Brazil Prosecutes Comedian In Latest Attack On Free Speech

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in Europe (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here). Now Brazil is joining the anti-free speech movement with a ridiculous prosecution of a comedian named Danilo Gentili. Gentili is known for his caustic and sometimes offensive jokes. One joke about a congresswoman however proved too much for the government and he is now facing criminal charges for making a joke.

Gentili implied that the congresswomen was a prostitute in a series of tweets and was told by the government to take down the tweets. Gentili responded by tearing up the order and rubbing the pieces on his genitalia. Gentili’s gentilia was deemed a criminal response by the the Brazilian judiciary after a judge found that Gentili’s action was “intended to offend” and “never to be confused with a simple piece of spontaneous humor.” The court did not explain how it determined this joke to fall outside of “spontaneous humor.” It appears that the Brazilian courts are following the dubious lead of Potter Stewart who wrote one of the most careless lines in Supreme Court history in his concurrence in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964): “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

It appears that the Brazilian government is following the same ill-conceived approach on humor. It will let its citizens know when it sees humor or a felony in a joke.

17 thoughts on “Brazil Prosecutes Comedian In Latest Attack On Free Speech”

  1. In the USA, we get Facebook, Google, and Twitter to preemptively take down questionable exercises in 1st Amendment communications. No need for a gub’ment edict that way. The meaning of it all is quite clear. We don’t like what you say so…… STFU.

  2. It sounds to me that in an honor-based culture, Gentilli went beyond the bounds of free speech twice – once by impugning the honor of a woman in the worst possible way in that culture, then again, by wiping a court order on his genitals, expressing depths of contempt for the rule of law.
    Gentilli called the tune, now he’s paying the piper.

  3. We need to make toilet paper with the faces of all those Brazil judges, prosecutors, and their nation’s leader. Then wipe once a day and mail the paper down to them in plastic wrap envelops. Brazil stinks.

  4. it saddens one to see JT over and over deify free speech.
    Losing perspective on the importan things has brought us to where the US is today.
    We are past slouching towards Gomorrah. Golden calves abound

    Alexandr Solzhenitsyn: A World Split Apart

    delivered 8 June 1978, Harvard University

    …in early democracies, as in the American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were — State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the 20th century’s moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the 19th Century.

    1. Religion, like every other collectivist philosophy, compartmentalizes and thereby limits human freedom in deference to a sought after higher goal. The American experiment elevates human freedom as the higher goal. This tension is seen everywhere but on balance the arc of individual freedom has to prevail lest you have the excesses of collectivism like genocide, wide spread sexual abuse and every other human frailty magnified and institutionalized. Human institutions are by definition flawed institutions. The only hope is that individuals will succeed where organizations fail and drag us all along — usually kicking and screaming. Almost all human progress comes from an individual not the herd.

      1. Religion and Faith arent one and the same.
        The Founding Father rightly never embraced one religion but rejecting the notion of Faith, just like Solzhenitsyn is arguing, would have been verboten

        1. Mespo writes: “The American experiment elevates human freedom as the higher goal.” but the constraints on the misuse of that freedom are inadequate. Religion is one way to temporize man’s misuse of his individual freedom. Estovir writes “Religion and Faith arent one and the same.” which our Founding Fathers seemed to handle correctly. Some wish to entirely rid society of religion especially faith but if they were to do that I wonder (I really don’t wonder) what that replacement would be.

    2. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who defends the free exercise clause of the First Amendment with more vigor and aplomb than Professor Turley does. Why not be honest with yourself as well as with the readers of this blog and admit that your own religion is the only religion that you would allow freely to be exercised? You would not even have allowed Alexandr Solzhenitsyn to have freely exercised his religion here in America. It’s not like you’re actually fooling anybody else around here other than yourself.

  5. “One joke about a congresswoman however proved too much for the government and he is now facing criminal charges for making a joke.”
    I think the “joke” was libel per se and actionable as defamation. It’s not a free speech hill I’d die on.

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