In response to a reader who asked him why he was sticking up for a manga collector whose comics included depictions of underage sex, Neil Gaiman responds with a reasoned, intelligent, and convincing article about the problems of legal limits on speech. First they came for the manga — what's next?
So when Mike Diana was prosecuted — and found guilty — of obscenity for the comics in his Zine "Boiled Angel", and sentenced to a host of things, including (if memory serves) a three year suspended prison sentence, a three thousand dollar fine, not being allowed to be in the same room as anyone under eighteen, over a thousand hours of community service, and was forbidden to draw anything else obscene, with the local police ordered to make 24 hour unannounced spot checks to make sure Mike wasn't secretly committing Art in the small hours of the morning… that was the point I decided that I knew what was obscene, and it was prosecuting artists for having ideas and making lines on paper, and that I was going to do everything I could to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Whether I liked or approved of what Mike Diana did was utterly irrelevant. (For the record, I didn't like the text parts of Boiled Angel, but did like the comics, which were personal and had a raw power to them. And somewhere in the sprawling basement magazine collection I have Boiled Angel 7 and 8, which I read back then to find out what was being prosecuted, and for owning which I could, I assume, now be arrested…)
…You ask, What makes it worth defending? and the only answer I can give is this: Freedom to write, freedom to read, freedom to own material that you believe is worth defending means you're going to have to stand up for stuff you don't believe is worth defending, even stuff you find actively distasteful, because laws are big blunt instruments that do not differentiate between what you like and what you don't, because prosecutors are humans and bear grudges and fight for re-election, because one person's obscenity is another person's art.
Because if you don't stand up for the stuff you don't like, when they come for the stuff you do like, you've already lost.