Lisowski: Parody must be protected — it’s our right


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Anthony Novak’s case is yet to be seen by the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is likely to see another win in the name of parody.

Maximillian Lisowski, Opinion Editor

There are countries where poking fun at a government, whether it be local or national, is not considered a crime, but not in the great state of Ohio. 

In 2016, an Ohio man named Anthony Novak was arrested by the Parma Police Department for making a parody Facebook page designed almost identically like the police department’s official page. Novak tried to vindicate his rights by filing a civil-rights lawsuit, but the sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to hold the police officers accountable for their actions. The court offered the officers qualified immunity, which caused the case to be thrown out.

On Monday, in support of Novak’s journey to the Supreme Court, The Onion submitted a 23-page amicus brief defending him and encouraging the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case. Long story short, the organization clearly knows what they are doing, and they are doing it in the name of satire. 

To think that we, as Americans who have freedom of speech, can be arrested for criticizing a governmental department or agency is unsettling. Especially since Novak’s case against the city was thrown out at the appellate level. 

Maybe it’s ego, or maybe it’s a department high on a power trip, but we should be furious that these rights have been threatened. Novak did misrepresent the police department with his fake page, but parody and satire have always been protected by our constitutional rights — even supported by court precedent.   

My hope is that the U.S. Supreme Court takes up Novak’s case and unanimously rules in favor of him, but in our day and age, it may be a close call. 

When we see parody or satire nowadays, we fail to recognize its deeper meaning. Sure, at the surface level, this form of writing may be disrespectful and contain falsehoods, but we have become obtuse. We no longer think about what we read, and that has a cascading effect on our society and governmental function.  

“Reasonable people” seem to have lower standards of being truly reasonable. We have been dumbed down to the point where this elastic qualification has little meaning in the court of law. 

I urge you to keep questioning and critiquing higher authority. This case is a matter of our rights, and we must fight for them, so we cannot sit idly by.