Trampling the First Amendment in Cayucos

May 7, 2014

By Stacey Warde, editor of the Rogue Voice

In the early days of the Rogue Voice, when it was still merely a monthly newsprint journal, we published a story about what prisoners do when they get horny.

Tito David Valdez, Jr., doing 25-years-to-life for conspiracy to commit murder, wrote an essay about “Hittin’ it,” an intimate look at the secret ways inmates find opportunities to masturbate or get off without being observed in a well-guarded penal institution.

We also learned about lady boys in mini-skirts who look fabulous and would by all appearances seem to be real women, except for the fact they weren’t, and how most inmates, like David, avoided unnecessary drama and complications in prison, by not getting involved.

It was an informative and educational narrative. David’s column, a regular known to readers as “Life in the Cage,” and all his other subsequent columns, gave taxpayers a close-up, insider’s view of how their dollars were being spent to incarcerate convicted felons.

In the days of print, Stacey Ward and Dell Franklin go over proofs (remember those?) for their June 2006 “Jesus loves you, Wal-Mart hates you” edition.

In the days of print, Stacey Ward and Dell Franklin go over proofs (remember those?) for their June 2006 “Jesus loves you, Wal-Mart hates you” edition.

But one meddlesome mom from our fair village by the sea didn’t like his column. She felt we had stepped over the line, and offended the community standard for frank talk about prison sex in ‘06.

As any good moralist, she decided to take action. She meant to protect her teenage daughter and other impressionable youth in our town from the adult content, and unseemly influence of our magazine, which was then in 2006 only four months old.

Like an enormous huffing beast, she stormed into the coffee shop where I was talking with a friend and barreled into the rear of the shop where we kept stacks of our magazine. I felt her rage as she passed by me.

Seconds later, she came back our way, a full stack of Rogue Voices stuffed under her arm. “Hey, wait a minute!” I demanded. “Where do you think you’re going with those?”

“I’m going to make a barbecue out of these,” she fumed, heading for the door.

“No you’re not!” I answered. “I work my ass off to put out those damned magazines. Put them back, right now!”

She harrumphed, breathing loudly and laboriously through her nose. I felt as if she were about to punch me, but she turned away, with close to 100 of my magazines stuffed under her arm, and walked out the door of the coffee shop.

A sheriff’s deputy arrived. The barista, a contributor and editor and supporter of the magazine, had called for law enforcement to protect my First Amendment right to free speech.

The angry mom had stolen that right. She was violating state, federal and constitutional law.

The deputy dutifully questioned me, asked me what was the problem, and I told him that a woman had walked out of the coffee shop with a stack of my magazines and threatened to burn them.

“Well, why should I help you,” he said finally, “when you write negative stories about law enforcement?”

Dell Franklin had recently written a first-hand account of the City of San Luis Obispo’s fascist policing operation to intimidate Mardi Gras revelers by bringing in hundreds of police from around the state to control the unruly student mob.

By many accounts, including Dell’s, the police, called upon to keep order, were as likely to create disorder—randomly shooting bean-bag rounds into parties, freely harassing passersby on the street, detaining and questioning revelers—as students were to misbehave by celebrating the centuries old annual tradition of upending the conventions of culture.

Dell’s article offered graphic evidence of police going a bit too far, terrorizing college students who were minding their own business.

Tired of moralists trashing our publication, we ran a full-page ad reminding them of another standard.

“Your job,” I reminded the deputy, “is to protect my First Amendment right to free speech. It doesn’t matter whether you like what I print.” I pointed my finger in the direction where I’d last seen the angry mom walking out the door with my property: “She’s violating my right to free speech. What she’s doing is illegal.”

He thought for a moment. “It’s a free magazine, isn’t it?”

“That doesn’t mean she can take the whole stack!”

In fact, state Assemblyman George Plescia, a Republican from San Diego, had recently authored, and the legislature passed, a bill, AB2612, protecting free newspapers and magazines from abusers lifting full stacks off the racks. Apparently, San Diego was having the same problem.

The offense carried a sizable fine.

