Many have said that "gun-free zone" signs are "just a piece of paper" and "won't stop criminals". They are correct. However, many of the same people often fail to realize that the U.S. Constitution is also "just a piece of paper", and will absolutely not stop those it's supposed to from ignoring it in favor of doing what they will. And while police will eventually detain and bring school shooters to justice (with charges additionally inflated for each of having a gun, holding a gun, using a gun, committing a felony with a gun, etc etc etc…), the supreme court is appointed by a president elected by the very same crowd that elected the congress it's supposed to be adjudicating the illegal excesses of. And there's no punishment for voting "Yea" on a bill that's judged unconstitutional, anyway. So there's, ultimately, nobody whatsoever actually enforcing these limitations.

Today, I'm compiling an accusatory timeline of one of the most egregious examples of U.S. Congress making laws that explicitly abridge the freedom of speech: to wit, the ban on "obscenity". The five-second summary [OK, 25 seconds if you're reading this aloud] is that a federal bill to ban importation and domestic trafficking of erotica, abortion pamphlets, and sex toys was passed, and never rescinded wholesale; only the clauses that meaningfully impacted the ability of the American public to be sexually promiscuous were overturned, piecemeal, under the banner of "civil rights".

[TODO/WIP: include more comprehensive partisan deets]

  • 1873: hornyposting is banned (S. 1572, "Comstock Act", for the Suppression of Trade In, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use)
    • Republicans were the majority party in both the House (54%) and Senate (75%)
  • 1950: ban expanded from "literature" to all media
  • 1955: inflated charges for commercial violators added
  • 1957: ban is challenged and upheld as constitutional (Roth)
  • 1963: ban is incidentally reaffirmed (Zuideveld)
  • 1973: 1957 ruling is explicitly reaffirmed; "obscenity" is defined (Miller)
    • The ruling was 5-4; it was not split along party lines (R: 3-2; D: 2-2)
  • 1988: vastly inflated charges for commercial violators added
  • 1998: inflated charges for distribution to minors added
  • 2003: ban expanded to explicitly include fictional depictions of sexualization of minors
    • The "Nay" votes comprised only Ron Paul, Bernie Sanders, and 175 Democrats.

It's worth noting, however, that the judges who instituted the so-called "Miller Test" have given "serious…political…value" as [as I read it] a sufficient condition for any material not to be "obscene". It's unclear to me (as I am neither a lawyer nor serious political scholar) how far this could be pushed; indeed, I even consider the circularity of the fact that otherwise-obscene material crafted for the explicit purpose of civil disobedience to the Comstock Act would have political merit as such if-and-only-if it didn't!

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