« Speech means never having to say you're sorry | Main | Pinterest, Jigidi, and factor four of the fair use defense »

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Fuhrer comes to Florida

Yesterday, I saw a Mercedes Benz with the Florida license plate "Fuhrer." (I was not quick enough to get a picture with my phone). Any idea how that one slipped through the cracks?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 6, 2012 at 11:53 AM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Fuhrer comes to Florida:


Florida rejects "objectable" personalized plates.


I don't know what exactly that means. FWIW, Wikipedia notes it had a generic meaning before Hitler as a military title and in Germany is still used as a suffix. Has Florida banned other such things? Is "Stalin" okay?

Posted by: Joe | Mar 9, 2012 10:35:34 PM

I just saw that car about 15 minutes ago. I was also unable to get a picture, as there was a cop car right next to me.

Posted by: Amanda | Mar 9, 2012 5:20:36 PM

It probably got past the censors because "Fuhrer" isn't a word in any language (that I know of).

In German, Hitler was der Führer and in English the Fuehrer. Anyway, how can words in a foreign language that make no sense in English be banned?

Brazilians never cease to wonder that Americans use the word "payday." In Portuguese, it ("peidei") means "to fart." And the name Ira Flato would also make them laugh.

Posted by: Jimbino | Mar 8, 2012 3:55:33 PM

Interpreting license plates as state speech requires quite a stretch. Of course, it would probably be constitutional for them to censor it, but that doesn't mean it's right.

Matt, I'm aware that states do so. It's still misguided and wrong.

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Mar 7, 2012 9:12:46 PM

States limit what can be put on license plates all the time(*), so it would be no surprise if they had prohibited this, and a bit of a surprise that they didn't, even if it had a more innocent explanations, such as being someone's name.

(*)My grandfather, for example, had to give up his license plate in California that said "OPM 2", after someone opposed it, on the grounds that it promoted drug use or some such nonsense. It was meant to mean, "Other people's money too". I don't really understand what he was after with that, but the fact that it had nothing to do with drugs didn't matter. "potentially offensive" seems to be the standard most states use, right or wrong.

Posted by: Matt | Mar 7, 2012 5:15:20 PM

Which is why I wouldn't be talking about this if he had a bumper sticker that said Fuhrer or if he had painted a swastika on his car. But it changes slightly when the state is the one making the speech for him (which depends on the all-over-the-map question of how we analyze license plates for public-forum analysis).

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Mar 7, 2012 2:45:40 PM

Maybe because it's better not to censor speech that we hate?

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Mar 7, 2012 2:29:24 PM

There are people with Fuhrer as a last name. I knew one such person in elementary school -- an Orthodox Jewish institution.

Posted by: Adam | Mar 7, 2012 1:01:52 AM

I vaguely recall a girl in my high school class having last name that was something akin to Fuhrer. (May not have been exactly that but something mighty close). Could that be the explanation?

Posted by: DrGrishka | Mar 6, 2012 1:42:39 PM

Apparently there is one in South Dakota, too.

Posted by: Will Baude | Mar 6, 2012 1:29:19 PM

(I wonder what the USPTO would do with it if someone applied to register it as a mark for, I don't know, auto parts. Likely reject, I think.)

Posted by: junior mint | Mar 6, 2012 1:26:48 PM

I assume Howard isn't surprised that there are anti-Semites or neo-Nazis out there, but that the license plate was issued at all.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Mar 6, 2012 1:02:57 PM

Huh, I have never had the urge to key a car before, but that guy's begging for it! Probably happens daily.

Posted by: junior mint | Mar 6, 2012 1:02:18 PM

Sorry to bust your notions, but there are plenty of folks who think 10 Holocausts would be 10 Holocausts too few. I guess these people are kind of coming out of the closet.

Posted by: T14Author | Mar 6, 2012 12:50:21 PM

Tinted windows, so I couldn't tell much other than he had straight, fairly short hair. I thought it would have been more appropriate if he had been driver a VW or a BMW, but still . . .

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Mar 6, 2012 12:07:16 PM

Did you check to see who the driver was and what he looked like?

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Mar 6, 2012 12:02:19 PM

Post a comment