Justices Finally Notice Naked Statues In The Supreme Court While Arguing Why Nudity Should Be Censored

from the oops dept

We’ve been covering the various court fights over the right of the FCC to fine TV networks over indecency — including “fleeting” expletives and nudity. The Supreme Court heard the latest case last week (we got behind on coverage due to CES), and it certainly sounds like the Supreme Court Justices are perfectly happy with censoring the public airwaves. Reading the quotes from the transcript, it’s really quite ridiculous. The Justices seem to spend a lot more time prudishly discussing what they think is appropriate, rather than the actual legal issues. Take, for example, Justice Antonin Scalia — the supposed constructionalist who goes by the word of the Constitution:

“Sign me up as supporting Justice Kennedy’s notion that this has a symbolic value, just as we require a certain modicum of dress for the people that attend this Court and the people that attend other Federal courts. It’s a symbolic matter…These are public airwaves, the government is entitled to insist upon a certain modicum of decency. I’m not sure it even has to relate to juveniles, to tell you the truth.”

I’m curious where in the First Amendment it says that Congress shall make no law… except wherein it involves requiring a modicum of decency. But the best part of the hearing came when, after the Justices got worked up about the idea of nudity on TV, one of the lawyers, Seth Waxman wondered about all the nudity right in the Supreme Court itself:

He said government often fails when it gets into the business of trying to understand context, as it purportedly did when it fined ABC for showing fleeting nudity on NYPD Blue.

“Right now, the commission has pending before it… complaints about the opening episode of the last Olympics, which included a statue very much like some of the statues that are here in this courtroom, that had bare breasts and buttocks,” he told the Supreme Court.

Waxman then pointed around the room. “There’s a bare buttock there and there’s a bare buttock here.”

As the crowd snickered, Scalia admitted that he hadn’t noticed it before now.

Elsewhere, Justices seemed to think that, without the threat of indecency fines, the networks would be full of swearing and nudity. Of course, that’s ridiculous. The networks would respond to what people actually wanted, and plenty of cable networks (not subject to such FCC rules) do not have nudity and swearing, because they know it’s not appropriate for their audience. We’ll see how the court eventually rules, but the questioning certainly did not bode well.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Justices Finally Notice Naked Statues In The Supreme Court While Arguing Why Nudity Should Be Censored”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Testify before the court

Is it true, as one popular pulp fiction author suggests, that the word “testify” derives from a practice of swearing a solemn oath while holding ones balls, in plain view for all to see? This supreme court needs more of that kind of testimony!

Seriously, why do our leaders waste so much time on such silly questions?

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Testify before the court

Were it not for Politics (heretofore referred to as “The Greatest Show on Earth”) and their power to distract everybody from what’s really going on, then the world “Leaders” would have to address actual problems.

Seeing as real work has always been a turn off for megalomaniacs everywhere, The Greatest Show on Earth stumbles ever onward with unmitigated support from those in charge–lest they be held accountable by an awakening populace.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Testify before the court

First example I had ever read was decades ago as a teenager.

Genesis 24

Abraham was now very old . . . He said to the senior servant in his household . . . ?Put your hand under my thigh. 3 I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that . . . ” . . . 9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.

I’m thinking that to put your hand on someone’s inner thigh to swear an oath, you probably have to know them pretty well before they’ll let you do that.

Violated (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I always liked watching the Nordic countries when their standard movie stations usually featured a soft porn movie every night between about 10pm and 1am.

Now if you want to see porn with quality then no country does better than France. They well know that it is not what you do but how you package it and they are quite artistic.

Italy and Spain are hot enough but the UK and Germany have had more than their fair share of censorship. In the UK it is not uncommon to see nudity as part of a movie after 10pm.

I think we do have a different culture here when of course Europe has plenty of nudist beaches but the United States do not.

Violated (profile) says:

Ways of the World

I always find that people need to separate out two aspects of nudity.

First is that simply removing one’s clothes is not a sexual act when this is naturalism and is simply who you are. If everyone walked around naked all day long then you would quickly get used to it and it would soon be boring if not “flabby bits” being distasteful. This “boring” in terms of “common” is why naked statues are ignored.

Only when there is genital stimulation in some form does this simply nudity become sexual.

Now the problem here is that most people are not used to nudity and when someone disrobes before them this usually only proceeds the sexual act. So they have come to train themselves that nudity is strongly linked to sexual.

My point about a woman’s naked butt on TV is what would you expect to see? Most of us know what the butt of a woman looks like and that was a good match. I am sure much mdore people would be shocked if we saw a hair covered butt or even green scales.

I don’t believe nudity has any age rating. This is simply who we are and it is best to get used to it. All audiences all the time.

In many ways clothing can be more erotic where lingerie is a good example. More standard clothing has colours and styles to enhance appearance. Even women pad their bras while men can load extra into their underpants.

