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32


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 32, August 1, 1997

Open Up, Movie Police!

By Vin Suprynowicz
vin@lvrj.com

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Michael Camfield, development director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma, had not even finished watching his rented videotape of the Academy Award-winning 1979 German film, "The Tin Drum," when Oklahoma City police came pounding on his front door June 25, demanding that he hand it over.
         "I got the strong impression that verbal resistance on my part was futile and they were going to get that tape one way or another and arrest me if they had to," Mr. Camfield told The Associated Press.
         The officers had used video store records to track Camfield down.
         District Judge Richard Freeman ruled June 25 that the movie was obscene under Oklahoma law, which rules obscene any depiction of a person under 18 -- or anyone portraying someone under 18 -- having sex.
         Judge Freeman was responding to a complaint by Oklahomans for Children and Families, a pro-censorship group protesting the availability of the film at a public library.
         "The Tin Drum," which won the 1979 Oscar for best foreign film, is Volker Schlondorff's adaptation of Gunter Grass' respected novel of the same name. The movie includes one scene in which a boy, supposedly about 6 or 7, is depicted having oral sex in a bathhouse with a teen-age girl.
         (Of course, anyone who really investigated the film or book would know that the hero stops growing, physically, upon the ascension of the Nazi Party, making it a matter of debate just how old a character is being depicted in this not-particularly-arousing scene.)
         Regardless, because of the judge's ruling, police felt obliged to move within hours to confiscate copies of the film from six video stores and Mr. Camfield's home. Mr. Camfield said he rented the movie so he would be familiar with the contents, and before learning of the judge's decision.
         While most reports of "censorship" in America concern parents questioning whether materials in the government schools are age-appropriate, here we have the real thing -- a heavy-handed example of overzealous police out running around protecting the public from ... what, exactly? Was anyone forced to view this rather rarefied entertainment against his will?
         The film in question is a surreal look at -- ironically enough -- the way the Nazi terror crept into Germany on little cat feet. The point of view of a child is purposely chosen, in part to show the way evil can at first appear natural enough ... a mere upswing in the incidence of brass bands and new uniforms ... but also to develop the metaphor of a society trapped in a childish desire for pageantry and "purity," no matter who has to be burned at the stake to keep the fires going.
         The modern American judge and police who claim the enactment of this troglodyte law "left them no choice" are dead wrong. Their oaths of office -- and the precedent of Nuremberg -- require them, first and foremost, to protect and defend the Constitution, and the plain meaning of its First Amendment.
         Would they enforce a new law, requiring them to round up and ship off some unpopular minority group in box cars? Presumably they would, arguing they "had no choice."
         Joann Bell, executive director of the Oklahoma ACLU, said Thursday the seizures reminded her of "book burnings organized by Hitler's Gestapo."
         Me, too.

         #  #  #

         Carole Moore from Washington sends word that the first forthright documentary on the Waco massacre, "Waco: The Rules of Engagement" -- featuring the government's own Forward-Looking Infrared Footage (acquired via the Freedom of Information Act) of automatic weapons being fired into the church during the final tank assault, is scheduled to air July 7 on "National Empowerment Television."
         "This is on satellite and various cable networks," Ms. Moore advises, "7 p.m. pdt, GE1 channel 19."
         In his recent review of the David Kopel-Paul Blackman book "No More Wacos: What's Wrong With Federal Law Enforcement and How to Fix It" (Prometheus Books, Amherst, N.Y., ISBN 1-57392-125-4), Dr. Paul Gallant, a Wesley Hills, N.Y. optometrist and chairman of the Committee for Law-Abiding Gun Owners, writes that current trends in federal law enforcement are "now threatening to derail the course of American history, irrevocably, into a dead-end police state ...
         "The sole legal justification for the BATF investigation at Waco was ownership of automatic firearms without proper registration and taxation. No crimes were even alleged to have been committed by the Branch Davidians with their firearms, Kopel and Blackman note: 'The 76-person BATF raid on Mt. Carmel was, ultimately, a tax collection case'."


Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at vin@lvrj.com. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.


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