Friday, December 08, 2006

The etymology of “bong hits 4 jesus”

Derek commented on my last post that, contrary to Ken Starr’s assertion, it’s not entirely obvious that “bong hits 4 jesus” is a pro-drug statement, noting that “Jews for Jesus doesn’t seem to be a blatantly pro-Jewish message.” This in turn got me wondering about the phrase’s origin. If you Google “bong hits 4 Jesus,” nearly every entry that comes up refers to the case, and many of these stories assume that the plaintiff, Joseph Frederick, came up with this motto. But some further sleuthing definitively shows this not to be true.

I found a website that sells “Bong hits 4 Jesus!” bumper stickers which include not only the phrase but also a picture of, what else, Jesus taking a bong hit. Did the people at the website got the idea from the Juneau case? Possibly, but if so, Frederick and his fellow free speakers in turn got it from someone else. I found a story on each of two consecutive days in two different Florida newspapers describing a VW van at a Grateful Dead concert that was festooned with, among other things, a Bong Hits for Jesus bumper sticker. The stories date from April 1994. So we can be certain that Joseph Frederick did not invent “bong hits 4 jesus.”

Note, though, that the placement of the sticker on a VW van at a Grateful Dead concert is about as clear proof as one could require in this life for the proposition that Bong Hits 4 Jesus is a PRO-drug statement. And no, Ken Starr, if you use that fact in your merits brief or in the oral argument, you don’t need to credit me for the research. Knowledge is its own reward.

8 comments:

David Crowley said...

Hmmmm. How does the originalism analysis go on this one? What would the Framers have thought about this?

Here's the best analogy I could come up with: Joseph Ellis informs us in Founding Brothers that John Adams (a one time would-be minister) was agnostic about the existence of heaven. But Adams believed in the importance of believing in heaven for the psychological comfort it provided. Thus, Adams wrote: "If it would be revealed or demonstrated that there is no future state," i.e., no afterlife**, "my advice to every man, woman, and child would be, as our existence would be in our power, to take opium." So, at least one Founding Father was on record supporting "Bong Hits OR Jesus." Whether that's support for "Bong Hits FOR Jesus," I can't say.

**Founding Brothers, page 244. I'll let Andrew and Professor Morrison debate the accuracy of my interpretation of "future state" as "afterlife."

Kevin said...

Hi.

posted May 24, 1993
referencing a bumper sticker from
a G.D. concert.

http://groups.google.com/group/alt.peeves/browse_thread/thread/74ce9f638cf4538b/3646f9873f85df04?lnk=st&q=%22bong+hits+for+jesus%22+original&rnum=77&hl=en#3646f9873f85df04

The phrase was
"Bong Hits For Jesus"
The substitution "4" instead of
"For" probably reflects modern
text messaging practices, or
possibly was quoting a number of
hits, for instance web page hits.


The banner was clearly not pro-drug,
but a viral banner trying to
promote a dot com that specializes
in deep searches of the web.

I am available for expert witness
on this.

The dot com in question, tries
to improve the number of hits
for a customer's web pages.

A "bong hit" is actually slang
for a type of multi-way web search
based on nearest-neighbor
pattern matching using WiMax routers.

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