American Reporter challenges CDA

Below are three articles of opinion from the Feb. 8, 1996, edition of The American Reporter commenting on the Communications Decency Act of 1966, signed that day by President Clinton. The Reporter, the world's first all-digital daily, has challenged the act in U.S. District Court in New York City.

Vol. 2, No. 219 -- February 8, 1996
The American Reporter appears below (Please scroll):

Thought: Freedom, first and always!

			-Inside AR Today-
XXX The X-On Congress: Indecent Comment On An Indecent Topic
Editorial We're Going To War
Marzahl Mapping The Peril And The Paradox Of Deregulation
Letters Gordon Peterson On Censorship
* * * + by Steve Russell American Reporter Correspondent San Antonio, Texas 2/8/96 censorship free THE X-ON CONGRESS: INDECENT COMMENT ON AN INDECENT SUBJECT by Steve Russell American Reporter Correspondent SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- You motherfuckers in Congress have dropped over the edge of the earth this time. I understand that very few of the swarm of high dollar lobbyists around the Telecommunications Bill had any interest in content regulation -- they were just trying to get their clients an opportunity to dip their buckets in the money stream that cyberspace may become -- but the public interest sometimes needs a little attention. Keeping your eyes on what big money wants, you have sold out the First Amendment. First, some basics. If your children walked by a public park and heard some angry sumbitches referring to Congress as "the sorriest bunch of cocksuckers ever to sell out the First Amendment" or suggesting that "the only reason to run for Congress these days is to suck the lobbyists' dicks and fuck the people who sent you there," no law would be violated (assuming no violation of noise ordinances or incitement to breach the peace). If your children did not wish to hear that language, they could only walk away. Thanks to your heads-up-your-ass dereliction of duty, if they read the same words in cyberspace, they could call the FBI! Cyberspace is the village green for the whole world. It is the same as the village green our Founders knew as the place to rouse the rabble who became Americans, but it is also different. Your blind acceptance of the dubious -- make that dogass dumb -- idea that children are harmed by hearing so-called dirty words has created some pretty stupid regulations without shutting down public debate, but those stupid regulations will not import to cyberspace without consequences that even the public relations whores in Congress should find unacceptable. In cyberspace, there is no time. A posted message stays posted until it is wiped. Therefore, there is no way to indulge the fiction that children do not stay up late or cannot program a VCR. In cyberspace, there is no place. The "community standards" are those of the whole world. An upload from Amsterdam can become a download in Idaho. By trying to regulate obscenity and indecency on the Internet, you have reduced the level of expression allowed consenting adults to that of the most anal retentive blueballed fuckhead U.S. attorney in the country. The Internet is everywhere you can plug in a modem. Call Senator Exon an "ignorant motherfucker" in Lincoln, Nebraska and find yourself prosecuted in Bibleburg, Mississippi. In cyberspace, you cannot require the convenience store to sell Hustler in a white sleeve. The functional equivalent is gatekeeper software, to which no civil libertarian has voiced any objection. Gatekeeper software cannot be made foolproof, but can you pandering pissants not see that any kid smart enough to hack into a Website is also smart enough to get his hands on a hard copy of Hustler if he really wants one? In cyberspace, there is the illusion of anonymity but no real privacy. It is theoretically possible for any Internet server to seine through all messages for key words (although it seems likely the resulting slowdown would be noticeable). Perhaps some of you read about America On Line's attempt to keep children from reading the word "breast?" An apparently unforeseen consequence was the shutdown of a discussion group of breast cancer survivors. Don't you think more kids are aware of "teat" (pronounced "tit") than of "breast?" Can skirts on piano legs, er, limbs be far behind? But silly shit like this is just a pimple on the ass of the long-term consequences for politics, art and education. You have passed a law that will get less respect than the 55 m.p.h. speed limit dead bang in the middle of the First Amendment. Indecency is nothing but a matter of fashion; obscenity is the same but on a longer timeline. This generation freely reads James Joyce and Henry Miller and the Republic still stands. The home of the late alleged pornographer D. H. Lawrence is now a beautiful writers' retreat in the mountains above Taos, managed by the University of New Mexico. Universities all have Internet servers, and every English Department has at least one scholar who can read Chaucer's English -- but not on the Internet anymore. Comparative literature classes might read Boccaccio -- but not on the Internet anymore. What if some U. S. Attorney hears about Othello and Desdemona "making the beast with two backs" -- is interracial sex no longer indecent anywhere in the country, or is Shakespeare off the Internet? Did you know you can download video and sound from the Internet? Yes, that means you can watch other people having sex if that is interesting to you, live or on tape. Technology can make such things hard to retrieve, but probably not impossible. And since you have swept right past obscenity and into indecency, the baby boomers had better keep their old rock 'n roll tapes off the Internet. When the Jefferson Airplane sang "her heels rise for me," they were not referring to a dance step. And if some Brit explains the line about "finger pie" in Penny Lane, the Beatles will be gone. All of those school boards that used to ban "The Catcher in the Rye" over cussing and spreading the foul lie that kids masturbate can now go to federal court and get that nasty book kept out of cyberspace. But enough about the past. What about rap music? No, I do not care much for it either -- any more than I care for the language you shitheads have forced me to use in this essay -- but can you not see the immediate differential impact of this law by class and race? What is your defense -- that there are no African-Americans on the Internet, since they are too busy pimping and dealing crack? If our educational establishment has any sense at all, they will be trying to see more teens of all colors on the Internet, because there is a lot to be learned in cyberspace that has nothing to do with sex. There are plenty of young people in this country who have legitimate political complaints. When you dickheads get done with Social Security, they will be lucky if the retirement age is still in double digits. But thanks to the wonderful job the public schools have done keeping sex and violence out, we have a lot of intelligent kids who cannot express themselves without indecent language. I have watched lawyers in open court digging their young clients in the ribs every time the word "fuck" slipped out. Let's talk about this fucking indecent language bullshit. Joe Shea, my editor, does not want it in his newspaper, and I respect that position. He might even be almost as upset about publishing this as I a about writing it. I do use salty language in my writing, but sparingly, only as a big hammer. Use the fucking shit too fucking much and it loses its fucking impact -- see what I mean? Fiction follows different rules, and if you confine your fiction writing to how the swell people want to see themselves using language, you not only preclude literary depiction of most people but you are probably false to the people you purport to depict. Do you remember how real language used by real people got on the air and in the newspapers? Richard Nixon, while he was president, speaking in the White House about official matters. A law professor and a nominee for Supreme Court Justice arguing about pubic hairs and porno movies during Senate hearings. Are these matters now too indecent for the Internet? How much cleansing will be required of the online news services? Answer: Enough cleansing to meet the standard of what is appropriate for a child in the most restrictive federal judicial district. This is bullshit -- unconstitutional bullshit and also bad policy bullshit. To violate your ban on indecency, I have been forced to use and overuse so-called indecent language. But if I called you a bunch of goddam motherfucking cocksucking cunt-eating blue-balled bastards with the morals of muggers and the intelligence of pond scum, that would be nothing compared to this indictment, to wit: you have sold the First Amendment, your birthright and that of your children. The Founders turn in their graves. You have spit on the grave of every warrior who fought under the Stars and Stripes. And what mess of pottage have you acquired in exchange for the rights of a free people? Have you cleansed the Internet of even the rawest pornography? No, because it is a worldwide system. You have, however, handed the government a powerful new tool to harass its critics: a prosecution for indecent commentary in any district in the country. Have you protected one child from reading dirty words? Probably not, if you understand what the economists call "substitution" -- but you have leveled the standards of political debate to a point where a history buff would not dare to upload some of the Federalist v. Anti-Federalist election rhetoric to a Website. Since the lobby reporting requirements were not law when the censorship discussion was happening, I hope you got some substantial reward for what you gave up. Thirty pieces of silver doesn't go far these days. -30- (Steve Russell, retired after 16 years as a trial judge in Texas, is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Texas at San Antonio.) This article may be reproduced free forever. * * * * * * EDITORIAL + by Joe Shea American Reporter Correspondent Hollywood, Calif. 2/8/96 war free WE'RE GOING TO WAR by Joe Shea American Reporter Editor-in-Chief This morning, as we write, the Vice-President of the United States is making a speech in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress in support of the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1995. It will be a fine speech, and probably a free speech; but it will be a prelude to the end of free speech on the Internet. The end will come, or would come if we weren't here to fight it, when President Clinton signs the bill a few minutes from now. This morning, we are publishing as our lead article a startling piece of commentary by a brave Texas judge, Steve Russell, who is risking his position and his stature in the community to join us in a fight against the erosion of the First Amendment. Randall Boe, our attorney, is taking up our cause almost as these words hit the screen, filing a complaint for an injunction in New York that may well go all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The complaint seeks a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the Communications Decency Act. To all our writers, and to our readers, we owe a profound debt of thanks for their courage, their determination to stick with us, their financial and moral support, and their own willingness to risk what they have to fight for the most precious of rights: The right of each American to have his and her voice heard as he and she speaks in it, in his and her own language, when and where he and she will. Today we launch a war; let us, tomorrow, be prepared to launch the future, free of suppression and bright as the day dawning here. -30- The American Reporter "The Internet Daily Newspaper" Copyright 1995 Joe Shea, The American Reporter All Rights Reserved The American Reporter is published daily at 1812 Ivar Ave., No. 5, Hollywood, CA 90028 Tel. (213)467-0616, by members of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Internet discussion list. It has no affiliation with the SPJ. Articles may be submitted by email to Subscriptions: Reader: $10.00 per month ($100 per year) and $.01 per word to republish stories, or Professional: $125.00 per week for the re-use of all American Reporter stories. We are reporter-owned. URL: Archives: HTML Edition: Joseph P. Shea, Editor-in-Chief William Johnson, Correspondent Steve Herman, Japan Editor Jeff Foust, Space Editor Walter Brasch, Correspondent Jim Tynen, Humor Correspondent Clarence Brown, Correspondent Philip E. Daoust, Correspondent Calvin Demmon, Science Editor E.W. Count, Crime Editor Roy J. Morgan, Correspondent Frank Sietzen, Jr., Correspondent Karen Hawkins, Correspondent Andreas Harsono, Correspondent Paula Linville, Correspondent Stephen O'Reilly, Correspondent Scott Lewis, Correspondent Anne Bilodeau, Correspondent Thomas Marzahl, Book Editor Bob Elston, Jr., Correspondent Wilson da Silva, Correspondent Russell Sadler, Correspondent Dennis Hinkamp, Correspondent Elaine Hopkins, Correspondent Joan Silverman, Correspondent David Hipschman, Correspondent Mike Finley, Correspondent Yves Leclerc, Correspondent Frank Touby, Correspondent Bob Ewing, Correspondent Elaine K. Crabtree, Correspondent Craig A. Johnson, Correspondent Simson L. Garfinkel, Correspondent Clark Staten, Correspondent Francis Hamit, Correspondent Eric Culp, Correspondent Webster: Bill Densmore * * * OPINION + by Thomas Marzahl American Reporter Correspondent Minneapolis, Minn. 2/8/96 contrast 575/$5.75 THE PARADOX OF REGULATION AND DEREGULATION by Thomas Marzahl American Reporter Correspondent MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Today is the biggest day for the telecommunications industry in over 60 years. President Clinton will sign the Telecommunications Bill at the Library of Congress, paving the way for what could become the biggest bonanza in corporate history. But it is also a very dark day for freedom of speech and the First Amendment. Despite brave and valiant attempts by free speech advocates around the country, the Exon Amendment, as it has become known, is part of this mammoth piece of legislation. It places draconian penalties and fines on the distribution of so called indecent materials via the Internet and World Wide Web. The Exon Amendment has