(U-WIRE) CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – You’d think that with all the fuss made about freedom of speech, attacks that attempt to curb its fair application would eventually cease. Yet, time after time, certain politicians flagrantly neglect this right.
Just last month, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani demonstrated his arrogance and short-sightedness by manipulating the First Amendment right.
The mayor’s “quality of life” campaign is an attempt to restore morality and purity to the streets of New York. As part of his campaign, Giuliani plans to close more than 100 pornographic businesses near New York’s famous Times Square. The businesses include peep shows, strip bars and porn video stores.
Though the proprietors of those shops recognize that their constitutional rights have been violated, New York’s Court of Appeals upheld Giuliani’s decision, saying it violates no rights. Although a federal court temporarily suspended Giuliani’s plan late last month, the shop owners probably will lose this battle.
Somehow, the Court of Appeals identified no infringement of the shop owners’ freedom of speech. What was it thinking? Giuliani’s plan is a blatant violation of rights, and if these stores were anything but porn distributors, the Court most certainly would have ruled the other way.
It just goes to show that politicians treat freedom of speech as a flexible clause to our Constitution. Politicians are the first to defend freedom of speech as a universal right, but often act adversely, attempting to ban “unhealthy” television shows, record labels or generally undesirable entities. Many have twisted and distorted the right to freedom of speech over the years, using it as a means to achieve personal goals.
This isn’t the first time Giuliani has overridden people’s constitutional rights. Last year he ordered city buses to remove an ad by the New Yorker magazine that poked fun at him; another obviously unconstitutional move, but one that federal courts eventually overturned.
Much of the problem with censorship lies with the American public. Many Americans, whether conservative or liberal, white or black, don’t want their children exposed to sex and violence. That’s fine, although many of those parents are so anti-filth they are perfectly willing to violate people’s constitutional rights to assure a “healthy” environment.
The fact is, though, that parents’ time and efforts could be better spent simply instilling concrete morals into children, not flimsy logos such as “violence is bad,” and “don’t have sex.”
Whether or not you feel comfortable on New York City streets, passing by sex shop after sex shop, you must acknowledge their right to exist. As long as politicians like Rudy Giuliani neglect this right, however, Americans always will be tempted to manipulate the First Amendment to suit whatever cause they support.