TAMPA, Fla.—With the Republican Party (GOP) losing supporters by the millions for its religio-conservative stands on social issues like birth control (they want states to decide whether women should be able to buy it legally) and abortion (they want to ban it completely, no exceptions, and to define embryos smaller than a period [.] as "persons"), their version of a "Hail Mary" toss has been to adopt a new party platform plank reading, "Current laws on all forms of pornography and obscenity need to be vigorously enforced."
In case that isn't clear enough, Morality in Media president Patrick Trueman explained, "Distribution of obscene or hardcore pornography on the Internet is a violation of current federal law. Yet, most children in America have free access to obscene pornography as soon as they learn how to use a computer. The average age of first exposure to obscene Internet pornography is now eleven."
One of Trueman's favorite memes is to conflate obscenity and pornography, the former being illegal under several Supreme Court rulings, but the latter completely legal under those same rulings—but for Trueman it's all the same, which is why he's under the mistaken impression, according to a pornharms.com press release, that "current federal obscenity laws not only prohibit distribution of hardcore pornography on the Internet but also on hotel/motel TV, on cable/satellite TV, and in retail shops."
In a word: Horseshit. All sexually explicit material which has not been found by a jury (or judge sitting without a jury) to meet the federal description of "obscenity" per Miller v. California is legal to sell/distribute over the internet and in adult stores, and can legally be offered on cable/satellite systems and in hotel/motel pay-per-view systems.
Trueman also lauded Family Research Council president Tony Perkins "who led the effort to get the tough new language into the platform. Without enforcement of federal obscenity laws, pornographers have had a green light to target our children and families."
Needless to say, adult entertainment companies don't market to kids, if for no other reason than that it's illegal to do so... but they do market to adults, some of whom are part of "families," which despite Trueman's ignorant worldview often like watching sexually explicit activity to spice up their own sex lives. In fact, recent studies have shown that the states with the most repressive anti-porn laws are the ones whose citizens more frequently seek out the material.
Though it's the first time in 20 years that the party has advocated a complete crackdown on adult material, anti-porn zealots like Trueman and Perkins apparently believe that taking a strong stand against one of America's most popular forms of entertainment will draw social conservatives to the polls to elect Mitt Romney, whom the party proletarians have many reasons to dislike: For one thing, he's a Mormon, a religion which many fundamentalists in the Repugnican Party consider to be a cult and <gasp> unChristian, and for another, he's recently said he would allow abortions in instances of rape or incest, or to save the life of the pregnant woman. Oh, yeah: And the federal healthcare law he's been campaigning against is in most significant ways identical to the plan which, as governor of Massachusetts, he unreservedly supported. (And sssh, don't mention the tax return thing.)
In fact, according to an article in The Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf, porn wasn't even mentioned in the GOP platform until Ronald Reagan's reelection campaign in 1984. At that time, the platform plank read, "We and the vast majority of Americans are repulsed by pornography. We will vigorously enforce constitutional laws to control obscene materials which degrade everyone, particularly women, and depict the exploitation of children. We commend the Reagan Administration for creating a commission on pornography and the President for signing the new law to eliminate child pornography. We stand with our President in his determination to solve the problem. We call upon the Federal Communications Commission, and all other federal, State, and local agencies with proper authority, to strictly enforce the law regarding cable pornography and to implement rules and regulations to clean up cable pornography and the abuse of telephone service for obscene purposes."
That last bit apparently referred to the then-fledgling adult cable channels and shows, many of which were local like New York City's Midnight Blue, The Robyn Byrd Show and The Ugly George Hour of Truth, as well as the controversy over the growing phone sex industry with which High Society publisher (and former adult actress) Gloria Leonard had been heavily involved, which led to a landmark Supreme Court decision affirming its legality in Sable Communications v. FCC.