received a lot of coverage ever since it was first proposed early last year. The latest round came yesterday, as the ACLU and 11 other groups announced they would file a lawsuit in Pennsylvania against the indecency clause before the ink is even dry on the bill, and the American Reporter is suing to overturn the provision as well. I am a rabid free speech advocate. I believe the more you attempt to regulate and stifle someone's opinion, the more you will drive it underground. What this country needs is more discussion and debate, not less, especially as the 1996 Presidential campaign swings into high gear. Americans have become dangerously self-centered and parochial in their attitudes and opinions in recent years. In a recent survey by the Federal Education Department, more than 50 percent of high school seniors were unaware of the Cold War. By anyone's standards, that is simply appalling. Now, for the first time, the Internet could allow unfettered access to a huge array of information and opinion from around the world. But Senators and Representatives, in cahoots with President Clinton, are doing their best to limit access to this information. Their claim of wanting to protect children from pornography may be an honorable cause, but in trying to rein in this minuscule portion of Internet traffic, they have cast the net far too wide. Ironically, many of our elected representatives are trumpeting how much government intrudes into our daily lives. Many Republicans want abolish the aforementioned Education Department, as well the IRS, the Commerce Department, and the Federal Communications Commission. A number of Republican presidential candidates, led by Phil Gramm, favor a one year moratorium on federal regulations. You can't have your cake and eat it, too. The same Republicans (and some Democrats) supporting such a moratorium favor an constitutional amendment banning abortion. They'd like to lift the separation of church and state and allow prayer in school. They support taxpayer funded school vouchers, which would allow parents to send their children to private and parochial schools. They would like to vastly expand the surveillance powers of the FBI. Why is it that the same people who rail against regulation have voted in favor of a bill that would clamp down on free speech and freedom of expression like never before? The Exon Amendment imposes regulations that are virtually impossible to enforce. In the end, this aspect of the Telecommunications Reform Act will probably be found unconstitutional anyway. But it doesn't make the attempt to stifle my opinion, and that of millions of other Americans, any less reprehensible. This is indeed a sad day for free speech. Seven years ago, I recall seeing a poster in a Chicago store window. The words on that poster still ring true today. "I may disagree completely with your opinion and your ideas, but I will fight until my last drop of blood for your right to say it." -30- (Thomas Marzahl is American Reporter Book Editor.) * * * SELECTED RELEASES PRESS RELEASE + >From Electronic Frontier Canada Cyberspace 2/8/96 GERMAN EFFORTS TO MUZZLE THE NET HAVE BACKFIRED Electronic Frontier Canada CYBERSPACE -- German prosecutors are at it again -- bumbling around in cyberspace, trying to block access to information they think might be illegal under German law. According to some reports, the prosecutors hope the case will end up in court where it may start to resolve some of the uncertain legal issues about who is responsible for information accessible through computer networks. They've declared a computer in Santa Cruz, California ( to be 'off limits' because one of Web Communications' more than 1,500 customers is Ernst Zundel -- a Canadian resident notorious for claiming the Holocaust is a Jewish hoax. Stefan Althoff, spokespeson for Deutsche Telekom, indicates his company's T-Online service (Germany's largest) has complied with a request from the Mannheim prosecutor's office. "We have blocked access via the Internet to Herr Zuendel and his information," he says. Smoke and Mirror Sites "What's ironic, is that this latest attempt at censorship has backfired. Instead of limiting the audience for Zundel's propaganda, Germany's clumsy attempt to block access has resulted in the information being copied to new locations in cyberspace and becoming even more accessible, ... and with the publicity, more people might want to visit these web pages to see what all the fuss is about," says David Jones, president of Electronic Frontier Canada, a non-profit organization that advocates freedom of expression on the Internet. "It's rather unfortunate," says Jones, who stressed that EFC "strongly disagrees with Zundel's views." So-called 'mirror sites', which contain copies of Zundel's propaganda, are springing up at various