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Towel Heads, Nazis, and Sex: Larry Flint, 1st Amendment Crusader?


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 Flynt Faces Rowdy Law Crowd
Hustler Magazine publisher draws hisses in speech on First Amendment rights
Published On Monday, April 24, 2006  12:52 AM
Crimson Staff Writer

At a speech on the First Amendment, Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler Magazine, made what seemed to be false assertions about the format of his presentation and his publishing of certain cartoons while drawing hisses from the crowd for using a racial epithet and describing women as “sex objects.”

In a talk before a crowd of 200 in Harvard Law School’s Ames Courtroom Friday, Flynt emphasized the need to “push the envelope” on the First Amendment, saying that he had spent his life fighting in “the trenches” and “had taken a bullet for free speech.”

“If you’re going to live in a free society, you have to tolerate certain things that you don’t like so that you can be free,” Flynt said.

The short speech was followed by a lively session in which students—who handed questions to a moderator—grilled Flynt on his refusal to debate critics and on the content of Hustler.


In the first question after the speech, Flynt was asked why he declined to participate in a forum “where he would have to share the spotlight with his critics.”

Responding strongly, Flynt denied that he had ever turned down a debate, saying that he would “come back for a panel” if invited. The reason for the solo forum, he said, was that he is filming a documentary and his camera crew said a debate format would be unsuitable.

But this claim was refuted by documents obtained by The Crimson regarding the planning of Flynt’s visit. The documents illuminate communications from Flynt’s agent—not Flynt himself.

The saga of Flynt’s refusal to debate began when his agent, Kim Dower, contacted the American Constitution Society (ACS), the liberal law and policy group, and asked them to host his appearance at Harvard. Brianna J. MacDonald, the ACS publicity chair, wrote in an e-mail to Dower that her group was “hesitant” about inviting Flynt “without allowing for other voices added to the discussion to expand the debate.”

In her reply, Dower refused to change the format of the event, writing that it is “difficult for Mr. Flynt to work the debate/panel arrangement as his voice is weaker.” She did not mention the camera crew’s supposed concern that a debate would be difficult to film.

The ACS board then voted not to invite Flynt to Harvard. Instead they referred him to the Law School’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter which agreed to host his speech as a solo forum.

Kevin M. LoVecchio, an ACS member and Flynt critic, said that since Flynt came to Harvard for filming purposes and had refused debate, he was “merely concerned with exploiting the Harvard Law School name.” The e-mail from Dower, the Flynt agent, to the ACS supports this assertion: she wrote that she was “trying to provide the filmmaker with a wonderful university to film at.”

But Sandra E. Pullman ’02, the president of the Harvard ACLU and a former Crimson arts editor, defended the decision to invite Flynt, saying that the documentary “is being composed by an outside film company, and he’s not making a dime from it.” She continued that Flynt had “expanded the reach of free speech [protections through] his precedent-setting defeat of Jerry Falwell.”


To discredit Flynt before his arrival on campus, LoVecchio and Mary Anne A. Franks, who had originally been contacted to debate Flynt, created and distributed a pamphlet filled with some of the more offensive cartoon images that have appeared in Hustler.

According to descriptions by LoVecchio that were verified by The Crimson, one cartoon shows a girl with an overly large nose chasing a dollar bill attached to a length of string while a Nazi hides around a corner holding the other end of the string and a baseball bat. In another image, a man, genitals exposed, dangles a piece of steak before a seeing-eye dog to lure a young, blind girl.

Other images displayed in the pamphlet include women being put through meat grinders and a child being kidnapped.

When asked at the event about the images—and the ones that reference Nazis in particular—Flynt said that he could not recall the images under question. After The Crimson handed a copy of the pamphlet to the moderator who in turn showed it to Flynt, he studied it for a moment before saying, “I didn’t publish these.” As a couple students shouted “liar!” Flynt took another look at the images, and said, “Well, I don’t know.”

The Crimson verified that the images in question had in fact appeared in Hustler.

Flynt also gave his opinion at the event about a different cartoon controversy.

When a student asked if newspapers should publish the Danish cartoons depicting the Islamic Prophet Muhammed, Flynt said that every newspaper in the nation should “publish the cartoons tomorrow,” and a “group of towel heads [had gotten] away with intimidating the whole world.” The use of the racial slur drew hisses—used at the Law School to signify disapproval—from some in the crowd.


The anti-Flynt activists also organized a separate speaker event which took place before the main speech.

Professor Gail Dines of Wheelock College, a sociologist who has spent over a decade researching pornography, spoke about the history of the pornographic industry and the role that Flynt has played in its development.

Calling him “first and foremost a capitalist,” Dines said that Flynt’s “staff is intensely reactionary and intensely right wing.” She went on to argue that pornography is corrosive because it distorts women’s sexuality and turns them into sex objects.

When asked at his event if pornography is destructive, Flynt dismissed the idea out of hand, saying that “you can’t get a group of social scientists together who will argue that [pornography] is harmful,” and that such criticisms are made only by the Christian right. He drew hisses again by saying that women “are the sex objects and they’re not going to be able to change that.”


I follow Kierkegaard on this subject; it seems that, "People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid."  I defend freedom of speech, but what are you contributing to society with such filth?

In the words of another great philosopher, "The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please: we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations."