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Even if you don’t get the joke, online parody is protected speech

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What’s good for the goose – must be good for the gander, too? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) grapples with the idea.

Comedy in general, satire, parody, new forms of these expressions contained, for example, in memes – many of those have been suffering under the boot of mounting online censorship for years now.

Most of the time we hear about these being suppressed to stifle conservative voices – but guess what, there’s still the “1 percent” that falls into another category. Yet when all’s said and done – it should be about people looking at the problem of censorship, overreach, and authorities’ overreaction in and of itself – rather than looking at each other, as some sort of “sworn enemies.”

But now, a group like the EFF feel the need to clarify, in announcing an amicus brief – a filing offering expertise that a court will then decide to either consider or reject – that even if you don’t get or like the joke, it still has the right to exist.

Who knew.

The San Francisco-based non-profit chose the Lafayette City vs John Merrifield as their latest “hill to die on” – and somewhat unsurprisingly, it’s one that concerns a person, i.e., Merrifield, trying to express their support for the controversial Antifa outfit by publishing what was, according to the EFF, an “obviously” fake Facebook post – created just to highlight satirical support towards those opposing “right-wing hysteria about Antifa.”

But the police in Lafayette, Louisiana, reacted to the fake “announcement” on Facebook by Merrifield that an Antifa event of apparently armed and uniformed members would be taking place there. And then the mayor wanted the Facebook comedian to pay the costs of the police reacting to this parody announcement – posted, significantly, back in July, amid serious and ongoing instances of violent social and racially and ideologically-fueled violence across the US.

The EFF argues now that the joke must have been obvious to anyone (regardless of circumstances at the time).

Their main argument: “The First Amendment clearly protects the kind of satirical speech that Merrifield has made. Political satire and other parodic forms are an American tradition that goes back to the country’s founding.”

Not to mention, that it was simply “meant to make a point about online misinformation” – ironically, that very weapon used bluntly and habitually to suppress views different from those the defendant, Merrifield, reportedly holds.

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