Marjorie Heins, professor, author, and expert on censorship/indecency issues, has posted an excellent analysis of how the indecency debate and the First Amendment get along.
“Indecent” speech – whatever that term may mean to the FCC at any particular time – is constitutionally protected, so ordinarily the government has no business censoring it. Disagreement with dominant ideologies and moral codes is exactly what the principle of free expression is designed to protect. We don’t need the First Amendment to protect speech that offends nobody and agrees with conventional norms. Instead of debating whether it threatens the republic for cable channels to show bare breasts, indulge in bathroom humor, or bleep out vulgar language in a war movie, policymakers should be focusing on the ways in which both cable and broadcast are dominated by large corporations that distract us with car crashes, reality TV, and celebrity newsbites while ignoring serious journalism. With a majority of Americans still believing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, we know that the media – both broadcast and cable – are not doing their job.
At Common Dreams.
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