The Nation: Fighting Fire with Fire

The phrase "banned in Boston" has been a titillating endorsement of smut for generations. Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck down all the Commonwealth's obscenity laws as unconstitutionally vague, leaving literally nothing taboo in Cotton Mather's old domain. To fill the moral vacuum, the Massachusetts legislature's joint judiciary committee drew up a bill so graphic that when it was read aloud on the house floor by Representative Barney Frank, spectators in the gallery gasped.

A sensitive colleague asked Frank to halt his reading of the explicit passages. "There's a typical censor's mentality," quipped Frank. "The representative wants to keep all the...

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