Friday, April 3, 2009

Statesmen Gone Wild: Free Speech Plundered Over Porno Pirates

This post relates to pornography, but does not link to or show any actual pornography, so it is safe for a hidebound killjoy like MD State Senator Andy Harris (R-Baltimore and Harford) to read it. Yesterday, Harris painted a cross on his chest and crusaded against the evil heathens at the University of Maryland (which I'm proud to call my alma mater) because the school's student union scheduled a screening of "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge," apparently the highest-budget XXX-rated porn in history. 

Harris ignored the facts that 1) no state money went toward the screening, 2) IDs would be checked at the door, 3) Planned Parenthood was invited to lead a discussion about safe sex practices before the screening, and 4) no one was putting a gun to anyone's head to attend the screening, and he proposed an amendment that would have cancelled ALL state funding to the school if they showed a XXX porn. Skittish University officials forced the cancellation of the screening. Good for you Andy! Now the world is free of porn... except for being a few keystrokes away from any person with an internet connection. 

I'll try to refrain from injecting my own opinions about pornography, but last I heard, it is legal, and I do believe there's this thing called "free speech" that's supposed to prevent legislatures from meddling (censoring) when something "inappropriate" but legal is going on. But Andy doesn't care about that. There's boobs! We can't show boobs to adults who want to see boobs! That would be terrible! And definitely worthy of shutting down the flagship university of the great state of Maryland after 155 years of service!

Here's what Senate President Mike Miller, who said he would have supported the amendment, had to say about it:
  • I don't believe in censorship, but at the same time, I don't think that film was appropriate in a state building on a state campus. . . Yes, the amendment was overkill, but at the same time, it would have passed because it forced legislators to either vote for hardcore pornography or university funding.
It's a nice little quote, but it makes no sense. A "nay" vote on the amendment = porn and funding remain. A "yea" vote = no porn and funding remains or yes porn and no funding, but the Senators are in no way voting on whether the school is allowed to show it... perhaps because they have NO RIGHT WHATSOEVER to do so. They are just legislating the morality of porn by threatening the purse-strings of one of the most important institutions in the state. Legislators wouldn't have been "forced" to do anything at all. Just like students are not "forced" to see the movie. They totally reached beyond their powers on this one.

And my very own State Senator, Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery), did me proud by saying just that:
  • The proposed amendment was a direct affront to freedom of speech. . . The Supreme Court has been clear that student groups enjoy First Amendment rights. It's not the movie I would have chosen for myself or my kids, but that's the beauty of the First Amendment: People who want to see it can go, and those who don't want to don't have to.
Well put, Senator Raskin (that's him on the right, Harris on the left). I'm so thankful that my representative in the State Senate understands that he has not been elected to legislate what is "decent" or "appropriate" to be shown to consenting adults.

I would love to see the University call the Senate's bluff and show the film anyway. Any court would strike down the Senate's actions, and the public outcry against closing down the University over such a trivial matter might put the Senate back in its place. Also, I hate to see my supposedly liberal state behaving in such a backwards way. It's not like UMD was going to be the first school to show it. UC Davis showed it without incident, as have other schools.

Sadly, an (unscientific) poll in the Baltimore Sun shows 60% of voters think the University did the right thing by cancelling it. Apparently we still live in such a puritanical society that we'd rather give up our rights to freedom of speech than allow some college kids to watch a porno.

1 comment:

Andrew Buchanan Watson said...

I concur Eli.

Did you know that UMD showed Deep Throat in 2005:

Better yet, how about the entire arguement that violence is acceptable in the media but nudity is not. Hmmm, logic... you're doing it wrong.

Keep up the intelligent posts.