My own father was a big Lenny Bruce fan. He had all of his albums. And when I was teenager in the seventies, the new comedians on the block, like George Carlin and Richard Pryor, were building their own outrageous, satirical monologues out of the material put forth by stand-up comedy artists like Bruce, Mort Sahl, Woody Allen and Paul Krassner. I loved George Carlin and I'll never forget how hip it was that my Dad took me to one of his concerts for my 15th birthday.
Carlin is notorious for having created his "Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say On Television" routine. I used to recite Carlin's hilarious bit like a mantra. Walking to school or hanging out with friends, I'd share my Carlin impression with anyone who would listen: "shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits, yeahhhhh..." For an adolescent writer just learning the power of words, it was a way of coming to terms with a core value sponsored by our American forefathers, something called The First Amendment.
It was only later that I started paying attention to other writers whose freely-expressed art form was called literature: Joyce, Miller, Burroughs, Ginsberg et al, these writers, like the comedians mentioned above, set the groundwork for a more flexible compositional environment for those who came after them. No longer would we have to pretend that certain words or sex acts were off-limits. All of our experience was now open to aesthetic rendering. Case after case, the U.S. Supreme Court told the American public that it was a-okay for writers to create their literary art and, once it was published, to distribute it to their public. Landmark decisions emphasized how necessary it was for our democracy to support the right of a Nabakov to create an important novel like Lolita or for a Terry Southern to crank up the distortion pedal and riff on the ever-empathetic character named Candy.
There's a reason why the visionaries who developed the Bill of Rights made the First Amendment so concise and explicit in its support for free expression, why they started that very first bill with the words
It was to save democracy in times of loony-tune extremism. Like the kind of extremism we're experiencing today, one that comes at us from all sides of the political spectrum whether it be gun-toting, welfare-bashing right-to-lifers, dumber-than-dumb pseudo-moralists or wigged out separatists who insist that any animal with a penis attached to it is a machine carrying a loaded weapon. Don't forget, it was a Democratic Senator from Nebraska who wrote the new Communications Decency Act into the recently passed telecommunications bill and it was the Clinton-Gore techno-compromisers who signed the bill into law.
I have a problem with the new censorship law being overwhelmingly supported by our so-called democratic leaders (414 to 16 in the House and 91 to 5 in the Senate). And it's not necessarily a dirty word problem, though I'm tempted to say "fuck them all for trying." My problem is personal. You see, I'm an electronic publisher and writer, someone whose web site, Alt-X [http://www.altx.com], gets over 400,000 hits a month and who publishes voices both known and unknown. On my web site you'll hear the voices of Allen Ginsberg, Paul Krassner, Terry Southern and soon, William Burroughs and Henry Miller. But you'll also hear the voices of younger writers whose literary works are at risk of being censored according to the vaguely termed "indecent" portion of the telecom bill, writers like Eurudice, Bruce Benderson, Matt Fuller, Susan Shapiro, Kathy Acker, Bayard Johnson and Ricardo Cortez Cruz who, writing about the experience of black youth on the streets of L.A. and Harlem is, after all, only trying to be true to his artistic method.
So when I woke up on Friday, February 2nd, and saw the big headline on the front page of the New York Times telling me that I was now being considered a criminal in my own country because I was actively practicing my rights as a native son to freely express myself as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, I was really pissed off. I think I even mumbled a few dirty words to myself. And I vowed to fight the unconstitutionality of the new bill tooth and nail, down to the very last bit.
Fortunately, I'm not the only one fighting this ugly piece of legislation. Be sure to see the court challenge being issued by the American Civil Liberties Union, and also look into the work being done by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, ,The Center for Democracy and Technology, and Voters Telecommunications Watch.
In celebration of our Freedom To Write here in America, and to take advantage of the new distribution paradigm allowed us on behalf of the World Wide Web, I hereby invite everybody to visit the Alt-X site and see our new anthology of sexy, provocative, sometimes offensive, electronic literature. The new anthology is called DIRTY DESIRES. It makes constant reference to the one thing we cyborgs have no control over: the flow of our desire as it constantly seeks its beautiful articulation in imaginative acts of wild pleasure.