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Obscenity Laws and Censorship

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Neo-Tech Advantage #92

Despite the sexual errors projected by the "Playboy" philosophy that can lead to impotence and frigidity (see Neo-Tech Advantage #19), the Playboy Corporation made important contributions to both individual and sexual freedom [Re: Concept 37, Neo-Tech Reference Encyclopedia]. Those contributions come not only through the open, guiltless views of pleasure and sex expressed in its magazine, but also through the Playboy Foundation and its monthly magazine feature, The Playboy Forum. That feature provides constant public exposure to the ongoing government-neocheating ploy of usurping power through oppression of private sexual activities and other victimless "crimes".

Perusing any issue of the Forum starkly reveals that even in this sexually-liberated era, individuals all over the United States are being arrested, harassed, humiliated, injured, tried, fined, and sent to jail for private, consenting sexual acts. The following list provides several examples of sexual oppression as taken from a randomly selected, six-page Forum feature in Playboy magazine:

A book published by the Playboy Press, Sex American Style, cites many government laws that can and do jail innocent people for harmless, mutually consenting sex acts. That book includes articles by Hugh M. Hefner; "The Legal Enforcement of Morality" and "Tyranny Under the Law".

Three decades ago, comic Lenny Bruce, despite his existentialistic errors that eventually killed him, made a major contribution toward breaking the oppressive religious/government grip of sexual-oppression laws and censorship. To stop his defiance of "moral" authority, the government directly abetted the death of Lenny Bruce.

Hustler magazine, however disgusting its scatology, also played an important, front-trench role in buffeting the forces of sexual oppression and censorship. The government/religious axis in their failing trial designed to jail the publisher of Hustler, Larry Flynt, inspired an assassination attempt: As Mr. Flynt walked before the courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, a bullet severed his spinal cord, paralyzing him for life.

A generation ago, a nude-streaking fad broke across the United States. That fad was a timely, counter-response to the oppressive Supreme-Court anti-obscenity decision a year earlier. The motives for streaking and the effects on the streakers' self-esteem were probably unhealthy in most cases. But such overt, widespread flouting of sexual authoritarianism helped undermine the enforcement of oppressive censorship and anti-obscenity laws. Nude streaking broke the anti-obscenity momentum that was ominously building in the United States from that Supreme-Court decision. But the anti-obscenity forces of religious and political neocheaters are now trying to reassert their oppressive powers granted to them by the conservative justices of the United States Supreme Court.

The United States Supreme Court was meant to function as a principled, philosophical body designed to protect individual rights.[ 59 ] But recent decisions on obscenity and pornography have been void of principle in ignoring the concept of individual rights. An earlier Supreme Court (Memoires vs. Massachusetts) stated the following criterion for pornography: "A book cannot be proscribed unless it is found to be utterly without redeeming social value." That criterion ignored the principles of individual rights and property rights while opening the way for people to be jailed on the basis of some other person's judgment of the "social" merit of their work.

Seven years later, the Supreme-Court Miller vs. California case negated individual rights in determining the following criteria to criminally convict for victimless pornography: "(a) whether the average person applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest...(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."

That Supreme Court ruling left the individual unprotected and at the mercy of any judge, prosecutor, police force, or community. Any of those forces can now attack, prosecute, and jail an individual under arbitrary standards such as (1) contemporary community standards, or (2) "offensive" as defined by a state law, or (3) if the work lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. In other words, anyone who disagrees with the arbitrary standards of the empowered authorities (judge, police, community leaders) can potentially be jailed through current anti-obscenity laws. Such nonobjective law is a major step toward censorship, which is the precursor to totalitarianism.

The above Supreme Court majority opinion, which abridges individual rights, was written by the conservative Chief Justice and supported by the other four conservative justices in a 5 to 4 decision. Only Justice Douglas identified the issue of individual rights in his dissenting opinion:

"The idea that the First Amendment permits punishment for ideas that are 'offensive' to the particular judge or jury sitting in judgment is astounding. No greater leveler of speech or literature has ever been designed. To give the power to the censor, as we do today, is to make a sharp and radical break with the traditions of a free society. The First Amendment was not fashioned as a vehicle for dispensing tranquilizers to the people. Its prime function was to keep debate open to 'offensive' as well as to 'staid' people. The tendency throughout history has been to subdue the individual and to exalt the power of government. The use of the standard 'offensive' gives authority to government that cuts the very vitals out of the First Amendment. As is intimated by the Court's opinion, the materials before us may be garbage, but so is much of what is said in political campaigns, in the daily press, on TV or over the radio. By reason of the First Amendment -- and solely because of it -- speakers and publishers have not been threatened or subdued because their thoughts and ideas may be 'offensive' to some."

The conservative Chief Justice and his conservative associates on the Supreme Court shifted from the principle of protecting individual rights to an arbitrary, undefinable standard of "social good". Hitler, Stalin, and Mao also subjugated individual rights to their standards of "social good". Those arbitrary standards eventually included killing tens of millions of their own citizens for the "social good".

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[ 59 ] Throughout the checkered history of the United States Supr eme Court, one finds many disgraceful exceptions to its role as a principled body for protecting individual rights. Early in this century, for example, the United States Supreme Court favored explicit censorship by removing films from the protection of the First Amendment (free speech). The court then decreed that since films were made for profit, they did not deserve constitutional protection. In their decision, the justices conveniently ignored the fact that books and newspapers were also made for profit.

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