“We must work to ensure that no one is able to deprive others of their First Amendment rights,” then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement on AB2612. “The freedom of the press is one of the most precious freedoms that Americans enjoy.”

The deputy left, presumably to consult with the offending party, and asked me to wait. He returned and informed me that the woman had been reminded that it’s my right to publish what I want and that she didn’t have the right to refuse it.

“Where’re my magazines?” I asked.

“They’re gone,” he said.

I was too angry to press the matter about the fate of that stack of magazines. I did not want to be thrown in jail for harassing or assaulting an officer.

I wrote a letter to Plescia, thanking him for protecting my First Amendment rights, while local law enforcement and would-be protectors of community standards thought less of those rights than they should.

“I edit and publish a free monthly literary journal,” I noted after thanking him, “which has had its share of vandalism from those who object to its content.

“Until now, our only support [has come] from readers who do not want others deciding for them what they can or cannot read.

“Thanks for your support. We lift our hats to you, Mr. Plescia, for your defense of our First Amendment right to a free press.”

As regards community standards and federal guidelines for offensive material, we avowed again in our pages the value of reading, of determining for oneself whether there are any redeeming qualities in our content, which would then guarantee its full protection under the law.

Not content with literally trashing our magazine, the angry mom rounded up a herd of like-minded matrons to pester local businesses to cease advertising in our magazine or to quit displaying the Rogue Voice on their premises, which is their perfect right.

The Cayucos Chamber of Commerce, coerced, asked us to remove our rack from its vicinity. We lost one advertiser while another said: “Tell those gals to get a life!”

Those “gals,” I noted in a 2006 February column titled “Our naughty little rag,” were going about town, raging to this or that business owner, “to protest its unseemly content, and to protect our impressionable teens from words like ‘fuck’ and ‘titty.’”

We were amazed that our troublesome youth had given up the internet and cell phones to go in “search of colorful language in the pages of our…morally reprehensible rag. It’s hard to imagine youngsters,” I mused, “pulling themselves away from their computers to actually read a newspaper; more terrible to think they’re reading one with naughty words.”

Oddly, or perhaps not so odd, the small-town upheaval came on the heels of an earlier trashing of another publication in which it seemed everyone everywhere in the county felt they had a moral duty to censor content they didn’t like.

Local alternative weekly New Times had published a story about methamphetamine by Alice Moss that also included a recipe on how to make the stuff. Residents went berserk, lifting the rag off racks throughout San Luis Obispo County and sending them to the landfill.

An eery absence of the weekly could be seen on virtually every rack in the county. Not one New Times could be found any where. The article itself had been informative enough and may have actually had some redeeming social value, despite its loony and irresponsible instructions on how to make meth.

A better method for informing readers about the ease of making meth would have been to take a photo of and list the ingredients. Let some fool decide how to put it all together. Good citizens, meanwhile, took it upon themselves to protect hapless individuals from the dubious joys of meth-making by eliminating the newspaper’s presence from our community.

The hysteria broke national news.

Amid the frenzy of throwing newspapers into the trash, KVEC hometown radio host Dave Congalton asked me and Dell to go on the air to discuss the issue. Many callers agreed that while they may not like what our publication prints, it’s our legal right to publish as we see fit. In fact, despite our “liberal” label, as some claimed, our most vocal defenders were more often conservatives.

It wasn’t the last time hoodlums took it upon themselves to sabotage our publishing efforts. Throughout the county, we continually heard reports from our friends that individuals were helping themselves to stacks of our magazine and making them disappear.

Finally, we’d had enough and ran a full-page photo on the back cover of the Rogue Voice showing nothing but a bible sitting on our rack, no magazines, with the headline, “Thou shalt not steal.”

It may not have made any difference in whether people trashed our magazine but it made us feel better, and we got a good laugh out of it.

More importantly, we continued to publish, 32 more editions in all, without apology, and with a commitment to give voice to those who don’t often have a voice, protected by the First Amendment.

Stacey Warde is publisher of TheRogueVoice.com.  It is is time for its many faithful followers to celebrate because the Rogue Voice is back for readers to view online.


