Not in Front of the Children
' Indecency,' Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth, Second Edition
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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I owe an immense debt of gratitude to the Open Society Institute (OSI), which supported my vision for this book both financially and intellectually. Copious thanks to its entire staff, and especially to Gara LaMarche, director of OSI’s U.S. Programs, and Gail Goodman, program officer for OSI’s Individual Project Fellowships. My colleagues in free-expression work have been a steady source of ...
INTRODUCTION TO THE 2007 EDITION
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March 2007: A Connecticut high school principal has just cancelled the performance of a student-composed theater piece about the war in Iraq. The students had already rewritten the script in response to administration concerns, removing graphic violence and “some things that reflect poorly on the Bush administration.”1 But the principal still disapproved. Barely a week before this story broke, the Supreme Court heard argument ...
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In 1998, citing this famous passage from Plato’s Republic, judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the legal claims of a high school drama teacher who had been punished for choosing a controversial play called Independence for her advanced acting class. (The play addressed themes of divorce, homosexuality, and unwed pregnancy.) The judges ruled that school ...
1. “TO DEPRAVE AND CORRUPT”
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The judges who quoted Plato’s Republic in their 1998 ruling against the drama teacher Margaret Boring reflected a familiar and obviously ancient child-rearing philosophy. As one scholar observed not long ago, “the greatest part of contemporary criticism of television depends on a moral disapproval which is identical to Plato’s attack on epic and tragic poetry in the fourth ...
2. MORE EMETIC THAN APHRODISIAC
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The same year Judge Learned Hand wrote in United States v. Kennerley that “the understanding and morality of the present time” rejected Victorian-era sexual repression, Dr. Sigmund Freud published an article describing the influence of his psychoanalytic theories of dream interpretation, childhood sexuality, and neurosis on virtually every facet of modern culture. Eight ...
3. THE GREAT AND MYSTERIOUS MOTIVE FORCE IN HUMAN LIFE
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Samuel Roth’s case was now headed for the Supreme Court, but two months before it was argued, the Court briefly and elegantly interred the century-old “deprave and corrupt” obscenity test of Regina v. Hicklin. It was a bit of an anticlimax. The case of Butler v. Michigan involved a typical state obscenity law that criminalized any publication with a tendency “to incite minors to violent or ...
4. POLICING THE AIRWAVES
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A social historian might have appreciated this tongue-in-cheek exchange as a manifestation of sexual openness as pioneered by Sigmund Freud, Havelock Ellis, Alfred Kinsey, and their successors, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, in the 1960s,2 but the Federal Communications Commission was not amused. Assigned by Congress to regulate broadcasting, which ...
5. THE REIGN OF DECENCY
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The FCC had insisted that the Pacifica case was narrow, involving only George Carlin’s provocatively repetitious riffs on the seven naughty words. And the agency was as good as its word, initially. In the first eight years after the Supreme Court’s decision, it focused its indecency rule on the taboo terms and little else. Barely two months after Pacifica, the Commission dismissed complaints ...
6. THE IDEOLOGICAL MINEFIELD:SEXUALITY EDUCATION
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In 1999, a recent college graduate named Wendy Shalit published A Return to Modesty, a book lamenting her generation’s sexual freedom. Shalit argued that too many youngsters “know far too much too soon” about sex, and “as a result they end up, in some fundamental way, not knowing.”1 Her variation on harm-to-minors ideology—the notion that sexual knowledge in itself is ...
7. INDECENCY LAW ON TRIAL: RENO V. ACLU [Contains Illustrations]
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The same year that Congress made “abstinence unless married” official government policy, it also passed its biggest, most sweeping anti-indecency law. Among the many ironies of this 1996 Communications Decency Act, or CDA, was that the youngsters it was ostensibly passed to protect generally knew more about the Internet and how to explore its wonders than the ...
8. FILTERING FEVER
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The Supreme Court’s stirring words in Reno v. ACLU about the expressive potential of the Internet were exhilarating to First Amendment aficionados but did little to alter the politics of child protection. Just days after the Court struck down the 1996 Communications Decency Act, the White House began to float alternative proposals for controlling cyberspace. The new emphasis ...
9. CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
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In 1998, the Indian fundamentalist group Shiv Sena organized violent protests against the film Fire, the tale of a love affair between two women trapped in oppressive marriages. The film’s lesbian theme, ridicule of religious dogma, and portrayal of males as simultaneously tyrannical and ridiculous all contributed to the controversy. By December, Shiv Sena had ...
10. MEDIA EFFECTS
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While European Union officials exude skepticism about the actual harm to minors from controversial expression, in the United States by the 1990s it was politically almost untenable to question the claim that media violence has been proven to have dire effects on youth. Yet from Dr. Tissot’s L’Onanisme in the 18th century to campaigns against comic books in the 1950s and TV ...
CONCLUSION: “THE ETHICAL AND MORAL DEVELOPMENT OF YOUTH”
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In September 1999, New York City’s mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, tried to close down an art exhibit entitled Sensation at the Brooklyn Museum, a venerable institution supported largely with city funds. Among the works on display that the mayor considered “sick” and “disgusting” was the British artist Chris Ofili’s “Holy Virgin Mary,” a glittering African madonna with an exposed ...
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Page Count: 442
Illustrations: 17 illustrations
Publication Year: 2007