This Week in Patriots

A round-up of news and research on all things patriots.
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Clockwise, from top left: The Texas flag painted onto a building (Photo: Kevin Dooley/Flickr); Tom Brady (Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr); Mel Gibson in The Patriot (Photo: Columbia Pictures); an allegedly tapped pay phone (Photo: tenaciousme/Flickr).

Clockwise, from top left: The Texas flag painted onto a building (Photo: Kevin Dooley/Flickr); Tom Brady (Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr); Mel Gibson in The Patriot (Photo: Columbia Pictures); an allegedly tapped pay phone (Photo: tenaciousme/Flickr).

Patriot. Pa•tri•ot. From the Latin patriōta, meaning “fellow-countryman.” Also synonymous with: gun-totin’ Texans; the National Security Agency; NFL quarterback Tom Brady; and Mel Gibson’s rampage against the Redcoats to rescue his son. Patriots in all forms have been dominating headlines this week. Here’s a round-up:

1. PATRIOTS IN GARLAND

The shooting in Garland, Texas, on Sunday night has drawn immediate comparisons to January’s Charlie Hebdo killings. After all, Garland was playing host to the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest; Charlie Hebdo frequently poked fun at Islam. Some have argued that this is a freedom of speech issue: preserving the right to offend whomever we want.

But is it? As our own Jared Keller points out, the “free speech” argument doesn’t really hold up when someone—in this case, Pam Geller—is inciting violence:

In 1919’s Schenck v. United States, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. birthed the popular metaphor of “shouting fire in a crowded theater”—that is, speech made to incite panic. Brandenberg v. Ohio in 1969 gave a more clinical legal standard of incitement as focused on “imminent lawless action.” It’s at these flashpoints that a person’s claim to “free speech” falls on deaf ears.

2. TOM BRADY IS THE NEW NIXON

An NFL inquiry found that the New England Patriots likely deflated balls on purpose, in order to give Tom Brady an easier grip on the football. (And, in the end, giving American sports writers yet another chance to dust off the old “gate” anachronism.)

The whole “deflategate” storyline is eye-grabbing, sure. But, as former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake said, the NFL has bigger problems on its hands than a few under-inflated footballs. Like continued bigotry, and the league’s repeated failures to properly address domestic abuse. Or a growing number of detractors who argue that the league cultivates a violent form of hyper-masculinity. Then, of course, there’s the whole sport of football’s concussion thing.

The Patriots got caught cheating (again); let’s not let Roger Goodell use this as a distraction from the bigger issues.

3. THE PATRIOT ACT IS VERY MUCH NOT PATRIOTIC

A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that the NSA’s collection of phone records is, in fact, illegal. The lawsuit was brought on by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that data collection infringes on privacy rights.

But, going by recent polls, it doesn’t seem Americans much mind being spied on anyhow. As Gregory Ferenstein wrote earlier this year, “several polls have found that a majority, or near majority, of Americans believe that the U.S. government should prioritize investigating terrorist threats over protecting privacy.” In fact, 56 percent of respondents in one survey said that the NSA’s phone and Internet spying is “acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism.”

Of course, even if most people aren’t concerned, there’s still no evidence to show all that phone data being put to good use.

BONUS: THE PATRIOT PAYS HOMAGE TO DANNY ZUCCO

My friend Cameron is a huge fan of Mel Gibson’s The Patriot. He recently told me that one of the dead redcoats in the movie is actually a dummy of John Travolta. I’ve since confirmed on IMDB. So there’s that. Enjoy the weekend.

This Week In explores ongoing revelations and research on trending news topics.

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