Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What is Obscenity, Really?

Today in class we discussed a few Supreme Court cases that dealt with obscenity and freedom of the press. I found the obscenity cases to be fascinating due to the complicated and convoluted nature they were forced to adopt. In an early obscenity case the Court ruled that obscene material applying only to the prurient interest was not protected speech. From then on all cases dealing with obscenity are essentially trying to prove that pornography is not obscene so it can be protected under the first amendment. One case we discussed at length was Paris Adult Theater v. Slaton. In this case a district court ruled to enjoin the Paris Adult theater of showing obscene and pornographic movies. The case was taken to the Supreme Court with the theater arguing that because they only allow adults into the theater, and the adults willingly enter the theater, they are not showing obscene material to the public and are not harming anyone. The court applied a similar test to the Bad Tendency Test, ruling that the material could have the tendency to hurt the public interest. The court claimed that it is in the best interest of the state to protect quality of life, community environment, public safety, and the tone of commerce. They ruled that even having an adult theater in a community negatively effects all four of those community aspects, so it is in the best interest of the state to regulate and limit the speech of adult theaters. One key aspect of this case was Justice Brennan's dissent. In his dissent Brennan urged absolute reliance on the first amendment and the freedom of speech. He claimed that the court could not possibly make a clear and absolute definition of obscene, so it would not be right to charge someone based on a word that no one understood completely. He urged that the people get together and make an amendment to the Constitution with an official definition that can help guide the court in future cases. All the cases we read in class are so fascinating and I cannot wait to discuss the religion cases we read today. In the afternoon we started preparation for our debate. I am in a group of five people and we are arguing on the side of a porn distribution company. I cannot say too much about our arguments  just in case Emily (who is on the opposing side) reads this blog. But I spent a few hours of my evening working with a fellow team mate coming up with arguments and counter arguments. 
Always nice to have a change in perspective.
I also started thinking about my paper which I have to write for class. I was thinking about taking a stance (I am not sure which side yet) on the controversial stop and frisk tactics used in cities like New York and Los Angeles. These laws allow police officers to stop anyone and search them, almost entirely based on the officers discretion alone. I think this would be an interesting case involving the right to privacy and the right to safety from unreasonable search and seizure. 
Margaret was laughing at me bending over to take this photo.
..she was not laughing when she saw it...
After a wonderful walk around campus after the rain I returned to the dorm to finish movie night with Margaret and Claire. We finished the Dark Knight Rises and started to plan our days for the rest of the week. I am excited for this week to unfold and I am amazed that already class is half way over!

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