Let me be absolutely clear on a matter of grave importance. In many ways, really, it is the only thing that matters at this point in history. There is no such thing, legally or philosophically, as obscenity. There are no “prurient interests” or “community standards,” or “lines we cannot cross.” ALL, and I do mean all, is permissible. Not in terms of behavior, of course, but rather artistic expression. I am of the belief that all is art, and there can be judgments (individual, not societal) on what is either good or bad. So to argue that a blank canvas or fish tank filled with excrement cannot possibly be art in any form is simply untenable. It might be poor art or silly art, but it stands for something, even if that something is up for debate. Even the absence of an idea is an idea of sorts. If this seems ridiculous, consider a central contradiction of postmodernism: to say that there are no fixed truths is itself a fixed truth, which acts as a worldview by which to judge other “truths” that are not fixed. Indeed.
The lack of obscenity as a reality is vital to our political discourse at this time because more than ever, agents of Puritanism and censorship aim to limit the cultural stimuli that we take in. Here in Colorado, a law has been making its way through the state house that would make criminal any and all displays that show “obscenity.” In other words, a bookstore could be fined or even prosecuted for showing certain books or magazines that might be deemed inappropriate for minors. Needless to say, this has a chilling effect reminiscent of Stalinism, as what is deemed “inappropriate” is as varying and diverse as the general population. Still, certain “people” (fuckers, fascists, Christians) will argue that such a reality is reason enough to push such decisions to the local level. I’ve heard this argument before, but it is a convenient cover for anti-elitism at its worst. Only small towns and right-wing havens for white Christians are pursuing these goals, and largely to act as a standard against the big city, i.e. Jew and minority-infested urban areas. “East Coast elites” has always meant Jewish to those who wish to curtail speech, and this most odious of populist rhetoric claims to abhor censorship precisely because it takes the federal government out of the equation. And yet, as our Founders — especially Hamilton — realized, tyranny is more likely to occur on the local level, largely because passions and prejudices are unchecked. There are ten thousand reasons to oppose local controls on anything (especially matters of taste), but the most striking is a Constitutional one. Cities and towns may hate big, bad government, but federal law reigns supreme; not often, or usually, but always. And unless these “strict constructionist” pricks can find a definition of obscenity in the Bill of Rights, they’re openly shitting on our Constitution and have committed the most obvious form of treason I can imagine.
I know I’ve harped on the “no law” provision in the First Amendment to no end, but it bears repeating again and again. Ponder for a moment the sort of society that gives me chills of excitement: Every imaginable image and word is allowed expression, from television, to radio, to print. There are no FCC restrictions, no guidelines, and no family hours. Of course, pundits, clergy, politicians, and common citizens are expressing outrage, disgust, and calls for a “moral renewal,” but such roars will be part of the wider debate rather than a means to change the law. We will have speeches, marches, demonstrations, and foundations to track the effect of such unfettered information. But at no time will any entity, public or private, alter the content of another. Only counter images are permitted. If I want to show an endless loop of priests being sodomized by tire irons on my primetime station (and I do), such things will see the light of day. If I have drawings of children stacked like cordwood and covered in caramel, the local gallery may show my work without fear of reprisal. A cartoon of Donald Rumsfeld being raped by Dick Cheney, ending with John Ashcroft bursting in to scrape away their skin with a cheese grater? Right after 60 Minutes. And old woman being shot in the face, but not before being dragged around a parking lot filled with broken glass by a pickup truck bearing anti-Jesus bumper stickers? Saturday mornings following Pokemon, of course. A documentary demonstrating the ties between President Bush’s family and the terrorist-funding Saudis? Now you’ve gone too far.