Thursday, May 29, 2003
Pardon Lenny Bruce
Opinion Journal -- Because they can present it as a case against "liberal" political correctness the Wall Street Journal has a column about how New York should pardon Lenny Bruce.
On May 20, a petition for a posthumous pardon was sent to New York Gov. George Pataki by an array of First Amendment scholars and litigators--Floyd Abrams, Laurence Tribe and American Civil Liberties Union President Nadine Strossen, among them. Also asking the governor "to demonstrate New York's commitment to free speech" were notably irreverent satirists Robin Williams, Margaret Cho, and Tom and Dick Smothers.
Gov. Pataki may not share the view of a Washington Post editorial on Bruce's death: "Lenny Bruce believed in free speech with a passion that was often masked by the jokes he told. He was a social satirist, one of the boldest and one of the best." But even if the governor ignores the petition, Floyd Abrams spoke for the signers, including this writer, when he told me:
"As we look back on the prosecution of Lenny Bruce, it was less about 'bad language' than about supposedly bad thoughts--thoughts about religion, culture and sex that must be protected in a free society."
However they manage to get a Village Voice writer into their pages with an advertisement for a new Lenny Bruce book and CD, a plea for New York to do the right thing, and two brief Bruce bits it is a good day no matter how they justify it.