PETA is back again trying to place a large statue of a crippled chicken designed by The New Yorker artist Harry Bliss on the corner of Fourth and Market Streets Downtown. The statue is, of course, a direct attack on KFC in its hometown. Whatever your stance regarding the ongoing battle between PETA and KFC, bigger issues of free speech are coming into play here.
The animal rights group originally petitioned the city to display the statue for three months in July at one of six locations, but was denied and a 45 day moratorium on such permits was put in place. In retrospect, it might have been easier for the city to have permitted the display and be done with it, but here we are debating anew. Now, PETA is saying it was denied free speech in the latest round.
What are your thoughts about free speech in the public realm? Sure, this isn’t a protester standing temporarily on the sidewalk, its an object left temporarily on the sidewalk. Call it art or advertising or intentional provocation or whatever else, its implications are interesting for how we interact in the city.
Whether you agree or disagree, should all sides be treated the same? Where do we draw the line? Consider the recent KFC campaign to fill potholes for the city. PETA then offered to pay twice as much per pothole but the city politely “passed” on the offer. If references to KFC on the statue were removed, and the message changed from an attack on one company to a practice, would that change how we see the chicken? How do we treat other groups or companies who want to place something on the public way?
In the end, the PETA vs KFC battle is going to be a long lasting one and it’s not a useful function of government to try to silence it. It does, however, make for some interesting discussions when government gets dragged into the middle of the fight. Find more info on the issue at the C-J. Broken Sidewalk takes no stance on the debate as it’s beyond the scope of our coverage here.
I wonder what the reaction would be if I wanted to apply for a permit to erect a statue of the Ten Commandments on a street corner in downtown Louisville? Or a Nazi Swastika?
I agree with Drop; public street corners are not the place to be making controversial statements. Free speech is important but as with everything, there are limits.
Firstly, placing a statue on a public sidewalk is not “free speech”. If it was, every one of us would have a right to place a statue on a street corner and the whole city would be deluged with stupid statues.
Secondly, the phrase “KFC Cripples Chickens” is slanderous and libelous, because it is an easily verifable fact that KFC DOES NOT CRIPPLE CHICKENS. They simply buy their chicken meat from places like Tyson, who have indeed been accused of mistreating chickens in the past. Tyson chicken is served in literally thousands of other places besides KFC. Singling out KFC to ridicule and slander in public is bizarre and the city has no business allowing extremists to use public streets to libel anyone, be it a person or a company.
Thirdly, you say you’re not taking a stand in the matter, but to say “itâ€™s not a useful function of government to try to silence it” is essentially defending PETA. It is NOT “silencing” PETA by denying them a city permit to use a statue as a mean-spirited falsehood-stating attack.
Lastly, do a Google search for “PETA FBI terror”.
Thanks for your comments Drop. I too think there’s a line being crossed here, but I wanted to open it up and see what everyone thinks about these intrusions onto the public realm that are becoming more common nowadays. This is certainly a controversial one that will get everyone stirred up.
It’s not taking sides to say that government shouldn’t be playing in PETA’s or KFC’s corner. It’s only an acknowledgement that it’s not governments role to referee the battle (unless there’s something taken up in the courts like slander whose job would then be to play referee). What is at stake here is a decision on what’s appropriate use of public space.