Saturday, August 04, 2012

What Takes Precedence For Americans - The First Amendment or The First Commandment?

"In the Bible, God doesn't grant the freedom of speech.  God doesn't grant the right to bear arms. God doesn't grant the right to assembly.  God doesn't even grant the freedom of religion either.  If you don't worship Him, you're screwed!"
 A little notice in the paper said that Joe Raiolo, an editor at Mad magazine, was talking at the library on "The Joys of Censorship."  There were several years when a preteen kid who used to be me had a subscription to Mad magazine.  And the adult who blogs today always wants to hear what someone says about censorship. 

As the quote above suggests, this was a lively event.  More standup comedian than lecturer, Raiola covered a lot of ground.   He said he wasn't going to use euphemisms -  he would say asshole, not A-hole, fucking, not freeking, and nigger, not the N word.  He spent some time explaining that last one, which he said was the second most controversial word, but he protested that people were not allowed to use it.  It depends on the context.  He deplored an Alabama book publisher who put out a version of Huckleberry Finn that substituted 'slave' for 'nigger' so more schools would use it. On the other hand, rappers are taking back the word and defusing its explosive power. 

He went through a list of Supreme Court decisions on first amendment rights:
In contrast, Raiolo said, it's still illegal for radio and televisions stations to broadcast George Carlin's seven dirty words routine.  

I didn't think to ask whether he thought that if Carlin's case were heard today whether it might get different treatment, since the fines CBS received for showing Janet Jackson's exposed breast were thrown out and the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal.  

He also covered comic book history and the birth of Mad magazine with a look at some of the old covers and article, including their international editions (which can use US copy, but have control over their own content.)

In the Q&A there was a discussion of where Mad magazine draws the line on what it publishes.  Raiola said he could describe it, that comedians try to know where the line is and then push it.  But he gave some examples of things they don't push - like common offensive four letter words and sexuality.

I see on Raiola's website, that people in Wasilla will be able to see Raiola twice on Tuesday.  He'll do something on Mad magazine at 4pm at the library and the censorship talk at 7pm at the Old Mat-Su Cinema.  

[I have some video, but I did ask permission to post it and Raiola wanted to see it first. I tend to respect such requests for performances.  I could argue that his free presentation, at the library, on censorship could be interpreted is fair game for reporting.  But just because one can do something, doesn't mean one should.  And I suspect Mad magazine has pretty good legal expertise and representation on an issue like this.  So I'll wait to post any video.]

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