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Tom Head

The Legacy of Anthony Comstock

By November 30, 2012

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What happens when you appoint a puritanical pro-censorship activist as a U.S. postal inspector, give him free rein, and pass a law in his honor? Civil libertarians found out a century ago when Anthony Comstock became a national figure--inspiring culture warriors, and horrifying civil libertarians, for generations to come.

In the 97 years since his death, his influence as a censor has been felt by journalists and pornographers alike. And when a new generation of censors discovered radio and film, the temptation to restrict...well, temptation was too hard to resist.

Free speech isn't always beautiful, patriotic, or conducive to good life choices--but it represents our best traditions, just as surely as censorship represents our worst.

Related: History of Copyright


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