locations in the world-wide-web. "It reminds me of the Greek myth in which Hercules battled the many-headed serpent, Hydra. Whenever he sliced off one head with his sword, two more grew back in its place," comments EFC vice-president, Jeffrey Shallit. The appearance of so many mirror sites is partly due to the efforts of Declan McCullagh, a free speech activist, who has packaged up the controversial information into a single file and posted a message in a Usenet newsgroup with instructions on "how to open your very own Zundelsite mirror archive in five minutes or less." So far there are at least ten mirror sites, including ones at Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University, and MIT. "If Germany starts to prevent their University's from connecting to other Universities outside the country, it defeats the purpose of them being on the Internet in the first place," observes David Jones. Detours on the Infobahn Mirror sites aren't the only headache for German censors. The oft-quoted adage: "The Internet recognizes censorship as damage and routes information around it" still rings true. "Students in Stuttgart, Germany who can't access Zundel's web pages directly can still visit them indirectly, by using an innovative and award-winning web site in Toronto called the 'Canadianizer'," explains Jones. [ URL = ] Created as a sort of joke, this web site in Toronto, allows you to type in the URL of *another* web site that could be anywhere in the world. The computer in Toronto then fetches a copy of that web page and inserts a few 'Canadianisms', such as ending a sentence with 'eh?'. Once Canadianized, the web page is displayed for you. But since the page appears to be coming from Toronto, the German blocking mechanism will be fooled -- it cannot detect that the information really originated in California. "It's just a detour on the Infobahn," says Jones. What About The Haters? If censorship won't work, you might wonder, what should be done about people like Zundel who spread hate and lies? "Zundel thrives on publicity," says EFC's Jeffrey Shallit. "The right right way to deal with him is either to ignore him, or to counter his propaganda with the truth about the Holocaust." Shallit points to the efforts of the 'Nizkor Project', based in Vancouver, which has assembled a huge electronic archive on the Holocaust that researchers around the world can consult to counter the bogus claims of Holocaust deniers. "Anyone with an open mind will see who's telling the truth," says Shallit, who himself lost many relatives in the Holocaust. The approach is not new; Justice William O. Douglas, said in 1958: "The way to combat noxious ideas is with other ideas. The way to combat falsehoods is with truth." Ken McVay, who runs the Nizkor Project, was recently named to the prestigious 'Order of British Columbia' for his successful work fighting hate in Canada and elsewhere. Montreal newspaper reporter, Matt Friedman, recently wrote: "... while the mainstream and the traditional authorities dither about, befuddled by the growth and power of the on-line medium, unable to settle on either a coherent plan of action or a means of combating hatred without bringing down the Internet in its wake, McVay and his colleagues are doing battle -- and winning." -30- * * * LETTERS TO THE EDITOR + Congratulations and Best Wishes on the decision to help fight this incredible breach by Washington of our First Amendment rights. I think it's positively outrageous that our elected officials, each and every one of whom has SWORN UNDER OATH to "protect and defend" the Constitution of the United States, have absolutely lined up to sign their approval of this *shameful* bill that trashes that same Constitution. And now, in an era where we're supposedly trying to reduce government waste and cut the deficit, guess who's going to ultimately pay for all this wasteful litigation? We need to THROW THE BUMS OUT from Washington!! Actually, more realistically, what we need to be able to do is to RECLAIM our proxy that we've given to our elected officials, so we can reassign our vote to someone else who -will- vote our feelings on these important issues. I'm sick to death of having to vote to send someone to Washington who we know in advance will NOT actually represent us on more than SOME of the important issues! We need a way to be able to REMOVE our voting authority from elected officials, and to give them to someone else instead... sort of a "vote of no confidence" in representatives that get to Washington, and then DO NOT represent us. In any case, it sounds like the first shot is being fired. And I'm sure that I'm not the only longtime reader who is more than a little proud at being a witness to it. Best of luck to the American Reporter! Gordon Peterson Houston, Tex. via Internet