BEATING BACK THE CENSORS: AN ANALYSIS

By: Randy Lee Payton


For the past 4-5 years the grass roots anti-censorship movement, through the power of sheer, dogged tenacity, helped keep the would-be theocrats of the Religious Right and their well-funded, nationally-coordinated attempts at censorship-by-intimidation in check.

Recall the early 90's: Schoolbooks and curriculum targeted by belligerent, bellicose religious bigots. Zero Tolerance and sexual ignorance peddled as "public policy." Rap artists busted for performing before paying, adult audiences in Florida (shades of the days of Lenny Bruce!) A "born-again" Obscenity Unit within the U.S. Justice Department pulling out ALL STOPS to destroy the adult entertainment industry. A gutless wonder record industry cowered by the Washington-Stephord Wives (PMRC) into adopting ominous "warning labels." The ludicrous spectacle of TV network brass obsequiously genuflecting before ridiculous outback geeks like Don Wildmon and his so-called American Family Association. A museum director arrested for "daring" to exhibit a world touring show of works by world-acclaimed photographer-artist Robert Mapplethorpe in Cincinnati, Ohio. Visionary, avant-garde women artists singled out BY NAME in Congress by vile, low, clueless philistine husks like Jesse Helms...

To many it looked like a new Dark Ages was descending upon America. Some despaired. Others happily rallied to fight the would-be censors. A showdown was brewing: the Rabid Right was to make a big grab for the hearts and minds of the American people via its bogus "family values" ruse in the '92 presidential campaign. Their defeat at the polls exposed the would-be theocrats' claim to "speak for the American people" TO BE A BLUFF.

One long-time observer of the Religious Right found the would-be censors largely out of steam throughout 1993. "By now one might have expected Clinton's right-wing opponents to have roused themselves from their internecine conflicts to forge a united front against what remains of centrist liberalism. Such has not happened in this past year," according to excellent author (SPIRITUAL WARFARE) and Opposition Research columnist Sara Diamond in Z Magazine (Sample copies for $5 from 116 St. Botolph St., Boston, MA 02115.)

By contrast, 1992-'93 were years of decisive political victories for the Anti-Censorship Movement, scoring numerous "chops" against the vulnerable underbellys of our adversaries. An organized, grass-roots anti-censorship groundswell DROWNED the repressive federal censorship legislation S. 1521. (S. 1521, an unholy hybrid of thought drawn from back-water fundamentalist ideology and the MacKinnon-Dworkin schools, which would have held artists, writers, musicians and publishers somehow "responsible" for crimes committed by an offender claiming to have been so "motivated" by a particular work.) Our forces successfully dogged this insidious little bill to its deserved death in late '92. In 1993 a court ordered the NEA to make good on grants formerly withdrawn from artists Holly Hughes, John Fleck, Karen Finley and Tim Miller "for political reasons" in 1990. A study commissioned by the TV networks concluded Don Wildmon's American Family's Association's threats of boycotts were a big bluff all along (surprise, surprise) --hence, excellent adult-oriented dramas like NYPD Blue found their way to the Fall TV line-up. Symbolically, America's prototype censor Charles Keating gets 10 years for his role in the S&L scam. And finally, as anticipated, we're happy to welcome recent statements by 60's-inspired Clinton appointees advancing sex-positive values in formulating Social Policy for the nation in the months and years ahead, in conscious contrast to the sex-negative policies of the Reagan-Bush era. What a difference a year makes!

It's more important than ever that grass-roots freedom forces CONTINUE to organize throughout the land in response to would-be censors everywhere. As we enter 1994, the pro-freedom and pro-censorship forces are at a stand-off. The social pendulum is up for grabs.

At the same time that we buck the would-be censors, it's important we help to fortify up and coming experimental underground music and arts scenes around the country, help build support for pirate, alternative media, establish sex-positive educational and research groups, institutes, think-tanks --all which, after all's said and done, will guarantee ULTIMATE resistance to censorship). Liberation of Information and Free Expression is what it's all about, is it not, my friends? NOW's the time for pro-erotic, pro-lust, sex-positive citizens to put their best feet forward! As Bobby Brown sang: "It's our Prerogative," folks!

Our "secret weapons" in this Joyous Struggle include the irresistible, volcanic force of human sexuality together with our commitment to such steadfast, traditional American values as Our Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The Universe is perfect; how can we lose?!

-RLP for the Free Expression League

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