In 2003, Reason celebrated its 35th anniversary by compiling a list of "Heroes of Freedom" who we thought had helped to "make the world groovier and groovier since 1968," when the magazine started publishing. "Honorees needed to have been alive at some point during reason's run," ran the intro. "The list is by design eclectic, irreverent, and woefully incomplete, but it limns the many ways in which the world has only gotten groovier and groovier during the last 35 years."
Some of the entrants were obvious jokes (John Ashcroft and Richard Nixon, for instance, were cited for their ability to fire people up to protect their rights), some were libertarian superheroes (Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand), and others were just controversial picks, even for our core audience. (The full roster is here.)
In the latter categry was Hustler founder Larry Flynt, of whom we wrote:
Larry Flynt. Where Hugh Hefner mainstreamed bohemian sexual mores, hard-core porn merchant Flynt brought tastelessness to new depths, inspiring an unthinkable but revealing coalition between social conservatives and puritanical feminists – and helping to strengthen First Amendment protections for free expression along the way.
Flynt's latest stunt involves photoshopping a penis into the mouth of conservative commentator S.E. Cupp of GBTV.
Under the headline "Celebrity Fantasy," the text beside the picture asks, "What would S.E. Cupp look like with a [d**k] in her mouth?"
S.E. Cupp is a lovely young lady who read too much Ayn Rand in high school and ended up joining the dark side. Cupp, an author and media commentator who often shows up on Fox News programs, is undeniably cute. But her hotness is diminished when she espouses dumb ideas like defunding Planned Parenthood. Perhaps the method pictured here is Ms. Cupp's suggestion for avoiding an unwanted pregnancy.
A disclaimer follows: "No such picture of S.E. Cupp actually exists. This composite fantasy is altered from the original for our imagination, does not depict reality, and is not to be taken seriously for any purpose."
The Hustler picture has drawn the scorn of a wide-range of people from all around the political spectrum, including birth-control advocate Sandra Fluke and Planned Parenthood. So Flynt is yet again inspiring a new and revealing coalition of ideological opponents. This one is healthier than the earlier version, as those offended by the image as truly pathetic, sad, and indecent (count me in) aren't talking about censorship but about public shaming.
Flynt's statement on the controversy, also published by The Blaze, is simply:
"That's satire. I'm able to publish this because of the Supreme Court case I won in 1984, Flynt v. Falwell."
Among many other things, Hustler and Flynt remind us once again that satire is not the equivalent of funny or insightful, particularly when it trades in the rankest form of misogyny. Really, if your best response to someone you disagree with is to put a cock in her mouth, it's well past time to consider retirement. Or at least to consider repeating the 6th grade.
Cupp told The Blaze she "was horrified and disgusted" when she first saw the picture: "It's uncomfortable. I'm not in this business to talk about myself, I'm not in this business to talk about my character… I'd much rather be talking about Obama's economic record or his foreign policy than myself and having to defend myself against [this photo]."
In December 2010, Cupp attended Reason's New York event celebrating adult filmmaker John Stagliano's victory over federal obscenity charges (yes, we defend free speech unreservedly). We asked a variety of attendees — ranging from Stagliano himself to Fox News' Greg Gutfeld to Andrew Breitbart — what they consider to be the biggest threat to free speech. Cupp shows up around the 2.20 mark and her answer will suprise most people, I think.
And note the opening soundbite by Andy Levy of Fox News' Red Eye: "Ultimately, the right to free speech is the right to be an asshole. What makes this country great is assholes." I agree with him, and yet somehow want to disagree at the same time.