Without having watched a single episode of TLC’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, you likely already know that it’s about a redneck beauty pageant child and her redneck family. Take a bowl of candy, pour a bottle of Mountain Dew in it, then mix it with sugar and butter. That’s what Honey Boo Boo is made of.

And yet someway, somehow, viewing an episode moved the Washington Post‘s Kathleen Parker to pen a column reflecting on the First Amendment and world history:

[A] few minutes with “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” confirms that even mindlessness has its limits. …

If we don’t revel in the hilarity of poor, uneducated people, neither do we protest their exploitation. Our silence conveys approval while ratings disprove objection. Culturally, we are all complicit in the decline of community values.

Whereupon, we reluctantly praise free speech.

I, too, argue — mostly with myself — that we tolerate the worst in defense of the best. We don’t need a First Amendment to protect the sublime or the popular but to protect what is unpopular and, in collateral damage, the grotesque.

Of course, such notions originally were aimed at unpopular political speech. The goal was to liberate ideas, which is not the same as exploring man’s basest instincts. One needn’t be a scholar to infer that our nation’s Founders were little interested in sharing the details of their ablutions or such bodily bloviations as are aired on so-called reality TV. Reality, after all, is what civilization attempts to mitigate. …

culture does matter, as Alexander knew more than 2,000 years ago. Would that our attentions today were as riveted by our Hypatias as by our Honey Boo Boos.