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.

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  1. icon
    Conscientiouspirate (profile), 16 Jan 2012 @ 6:45pm

    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.

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