TOWARD A REACTIONARY FIRST AMENDMENT JURISPRUDENCEBecause pornography desensitizes its consumers to the degradation of women, it is no wonder that the current Cookeville regime has such a sordid record toward the prosecution of sex crimes.By JOHN WAYNE ALLEN
Special to The Putnam Pit
[MARCH 24, 2000] Welcome to Cookeville, Tennessee - the great Hub City on the Eastern
Highland Rim, and the seat of a derivative culture. A provincial community
intolerant of dissent and progressive ideas, Cookeville would be right at
home in Pinochet's Chile, Slobo's Serbia, or Modern China. When Madison
wrote that "Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm," he may
have had the Cookeville officialdom in mind.
To City Attorney Mike O'Mara, Architect of the City's politics of distrust,
the personal is definitely political. Like post Weimar jurist and political
theorist Carl Schmidt, Mr. O'Mara seeks to perpetuate the current hierarchy.
Thus, his "scorched earth" policy toward The Putnam Pit, was a raw attempt
to suppress criticism of local officials which could lead to their public
humiliation and electoral defeat.
Under Mr. O'Mara's direction the City of Cookeville has been hostile to the
First Amendment, which includes political speech, artistic and literary
expression. So, on February 17, 2000, when Putnam Pit Editor Geoff Davidian
confronted the City Council with compelling proof that Police Chief Bob
Terry conveyed pornographic images to smut consumer Bill Gibson, the City
Fathers gave Terry their stamp of approval. At first glance, that approval
seemed to represent a sea change in the City's First Amendment
Jurisprudence. Instead of adhering to the politics of distrust, the City
Council had become First Amendment Absolutists.
However, a more careful examination of the City's reactionary policy toward
the watchdog press and its encouragement of City Employees to send
pornographic images over the Internet are actually a consistent policy of
suppression of free speech.
As Mr. Samuel J. Harris has already noted when the City encourages pornography, it
creates a hostile work environment of women workers, and as political
theorist Isaiah Berlin has pointed out, pornography is a positive liberty to
Terry and Gibson, but is a negative liberty to the female victims of
pornography. And, as feminist scholars Catherine Mackinnon and Andrea
Dworkin have noted, the pornography must be silenced because it silences
those female victims that are disparaged by it. Because pornography
desensitizes its consumers to the degradation of women, it is no wonder that
the current regime has such a sordid record toward the prosecution of sex
crimes. And, when viewed in this light, Cookeville's First Amendment
Jurisprudence is marked by the politics of distrust.
[Mr. Allen is a native of the Upper Cumberland and practices law in Cookeville and Gainesboro, Tenn. He represents Putnam Pit publisher in a civil rights/First Amendment suit in which Davidian has named O'Mara, the City of Cookeville and City Manager Jim Shipley.]