Magazine October 24, 2016, Issue

Slanted Justice

(Maddie Neyer/Getty Images)
Or the use of administrative diktat to make rock ’n’ roll and pro football polite

Simon Shiao Tam fronts an Asian-American rock band called the Slants. Michelle Lee fronts the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), and she refuses to permit Tam to register his trademark with the U.S. government on the grounds that “slant” is a term of racial abuse for persons of East Asian descent, which, as it happens, both she and Tam are.

Tam is taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court. Lee argues that if Tam should prevail, then the PTO would be obliged to recognize names containing “even the most vile racial epithet.”

Of course, the PTO already puts

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