Censors for Freedom


The December 19 issue of National Review, marking the magazine's 50th anniversary, includes a feature in which 10 people offer suggestions on "How to Increase Liberty in America," to which I contributed a few paragraphs about ending the war on drugs. Sandwiched between Clint Bolick on school choice and Ward Connerly on colorblindness is Robert Bork on censorship. Just to be clear: He is for it.

"Liberty in America can be enhanced by reinstating, legislatively, restraints upon the direction of our culture and morality," writes the former appeals court judge, now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "Censorship as an enhancement of liberty may seem paradoxical. Yet it should be obvious, to all but dogmatic First Amendment absolutists, that people forced to live in an increasingly brutalized culture are, in a very real sense, not wholly free." Bork goes on to complain that "relations between the sexes are debased by pornography"; that "large parts of television are unwatchable"; that "motion pictures rely upon sex, gore, and pyrotechnics for the edification of the target audience of 14-year-olds"; and that "popular music hardly deserves the name of music."

Treating speech as a kind of assault and redefining freedom so that it requires its opposite are familiar tricks of the left that National Review usually is quick to mock. How are they any more respectable when deployed by a man who has elevated fuddy-duddyness to a political principle?