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Publishing Company Puts Warning Label on Constitution 676

Posted by samzenpus
from the inappropriate-founding-fathers dept.
Wilder Publication is under fire for putting warning labels on copies of historical US documents, including the Constitution. The label warns "This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today." From the article: "The disclaimer goes on to tell parents that they 'might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.'"

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Publishing Company Puts Warning Label on Constitution

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  • Copyright (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheKidWho (705796) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:12PM (#32538900)

    Damned right, if it was written today no one would be able to read it without paying some exorbitant price, and you better not expect to share the document with anyone else!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hatta (162192)

      If it was written today, it would be a lot shorter.

      • Re:Copyright (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TheCarp (96830) <sjc&carpanet,net> on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:40PM (#32539452) Homepage

        No way. It would be about 20 times longer. See today, they hand it off to interns to write. The goal is to write everything so thick and deep, that NOBODY could credibly claim to have read it.

        Now, maybe you mean "it would mean less and contain less protections". Thats absolutely true. As far as I can tell, the people in charge today would junk the entire bill of rights, from freedom of the press and right to bear arms, all the way down through.

        I would be absolutely shocked if you retained any rights other than to vote in the already rigged voting system, and would probably gain a few pointless ones like an inalienable right to pay taxes.

        -Steve

        • Re:Copyright (Score:4, Insightful)

          by vtcodger (957785) on Friday June 11, 2010 @03:02PM (#32539836)

          ***Now, maybe you mean "it would mean less and contain less protections".***

          Ahem ... if you recall, the original version did not in fact include what we now regard as basic protections (unless of course if you are carted off to the US's appalling overseas prisons). The first 10 ammendments -- the Bill of Rights -- was in draft before the constitution was approved, and it probably couldn't have been approved without a tacit agreement that the ammendments would be presented as soon as the details of wording and content could be worked out. Actually the states mostly had and have rights enumerated in their constitutions. No one really anticipated that federal power would supercede those rights in many cases.

          ====

          Other than that, you're right, a modern version of the Constitution would probably run to 3000 pages and include large chunks of material proposed by lobbiests that no one actually read prior to approval.

          • Re:Copyright (Score:5, Informative)

            by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Friday June 11, 2010 @03:38PM (#32540460) Homepage

            To the best of my understanding, many whose signature was solicited for the Bill of Rights considered it superfluous and perhaps even harmful, specifically because it did not prohibit anything which would have otherwise been permitted under the original Constitution. Some wanted it as an additional guarantee against later reinterpretation or undiscovered loopholes, but—as others feared—it has more often been taken as a license to do anything not explicitly prohibited, contrary to their design.

            So the original version did include those protections; it just didn't state them explicitly, because it didn't need to. Even before the amendments were passed, the Constitution did not grant the federal government the power to violate anything in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was more a statement of intent than an actual change in the nature of the Constitution.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dangitman (862676)

            ... and include large chunks of material proposed by lobbiests...

            So, how does this work grammatically? Lobby, lobbier, lobbiest?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        If it was written today, it would be a lot shorter.

        Not true, if I were to go by what people seem to think the role of government should be, it would be a HUGE document detailing every single thing that you are allowed to do, and there would be a LOT that you are allowed to do. Every freedom that you now enjoy would likely be included in the document.

        And hopefully you understand why that would be a terrifying prospect.

    • Re:Copyright (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:49PM (#32539618)

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, but Corporations are more equal than others. That products are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Patentability, Copyright and the pursuit of Profit. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their powers from the payment of the governing. That whenever any Form of Behavior becomes destructive to the maximization of profits, it is the Right of the Corporate to alter or to abolish it.

  • Warning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:13PM (#32538910)
    Warning, this constitution is of its time, its views might not reflect the actions of those sworn to protect it and uphold it or the courts sworn to interpret it correctly.
    • by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:35PM (#32539356)
      No one actually reads the Constitution anyway. They just tell you what it says.
  • Inb4... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Taevin (850923) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:13PM (#32538912)
    In before the trolls!

    *reads article*

    Oh...
  • A Better Target (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:15PM (#32538952) Journal

    I think the Bible would be a better book to slap that kind of a warning on.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by paulsnx2 (453081)

      There is no doubt that the Bible relates a number of very scary concepts (The story of Lot, restricting warfare to damages no greater than inflicted upon your tribe (that eye for an eye thing), or even its revision by Jesus, i.e. Love for one's enemies and do good to those that hate you).

      But the real question is why many people equate the Constitution to a Holy book. The Constitution does discuss slavery as if it were a reasonable institution, and that can be hard for children to deal with.

