Larry Flynt to Students: “We Have to Tolerate Things We Don’t Necessarily Like”

Feb 24, 2010 2:09pm

ABC News on Campus reporter Lauren McGaha blogs:
   
Larry Flynt has been imprisoned nine times. He has been heavily involved in Supreme Court battles. He has survived an assassination attempt during an obscenity trial in 1978.  But sitting in his gold-plated wheelchair center stage at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he said it was all necessary to defend his right to free speech.
Flynt was greeted with warm applause from a packed auditorium as the keynote speaker for UNC First Amendment Law Review’s 2010 Symposium last Thursday.
He is known by many as one of the most powerful men in porn. As the head of Larry Flynt Publications, he is no stranger to controversy. His company produces sexually explicit magazines and videos, including Hustler.
Not surprisingly, Flynt has spent most of his adult life wrapped up in legal battles, fighting to protect his first amendment rights to publish what some call obscene material in his magazine.
During his speech, Flynt discussed the sacrifices he’s made while protecting his First Amendment rights.
“Fighting those battles wasn’t easy,” Flynt said. “I’ve been shot and paralyzed as a result of it. But freedom of speech is not freedom for the thought you love, it’s freedom for the thought you hate the most. You have to get your head around that.”
And Flynt wasn’t shy about exercising his right to free speech, as he criticized the latest decision by the Supreme Court to allow corporations to pour an unlimited amount of funding into political campaigns.
“That’s a terrible, terrible decision,” Flynt said. “You know, Bush’s legacy will not be the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or even Katrina. It’s going to be those two toads he put on the Supreme Court.”
Flynt said he’s grown increasingly concerned that “many of the freedoms that we’ve gained by the liberal Warren Court have been placed in jeopardy with the new conservative Supreme Court, appointed primarily by Bush.”
And after years of legal battles, Flynt stands by his magazine and its content.
“It’s easy for me to understand why sex has become such a political buzz word,” he said. “The church has had its hand on our crotch for over 2,000 years. The government is headed exceedingly in that direction, feeling that if they can control your pleasure center, they can control you. But to live in a free society, we have to tolerate things we don’t necessarily like.”
And as far as expanding First Amendment rights, Flynt says the less governmental interference, the better.
“The greatest right that any nation can afford its people is the right to be left alone,” he said. “Every American feels that way. Unless they’re breaking the law, they want to be left alone.”
Several audience members asked questions about the First Amendment during a Q&A session after Flynt spoke.  But some remarks provoked the crowd.
Anthony Maglione, a 2009 UNC graduate, began his question by addressing the audience, asking, “How do we feel about having Larry Flynt here tonight?”
Audience members began to boo, while some shouted “We feel fine!” Moderators encouraged Maglione to proceed to a question, and when he continued to read what seemed to be prepared remarks from a notepad, security escorted him away from the microphone.
Maglione says he was never given a chance to ask his question fully.
“The UNC Law School moderators and the campus police silenced me when I attempted to ask a question about the content and harm of Flynt's ‘speech,’” Maglione said. “Our community should discuss whether we want to legitimize someone who profits from the degradation of women.”
Seemingly unfazed by the remarks, Flynt remained silent during Maglione’s criticism and removal.
Other members of the audience were more accepting of Flynt’s right to publish Hustler.
“Women are not necessarily shown in the best light in the magazine,” said Michael Murray, a 2009 UNC graduate. “But at the same time, if people don’t like what it says then don’t read it. That’s the message, plain and simple.”
After his speech, Flynt acknowledged that he is one of the most prominent men in the adult entertainment industry, but said he wants his legacy to be more than porn.
“I’d like to be remembered as someone who fought to extend the parameters of free speech,” Flynt said. “I think that’s a pretty noble goal.” 

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