Dumb Law of the Month–Public Diplomacy Resource Centers Act of 2007

By Eric Goldman

I’m announcing the 2007 Dumb Law Derby to proclaim the dumbest law proposed or enacted in 2007. I’m not looking for garden-variety dumb; legislators do that every day. Instead, I’m looking for the head-shaking, jaw-dropping, this-is-what-Thomas-Jefferson-meant-when-he-said-we-should-have-a-rebellion-every-20-years dumb. Let’s take a look at some of the early nominees:

* New Mexico’s proposal to declare Pluto a planet when it “passes overhead through New Mexico’s excellent night skies.” This alone wouldn’t make the list, but when combined with the simultaneous proposal to declare the bolo tie the official tie of New Mexico, I start thinking I should move to New Mexico because clearly they don’t have any real problems to preoccupy legislators.

* New York’s proposal to ban domain name sales to terrorists.

* Utah’s clueless attempt to ban keyword advertising.

Given the amount of vitriol I’ve directed at the Utah law, you might think Utah has already sewn up the prize. But the year is still young, and legislators are still busy. Consider HR 2553, proposed by Rep. Watson (D-CA). The main operative provision of this law requires our foreign embassies and consulate offices to “schedule public showings of American films that showcase American culture, society, values, and history.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, Rep. Watson thinks that “wider worldwide exposure to classic Hollywood fare will help convince people that the American way is not evil.”

Let’s see if I understand the proposal:

1) Rep. Watson thinks that movie studios are producing movies that reflect positively on the US. Hmm…not sure I’ve seen many of those recently. But when she references “classic” movies, it makes more sense. To show the rest of the world how great we are, we should show old movies.

2) I’m sure people who think the US is evil will happily head down to their local US embassy to catch a flick. Of course, some of them probably know the way from the last time they protested there. It might actually make for a romantic date night:

* 6:30: pick up date

* 7:00: lob Molotov cocktails with date at the embassy

* 7:45: cuddle up to a fireside screening of Pirates of the Caribbean 3

3) I wonder how many people aren’t already well-exposed to American movies. In fact, I wonder how many screened movies simultaneously can be picked up 4-for-$1 from many nearby sidewalk vendors.

4) I agree with Mike Masnick that I thought some people hate America because of our cultural influence/dominance. Boy, I’m glad this proposal doesn’t exacerbate that!

As you can see, the derby for dumbest law of 2007 is wide-open, and we have 6 months left to go. I welcome your nominations!