Then we come to prudes who spend their life devoid of nudity and as luck would have it they are in charge of censorship.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Up Next

Now the supreme court will have to censor their own court room. I think they should also be fined for this indecency!

Of course just about every major public building is likely to have carvings or statues of nudity. Oh, and lets not forget all the indecency found in art museums.

I guess we could do like was done before, bring out the chisels to remove anything offensive and then cover it in a fig leaf.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Up Next

No no no, don’t you remember, those that make the laws don’t actually have to follow them themselves.

In this case, the statues that they only then noticed are ‘artistic works showcasing the body’, whereas the same thing anywhere else is is lewd and obscene, and must be censored.

Admitting that they don’t actually care enough of about what is and is not obscene to notice it when someone isn’t paying them to, or when votes aren’t potentially riding on it would mean admitting they don’t actually care about it as more than a ‘look at me and what I’m doing’ tactic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Up Next

…the statues that they only then noticed are ‘artistic works…’

Don’t be so sure that they won’t pull an Ashcroft (BBC News, 29 Jan, 2002):

No longer will US Attorney General John Ashcroft appear in public with a semi-nude statue towering above him.

The US Justice Department has spent $8,000 on curtains to hide the statue from the cameras.

The female, art-deco “Spirit of Justice” statue, with one breast exposed.?.?.?.

?Drapes removed from Justice Department statue?, USA Today, Jun 24, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) ? With barely a word about it, workers at the Justice Department Friday removed the blue drapes that have famously covered two scantily clad statues for the past 3 1/2 years.

Spirit of Justice, with her one breast exposed and her arms raised, and the bare-chested male Majesty of Law basked in the late afternoon light of Justice’s ceremonial Great Hall.

The drapes, installed in 2002 at a cost of $8,000 .?.?.?.

Anonymous Coward says:

“I’m curious where in the First Amendment it says that Congress shall make no law… except wherein it involves requiring a modicum of decency.”

I love it, Mike. This one is classic. It reminds me of what I’m fond of saying concerning the second amendment…

“What part of ‘shall not be infringed’ do you not understand?

Pwdrskir (profile) says:

Public Airways owned by Monopolies

We need to Reclaim the US People?s Wireless Spectrums that were illegally sold to Monopolies by those who Did Not Own Them.

Purchases, excluding per diem costs, will be refunded and term-lease Spectrum options will be issued. Furthermore, The Office of Spectrum Management and FCC Spectrum & Competition Policy Division will openly create competitive wireless markets with minimal regulation and maximum safe usage of ALL Spectrums for the greater benefit of We the People over the Monopolies.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The local news near me covered this a little while ago.
Many people interviewed didn’t care, because they understood the idea of – if you don’t like it turn it off or change the channel.
The ones screaming the loudest were those who wanted to protect their children from the evils of swear words and nakedness.
Isn’t the V-Chip still mandatory?
Is it fair to make everyone have to give something up to protect your precious snowflake from naughty things?
Isn’t it your job to monitor what your child views, rather than expecting the world to be covered in nerf to protect your offspring?
Are your kids already exposed to these things in the games you buy them, the unfettered access to the internet, and their friends?
Your the adult, your job is to decide what is right for YOUR child, not the whole damn country. (But then we fail at this one alot here, so many “biblical” types who feel they have the right to decide all sorts of things in others lives.)

DCX2 says:

Analogy fail!

just as we require a certain modicum of dress for the people that attend this Court and the people that attend other Federal courts. It’s a symbolic matter…These are public airwaves, the government is entitled to insist upon a certain modicum of decency

The difference being that if your modicum of decency is not up to bar in the Court, it will not cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Anonymous Coward says:

Low tech solution:

Force every channel to send a QR Code with a big honking warning on the TV signal then have anybody who doesn’t like nudity or swearing have a channel changer in place, how hard is that?

It will block everything and those people will not have to watch anything maybe they will find some other thing to do, that is better than watching TV, God knows most of them need it.

Conscientiouspirate (profile) says:

Scalia is right?

I agree with Scalia. And I assume Beelzebub is out shopping for some new ice skates by now.

The constitution postulate some pre-existing rights. One is freedom of expression, others are only implied or not mentioned at all except in the 9th amendment. In my mind, these include a right to privacy, and a right to raise my children in a way I see fit.
These pre-existing rights will in their nature limit eachother. You have a right to expression, but it is not limitless. You do not have the right to express yourself in my home if I don’t want you there, nor do you have the right to express yourself to my children in my home if that harms my parenting.
The government should protect our rights, and should codify such protection when neccessary. Laws that recognice these limits between our natural rights is not abridgement of these rights, the right to free expression is already abridged by some of our other rights.

