Now that the legal analysts are done assessing the judicial ramifications of the Supreme Court case of an Alaskan prankster named Joseph Frederick, one thing must be said. It is incorrect to honor Frederick as the hero of a "landmark" student free-speech case. He is more correctly described as one of the silliest plaintiffs ever to be heard at the Supreme Court.
The "speech" at issue in this case was the infamous 14-foot-long "BONG HITS 4 JESUS" banner, flown as a prank outside Juneau-Douglas High School as the official Olympic torch ceremoniously passed through the capital city of Alaska en route to the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City. When Frederick refused to put the banner down, the principal confiscated it. Frederick was briefly suspended from school, and the superintendent explained that any common-sense interpretation would conclude the banner promoted smoking marijuana. It wasn't political, he said, but a "fairly silly message promoting illegal drug usage."
Frederick himself insisted it was "nonsense." Other than tweaking the principal, with whom he had a running feud, his main reason for acting up was a typical excuse for playing the fool: He wanted his nonsense to get him on television.
It sounds like Frederick wanted to recreate a cartoonish scene from "Porky's" designed to embarrass stuffy school authority figures. But you have to feel for those authorities, who found themselves mired in five and a half years of time-consuming and costly litigation from a child with an obvious lack of any sense of proportion. First, he caused the trouble, and when the usual (mild) discipline arrived, he refused to accept it, causing in effect a "landmark" litigation tantrum -- aided by the American Civil Liberties Union. The case of Captain Bong Hits even darkened the door of the highest court in the land.
The ACLU was content to defend the pro-drug message, and certainly it was comfortable with the mocking notion that Jesus Christ could be a stock character in a Cheech and Chong film. (Had Frederick's nonsense banner championed bong hits for Mohammad or bong hits for al-Qaida, would the ACLU have left this plaintiff to soak in his own stupidity?)