      Does this requir

      • Re:A Better Target (Score:4, Insightful)

        by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:53PM (#32539680) Journal

        >>>The Constitution does discuss slavery as if it were a reasonable institution

        Woah, hold on there. The Southern delegates wanted the slaves counted as full persons, even though they were not treated as persons. The Northern delegates said the southern delegates were being hypocritical, treating their slaves as both property and persons at the same. The Abolitionists and the Plantationists were butting heads and threatening to tear apart this just-born country.

        The Constitution does Not treat slavery as reasonable. It treats it as Unreasonable which is why there's the illogic of counting slaves as 3/5 people. Rather than create a civil war in 1786, a compromise was reached. Else there'd be no United States today.

        I think the Founders made the wise decision of letting the U.S. exist, and fix the imperfections later. Which is what we eventually did

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thewiz (24994) *

      How about slapping the same warning on all political commentary, books, papers, laws, bills, etc? At the beginning of political "news" shows?
      Just because a document is hundreds of years old does NOT mean the truths and wisdom contained within are irrelevant due to the current point-of-view.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Godai (104143) *

      That's kind of an ironic statement frankly. Often I've noticed that mere suggestion that the Constitution has any kind of flaw or that the founders were not somehow perfect to cause an incredible number of people to take umbrage. Which very close to the effect you get when you suggest the Bible isn't literal or might need some historical context.

      None of that is to say the Constitution isn't a powerful document or that its framers weren't some smart guys, but good lord, no one and nothing is perfect. As othe

  • by jdgeorge (18767) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:17PM (#32538980)

    I'm mystified. Why is somebody unhappy about having advice to take historical context in mind when reading the constitution, which in its original doesn't reflect (for example) voting rights for women and former slaves?

    • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:28PM (#32539188) Journal

      Well, for one thing, it has been properly amended to cover those situations. Unlike much stuff from FDR onward, which was just magically assumed to fall under the propriety of the government's reach without amendment. If society changes, you change the Constitution, which has a built-in, slow, deliberative, supermajority process. If it's that good an idea, most should want it, and still want it 5 or 10 years down the road. If that is not the case, you have no business passing such laws in the first place.

      If anything, there should be a warning on that warning. "The above warning is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as if it were written back then. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how memes espoused by the power hungry have bypassed the amendment process by declarative fiat."

    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:29PM (#32539234)
      Because when you take something in "historical context" you can easily reason away all of the rights it gave us. For example:

      In the 1700s, there were no terrorists flying planes into buildings. Therefore, your right to not be searched unreasonably needs to be removed because if the founding fathers had this "threat" they would have taken it into consideration.

      In the 1700s, there were no computers, so this means that your rights don't extend to your own computer when it comes to being searched.

      In the 1700s, there was no internet, so this means that internet is not covered under free speech, petition or assembly.

      Putting something into "historical context" usually almost always gives someone less rights than guaranteed by law.
      • by jdgeorge (18767) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:36PM (#32539376)

        The overt argument that you should NOT consider historical context when reading the constitution (which appears to be what you're saying) doesn't follow.

        It is true that people can draw ridiculous conclusions of relevance or irrelevance based on historical context, but they can draw equally ridiculous conclusions without any historical context.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I think you have it exactly backwards. A literal, context-free reading of the First Amendment says that since there's no printing press and involved in making an online post, Congress can make all the laws it wants barring the expression of opinions on the internet. Taking historical context into account, we recognize that websites are in fact "the press" just as much as newspapers are.

    • by tverbeek (457094) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:50PM (#32539634) Homepage

      Because it's good for rousing the idiot reactionaries. Why does Fox News publish any story (not counting the celebrity gossip pieces)?

  • Worrying trend (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:19PM (#32539018)
    This is a very worrying trend, parents should not "wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work" because otherwise that leaves things into interpretation and prevents people from forming their own opinion.

    The constitution wasn't written with symbolism and to make it be hard to read. No. The constitution and other works of that time period dealing with politics were made for the every day voter and the vocabulary, though slightly archaic is a whole lot easier than that of, say, Shakespeare and lacks the annoying, long, wordiness of later authors like Dickens making it very accessible.

    What is next? The banning of all primary source materials in school textbooks because they are old?
    • Re:Worrying trend (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:27PM (#32539174)

      What is next? The banning of all primary source materials in school textbooks because they are old?

      Except this isn't banning anything. Great slippery slope fallacy though!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lgw (121541)

      It's simple political correctness: the Constitution mentions slavery, and so must be flagged as "racist". There are a lot of old pop-culture works with racial stereotypes for which this sort of warning is approriate, and I suspect some simple keyword trigger here. It shows how lame their classification system must be, but I doubt they were making a complicated political statement.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by swb (14022)

        Anything that does not make its primary purpose the empowerment and restitution of oppressed peoples is inherently racist, classist and reactionary.

