There has been one thing the Supreme Court of the United States has gotten right time and time again, and that is the relative absolutism of the First Amendment. On Monday, the court ruled that the Patent and Trademark Office could not reject a trademark application because it thought it was offensive. Now that SCOTUS has ruled, the folks on the editorial board of the New York Times have courageously reversed course and now support free speech.
The ruling in Matal v. Tam said that government bureaucrats cannot decide on whether a trademark is “offensive.” The trademark in question was the word “Slants,” which an Asian American band calls themselves. As the Times editorial board notes, the band did this to “defuse” the word’s “negative power” as a slur.
Now that SCOTUS has once again weighed in on free speech, the very same people who were convinced that a mailer sent out by Sarah Palin led to Gabby Giffords getting shot reversed their position on the Patent and Trademark Office denying a trademark to the Washington Redskins. Here’s what they had to say.
The decision is likely to help the Washington Redskins, who lost their trademark protections in 2014 after years of complaints from Native American groups. At the time, this page supported the Trademark Office’s decision, and we still regard the Redskins name as offensive. Based on this case, however, we’ve since reconsidered our underlying position.
That is the ultimate in situational convictions. Because the Supreme Court decided something, the Times editorial board now is against its previous position. Now that’s courage.
Will the Times now reverse course and finally admit that Citizens United was a decision with firm foundations in the First Amendment, or that requiring people to disclose their political donations runs afoul of the right to anonymous speech? Let’s not hold our breath.
It leads one to wonder though: What other steadfast principles does the editorial board hold that eight men and women in black robes could change with a ruling?
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Robert Eno is the director of research for Conservative Review. He is a conservative from deep blue Massachusetts but now lives in Greenville, SC.