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Subject: Censorship
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Is government censorship compatible with conservatism? Is government censorship Constitutional? It would seem to me for the sake of some order or good it would be reasonable to censor -- not necessarily via a covert restriction on what is permitted, but by subtle behaviors toward that which is thought ill of. I may not be wording this the best, so here's an example: instead of prohibiting certain art outright, why not the government fail to fund certain art, while keeping an ostensibly neutral stance on its worth? Or, would any attempt to censor create a backlash against conservatism for a very ill-founded idea? I would think that the Founders intent of the first amendment was not the free speech anarchy that seems to pervade both modern liberalism and civil libertarianism, but rather they allowed for and understood the need for some restriction on what can and cannot be said, what is and is not speech. Any thoughts?

Jim Kalb

RE: Censorship
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As written the United States Constitution leaves the states free to censor whatever they want: it says "Congress shall make no law ..."

Putting that aside, it seems clear that when government acts (for example, by buying books for a library or running a school) it has to be free to distinguish true and false, right and wrong in the matters with which it is dealing. Claims that librarians, teachers, artists who receive grants etc. have First Amendment rights that make them the final judges of how to do some aspect of their jobs seem mistaken to me. What they do in their official capacity or in accordance with the grant is what the government is doing.

As to actual censorship, I think the framers of the First Amendment were most concerned with prior restraint, a requirement of official approval before publishing something. The provision wasn't intended to affect liability for libel, slander, obscenity or blasphemy.

All this has to do with what is or should be legally possible though. As to what I think is a good rule, it seems to me localities should be free to establish their own standards for public presentations including movies, theater, TV, public sales of literature and so on. I'm much happier with states or localities censoring things than the Feds. I suppose though that there should also be some sort of state and Federal laws about commercial hardcore pornography. There are limits though to what can be done about people who acquire videos, literature etc. by mail or download things over the internet. It seems to me the laws should concentrate more on public decency and commercial enterprises than individual and private acts.

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