18 Comments

  1. slocoast says:

    Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of distribution. And if something is free it can’t be stolen! Geez, cake – eat it – get it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 7

    • Jon Tatro says:

      A private citizen cannot violate your First Amendment right only the Government can. At the most it would be a petty theft but that would not stand up because you give them out for free. I will agree this lady needs a life and not worry what others read or don’t read. It appears we have two wackos on either side of this issue.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

    • achillesheal says:

      It is illegal in California to take more than 25 copies of a current issue of a free rag with intent to do one of the 4 things below:

      The Legislature finds that free newspapers provide a key source of information to the public, in many cases providing an important alternative to the news and ideas expressed in other local media sources. The Legislature further finds that the unauthorized taking of multiple copies of free newspapers, whether done to sell them to recycling centers, to injure a business competitor, to deprive others of the opportunity to read them, or for any other reason, injures the rights of readers, writers, publishers, and advertisers, and impoverishes the marketplace of ideas in California.
      (b) No person shall take more than twenty-five (25) copies of the current issue of a free or complimentary newspaper if done with the intent to do one or more of the following:
      (1) Recycle the newspapers for cash or other payment.
      (2) Sell or barter the newspaper.
      (3) Deprive others of the opportunity to read or enjoy the newspaper.
      (4) Harm a business competitor.

      If they take 24 papers, then it’s OK.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

    • Shmed says:

      Stacey Warde,
      You let your work get taken right in front of you? Of coarse the Deputy was irritated.
      The”good moralist” “like an enormous huffing beast” “she harrumphed breathing laboriously”
      Insulting people that have an understandably different point of view is easy Stacy. Same as an overuse of a Thesaurus, and playing the victim while picking a fight that happened many years ago.
      I would suggest that you visit an active war zone, and come back as an adult with a story that needs hearing.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  2. info says:

    I love my Freedom of Speech…….but not a fan of slanted opinion articles under the guise of “news”. Unless the headline is ‘Breaking News’, everything else seems to be opinion articles muddled with some facts to support the opinion. Tough to know just the facts these days.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 8

    • bobfromsanluis says:

      “Tough to know just the facts these days.”

      The truth, is so simple, usually, that it can be explained very succinctly, very quickly, and will remain the same over repeated tellings.

      Facts are verifiable, backed up with evidence and are usually presented without any embellishment needed.

      Opinion is just that; it can’t right or wrong, it is just one person’s belief or feeling about an issue or person or person’s actions.

      The problem with so many sources that label themselves as a purveyor of “news” is that they do allow personal opinion to slant the evidence behind the facts so they can twist those facts to their belief in what is the cause or problem that is being reported on.

      I do wish that we had a national standard of what qualifies as news; if an outlet is complained about for knowingly slanting their reporting and is investigated to have an agenda, they should NOT be allowed to call themselves a “news” outlet and their “reporters” should have to be labeled as opinion writers. It wouldn’t be easy, but it is doable; since facts are verifiable, if a news outlet is either getting their facts wrong on a consistent basis or it can be shown that they are allowing their agenda to color their reporting, then that is when they have to stop pretending to be a news source.

      I do believe that most reporters would make attempts at trying to report the facts as they find them without allowing their personal biases to color their writing, as I’m sure most consider themselves to operate in that manner now; but the corporate news organizations would fight any attempt to have the news follow some guidelines with every fiber of their being, derailing any legislative attempts before they even started.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7

      • info says:

        Thanks Bob – great to hear!

        What then is the true story on Benghazi?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

      • OnTheOtherHand says:

        I have to strongly disagree with you in your assertion that “the truth, is so simple, usually, that it can be explained very succinctly, very quickly.” (I will agree that truth “will remain the same over repeated tellings.”) I find that truth is often very nuanced and dependent upon both the language used to express it and the perspective of both the teller and the listener. On top of that, there are often disagreements as to what constitutes “facts” (“lies, damned lies and statitstics”) and which facts are more relevant to the subject when there are apparently different facts that support different views on what is true.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

    • miles archer says:

      Ahem…this is IN the opinion section…not posted under the “guise” of news.

