UMD’s Porn Predicament

Students at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus plan to continue with a screening of “Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge,” a hardcore porn flick they plan on showing despite threats from Maryland legislators to yank millions of dollars of the school’s funding. Too bad YAL doesn’t have a chapter there…

Yep, FIRE’s all over it already.

This, of course, sparked a massive debate over censorship and free speech rights, including some interesting arguments over whether or not pornography is protected under the First Amendment. The Washington Post moderated a discussion where John Watson, an associate professor at nearby American University, and Aaron Titus, spokesperson for the Maryland Coalition Against Pornography, answered questions from an online audience.

Watson’s opening remark:

“Censorship is inherently wrong. When the government, especially when embodied in an educational institution, intentionally becomes an impediment to the expression of ideas, fundamental liberty is compromised. Maryland lawmakers should have responded to speech they found despicable by sharing their opinions, not by threatening to shut down the discussion.”

Titus:

“Most pornography is not speech protected by the Constitution. Therefore, screening this film constitutes an abuse rather than an exercise of Constitutional rights. Pornography’s documented cycle of addiction, escalation, desensitization and resulting acts are more closely analogous to drug use than protected speech.”

Of course, if you don’t believe the government has the right to regulate drug use (they don’t) or that pornography is protected by the Constitution (it is), most of his argument goes out the window. But their conversation is extremely interesting (and long…fair warning) nonetheless. Mr. Watson shines like a star, though, and makes me proud to be a future eagle. And yes, when I get to AU I’ll start a YAL chapter…

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