The question is whether patently offensive words dealing with sex and excretion may be regulated because of content. Obscene materials have been denied protection because their content is offensive to contemporary moral standards. But the fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it. Indeed, if it is the speaker's opinion that gives offense, that consequence is a reason for according it protection. For it is a central tenet that the state must remain neutral in the marketplace of ideas. If there were any reason to believe that the characterization of the monologue as offensive could be traced to its political content, protection might be required. But that is simply not this case. These words offend for the same reasons that obscenity offends. Such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality. Although these words ordinarily lack literary, political, or scientific value, they are not entirely outside protection. Some. Indeed. Nonetheless. It is a characteristic of speech such as this that both its capacity to offend and its "social value" vary with the circumstances. Words that are commonplace in one setting are shocking in another. To paraphrase, one occasion's lyric is another's vulgarity.


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