It’s that time when responsible citizens pinch their nostrils tightly, hold their collective breaths, and vote for the lesser of many unsavory evils. Most of us have listened to enough empty rhetoric in this presidential year to gag a maggot.

But the real political battlegrounds are not so much at the national level as in underground skirmishes over—speaking of empty rhetoric—something called “family values” and various forms of censorship. The following are a few examples drawn from a recent issue of the quarterly national Campaign for Freedom of Expression.

The Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression at the University of Virginia announced its annual “muzzle awards” last summer, citing among others the Library of Congress for closing an exhibition on slavery because of complaints by staff members; CBS News for caving in to the tobacco cartel and canceling an interview with a whistle-blower; an Ohio computer crimes task force for seizing 5,000 personal e-mail accounts in an attempt to locate forty-five “pornographic” files.

National Public Radio should have received a dubious distinction award for canceling a contracted series of commentaries by Pennsylvania death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, author of Live from Death Row and an international cause célèbre. NPR yanked the project after complaints by the Fraternal Order of Police and a senate floor attack by Bob Dole last spring.

Another should go to the House of Representatives for passing the “Military Honor and Decency Act,” banning any magazine, recording, or video that “depicts or describes nudity in a lascivious way” from sale or rental on any military base. Training young people to kill people efficiently is one thing, apparently, while seeing or reading descriptions of people fucking is another. We certainly don’t want to encourage masturbation in our military. Ain’t honorable.

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