12 June 2004

I'm a bit surprised that nobody challenged me on this fragment in my last post (or, at least, I would be if it wasn't Saturday night): "Those of us who care about free speech are sort of holding our breaths, awaiting a decision in Newdow…" Isn't Newdow about the Establishment Clause, and not the Free Speech Clause? Well, on its face, and in its immediate effect, of course it is. The difficulty is that theocracy and free speech don't play nicely together. If the Court continues with its ill-considered theory of "ceremonial deism" to support the unnecessary inclusion of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance—which leads to the irreverant question of what Cthulu-worshippers might think instead—I expect further expansion of "indecency" provisions. Remember, too, that "under God" was not considered necessary in the Pledge during the Second World War, even though we were fighting the "godless yellow menace" and an anti-Semite more grandiose than most. No, it was not until the era of the McCarthy hearings half a century ago that that we felt it necessary to prove our superiority to the godless commies by adding an affirmation to the Pledge (one that is inconsistent with a then-decade-old Supreme Court decision) that, ironically, is not all that consistent with the First Commandment, let alone the First Amendment.

Say what you will about the harm caused to children by indecent speech; the particular kinds of "indecent" speech that the government has thus far chosen to control bear all the signs of a religious agenda. Colonel Kurtz understood this: we allow the evening news to show heads blown or chopped off, or present graphic details of sexual assaults couched in scientific language, but we won't allow NCOs to write "fuck" on the sides of their vehicles because that would be "obscene." I am very, very worried about a government that follows the logic described by Colonel Kurtz. You should be, too.