Pushing Pornography Out Of Print

This social blight is not protected by the First Amendment.

Many believers have been cowed into silence by a half-truth that crops up again and again in North American mass communications media. It is repeated so often that it has begun to sound like whole truth. Censorship, we are told, is undemocratic.

This is partly true. Freedom is curtailed when serious ideas that happen to run contrary to those of the prevailing authority are suppressed to avoid their consideration. The recent roundup and detention in Poland of opinion leaders who declined to hew to the party line is a tragic current illustration. A democracy prospers when the best thinking of all its citizens may be expressed and ideas are accepted or rejected on their merits.

But it is also partly false. A democracy is an intricately functioning kind of civilization, as opposed to anarchy or despotism. Its citizens are entitled to protect themselves from that which threatens their corporate functioning and welfare as a free people. If they do not defend themselves they will eventually lose their freedoms and their treasured social order. Sooner or later the fragile institutions of democracy will become overrun by the hostile forces they failed to check. Censorship directed to eradicating diversity of thought is a threat to democracy. But so is failure to censor that which preys on and poisons a society.

That is why limiting the proliferation of obscene and pornographic materials constitutes no threat to a society’s legitimate freedoms.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution decrees that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …”

But in the 1973 case, Miller v. California, the Court declared: “This ...

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