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° Rubrique About The World

ABOUT The World ...  

Par Claude Chastagner, professeur d'anglais à l'Université Paul Valéry à Montpellier.

  The Parent's Music Resource Center from information to censorship. 

Site Philagora, tous droits réservés ©



On March 16, 1990, the group decided to protect their rights by filing suit in a federal court. Two years later, the Federal Court of Florida reversed Judge Grossman's initial ruling; a decision which was confirmed by the Supreme Court's 1992 denial of certiorari. It considered that no obscenity judgement had been passed at the time the order had been issued, so that the whole procedure amounted to a prior restraint of free speech.

The concept of prior restraint describes the fact that police or local authorities declare or suggest that a given speech might be illegal beforeany judgment has been passed, i.e., prohibiting expression in advance. The practise came under light in 1927 when authorities used the law to silence the-by all accounts-obnoxious and racist paper Saturday Press owned by Jay Near and Howard Guilford. Despite the nature of the publication, some (such as publisher Robert McCormick and the fledgeling American Civil Liberties Union) objected to its censoring prior to the condemnation of any specific article, on the sole basis of its general tenor. 

In 1931, accordingly, the Supreme Court ruled out the Minnesota law, stating that prior restraint was disallowed under the U.S. Constitution. This was expanded in 1961 in Bantam Books, Inc. v. Rhode Island Censorship Board, Board which had 'thanked' publishers in advance for their cooperation in not distributing incriminated books in Rhode Island. In 1978 the Supreme Court added that 'by inducing excessive caution, prior restraints also indirectly and unintentionally suppress speech'.4  It was precisely to avoid such abuses that the First Amendment had been introduced. According to Jeffrey B. Kahan, 'the use of prior restraints to censor concerts and albums suggests dark motives in and of itself. 
This technique lends itself to indirect and unintended censorship. Performers lose the right to make any statement. Without the opportunity to answer their critics in an adversarial hearing, [they] lose the right to defend their views, much less air them' (p.2610).

Following the 2 Live Crew episode, the attacks on rock music took a sharper dimension as several states considered passing laws which would have criminalised the sale of specific records to minors, banned them from display or forbidden their distribution altogether. The process had begun in 1986 when Rep. Judith Toth from Maryland, alerted by the PMRC, had introduced a bill (which was eventually defeated) intending to criminalise the sale of obscene records to minors. It started anew in 1990 when Rep. 

Joseph Arnell, after having attended a Tipper Gore lecture too, sponsored another bill in Florida. The purpose of his bill was to turn what was initially a voluntary agreement (affixing a warning label) into a law. Not only the label would have become mandatory on the selected records but selling them to minors would have become a crime. Eighteen other states, supported by a public opinion aroused by the PMRC, soon followed suite and contemplated similar legislation. 

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° Rubrique About The World