Sunday, September 16, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Bigotry erodes the
foundation of America

The issue: Some are unfairly targeting
citizens with Middle Eastern connections.

AS LAW enforcement and other government officials hunt for suspects in the terrorist attacks, it is logical they seek out those who may have Middle Eastern connections. Even so, they should be careful not to tread upon the rights of individuals simply because of their ancestry. Likewise, members of the public in their fear and anger should not make scapegoats of those of Middle Eastern descent.

Authorities moved quickly to release several people detained at two New York airports Thursday after clearing them of any links to the attacks. Officials had reasons other than ethnicity to believe the people could be involved, but the image of their being taken into custody chilled Arab Americans and Muslims, according to Jenny Salan of the Arab American Institute.

In communities across the country, others of Middle Eastern heritage have been attacked and abused despite calls from many quarters, including President Bush, for calm and fairness. A mosque in Denton, Texas, was firebombed, another in Lynnwood, Wash., was splattered with paint. The Iranian-American owner of a restaurant in Anaheim, Calif., was subjected to angry and obscene phone calls, telling him to go back to his own country. Despairing, he asserted, "I am an American citizen."

There is no excuse for giving in to ugly stereotypes that taint whole communities for the acts of a few extremists. The small-minded perpetrators of such hateful deeds should remember that the vast majority of us trace our ancestors to another land. Like the restaurant owner, our forebears all came to America to seek a better life.

It is also important that authorities be mindful of their responsibility to assess without prejudice information about possible suspects.

America's strength may lie in its military and economic power, but it is rooted in due process, justice and liberty. If we let anger, vengeance and bigotry snuff out that foundation, we leave ourselves vulnerable to more than the terrorists.

Court weighs privacy,
First Amendment

The issue: The federal appeals court
with jurisdiction over Hawaii has reinstated
a surfers' invasion-of-privacy suit against
a sportswear company.

FINE LINES have been drawn by a federal appeals court between editorial content protected by the First Amendment and advertising material regarded as commercial speech, which lacks full protection. A group of surfing legends has gained reinstatement of their lawsuit against sportswear retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. Actor Dustin Hoffman's suit against Los Angeles Magazine on what appear to be similar grounds has been thrown out by the same court.

The rulings are not contradictory but have subtle distinctions that may become more difficult to apply to online publications. However, the principle is sound and should continue to be observed.

According to the law, a person's privacy rights -- or, in the case of a celebrity, publicity rights -- are violated if that person's name, photograph or likeness is used in an advertisement without permission. Permission is not needed for publishing names, photos or likenesses as part of editorial content. The question is what constitutes editorial content or advertising.

Surfers George Downing, Paul Strauch, Rich Steele, Richard "Buffalo" Keaulana, Ben Aipa, Mike Doyle and Joey Cabell sued Abercrombie & Fitch for publishing, without their permission, their group picture taking during the 1965 Makaha International Surf Championship. The picture appeared in a 1999 quarterly "magalog." Such a publication is produced by a retailer as a catalog but includes editorial content prepared under the same company's direction.

The surfers complain that the photo caused them embarrassment because the publication was entitled "Surf Nekkid" and featured nude and scantily clad models. Federal Judge Manuel Real ruled that Abercrombie & Fitch's publication of the photo was protected by the First Amendment because it was presented as editorial material. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned Real's ruling because of the publication's purpose as the clothier's advertising tool.

Two months ago the 9th Circuit dismissed Hoffman's suit against Los Angeles Magazine, which digitally altered a photo of the actor from the movie "Tootsie" to make him appear dressed, the magazine said, "in a butter-colored silk gown by Richard Tyler and Ralph Lauren heels." Ralph Lauren was one of L.A. Magazine's advertisers, but the court decided that the photo was not published for the purpose of selling those shoes.

The difference between the two cases is that the "magalog" was published by the retailer, while L.A. Magazine is a legitimate magazine with editorial content independent of advertising. That distinction may become muddied as Internet sites evolve. Ice skater Nancy Kerrigan recently succeeded in shutting down a pornography site that used her name to draw attention. Future cases are sure to address whether online photographs or other features -- pornographic or not -- are retail products or editorial content. This is not a simple issue.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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