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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hustler Publisher Larry Flynt Sticks It to American History

Posted on Tue, May 17, 2011 at 3:00 PM

For nearly a century in the U.S. it was illegal to send anything through the mail considered "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious." That included certain novels now considered classics (hello, Ulysses), educational material on birth control and female reproduction, and, yes, pornography and erotica. Anyone who broke these laws faced federal prison time and hefty fines. Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner was on the front lines of getting these so-called Comstock Laws overturned, risking his own liberty to challenge them all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Starting in the 1970s, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt began another round of challenges to obscenity laws that applied not only to his much-maligned pornography empire but also to wide swaths of artists and writers. Love him or hate him (many people still choose the latter), Flynt was among the only people with the guts, stamina, and money to stand up to those in government and religious institutions who'd criminalize anything that runs astray of strict Christian morality. Wednesday night, the publisher speaks alongside David Eisenbach, a history professor, and author with Flynt of a book, One Nation Under Sex. In the clip above, Flynt speaks with talk-show host Tavis Smiley about the book and its contents.

Flynt and Eisenbach have documented illicit goings-on at the highest levels of U.S. government going back to Ben Franklin and the American Revolution. Other subjects of their exposé include Eleanor Roosevelt and Presidents James Buchanan, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, and Woodrow Wilson. Flynt has long decried political hypocrisy from any quarter. By shattering the marble statues that some of these historical figures have become, Flynt and Eisenbach aim to show the truth behind much of U.S. public policy, and that the principal of love him or hate him (or her) can apply to a lot of people besides publishers of pornography.

Larry Flynt appears at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Commonwealth Club, 595 Market (at Second St.). Admission is $25-$45.

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