When indecency is pervasive, is it indecent

When indecency is pervasive, is it indecent

: Adam Thierer writes in today’s Washington Post that the spreading ooze of content regulation — aka censorship — holds more dangers on the horizon:

Some lawmakers seem to believe that once any media technology becomes popular enough, it becomes “pervasive” and therefore some degree of censorship is justified. But the notion that “popularity equals pervasiveness” is frightening, because it contains no limiting principles. This wasn’t the standard we applied to print outlets such as newspapers as they grew in popularity. Nor is it the standard we apply to the Internet. In fact, recent Supreme Court decisions have rejected attempts to apply indecency controls to cyberspace.

Of course, none of this is going to stop pro-censorship policymakers from pushing the envelope to incorporate new media — at least basic cable and satellite programming — into the indecency mix. If this “popularity equals pervasiveness” regulatory paradigm becomes law and passes muster in the courts, we will have entered a world in which the public has to pay to escape censorship. Anything Congress or the FCC deemed “indecent” would likely be forced onto a premium or pay-per-view tier, where consumers would spend considerable sums to receive some of their favorite programs. But here’s the really interesting question: If large numbers of viewers still flock to premium or pay-per-view services to get their favorite programming — such as HBO, or Howard Stern’s new show on satellite radio — wouldn’t the “popularity equals pervasiveness” calculus apply to those channels as well? If so, we could look forward to still more laws to protect us from ourselves.

[Thanks, Ruth]

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  • GCW

    Hey, I agree that the feds should not be regulating this indecency stuff, especially anything that you have to pay for to bring into your own home.
    But I’m more concerned about government limits on political speech (McCain-Feingold) than limits on seeing boobies.

  • GCW: Those two things are linked and driven by the same impulse. The more government has control over one aspect of our lives, the more it will want control over others.
    Que idiot right-wing screed about the children in five, four, three, two…

  • Cal

    Won’t someone please think about the children.–Edna Krabappel

  • Mike

    Now this is a censorship post! If you would stop your ridiculous screeds about nipple hunts and Howard Stern you would become more credible.
    The idea that the government needs to regulate something I pay for is obscene and UnConstitutional. I don’t have a problem with the regulations for broadcast TV and radio, but when they try to extend that regulation to the internet, cable, and satellite they are overstepping their bounds. These politicians need to know that most Americans will not stand for that. And Timothy, if you think that the whole “think of the children meme” is a right-wing screed, then you know nothing about this issue!

  • S
  • Andy Freeman

    > GCW: Those two things are linked and driven by the same impulse.
    Not necessarily, and certainly not by the same people.
    For example, Jarvis’ MSM advocates political censorship. They’re only offended by restrictions that might reduce their revenues.

  • Right of Center

    I am against censorship in general, but isn’t there a difference between buying a Pron Magazine, or Pay-per-view and porn on the internet?
    There is no viable way to exclude minors on the internet as there is in other venus.

  • jeremy in NYC
  • Andy Freeman

    Until March, Jarvis wasn’t much bothered by political censorship. It’s still lower on his priority list than boobies, which is his right.
    Nevertheless, Jarvis is a MSM advocate (see boobies above) and MSM continues to be one of the big advocates for political censorship. Thus “Jarvis’ MSM advocates political censorship” is accurate.
    If that’s insulting, well, they can stop doing it. Heck, they can start working against the political censorship that they pushed into law before they demand that others work to save them from boobie controls.

  • JJ says that some comments were lost, so I’m posting what I had in my cache. Hope this is OK…
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    Nevertheless, Jarvis is a MSM advocate (see boobies above) and MSM continues to be one of the big advocates for political censorship. Thus “Jarvis’ MSM advocates political censorship” is accurate.

    Well, I’m going to use Andy-logic. Since Andy is tarring Jeff for being an MSM advocate, obviously Andy is not one.

    Well, so I guess Andy is the opposite of Jeff. Therefore, Andy is against censorship. However, the MSM is also against clubbing baby seals. Andy is against the MSM. Therefore, Andy is pro-baby-seal-clubbing.

    Wow, that was easy! Much easier than dealing with anyone’s actual history on the subject!

    (p.s., Andy – try Google “Advanced Search” if you want to find previous Jarvis comments on McCain-Feingold, as well as his vitriol against MSM companies, like Disney, that go pro-censorship. When you’re done advocating clubbing baby seals, that is)

    Posted by jeremy in NYC at June 7, 2005 02:56 PM

    How about children growing up in a house filled with second-hand smoke? If content has to be censored because otherwise “the children” might see it and be “harmed,” than the smoker ought to be arrested for child abuse.

    By the way, isn’t it interesting that children who see violence and killing on television on a per minute basis are utterly uninfluenced by it, whereas at the sight of a single nipple they become deranged sex-obsessed lunatics.

    Studies show…

    Posted by Horatio at June 7, 2005 03:31 PM

    “utterly uninfluenced”? Are you kidding? Man, ever since I grew up watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, I just can’t go a day without dropping anvils on ducks, sticking my finger in shotguns so they backfire, and tricking coyotes into running off of cliffs……

    Posted by jeremy in NYC at June 7, 2005 04:07 PM

    Yes, once I accidentally got stuck in a room full of TNT. When it all blew up, I was all covered with soot, so mom wasn’t too happy.

    Posted by Horatio at June 7, 2005 04:41 PM

    Ah, Jeremy’s rather defensive about MSM’s role in political censorship.

    Most of the rest of us live in a world where one position doesn’t predict every other one. (However, it turns out that I am pro-clubbing baby seals.)

    BTW, I pointed out that Jarvis has changed his mind about political censorship and now opposes it, so pointing out that he now opposes it isn’t a refutation.

    Posted by Andy Freeman at June 8, 2005 11:35 AM

    (Sigh) OK, since you went with the March example I found (“Until March, Jarvis wasn’t much bothered by political censorship”) here’s Jarvis in September 2004 opposing campaign speech restrictions. Now you make up something about this one, then I’ll give another fact, then you continue pulling stuff out of your *ss.

    I could care less about the “MSM” role in McCain-Feingold. But I tend to be a first amendment absolutist, and Jarvis is one of the people out there doing something about it; so I will admit snarky twits with making stuff up based on 4th grade logic (I mean, seriously – your argument is ‘Jarvis supports the MSM, and the MSM supports censorship, so Jarvis supports censorship- – lordy lordy) to attack him on the subject does annoy me. That I will concede.

    Posted by jeremy in NYC at June 8, 2005 03:21 PM

    popularity equals pervasiveness

    Who exactly is making this argument? I Googled it and just found a tiny number of people warning of it, no one advancing it.

    I’m not saying that nobody’s making the argument, but references, please. Bozell?

    If so, I think that’s where most of his right wing/conservative support ends, at least on any significant scale.

    Posted by carsonfire at June 8, 2005 07:28 PM

    I think most of the drive to regulate cable TV and satellite radio is coming from broadcast TV and radio, who find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. I guess it looks to them like “leveling the playing field” by applying decency regulations to their payed-subsription competitors is an easier sell politically than getting their own decency regulations removed.

    Expect no good arguments for regulating payed services, just sophistries and self-interest.

    Posted by ralph phelan at June 9, 2005 01:17 AM
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  • Karen
  • Mark