you are an elected official. You're supposed to tell us everything.)
"This is about being vulgar," he said. "We're becoming a nation of vulgar people."
To be fair, people have been drawing dicks onto politicians since ancient Roman times so it's nothing new. What has changed is the ability to make the images more realistic and to send them far and wide. Smith isn't necessarily wrong to look into ways to limit this kind of online harassment, but he's doing it for the wrong reasons.