Statement About the Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography
SEVERAL weeks ago, the National Commission on Obscenity and Pornography-appointed in a previous administration-presented its findings.
I have evaluated that report and categorically reject its morally bankrupt conclusions and major recommendations.
So long as I am in the White House, there will be no relaxation of the national effort to control and eliminate smut from our national life.
The Commission contends that the proliferation of filthy books and plays has no lasting harmful effect on a man's character. If that were true, it must also be true that great books, great paintings, and great plays have no ennobling effect on a man's conduct. Centuries of civilization and 10 minutes of common sense tell us otherwise.
The Commission calls for the repeal of laws controlling smut for adults, while recommending continued restrictions on smut for children. In an open society, this proposal is untenable. If the level of filth rises in the adult community, the young people in our society cannot help but also be inundated by the flood.
Pornography can corrupt a society and a civilization. The people's elected representatives have the right and obligation to prevent that corruption.
The warped and brutal portrayal of sex in books, plays, magazines, and movies, if not halted and reversed, could poison the wellsprings of American and Western culture and civilization.
The pollution of our culture, the pollution of our civilization with smut and filth is as serious a situation for the American people as the pollution of our once-pure air and water.
Smut should not be simply contained at its present level; it should be outlawed in every State in the Union. And the legislatures and courts at every level of American government should act in unison achieve that goal.
I am well aware of the importance of protecting freedom of expression. But pornography is to freedom of expression what anarchy is to liberty; as free men willingly restrain a measure of their freedom to prevent anarchy, so must we draw the line against pornography to protect freedom of expression.
The Supreme Court has long held, and recently reaffirmed, that obscenity is not within the area of protected speech or press. Those who attempt to break down the barriers against obscenity and pornography deal a severe blow to the very freedom of expression they profess to espouse.
Moreover, if an attitude of permissiveness were to be adopted regarding pornography, this would contribute to an atmosphere condoning anarchy in every field--and would increase the threat to our social order as well as to our moral principles.
Alexis de Tocqueville, observing America more than a century ago, wrote, America is great because she is good--and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
We all hold the responsibility for keeping America a great country--by keeping America a good country.
American morality is not to be trifled with. The Commission on Pornography and Obscenity has performed a disservice, and I totally reject its report.
Note: The report is entitled "The Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography-September 1970" (Government Printing Office, 646 pp. ).
On October 2, 1970, the White House released a statement on the Commission's report by Counsellor to the President Robert H. Finch.
Richard Nixon, Statement About the Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/240090