This Week In Censorship

MIM takes the fight to AG Holder, PTC wants on-air indecency prosecuted

Amplify’d from news.avn.com

JESUSLAND—It’s been a banner week for opponents of free sexual expression, sadly not offset by the inauguration of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance announced on Tuesday. Familiar names in the pro-censorship biz have been busy making pronouncements and delivering letters, likely in the hopes of diverting their supporters’ attention from the economic disasters being visited upon the country by Republican legislators, and laying the groundwork for various conservative candidates to run for federal office in 2012.

It’s been a banner week for opponents of free sexual expression, sadly not offset by the inauguration of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance announced on Tuesday. Familiar names in the pro-censorship biz have been busy making pronouncements and delivering letters, likely in the hopes of diverting their supporters’ attention from the economic disasters being visited upon the country by Republican legislators, and laying the groundwork for various conservative candidates to run for federal office in 2012.

After promising to do so for just over a month, Morality in Media (MIM) CEO Patrick Trueman has finally delivered letters encouraging more obscenity prosecutions, signed by various senators and congressmembers, to Attorney General Eric Holder and the response so far has been … crickets chirping.

The letters, signed by 42 senators and 75 representatives—nearly all Republicans (big surprise there)—call on Holder “vigorously to enforce federal obscenity laws against major commercial distributors of hardcore adult pornography” in order to “combat the growing scourge of obscenity in America.”

The letter reminds Holder of a memo he wrote, as a Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno, during the waning days of the Clinton administration that called on all 94 U.S. Attorneys around the country to give priority to “cases involving large-scale distributors who realize substantial income from multistate operations and cases in which there is evidence of organized crime involvement. However, prosecution of cases involving relatively small distributors can have a deterrent effect and would dispel any notion that obscenity distributors are insulated from prosecution if their operations fail to exceed a predetermined size or if they fragment their business into small-scale operations… In particular, priority also should be given to large-scale distributors of obscenity over the Internet.”

“The need for consistent and vigorous enforcement is even greater today because both obscene pornography and evidence of its harms have multiplied since then,” the Trueman-authored letter insists, citing “an important briefing in the Capitol outlin[ing] how pornography has changed, becoming more harmful, addictive, and available, and linked to other crimes.”

Of course, the “briefing” did no such thing. Its speakers, which included an array of anti-porn activists such as Donna Rice Hughes, Shelley Lubben,  Drs. Gail Dines, Mary Anne Layden, Laura Lederer and relative newcomer Sharon Cooper, as well as Trueman himself, offered no peer-reviewed research but merely repeated the anecdotes the speakers have been using for years to convince Americans that sexual material is bad for them.

“Simply put,” the letter continues, “we know more than ever how illegal adult obscenity contributes to violence against women, addiction, harm to children, and sex trafficking.  This material harms individuals, families, and communities and the problems are only getting worse.”

On the contrary, as Reason magazine editor Radley Balko points out, “In 2009, teen pregnancy hit its lowest rate in the 70 years that the federal government has been tracking the statistic. … The U.S. divorce rate is at its lowest level since 1970. … The rate of reported domestic violence in the U.S. dropped by more than half between 1993 and 2004, and [t]he forcible rape rate in the U.S. has dropped from 41.1 per 100,000 people in 1990 to 28.7 in 2009. That latter figure is also an all-time low.” (The article also links to an excellent video interview with Evil Angel owner John Stagliano about his success in fighting obscenity charges this past summer.) Also, as AVN reported, a recent conference held in Houston, Texas, shortly before the Super Bowl failed to demonstrate any link between porn and human trafficking.

“As you know, adult obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment,” the letter concludes. “Congress has for decades passed laws seeking to curb the production and distribution of obscene pornography, including on the Internet. A consistent and strong commitment to enforcing these laws can have a significant impact. We believe it is imperative that the Department, with cooperation by the FBI, investigate and prosecute all major producers and distributors of adult obscenity. We need your leadership.”

Bearing in mind that for Trueman and his compatriots, all sexually explicit material is obscene, his call for prosecution of “all major producers and distributors of adult obscenity” is actually a call for the prosecution of all makers and sellers of any sexual material—a “call to arms” that Holder is unlikely to take seriously. After all, the Justice Department’s last three obscenity cases have resulted in a total acquittal for Stagliano and Evil Angel; six months of house arrest for Barry Goldman after pleading guilty (likely on the advice of his court-appointed attorney) to the “crime” of mailing several bondage videos; and the still-forthcoming trial of “scat” director Ira Isaacs, whose prosecution is now being handled by attorneys in the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) following the disbanding of the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force—itself another sign that Holder understands the futility of suppressing non-violent non-child sexually explicit material. There also appears to be good (if anecdotal) evidence that the FBI is likewise none too keen on wasting its time trying to decide whether any given adult DVD or Web offering fits the Supreme Court’s (non-)definition of “obscenity” under the Miller v. California standard.

But what’s most troubling about the Morality in Media letters is the fact that any Democrats at all signed onto the boondoggle—particularly one Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, whose previous job was as mayor of San Francisco, once one of the adult production capitals of the country (and no slouch in that department even today).

Though “pornography” is not an “issue” that Feinstein’s website recognizes or that she’s made any pronouncements about, she must surely know that California is essentially the adult video capital of the world, and that its producers and distributors employ thousands of workers in the state and pay millions of dollars in state taxes. Therefore, it is unconscionable that Feinstein—who, like any adult, is free to watch or not watch any form of entertainment including adult—would seek to deprive her state of the revenues from its businesses and workers based on the ravings of a group of religious conservatives who are completely ignorant—in fact, deliberately so—about the actual effects of pornography on individuals and on society in general. It’s a subject that all supporters of free sexual speech in California should seriously consider when deciding whether to support Feinstein’s reelection in 2012.

AVN News

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