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Pamville: Free speech vs visual learning

As the Pamville News editor I stand four-square in favor of our First Amendment rights to free speech, but I worry that a recent court ruling will leave our country's visual learners at an horrific disadvantage.

U. S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled Wednesday that government requirements for tobacco companies to label their products with graphic images — like rotting teeth and cancerous lungs which are intended to illustrate the dangers of smoking — violates free speech laws.

Essentially, Leon said in his 19-page smack down on Congress, the government can require factual information to be placed on packaging and advertising, but the images went too far. He also noted that the government, which failed to remember the U. S. Constitution when creating their rule, has other means to discourage smoking, such as its own advertising campaign or further hikes in tobacco taxes.

While many people applaud Leon for upholding free-speech rights, this may signal tough times ahead for visual learners — those people among us who love reading books by watching the movie.

This is not to say that visual learners are lesser folk.

They are, in fact, the only people in the world who understand that the delicious photograph of cubed chicken breast with vibrant green broccoli heads floating atop a creamy white sauce pictured on a frozen food box isn't meant to be an accurate representation of the white clumps of meat byproduct and sickly green chunks drowning in gelatinous goo that actually comes out of the box. It's simply an illustrated list of ingredients for visual learners so they don't have to read the label.

This court ruling might allow visually oriented folks to slip through the cracks until the government bumps up its own anti-smoking campaign (and good luck finding a blackened lung that is as endearing and enduring as Smokey the Bear and Iron Eyes Cody).

Despite my love and support of free speech, I suggest that we not abolish the practice of adding visual warnings, but rather expand the program to other products.

For instance, every fishing lure, BB gun and pencil box should come with an emergency room photo of an eye poked out by that product's misuse or mishap.

Body "sculpting" tight pants should be required to display a photo of varicose veins. All dogs should have to wear an 8-by-10 glossy of a flea. And, by recommendation of staunch conservatives, condom wrappers and birth control packets should include the label "Weopon of Mass Baby Seed Destruction" and picture a godless, middle-aged couple weeping over a never-filled nest.

Most importantly, video games should open with the scene of a car being disabled by a flat tire and the driver frantically trying to figure out how to work the jack — while a mob of hungry zombies bears down on him from every direction — and an Angelina Jolie voice-over warning: "This game is a virtual-world simulation. In no way does it develop real-life skills to prepare you for actual combat or disasters. Government scientists and this game's manufacturers recommend you put down your remote and go now to seek skills needed for the coming zombie apocalypse."

Who will stand with me to save the visual learners we know and love?

(Visuals included at


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