KNIGHT: Supremes equate video violence with free speech

High court fails to grasp injurious effects of barbarism on children

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The court’s opinion also dismissively notes that Congress once tried to do something about violent and suggestive comic books: “Many in the late 1940s and early 1950s blamed comic books for fostering a ‘preoccupation with violence and horror’ among the young, leading to a rising juvenile crime rate. But efforts to convince Congress to restrict comic books failed.”

Yes, but the mere threat of legislation led to the industry’s Comics Code, which cleaned up comic books for years, until the lid came off again in the 1980s. That’s when ‘60s-addled adults decided they didn’t want to do the difficult work anymore of protecting children by enforcing even minimal cultural mores. As baby boomers have aged, it’s no coincidence that our culture has become adult-centered, with children suffering collateral damage.

Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, in a much-quoted 1949 dissent in Terminiello v. Chicago, famously wrote that “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.”

Although the majority in that case rightly upheld the free speech of those even with odious content, Jackson’s warning is worth repeating in light of the video ruling: “The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”

The Constitution is the greatest political document in history and the guarantor of our God-given rights. The First Amendment has proved foundational to maintaining all of our freedoms. Exceptions should be few and necessary.

But in the hands of America’s ruling lawmakers and jurists, the First Amendment is sometimes misapplied as a free pass for dysfunction and decadence.

Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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