      And you wonder why it is “tough to know just the facts these days”…

      Comedy I tell ya.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. SLOTECH90 says:

    Oh yeah, I believe that was the woman who was really down on sex education, evolution in science class, believed the earth was 6K years old, went to the “fundy” church at least 3X a week and whose daughter wound up pregnant at 16, had two abortions by 20 and served timefor dropping mega doses of industrial strength LSD. I’m really glad all that “protection” that mama afforded her ws of such benefit!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 13

  4. sloweb says:

    Waaaa, waaa, waaa . . . . . .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

    • givemeabreak says:

      In Morro Bay the folks that are supporting Jamie Irons for mayor are running around emptying the Bay News paper racks.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 10

      • givemeabreak says:

        On my way to work this morning I saw some woman frantically looking for our local paper here in town (The Bay News) , the guy at the gas station said they were out or had not been delivered yet. Another guy outside directed her to a local liquor store. She was ranting about a letter she said someone wrote about Morro Bay’s mayor. I laughed…she did not think it was funny. So of course after I got off work I looked at the letter’s to the editor section online. Appears as though it was about the all glorious coastal commission, (NOT) and the mayor’s decision to build a sewer plant that is going to cost the ratepayers of Morro Bay a S load of money. Not only in fees but added taxes. Of course on the backs of not only property owners but those like myself that rent as the costs must be absorbed somewhere. It was really a great letter. Hoping the writer also sends it to the Tribune….whoops I misspelled that. The FIBune. The only reason I hope it goes to the Fibune is because there are many elderly here in town that do not go online and unfortunately rely on their “stories” as the truth. So very sad. And thank you to Robert and Josie Hyde. What a great letter that made oh so much SENSE!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  5. panflash says:

    OK, Stacey, if you wish to have an open dialog on the issue of freedom of speech, how about let’s begin here:

    Tell us all your thoughts about 1) the content and nature of the recent widely-reported private comments of LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling; 2) the circumstances of the capture and release of Sterling’s comments; and 3) the immediacy and fairness of the punishment dealt out to Sterling by the NBA and its new commissioner.

    Looking forward to your views. Thanks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 9

    • achillesheal says:

      I’m not Stacey, but I’ll give it a try:

      Free speech doesn’t mean that there are not potential consequences to your speech. No one questioned that Sterling has the legal right to say what he said. A private individual recorded Sterling and a private organization punished Sterling through the bylaws that he agreed to as a member of the organization. Government had nothing to do with it.

      Whether or not the recording was legal (she says he consented to have telephone calls recorded in cash he forgot the content), the courts may eventually decide.

      The 1st amendment prohibits the government from abridging free speech. Sterling hasn’t been thrown in jail, or punished by the government in any way.

      As far as the article. A private citizen cannot infringe on another’s rights to free speech so it’s premise may be flawed. Ahhnold’s quote is incorrect and ridiculous.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

  6. Ben Daho says:

    I had a small Newspaper in the South. the competition (the larger paper) had their employees go around picking up my papers before anyone could read them. it was because it had the word “Qwitchyerbitchen’ as a tag line. And after all it was “the Bobble Beyalt” (say it with your eyes closed) so, the Churches got involved and asked me to cease and desist the profanity. Well, I’m not a pussy so “I brought it” and we went from 800 copies to 8,000 a week and made money hand over fist with the brazen advertisers. Do NOT tell me what i can say or print. I copied a famous quotation Do NOT pick a fight with someone that buys ink by the barrel” I believe it was Hearst.

    At least you’re not printing meth Recipes.. And, I’m a straight male but I do wonder how prisoners get their basic human needs fulfilled (without the actual graphics)
    be yourselves. in the words of Jimi Hendrix when it’s my time to die, I’m doing the dying so let me do my living.

    Rock on!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3

  7. the guy paso says:

    They have just as much a right to publish the rag as the KKK does to march in a parade.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 9

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