Why Donald Trump Jr.’s Offensive “Sticker” T-Shirts Are Constitutionally Protected


It’s offensive, tasteless, and relies on his “triggered” political humor to annoy liberals and satisfy his base, but Donald Trump Jr.’s clothing line – now featuring T-shirts with telegraphic slogans like “F ** * Joe Biden “- will likely survive any possible legal challenge.

An “official merchandise” online store of the former president’s son has come under fire for a line of shirts capitalizing on a fatal on-set shootout involving actor Alec Baldwin reading “Guns Don’t Kill People people, Alec Baldwin kills people “.

Mr. Trump also posted shirts with slogans like “Fauci Lied, Dogs Died” and “Fauci Kills Puppies” after right-wing media blamed Dr.Anthony Fauci for federally funded disease research involving dogs. Another shirt alludes to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “crazy.”

The online store also sells “Let’s Go Brandon”, “Foxtrot Juliet Bravo” or “FJB” – all euphemisms for “f *** Joe Biden”.

T-shirts on Donald Trump Jr.’s online store refer to “f *** Joe Biden” as well as Dr. Anthony Fauci, anti-vaccine rhetoric and the deadly shootout on set involving Alec Baldwin

(Don Jr Shop)

Sellers using Shopify, the online retail platform that hosts Mr. Trump’s store, must adhere to its acceptable use policy, which includes provisions against “harassment, intimidation, defamation and the threats “.

“You may not offer any goods or services, or post or upload any material that harasses, intimidates, defames or threatens any particular person,” according to the policy.

Following the riots on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, Shopify shut down the former president’s campaign and the platform’s company stores, citing violations of its acceptable use policy.

“Shopify does not tolerate actions that incite violence,” said a spokesperson at the time. “Based on recent events, we have determined that the actions of President Donald J Trump violate our Acceptable Use Policy, which prohibits the promotion or support of organizations, platforms or individuals that threaten or condone violence for advance a cause. As a result, we have closed stores affiliated with President Trump. “

While the shirts reflect the level of “sticker mentality” in current political discourse, using slogans to “try to muddy the waters,” the First Amendment “protects a lot of offensive and obnoxious speech,” Clay said. Calvert, professor of law. and Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communications and Director of the Marion B Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida.

“No one takes this for statements of fact,” he said. The independent. “When someone like Fauci is involved and it’s on a t-shirt… people expect hyperbole, not statements of fact… Part of being a public figure or a representative of the government is that you expect hyperbole and attacks on you. “

If Baldwin were to sue for libel, he would likely lose, experts say. The shirt doesn’t charge him with murder, a criminal charge, and it’s a subtle attempt at satire and hyperbole – despite the sincerity of whoever sells or wears it – who has strong motives at first. amendment.

While the shirts reflect the level of “sticker mentality” in current political discourse, the First Amendment “protects a lot of offensive and obnoxious speech,” experts say.

(Don Jr Shop)

“Context matters,” said Cynthia Counts, partner at FisherBroyles specializing in media and communications law and adjunct professor at Emory Law School and Emory University. “You have to see how a reasonable person would respond to that in this political environment. “

A complainant should show real malice and if he knowingly accuses someone of something wrong, she said.

But legal action would also likely generate a “Streisand effect,” in which an attempt to remove or remove something would end up attracting more and unwanted attention, said Enrique Armijo, professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the Faculty of Law of the University of Elon. affiliate member of the Yale Law School Information Society Project.

And in that case, that attention would likely be exploited by Mr. Trump, who has regularly sought to provoke “Big Tech” into the backbone of his family in his own social media and tech company, in which his “troll” and its attempts to get kicked out of other websites are “part of their own use case to get their own platform,” Armijo said.

The shift from brick-and-mortar stores to online spaces controlled by service agreements has led to a more in-depth look at how those spaces determine what is there. In the aftermath of the Capitol Riots, for example, the website for the right-wing social media app Speak was removed from Amazon’s web hosting service, and the app was removed from the App Store. Apple and the Google Play Store.

“If these were regular stores, I don’t think we would blink,” Mr. Armjio said. “I don’t know if the fact that such a business has moved online changes that.”

Some t-shirts also traffic in Covid-19 vaccine rhetoric – one t-shirt says t-shirts “fueled by natural immunity” and another says “my science is better than yours”.

The two hardly seem to sidestep Shopify’s Covid-19 policy, which says that “any medical, scientific or other claim must be true and supported by documented evidence, and where required by law, adequate and appropriate testing of these. affirmations “and that” products claiming to prevent, treat or cure Covid-19 will be removed from the Shopify platform “.

Shopify has not returned The independentrequests for comments.

Meanwhile, the former president’s own campaign also sent an email Thursday offering a “Let’s Go Brandon” t-shirt – for a donation of $ 45.

The email read, “You’ve probably heard him sing everywhere Patriotic Americans meet. Well now President Trump has put America’s new favorite phrase on a personalized shirt. That’s right. President Trump has just authorized the release of his brand new limited edition “LET’S GO BRANDON” shirts. “

“Whether you’re at a concert, a soccer game, or just taking a walk in the park, you’ll likely hear someone say ‘GO BRANDON’,” the email said. “Now you can have a matching shirt. “

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