  • by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:19PM (#32539020) Homepage

    What's amusing about the flap is that I'd be willing to bet that at least some, if not many, of the people upset by this have no problem at all with warning labels on biology textbooks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Warning: This book may contain facts that are incompatible with the superstitious fairy tales that your parents ignorantly used to scare you into being a good boy.

  • "Copyright 2007" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:19PM (#32539022)

    The warning itself says "Copyright 2007". Why is FoxNews complaining about this now, 3 years later? I'm sure they'll try to blame this on Obama, the people who support him, and their 'attack on America' somehow.

    And why is Slashdot acting as a frontman for FoxNews?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Red Flayer (890720)

      And why is Slashdot acting as a frontman for FoxNews?

      Pop quiz:

      What tech/nerd site has an editor who is a Republican party official and is will soon be attending a Republican leadership conference?

      Need a hint?

      It's not reddit, digg, fark, or any other site that cannot be abbreviated as /.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:21PM (#32539058) Homepage Journal

    The US Constitution itself is a politically correct document. Look how it dances around the issue of slavery: "Person held to Service or Labour" and "three fifths of all other Persons" are the really egregious ones. Everyone knew who these "other Persons" were, but nobody wanted to say it. It wasn't until 1865, almost 80 years later, that the word "slavery" appeared in the 13th amendment, when it was safely in the past tense -- and then in 1870, when the mealy-mouthed Southern gentry, who had been willing to fight a war on behalf of slavery but could never talk about it when Yankees were about, were back in Congress, the 15th gently whispers about "previous condition of servitude."

    So for those who think PC is some new an unique blight on our language, sorry, it's pretty much part of our national DNA.

    There are other instances which still cause trouble today. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" means that it's illegal for the government to give money to churches just as much as "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" means that it's illegal for for the government to ban them. And "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State" is explanatory, not prescriptive; "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" is the part that has the force of law, and all they really needed to write. But there's been enough wiggle room in the phrasing for the enemies of liberty to exploit for the last 220+ years.

  • by neltana (795825) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:22PM (#32539074)

    Hate to break up of the controversy with facts, but this disclaimer is just boilerplate the distributor puts on all of his products. He publishes lots of public domain works and he got sick an tired of people complaining about the language or mores.

    You can get the full story on his blog: http://warrenlapine.livejournal.com/ [livejournal.com]

    I've known Warren for years. If he had been trying to make a point, he would flat out say that was what he was doing.

  • well, it is true. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by retchdog (1319261) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:22PM (#32539078) Journal

    ``This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today.'' Uh, yeah.

    The "disclaimer" is not only mere boilerplate for all their historical documents, but a value neutral and true observation. The trolling comes from pure speculation.

    And it gets better: `By putting on the warning, you’re making controversial something that’s not controversial: our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence.'' Right. I seem to recall W saying that it was just a "goddam piece of paper." Nothing controversial there.

    The fact that we've already amended the Constitution 27 times suggests fairly strongly that the disclaimer is true as stated.

    • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:49PM (#32539608)

      The fact that we've already amended the Constitution 27 times suggests fairly strongly that the disclaimer is true as stated.

      10 of which were immediately passed and almost understood to be part of the original document. The passing and the repeal of prohibition are two other amendments that don't really seem to fall into the 'revision' category.

      Actually there was one thing I liked about the prohibition amendment. It demonstrated that there was a time when the Federal Government actually followed the Constitution and didn't claim the Commerce Clause gave it ultimate power over everything.

  • Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nuskrad (740518) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:24PM (#32539124)
    Because it's still perfectly acceptable to consider a black person as only 3/5 of a person, and it's perfectly acceptable to refer to native Americans as 'savages' (as in the Declaration of Independence).
  • Disclaimer (Score:3, Funny)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:48PM (#32539600)
    Slashdot is a product of its time and may not reflect the opinions of the modders who read your posts ten seconds from the moment they were written.
  • Weird Publisher (Score:3, Informative)

    by Paradox !-) (51314) on Friday June 11, 2010 @03:17PM (#32540108) Homepage

    If you actually check out the link for the publisher [wilderpublications.com] they're mostly reprinting old "positive thinking" stuff. I smell publicity stunt. Then again, it could just be a debunked, false [slashdot.org] issue.

  • Permission (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kenoli (934612) on Friday June 11, 2010 @05:04PM (#32541996)

    ... might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work

    Before allowing them to read the Constitution? Really?

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