Our panelists tell us three stories of a citizen's newly-won rights, only one of which is true.
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CARL KASELL: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. We're playing this week with Roy Blount, Jr., Amy Dickinson, and Maz Jobrani. And here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you, Carl.
SAGAL: Thanks everybody. Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-Wait-Wait to play our game on the air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
JESSIE MCASKILL: Hi, this is Jessie in Boston.
KASELL: Hey Jessie, how are you?
MCASKILL: I'm doing great. How are you?
SAGAL: I'm fine. Now, most people, when they say they're from Boston, they mean some place near Boston. Where are you from?
MCASKILL: Well, I'm originally from New Hampshire, but in the moment, I'm currently in the heart of Boston.
MCASKILL: I am.
SAGAL: Well what do you do there?
MCASKILL: I am a project manager at a textbook publisher.
SAGAL: Oh really?
SAGAL: So, I mean, are you doing textbooks for little kids, or big kids, or college kids?
MCASKILL: College kids.
SAGAL: College kids.
SAGAL: So this is the complicated stuff?
MCASKILL: Yeah, the hard stuff.
SAGAL: Yeah, these are the books that cost like $100 and the kids are forced to buy them?
MCASKILL: Yeah, and I do the online ones, so they can't sell them back.
SAGAL: That is a great business.
MCASKILL: Yeah, it is.
SAGAL: Well, welcome to our show, Jessie. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Jessie's topic?
KASELL: The arc of history bends toward justice, and sometimes justice is kind of dumb.
SAGAL: This week, our panelists are going to read you three stories of new rights being fought for and won. Guess the true story and you will win Carl's voice on your answering machine or voicemail. Ready to play?
MCASKILL: Sounds good.
SAGAL: First, let's hear from Maz Jobrani.
MAZ JOBRANI: Six years ago, police in England tried to prosecute Oxford student Sam Brown. The offense? One night, after drinking a little too much, Mr. Brown approached a mounted officer and said, "Excuse me, do you realize your horse is gay?"
JOBRANI: Now, I can't imagine anyone has a problem with a horse being gay or straight or even pretending to have a fake girlfriend, but...
JOBRANI: But, according to Section 5 of the Public Order Act, it's illegal to insult a police animal, and police press charges. They also slapped a fine on a 16-year-old in Newcastle who dared to say "Woof" to a police dog.
JOBRANI: Well, fear no more immature Brits, that law has now been amended and you can freely go about calling horses "gay" with abandon. The law is on your side. Simon Calvert, the Reform Section 5 campaign director said, "This is a victory for free speech. People of all shades of opinion have suffered at the hands of Section 5."
JOBRANI: He then turned to a police horse standing next to him and said, "So, are you gay?"
SAGAL: You can now publicly insult all kinds of things in Britain, including police horses, thanks to the repeal of a repressive law. Your next story of freedom, sweet freedom, comes from Amy Dickinson.
AMY DICKINSON: The issue of prayer in school took a new twist last week when an upstate New York school board voted to allow a student to worship her lord and savior, pop star Justin Bieber.
DICKINSON: Sophomore Isabel Richards said she was listening to Bieber's latest album called "Believe," when she felt a religious calling to take her fan worship to a new level.
She set up a shrine in her locker, full of Bieber-nalia, where she practices her religion, Bieber-ism. She holds services Tuesdays and Thursdays during third period study hall, and offers communion with Five Hour Energy drink and Oreos.
DICKINSON: "We're not saying he's the God, we're saying he's, like, oh, my god."
SAGAL: A student wins the right to worship Justin Bieber as she sees fit. Your last story of somebody fighting for their rights and winning comes from Roy Blount, Jr.
ROY BLOUNT, JR.: No one has a right to shout "fire" in a crowded theater. But this week, we learned that we do have the right, at least in California, to make fart noises in a crowded elevator.
JR.: Even in extreme circumstances. Herbie Goss, a 24-year-old messenger, was one of eight people in a Sacramento elevator last year when it stalled between the 12th and 14th floors. Wee-ooh, the passengers were thinking, and then they began to hear various versions of...
(SOUNDBITE OF FART NOISE)
JR.: ...issuing at random intervals from - they began to figure out - a straight-faced Herbie. Over an hour later, when the elevator got working again, passengers demanded that Herbie be arrested, claiming that his sound effects had caused near panic.
JR.: Indeed, Herbie was charged with disturbing the peace, and a Sacramento County Appeals Court upheld his conviction. But last week, the state Supreme Court overturned it, ruling that Herbie had just been trying to relive the tension.
JR.: And that fart noises were a form of speech and in no way intrinsically destructive.
JR.: To prove his point, the judge let a real ripper himself from the bench.
JR.: And then invoked the age old principle "Key fragrant prodot."
JR.: He who smelt it dealt it.
SAGAL: All right.
SAGAL: So here are your choices. From Maz Jobrani, thanks to the repeal of a law in the U.K., you can now insult police animals and a lot of other things, without fear of reprisal. From Amy Dickinson, a student in upstate New York wins the right to worship her personal idol, Justin Bieber. Or from Roy Blount, Jr., thanks to an enlightened judge in California, it's perfectly fine to make fart noises in a crowded elevator for hours at a time.
SAGAL: Which of these is the real story of a freedom fought for and won.
MCASKILL: I think I'm going to go with the gay horse.
DICKINSON: If I had a nickel for every time I said that.
SAGAL: And where are you going to go with the gay horse?
SAGAL: You're going to go with Maz's story of now it's legal to call a horse gay? That's your choice?
SAGAL: All right, we spoke to someone who had an opinion about the real story.
JEFF MEYER: It was previously illegal to say "woof" to a police dog in the U.K., that law has been overturned.
SAGAL: So you got it right. That was Jeff Meyer, publisher of Police K9 Magazine, expressing his incredulity that saying "woof" to a dog could ever be illegal. But you were correct, Maz had the true story. You've won a point for him and you've won our contest. Carl Kasell will record a greeting on your home voicemail. Well done.
MCASKILL: Great. Thank you so much.
SAGAL: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.