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November 3, 2004

Charles Brownstein of the CBLDF on American Election Results and the Next Four Years

imageIf there is any organization within comics likely to bear the brunt of a change in the national political mood and any resulting policy, it is the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), a non-profit organization dedicated to the principles of free speech as it relates to the various United States' comic book industries and its creator-participants.

Executive Director Charles Brownstein answered our request for an initial reaction, and gives his first impression on the implications November 2's voting might have on the Fund and comics in general both in the near future and beyond.

"Overall I find the results of this election deeply troubling. Though at the time of this writing we haven't yet heard Bush's acceptance speech, pundits have been declaring that Bush's popular vote margin is a clear mandate in favor of his policies. The various networks have shown data suggesting that over 20 percent of voters made their voting decision based on moral values. These two bits of information suggest trouble ahead for mature content.

"Specifically, considering Renquist's fragile health, it's safe to say the second Bush administration will be selecting at least one Supreme Court Justice. Pundits suggest that there will be more than that. While I have hope that the Senate will only confirm moderate judges, I fear that an enboldened Bush administration will attempt to appoint less moderate judges. Considering that the Supreme Court has been taking fewer and fewer First Amendment cases in recent years, I fear that the next high Court will be even less likely to take on First Amendment cases. I also fear that across the board we'll see fewer moderate appointments to the Federal bench.

"What troubles me more as regards CBLDF issues, is that a second Bush administration operating under the presumption of a popular mandate augurs a Justice Department that will more vigorously pursue the prosecution of content. Presently Justice employs Bruce Taylor as Porn Czar, a man who has expressed a willingness to prosecute adult material more vigorously than it has been prosecuted. The moral values voters have been calling for increased prosecution of such material since the 2000 election, and the next Justice Department will have the opportunity, and may presume a mandate, to answer that call.

"I also am concerned that we'll see legal action involving provisions of the PROTECT Act dictating that content depicting minors engaged in sexual conduct, even if no actual minor is involved, can be prosecuted as actual child pornography. This bodes dangerously for works by authors such as Phoebe Gloeckner, whose books have been challenged, and in some cases actually banned from libraries; Ariel Schrag, who creates autobiographical comics that frankly address a teenager's sexual coming of age; as well as Craig Thompson, Will Eisner, and others whose work treads similar territory. I don't think that A Contract With God is going to be first on the censors' list, but I fear that the possibility exists. Beyond that, I have fears that certain manga will be prosecuted for similar reasons.

"Beyond these concerns about matters on the federal level, I have deeper fears about what can happen on the local level. As more of this country votes red, and as local laws concerning the display of content that enjoys First Amendment protection for adults increase, I fear that we could see a return to local prosecution of content that harkens back to the late 80s and early 90s when the Fund was fighting several cases and near-cases per year.

"Bear in mind that I'm discussing worst-case scenarios, but we need to consider these scenarios fully in order to adequately protect the First Amendment rights of the comics field. Nobody knows what's going to happen come January, but with an emboldened administration voted in by a morally motivated electorate, there is the potential for the culture to shift back to the pre-Clinton days where prosecution of protected speech was much more of an issue than it has been in recent years.

"No matter what happens, the one thing I'm confident saying is that protecting Free Speech isn't going to get any easier in the foreseeable future."

Although Brownstein did NOT ask this site to post such information, you can read more about the CBLDF, including memberships, by visiting this site.
posted 1:04 pm PST | Permalink

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