WASHINGTON, DC—We really don't want to give anyone the idea that we think it's automatically good news for the adult entertainment industry that Eric Holder will remain Attorney General for at least a part of President Obama's second term, but hot damn, that's good news!
When it comes to the DoJ, we always keep our fingers crossed no matter who is in the White House or who is running the department, and we certainly take no solace from the fact that Democrats rather than Republicans are in control. Neither party is what you would call a friend of the industry, but let's not forget that it was the Republican Party of Los Angeles County that stood tall against Measure B while their Democratic counterparts refused to take a position either way. It's not, by the way, that we think the local GOP chapter really likes us, but rather that they take a zero sum stance against government intrusion, which was a central aspect of the measure. If they really care about freedom, they now need to join us in working to dismantle federal, state and local obscenity laws, which are at the moment one of this country's most pernicious affronts to constitutionally protected speech. (We don't really care that the Supreme Court has upheld them time and again. The court's been wrong before, and will one day come to the conclusion that they serve no compelling governmental interest at all.)
That said, however, having Holder on board at least gives us some reason to believe that gratuitous prosecutions of the industry will not take place on his watch. If they do, we have the back-up consolation that Holder's employees completely bungled the Stagliano obscenity case. That doesn't mean we especially like the idea of prosecutorial incompetence at the federal level, but you know, to paraphrase a recent Secretary of Defense, you go into trial with the lawyers you've got!
And then there is the unknown. Because we expect that his enemies will do everything they can to derail the President's second term agenda, we cannot know what national "scandals" will take place in the coming years—though if they're extramarital, they'll probably involve Republicans. For his part, Obama will no doubt have an aggressive strategy he wants to see through. Politics being what they are, we see the industry being in a perpetually vulnerable position, available at a moment's notice to serve as a whipping boy for the administration. In England, the putative issue is "how to protect the children," which is leading the current prime minister to consider some extreme solutions that involve mandates to ISPs to force parents to install filters on their computers. Is such a thing possible here?
What about the porn addiction issue? In many circles, it's being framed as an epidemic with very serious social side-effects, a dire public health issue that needs to be addressed before it's too late. Though not the direct purview of Justice, we have seen in Los Angeles what such a movement can achieve with Measure B, which includes criminal penalties for certain violations. If a similar law were enacted on the federal level, would Holder obey his directive and enforce such a law, or stand his ground and refuse to invade the sets and bedrooms of American companies and citizens? One look at the fed's ruthless enforcement of anti-marijuana laws in California answers that one.
And then there are the other arguably more important issues related to the slow but steady erosion of individual freedom in this country: the increasing use of drones; the escalating wiretapping and snooping on digital communications; the assassination of U.S. citizens abroad and incarceration at home without due process. Neither Obama nor Holder have shown any sign of pushing back against these truly scary examples of government abuse; to the contrary, they, like all the others before them, have only worked to expand these powers rather than restrict them. Can we expect any different in the second term? Maybe, but try as we may, we see no signs that either of them plans to expand individual freedoms for Americans.
So, as always, it's a mixed bag when you're talking about the Attorney General of the United States. Perfect example: Holder did disband the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, which had been founded in 2005 at the urging of social conservatives, charged with investigating and prosecuting producers and distributors of hardcore porn who met the test for obscenity, only to turn around and fold it into the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, whose mission is to enforce "federal criminal statutes relating to the exploitation of children and obscenity."
Like we said, a mixed bag, but one that still looks a whole lot better than the one Romney had in mind.