Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Priceless “Free Speech” Moment

One way to sum it up is to say that today money may speak, but a hundred years ago bulls were well advised to wear pants. Puzzled? Read on.

It’s 1907 and the leading tobacco company in the United States, American Tobacco, signs a contract with a stage-coach line. We’re talking about the horse-drawn variety. The company wants to use the sides of the stage-coach to advertise one of its most popular brands, “Bull” Durham. The ads are made and affixed, the first stage-coach heads out. A huge public outcry follows. Why? Well, the bull’s testicles are so prominently featured in the ad that people daren’t even look!! The City of New York, always a guardian of public morality, arrests the stage coach driver. The coach is rapidly shunted out of sight. Then as now (some things never change), the affair bursts into litigation, and that, in turn, eventually reaches the Supreme Court no less. It is now 1911. And the Supremes uphold the city’s action, approve of the ban. What!? you cry. Hadn’t those benighted judges heard of free speech yet? No doubt they had. It’s just that they clean forgot it—staring at those humongous testicles.

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