Commissarís in Town
Soviet Union wasnít a pluralistic place. To complement its command
economy, the Bolshevik barbarians imposed artistic censorship through
Glavlit (Main Administration for Literary and Publishing
Affairs), created in 1922 through the Commissariat of Enlightenment
(got to love that titleís pomposity).
expression is entailed by the totalitarian worldview that detests
any idea disparate from its dogma. Conceptual competition is treasonous
to this monopolistic temperament.
theoretically believes in freedom of expression and philosophic
capitalism, so federal censorship clashes with our liberal tradition.
(I admit this is a romantic view. The
Sedition Act, after all, appeared within a decade of the First
Amendmentís ratification.) Yet it is just this kind of counter-constitutional
muzzling that continues to be perpetrated by the Federal Communications
by the 1934
Communications Act, the FCC is one of the New Dealís spawn.
Section 326 of the act contains a shameless instance of doublespeak:
in this Act shall be understood or construed to give the Commission
the power of censorship over the radio communications or signals
transmitted by any radio station, and no regulation or condition
shall be promulgated or fixed by the Commission which shall interfere
with the right of free speech by means of radio communication.
No person within the jurisdiction of the United States shall utter
any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication.
indecency, profanity these nebulous prohibitions have provided
a pretext for the censorship professedly denied to the FCC.
musicians have been the targeted class of late. The FCC fined a
Colorado radio station $7000 for indecency that played an edited
version of Eminemís "The
Real Slim Shady." The same fine has been imposed on stations
that play Sarah Jonesís "Your
is naked illiberalism. Eminem and Sarah Jones certainly perturb
some people, but the same can be said of Kurt
Vonnegut and Phillip Roth. In a free society, offensive lyrics
and prose are boycotted, not muzzled by the State. If they flop,
it is in a free market, not by federal fiat. As Justice John Marshall
Harlan famously notes in Cohen
v. California, "[O]ne manís vulgarity is anotherís
FCCís premise would equally justify an FLC (Federal Literature Commission)
to suppress "obscene, indecent, or profane" writing. Would
The Inferno pass muster? How about Donald Barthelmeís Snow
White or Cormac McCarthyís Blood Meridian? Why would
it be desirable for Beltway bureaucrats to determine eitherís permissibility?
good many Americans will feel no ire over the FCCís aggression against
Eminem and Sarah Jones, but aggression it is when the State expropriates
for expression. Today the commissars muzzle hip-hop. Who knows what
they will muzzle tomorrow?
is only one solution to this menace: abolition.
Kantor [send him mail]
and lives in Boynton Beach, Florida