Four Musicians Roth Vs. U.S. Would Have Jailed (NSFW)

Categories: Miles-tones

samuel roth courtesy of life.jpg
AP/Life.com
Samuel Roth
Standing up for the First Amendement is a hard row to hoe sometimes. Sure, it's fun when you can defend someone like Marilyn Manson, but it's a lot less fun when you realize you also have to defend people like the Westboro Baptist Church. Thems the breaks, though. If you're going to have freedom you're going to have to deal with it.

Lucky for us, for 16 years Americans weren't bothered with this dilemma because the Supreme Court took a pretty significant portion of your right to free speech away. This week, 54 years ago, the court handed down the 6-3 decision in Roth vs. United States that said that material whose "dominant theme taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest" was not protected under the First Amendment.

The case that brought about this decision, thankfully gone to rest after a 1973 ruling that stated obscenity is indeed protected by free speech, was one against a man named Samuel Roth. Roth was the publisher of a magazine called American Aphrodite that specialized in literary erotica and nude pictures. Roth was convicted on an obscenity charge in California, and the case made its way up from there.

Roth is a pretty interesting guy in his own right. He wrote a book that he said was a late work by Nietszche written in an insane asylum near the end of his life, another called Violations of the Child Marilyn Monroe published under the nom de plume Her Psychiatrist Friend, and finally one of him as Jesus. Legend has it that Roth did not die, but instead was lifted bodily into the sky to become what we now know of as the internet.

Nude pics and literary erotica, huh? Good thing that case has gone the way of the passenger pigeon, because some of our favorite musical personalities would've been arrested. Such as...

John Lennon

two virgins.jpg

Controversy surrounded John Lennon his entire life because, well, he liked annoying people. If we may quote our favorite line from Hard Day's Night spoken by the band's manager about Lennon, "I put him in chains but he'd just rattle them at me." Urban legends, myths, and outrage sprung up all around him, but few of his antics could've gotten him out and out arrested.

Under Roth, though, he could very well had been jailed for the cover of his first album with Yoko Ono, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins. The cover was a simple front on nude shot of both Lennon and Ono taken in Ringo Starr's basement. Distributers insisted on selling the album in a brown paper sleeve, and 30,000 copies were confiscated in New Jersey under obscenity statutes.

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Caz
Caz

This is an enjoyable article, but just to correct the record, it has a completely faulty understanding of obscenity law. None of these images would have been obscene under Roth--in fact, it is precisely Roth that paved the way for them--and further, the suggestion that a "1973 ruling that stated obscenity is indeed protected by free speech" is simply inaccurate. What the Court did in the 1973 Miller v. California case was actually render a *more* conservative opinion (with local rather than national standards)--but one rendered ironically moot by the changing social mores of the sexual revolution. Even today, obscenity remains outside the protection of the First Amendment.

csoakley
csoakley

What about Frankenchrist by the Dead Kennedys?

Well, I guess they did dragged into court for 'distribution of material harmful to minors'.

Never mind.

8811081
8811081

This Westboro Baptist Church says they hate the Gay-Community.But, they also hate African Americans, Dr. & Mrs. King, Canada, Sweden, theFire Department of N.Y., victims of 911, other Christian churches, the pope,Judaism, America, our American troops and the list goes on and on. Many of thegroups they despise are specifically named on their hate propaganda, picketsigns and their many websites. They not only hate, but wish death on all whomthey abhor.

This so-called “church” spreads its hate through picketing inour streets, provoking attacks, with abusive language and flag desecration,attempting to create a confrontation. This is not about protesting, this isabout a life of hate. They are in it for the money and the press.  They are not a "church." They goafter any thing that can get them in the news. This group will protest anythingto get its face on TV or in the news. This group is lost in the darkness ofhate, and will put there children in danger to shield themselves.

These people protest at the funerals of our troops. Do we have areal need to protest at any funeral? Is that a real freedom?

The city of Topeka, the state of Kansas and the U.S. at large,its citizens and their churches, schools and events are all held hostage bythis "hate group."-always at the tax payer's expense.

Anse
Anse

Cristina Martinez on the cover of Boss Hog's Drinkin', Lechin' and Lyin' takes all these by a mile

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