January 5, 2012

"Occupy protesters offered lesson in free speech."

Is that headline supposed to mean the protesters are giving a lesson or getting a lesson? Surprisingly, it's the latter:
"Many Occupy L.A. protesters arrested during demonstrations in recent months are being offered a unique chance to avoid court trials: pay $355 to a private company for a lesson in free speech...."
Naturally, part of my surprise was due to the prospect of citizens being required to fork over money to a private business, which would teach them about the limits to their constitutional rights, in exchange for a reprieve from the legal repercussions of civil disobedience. But I was also surprised to find that, contrary to my breezy reading of the headline in which I'd parsed the phrase Occupy protesters as the subject of the verb offered in the active voice, I should have read offered as being in the passive voice, with the protesters being the recipients of free-speech lessons rather than the purveyors of those lessons.

17 comments:

Matthew said...

"In exchange for a reprieve from the legal repercussions of civil disobedience."

Err... the court-mandated option IS the legal repercussion of civil disobedience in this case.

Paddy O said...

I think with only a small amount of effort that last paragraph could be made into a single sentence, adding even more to the thrill of its winding ways.

Craig said...

It's called a garden path sentence.

Earth Girl said...

In Indiana, citizens are "required to fork over money to a private business, which would teach them about" avoidance of drug and alcohol abuse "in exchange for a reprieve from the legal repercussions of" DUI and marijuana possession.

What's the difference?

Craig said...

Milton's Paradise Lost is full of them because in Blake's words he was of the devil's party.

damikesc said...

I don't remember the Tea Party having all these legal problems AFTER having cities bend over backwards to accomodate them.

But, hey, I guess that is why the Tea Party was the "violent" group and all...

Meade said...

$355 seems pricey.

After all, I know a certain law professor at a top tier university who roams about town performing random acts of constitutional law teaching. And she gives it away FOR FREE!

toby said...

"Gives it away for free" when speaking of your wife is never a well turned phrase.

rocketeer67 said...

And she gives it away FOR FREE!

It's a rare husband, Meade, that brags about his wife giving it away to strangers for free.

DADvocate said...

the prospect of citizens being required to fork over money to a private business

In Ohio, you have to do this to get your driver's license, hunting license, or concealed carry permit.

rocketeer67 said...

Ah, great minds run along the same track. The same, filthy, dirty track.

EDH said...

Sounds strange, but hasn't court ordered "sensitivity training" been around a while?

Isn't the First Amendment more objective than "sensitivity"?

David Huffman told police it was just a prank gone wrong: On April 22, at a McDonald's in Tinley Park, he tapped a Muslim woman on the head, nearly pulling off her headscarf.

The woman, a young mother with her children, didn't see it as harmless. She was scared and embarrassed; her faith had been attacked. She told police, and they called it battery.

But in a surprising twist, a Cook County circuit judge did not fine or jail Huffman, who pleaded guilty. He was instead ordered to undergo sensitivity training at the downtown Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights organization.

edutcher said...

People regularly hire lawyers to educate them as to their Constitutional rights.

Mike said...

I don't know what's supposed to be so surprising. As a former headline writer, I knew immediately that the protesters were being offered something instead of doing the offering simply because headlines are typically written in the present tense.

Mary Beth said...

Free speech lesson offered to Occupy protesters - clearer and uses the same amount of space.

Does the order of the words depend on whether you want to emphasize free speech or emphasize the protesters?

Bill said...

AA: "Naturally, part of my surprise was due to the prospect of citizens being required to fork over money to a private business, ... in exchange for a reprieve from the legal repercussions of civil disobedience."

In California (and maybe other states?) you can get out of some of the consequences of a speeding ticket by attending traffic school.

ajcjw said...

Mary Beth, it's probable that the headline writer was following the journalistic "Five Ws":
1. Who
2. What
3. Where
4. When
5. Why

It is remarkable that an L.A. judge chose to offer First Amendment lessons as a penalty to the OWS folks, and make them pay for it. He must not be one of Tony Villaraigosa's friends. After all, the mayor and city council bent over backwards to make OWS feel at home as they destroyed public property to the tune of two million dollars. The mayor personally handed out rain ponchos to the protesters and praised their patriotic exercise of the First Amendment. He even contemplated allowing them free use of a vacant office building and city land to grow vegetables.

It would have been less surprising if the mayor had decided the protesters should be the ones to teach civics classes, paid for with taxpayer dollars.