Most people have TVs at home. If you buy a cable subscription you can watch cable channels. If you don’t like what is on the cable channels you can cancel those channels, no rights are violated and no censorship is neccessary.
TVs can also show channels broadcast over public airwaves. If you don’t like what is on the public channels you can use the on/off button. For adults, no rights are violated and no censorship is neccessary.
Parents on the other hand can’t always control when their children use the on/off button. If they don’t want their children to see naked statue butts, then that’s their right. There should therefore not be naked statue butts on public channels unless parents can control those channels.
One solution is giving parents control over these channels. Some rudimentary parental control is available on most new TVs, but it doesn’t cover all type of programs, it is difficult to use, and there is usually no way to allow statue butts but disallow violence. And there is no “Scalia is inappropriate”-option.
Another solution is some censorship of public airways. With censorship all you have to do is get parents who don’t want naked statue butts to agree with parents who think naked non-statue tits are just fine and parents who object to palm trees and red paint but not blue paint. Censorship is harmful to those who want to see naked statue butts or whatever else is censored, but as long as there are uncensored alternatives outside the public airways, and as long as we don’t censor ridiculous things like naked statue lower thighs, the harm from such censorship is limited.

Any solution will be a mess, but whatever solution makes the least mess is fine with me. Today that seem to be some commonly agreed upon censorship on public airways. Tomorrow it will hopefully be actual parental control over what your TV can show. The next generation will wonder what the heck a TV is and all this will be moot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Scalia is right?

If you don’t want YOUR kids to see a nekkid butt, don’t own a TV. But don’t tell the rest of us adults what we can or cannot watch because parenting is too difficult for you. If you truly do not want your kids to see nudity, then it is up to YOU to monitor what they see. At all times. Everywhere. You do know there are nekkid boobies on the Internet? Do you plan to censor that for everyone too? The point is nudity is everywhere, even in court. Blocking one source will not prevent your kids from seeing it. Only diligence on your part will.

As for what is commonly agreed upon, most people I know, even the one’s with kids, believe it is their job watch what their kids see, not censor what EVERYONE sees. So much for the “commonly agreed upon” argument.

Seegras (profile) says:

Cultural Differences

I don’t know, but nudity (which is absolutely not the same thing as “pronography”) and swearing, absolutely and totally belong to our culture, and thus are appropriate at any time on any broadcast.

Anyone who says otherwise is obviously a “Puritan Puke” (according to Willy from “the Simpsons”). But then, I’m a European. Europeans, you know, those who gladly extradited their puritans to the USA ;).

Almost Ironic (user link) says:

poor parenting

Ultimately this comes down to some parents being lazy and innefectual.
If they have issues with what is broadcast then they can stop the child watching the tv quite easily. If the child by chance still happens to witness an offensive piece of flesh then you deal with it by talking to them about it. It’s not complicated at all.
However, when we start catering to the vocally and parentally lazy just because they’re vocal we sacrifice the rights of others who may wish to raise their children accepting of nudity and swearing and understanding that both are not only normal but inescapable parts of a normal life.
Also, what if I insisted on censorship because I didn’t want my kids watching Dora because she’s a Mexican? That would be classed as racism but under the arguements presented by some my right to raise my child racist trumps the rights of others to raise their kids any other way.
Censorship of the airwaves is wrong; anybody who uses the “think of the children” excuse is clearly a lazy parent or potential parent and I wohld be more concerned about what they are teaching their kids than any amount of naughty language or shower attire could ever make me.

Peter says:

Laughed at by the rest of the world

1. Episode of Mythbusters about someone electrocuting themselves on a railway line. All we saw was a pixilated image. However, they did not pixilate an actual guy peeing, or even a simulated penis peeing. They pixilated a pipe with water coming out of it.

2. Saw a ‘funnest video’ with a dog peeing on a lamppost. It was pixilated. I will say that again, they pixilated a dog peeing.

What is it about Americans? Don’t they go to the loo?

And they wonder why they are laughed at.

Nathan Powers says:

US Supreme Court Considering Censorship

I would much prefer to keep the airwaves free. I have no problem with simple, practical nudity, such as sunbathing and skinny dipping, even on TV. However, I am put off by overt sexuality.

As a parent and grandparent, I would much prefer ala-carte programming such that we may be able to opt-out (not pay for) or opt-in to channels, and then allow the laws of supply and demand determine the suceess of channels that insist on pushing “porn” or other offensive materials. There are many I would opt-out of right now.

Kenneth Vickery (user link) says:

By 2025 things will be different

By 2025 public nakedness is acceptable, even normal. In my book, “Let’s Git Nakid”, I call on people to think and find truth for themselves, be open to growing in truth. Decide for yourself what your truth is and respect other’s truth. Grandpa tells his grandson how the changes came about beginning with 2012 when the Shift of Consciousness occurred. No one really understands what happened but that it did. World peace was one product. Love, understanding, acceptance, tolerance, mutual understanding….

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...