Vital Signs

The Most Dangerous Amendment

One evening a few years back, I was channel-surfing when I ran across a panel discussion of efforts to restrict children's access to smut and violence on TV. One of the panelists was former New York mayor Ed Koch; another was the president of one of the major TV networks. The latter was quite agitated by proposed regulatory measures that he felt undermined the First Amendment and paved the way to censorship. I anticipated his position; however, I didn't anticipate Koch's reply. The former mayor pointed out that the slippery-slope argument that the TV honcho was making was exactly the same as that made by those who saw all attempts at gun control as undermining the Second Amendment and paving the way to gun confiscation. Hoisted by his own petard, the TV honcho's response was hilarious. He blanched and managed to sputter out something to the effect that some slippery slopes were more desirable than others.

I can't remember who that TV executive was or what network he headed, but it really doesn't make any difference. I'd be willing to bet, and I'm not a betting man, that the vast majority of gatekeepers of the mainstream electronic and print media, entertainment as well as news, would have responded to a perceived threat to the First Amendment just as he did, and that they would have been equally nonplussed when called upon to reconcile their views on the First Amendment with their views on the Second...

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