by: Randy Payton

Dateline: America June 2001: The 'Publicans have lost their majority in the Senate to the Democrats (thanks to "the man from Vermont").

While it's of course music to our ears here at ROC to hear, say, the likes of pro-censorship cold warrior cracker Jesse Helms squeal like a pig as he loses his chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee, we should keep in mind that on the other side of the aisle, the ostensibly more "sensitive" Dems are hardly so "sensitive" to free expression issues, either. Recall that the repressive Communications Decency Act (CDA), attempting to deem as illegal so-called "indecency" -however THAT'S supposed to be defined or by whom-was passed at the hands of a majority of BOTH parties in the House and Senate and signed into law by a Democrat president in 1996 before being ruled unconstitutional in the Supreme Court.

And today who is leading the pack to bring the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into the business of determining "indecency" within the recording industry but Senator Joe Lieberman (D-NJ), 2000 VP candidate to Al Gore, another long-time advocate of censorship-by-intimidation, as is Gore's wife Tipper, one of the most despised personalities in the country, who used her political influence to convene congressional hearings into rock 'n roll lyrics way back in 1986, before eventually strong-arming her record labeling schemes into scary reality by 1990.

In other words, while we're loving to see the religious right would-be censors dazed and demoralized (via the 'publicans set-back) ROC will keep a diligent eye on BOTH sides of the isle, replete as they are with pols who would just as soon sacrifice free speech to make cheap political hay. We urge our readers and supporters to do the same.


"Indecency," Censorship and the Innocence of Youth

book review by Randy Payton

Marjorie Heins nailed down the players in the Censorship Wars of the '90s in Sex, Sin and Blasphemy: A Guide to America's Censorship Wars ('94), targeting the forces working to decide what you and I, dear reader, may read, listen to, write, and indeed THINK. In her new NOT IN FRONT OF THE CHILDREN, Heins examines the very concept of so-called 'indecency' which inevitably underlies the various schemes of the would-be censors, whether in the form of "warning labels," obscenity prosecution, decency boards or legislation regulating content on that once-wild frontier of the Internet.

Younger readers who think censorship in the name of "the children" began yesterday with campaigns against Marilyn Manson (or perhaps, before that, 2-Live Crew) will benefit from Heins' great historical sweep. Things havn't changed much (at least in SOME retrogrades' minds) since the time of Plato who urged the suppression of sculpture and "the other creative arts" to protect the tender young from "impure" thoughts. (Plato has actually been referenced in rececent years by various judges in obscenity cases and by legislators in crafting repressive bills like 1996's ill-fated Community Decency Act (CDA), Heins points out.)

Heins writes that while director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Arts Censorship Project (1991-'98) she came to realize "not only were children and teenagers the most frequent targets of censorship in those years, but they became the justification for restrictions that affected adults as well. Thus, we saw Internet rating and filtering installed on public library computers; stores refusing to carry popular music that contained warning labels; and laws prohibiting 'indecency' on cable television."

This book for me represents the beginning of the end for stupid 'warning' labels and legislation tilting at 'indecency' phantoms. Buy it. Read it. Get your library to get a copy. Quote it far and wide. NOT IN FRONT is indeed an intellectual salvo for "our side."

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