Dubbed a smut peddler by some, and hailed as a champion of the First Amendment by others, as a pioneer of pornography Larry Flynt could always get a reaction from people. This was certainly true on social media following the news of his death at the age of 78 on Thursday.
The reaction on social media included a mix of humor, condemnation and even sympathy. Many noted Flynt’s support for journalism and efforts to promote free speech.
Screenwriter Larry Karaszewski (@Karaszewski) was among those who looked back fondly on his time working with Flynt.
Political cartoonist Clay Jones (@claytoonz) was among those who noted Flynt’s support for the First Amendment.
The sentiment was shared by Nigerian businessman and politician Ben Murray-Bruce (@benmurraybruce).
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Science blogger David Latchman (@SciWriterDave) also credited Flynt’s support to protect free speech and efforts to shape modern journalism.
Former Voice of America reporter Bruce Alpert (@AlpertDC) suggested it was difficult to even overstate the political influence of Flynt.
There was no shortage of humor either. A number of comedians offered some zingers to note Flynt’s passing. Greg Behrniememes (@Gregularcomedy) was among those who found a similar theme and evoked how Hustler magazine pushed boundaries, “Larry Flynt’s funeral is gonna be a lot like Hugh Hefner’s, except it’s gonna show penetration.”
One user, @Shadowslance simply suggested, “What are the odds that Larry Flynt would also die on #HumpDay just like Hugh Hefner…”
@TylerNTyler went far more low brow – much like Flynt’s magazine.
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Of course the news of Flynt’s death was greeted by comments from those who didn’t see Flynt as a promoter of free speech. Rather past stories of his conduct as a family and alleged depravity were brought up.
CNN’s Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) was among those who looked beyond Flynt’s support of the First Amendment and called out the Hustler magazine founder for his character, “Before you memorialize Larry Flynt as a hero please remember his daughter Tonya Flynt-Vega said he was a child molester and a monster.”
Aura Bogado (@aurabogado) was among those who also certainly experienced a different side of Flynt, posting, “Larry Flynt tormented me by commissioning racist caricatures of my likeness and written hit pieces against me. He also commissioned a photo spread in which it was suggested that I should be raped. For a while, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel once he died. To be honest, I’m thrilled.”
Many users on social media even took glee in Flynt’s passing. Writer Amy Green (@Notezbeinggrn) was among those, posting, “‘Hustler’ founder Larry Flynt dead at 78 Hell got a new guest.”
That sentiment was shared by many, who suggested the deceased pornographer will spend eternity with the devil or worse.
Flynt’s passing also serves as an example on how controversial personalities are remembered by the masses. Social media has allowed anyone to offer their opinions and in the case of Flynt the reactions were as divisive as he was.
“Flint was an interesting guy that had few illusions about sex-peddling as a business model,” suggested technology industry analyst Charles King of Pund-IT.
“Rather than constructing a superficially cool veneer, like Playboy‘s Hugh Hefner did or masking his porn in the manner of Penthouse‘s Bob Guccioni, Flynt and his publication Hustler were notably raw,” added King.
“His focus on First Amendment issues made a lot of folks uncomfortable and unhappy, especially evangelical Christians who failed or refused to understand that freedom of speech also extended to sex and applied to those they found reprehensible,” King suggested. “Like anyone who develops, espouses and follows strong opinions, Flynt was bound to tick off a wide range of people and organizations. That he couldn’t have cared less about their opinions further incited their rage. I expect he would have gotten a kick out of the brouhaha on social media.”
Others agreed that every Baby Boomer on down, owes a debt of gratitude to Larry Flynt for teaching the male population about the birds and the bees.
“I think that Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner did for freedom of speech through the use of porn what Lenny Bruce and Richard Prior did for freedom of speech through stand-up comedy and what Abigale Adams and Susan B. Anthony did for women’s rights and Martin Luther King and Malcom X did for civil rights,” said Lon Safko, author of The Social Media Bible. “All of these people had one thing in common, their willingness to defend the Constitution of the United States with their lives.”
Against all odds, they stood up for our First Amendment of the Constitution, Freedom of Speech. Larry stood up for us all until he couldn’t when he took a bullet for free speech, added Safko.
“When the people who are against porn discuss it on social media, they think it was misogynistic and degrading,” Safko suggested. “The other side of the argument was that the woman in Flint’s magazine were more worshiped than degraded. The opposing sides always throw in that those women were forced on drugs or part of sex trafficking ring when in fact, most were secretaries and schoolteachers. It was all done with ‘consenting’ adults.
“Porn has always played an integral role in civilization for 1,000’s of years from uncensored cave art and Egyptian Hieroglyphs, to Penthouse and Playboy,” he noted. “Censorship of any kind is dangerous and extremely easy to fix. If you see something you don’t like, stop looking.”