‘First Amendment’

When Language Is More Important Than War

Sixteen million Americans fought in WWII. A half-million of them died in it. That’s equal to the entire population of Washington, DC. Or of Wyoming. Very few of those 16,000,000 are still alive, and a dwindling number of Americans actually knows one of them. To create and preserve a record of what actually happened, Ken Burns has made a 14-hour documentary for PBS. It has exactly four instances of words you might hear—or say—if someone were trying to kill you. The Parents Television Council plans to scour those fourteen hours for the four words they don’t want anyone to say…

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Caution: Karl Rove Was Hazardous To Your Sex Life

Karl Rove has built his career on terrifying people. An equal-opportunity offender, he has directed our government’s successful attempts to panic Americans about terrorism, international diplomacy, taxation, mainstream media, and the judicial system. And homosexuality, stem cell research, promiscuity, pornography, teen sexuality, and naughty words on TV. Karl Rove has reminded us that very little can motivate people more than fear. Those of us who believe in sexuality—and democracy, reason, and science—haven’t found a reliable alternative yet. Karl Rove conceived the brilliant strategy of putting “gay marriage” initiatives on state ballots to drive conservative voters to the polls—who then voted…

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I ♥ First Amendment Lawyers

I’m in Chicago this week, speaking again at the semi-annual meeting of the First Amendment Lawyers Association. I love going to their meetings. They’re an inspirational, funny bunch of men and women. When the ACLU takes a case, or an individual or group fights for its most basic rights, it’s a First Amendment Lawyer who typically challenges the government. Various attorneys outlined their current work: * The continuing fallout from the Janet Jackson Superbowl nipplegate; * An Ohio “decency” group’s attempt to eliminate strip clubs from the state; * A Kansas county’s effort to zone adult bookstores out of existence;…

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Senator Stevens Doesn’t Know %*&@# About Morality

Is it too much to ask–for decency crusaders to be decent? To ask those obsessed with morality to be moral? “Indecency” and “morality” are not America’s real problems. Rather, we clearly have an intolerance problem, a church/state convergence problem, a losing-our-right-to-privacy problem, a SexPanic problem. But when people in power (elected or otherwise) fear our indecency or immorality, the rest of us are made to suffer. Recently, the FCC gave itself the right to decide that one-time uses of common cuss words on TV or radio were “indecent,” subjecting a station broadcasting such a word to enormous fines. Excuse me,…

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Happy Birthday, Meese Commission

Twenty-one years ago today, the “Meese Commission”—the U.S. Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography—released its 2,000-page report. President Reagan set up the Commission to reverse the findings of the 1970 report on pornography released under Richard Nixon, which recommended that legislation “should not seek to interfere with the right of adults to read, obtain or view explicit sexual materials.” Although it was supposed to document the damage caused by using pornography, the Commission could find no such thing. It admitted that “The contribution of pornography to sexual deviance remains an open question.” It noted their data “do not support any causal…

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