Those speaking out the loudest for suppression of this movie were, not surprisingly, those who had not seen it and for whom the film represented a threat not just to their religious beliefs, but also to pocketbooks. Jerry Falwell's interpretation of free speech was made clear when he said, before having viewed the movie, that "Neither the label 'fiction' nor the First Amendment gives Universal the right to libel, slander and ridicule the most central figure in world history" (Leo 34). In fact, of course, the label fiction pretty much is carte blanche to say whatever you want about whomever you want and those who were protesting against the film apparently never distilled that information. At no point was the film ever presented as an alternative truth to the gospels, i.e., it was never connected to any heretical gospel, but instead was clearly described as having been based on a novel. The rise of fictional representations of truth may have given Plato pause enough to consider warranting them unfit for a citizens of a republic because the general populace might get confused as to the difference between reality and imitation, but by the late 20th century one would have thought audiences would be sophisticated enough to tell the difference. Apparently, a great many people did not share this view and took it upon themselves to do what Plato suggested: censor representations of reality from the republic known as the United States of America. Falwell seems to be echoing Plato when Plato suggests that "hymns to the gods and praises of famous men are the only poetry which ought to be admitted into our State" (15), with the caveat, of course, that Falwell would demand that the word gods be replaced with the singular, monotheistic and capitalized God.
Platonic thought on the value of the arts to inform and educate still permeate the media even today and has been a driving force behind determining the value of art for thousands of years. One could make a case that the Platonic view of the dangers of mimesis has played a great role in determining the censorship of fiction. After all, it is much easier to censor something with no redeeming value than something that does have an educational content. On the other hand, those who censor are also quicker to jump into the fray when a work of art contains educational content at odds with the values of the would-be censors. That this is so can be proved using the Last Temptation affair. In the first place, Mr. Falwell and others were moved to attempt to censor the film not because it was a bad movie; they had no way of knowing that or not. What frightened Falwell was the threat it posed to his religion and all aspects connected to his religion. If the supposedly slanderous and libelous view of Jesus were taken as gospel, perhaps it would be damaging to Christianity's ongoing