Those expecting Larry Flynt to elucidate the crowd Friday night on the virtues of freedom of speech may have been slightly surprised to hear him first share his thoughts on the presidential election and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The publisher of the adult magazine Hustler — and the subject of the film The People v. Larry Flynt — opened his Bailey Hall talk with a few potshots at the same Supreme Court that he has challenged multiple times over his First Amendment rights.
On Friday, however, these comments about the Court focused on the allegedly ever-increasing presence in the domain of domestic politics.
“Our Supreme Court has emerged as our new legislative body, making virtually all the decisions affecting our daily lives,” he said. “Our constitution has been perverted many times in the last two centuries.
“The most flagrant abuse took place when five Republican judges of the Supreme Court awarded the Presidency to George W. Bush, Republican.”
Injecting his opinion about the Court’s role in last November’s election, Flynt said, “The judicial branch of our government has absolutely no business in our election process.”
Without segue or transition, Flynt then turned to the attacks on American soil, arguing that the terrorists should not be afforded opportunity to stand trial for their crimes.
“I think our military should find them and exterminate them. What they did was an act of war,” he said.
However, he soonafter cautioned that America should heed a critical lesson from the experience –that its policy of “acting like a schoolyard bully” in trying to export its form of democracy unwittingly sowed the seeds for the attack.
“Other than [in] a handful of European countries, America is hated,” he said.
With those issues aside, Flynt then moved onto his “favorite topic” — free speech and smut.
Flynt, who was shot and paralyzed in Georgia several years ago, has often been on the fighting end of the battle for free speech rights.
“I’ve been dragged through most of the courts, jailed and shot for what I believe in,” he said.
By pushing the limits in publications of Hustler, Flynt has essentially placed himself at the forefront of the free speech fight.
“Freedom of speech is not freedom for the thought you love, but rather for the thought you hate,” he said, referring to the fact that more traditional media like The New York Times will likely never have to come to terms with free speech issues.
Giving the example of a graphic news photo on the front page of a newspaper, he said, “It could be a decapitated, mutilated body –horrific as you can imagine. You might even win a Pulitzer Prize for it.
“But if you put a photograph of two people making love, you’re going to jail. To me, that says volumes about a country that condones violence but condemns sex.”
Though Flynt has earned much notoriety for his free speech court cases, he truly gained the nation’s spotlight in the midst of the President Clinton impeachment hearings. Believing that Clinton was being unreasonably criticized, Flynt bought an ad in The Washington Post asking for anyone who had an illicit affair with a Congressperson to come forward.
“Bill Clinton was a married man who got laid and lied about it. What’s the crime? That’s what 90 percent of married men who got caught under similar circumstances would have done,” Flynt said, adding that he was just trying to prove that hypocrisy “crosses party lines, and no one has a monopoly on it.”
Flynt’s speech attracted cautious objections from Students Acting for Gender Equality (SAGE), who handed out pamphlets outside Bailey Hall prior to the speech.
“We’re not totally protesting it. We want to raise awareness about pornography and educate his audience,” said a SAGE representative. “We are against the violent depictions of women in pornography, and we think that his audience should be aware of that and should be thinking of that while he speaks.”
Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj