Fight for Free Speech Not Flynt's Objective

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 3, 1997 | Go to article overview

Fight for Free Speech Not Flynt's Objective


Byline: Jack Mabley

"This Christmas, pond scum is intellectually chic."

The pond scum is Larry Flynt, pornographer. The quote is in a review of the movie "The People vs. Larry Flynt" by Hanna Rosin, associate editor of the New Republic.

The "intellectually chic" comes from the virtual deification of Flynt by movie critics and eastern columnists who hail Flynt as a noble crusader for freedom of speech.

Hogwash. Flynt is a slimy creep who has done more than anyone to tear down the boundaries of decency and morality in this country.

His vulgar and obscene assaults on social standards are protected by real crusaders for First Amendment rights.

The few attempts to suppress Hustler were overturned on appeal.

The movie is based on Flynt winning a case in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Our rights to freedom, and Flynt's right, were won not by Hustler magazine but by the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post and hundreds of other publications which went to court to protect their right to publish the truth.

The movie's title rings false. The case in the movie was not "The People vs. Larry Flynt." It was "Falwell vs. Flynt."

Evangelist Jerry Falwell sued Flynt for libel for a satirical story in the magazine depicting Falwell and his mother in a sexual situation.

The case was not about pornography. It was about Flynt's right to hold a public figure up to ridicule.

The landmark case on free speech is the 1974 New York Times vs. Sullivan.

Jack Fuller, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, in his new book "News Values," writes that the Sullivan decision determined:

"American courts may not hold a newspaper liable unless it is shown to have intentionally lied or acted in reckless disregard of the truth. …

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