By 1988, GOP platform authors were a little more legally savvy, and they simply applauded the 100th Congress for "[taking] the lead to ban interstate dial-a-porn," endorsed legislation that eventually banned the selling of sexual material at military PXes and other federally-owned venues, and supported "the rigorous enforcement of 'community standards' against pornography"—phraseology right out of the Meese Commission Report.
But the wingers really hit their stride on 1992, when the largely progressive electorate was about to decide that it had had enough of Republicans' growing social (and fiscal) conservatism and ditch George H.W. Bush and VP Dan "potatoe" Quayle in favor of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
"The time has come for a national crusade against pornography," the 1992 GOP party platform stated. "Some would have us believe that obscenity and pornography have no social impact. But if hard-core pornography does not cheapen the human spirit, then neither does Shakespeare elevate it. We call on federal agencies to halt the sale, under government auspices, of pornographic materials.
"We endorse Republican legislation, the Pornography Victims Compensation Act, allowing victims of pornography to seek damages from those who make or sell it, especially since the Commission on Pornography, in 1986, found a direct link between pornography and violent crimes committed against women and children," it continued. "Further, we propose a computerized federal registry to track persons convicted of molesting children. We also believe... State legislatures should create a civil cause of action against makers and distributors of pornography when their material incites a violent crime."
"Cheapen the human spirit"? Like creating fiscal policies that keep poor people poor, deprive them of needed government services and make it more difficult to find work by supporting the outsourcing of jobs overseas? That "cheapen[ing of] the human spirit"?
And of course the Meese Commission found "a direct link between pornography and violent crimes committed against women and children": The commission was stacked with conservative fundamentalists like Commission head (and former prosecutor now federal judge) Henry Hudson, executive director Alan Sears (founder of the religio-conservative Alliance Defense Fund), James Dobson (founder of Focus on the Family), as-yet-undiscovered child molester and embezzler Father Bruce Ritter and former Nixon speechwriter Harold "Tex" Lezar!
Needless to say, the Pornography Victims Compensation Act never passed, since it's impossible to prove that anyone has been damaged by any particular explicit photo, magazine or film, and though several states have taken a stab at creating a similar cause of action, all have either failed to pass such legislation or have had it struck down by the courts. The only recommendation that did pass—and of course the adult industry has no quarrel with it—is the federal registry for sex offenders, though recent efforts to expand the definition of a "sex offender" to include anyone convicted of selling obscene material have met with opposition from First Amendment attorneys like H. Louis Sirkin.
By 1996, the rhetoric in the platform had been toned down tremendously, with the sole anti-porn plank being support for a law to stop the sale of porn on military bases—a prohibition that was quickly passed by the Republican-dominated Congress as the "Military Honor and Decency Act" and signed by President Clinton.
But Clinton had been such a popular president, and the country had embraced sales of adult materials as never before, that the 2000 Bush/Cheney campaign steered clear of seeking an outright ban on the stuff, and the platform for that year simply stressed keeping porn away from kids in libraries and on the internet—a form of media censorship that, despite filtering programs and wholly-porn-free ISPs, many wingers champion to this day. (Of course, in appointing John Ashcroft as Attorney General, Bush made it clear that one of his main missions would be to push for more federal porn prosecutions, and the 2004 party platform supported "vigorous prosecution of obscene material by the U.S. Department of Justice.")
Finally, the 2008 campaign also played it safe regarding adults' access to adult materials, stating only that, "Child pornography is a hideous form of child abuse. Those who produce it—and those who traffic in it—must be punished to the maximum extent of the law... We commit to do whatever it takes, using all the tools of innovative technology, to thwart those who would prey upon our children. We call on service providers to exercise due care to ensure that the Internet cannot become a safe haven for criminals."
But as AVN readers well know, religious opposition to sexual materials has grown more shrill over the past four years, with several new anti-porn groups having been formed, and existing ones having worked hard to expand their reach into society, complete with bogus claims of scientific proof that the material causes divorce, addiction and, to coin a phrase, the "cheapening of the human spirit."
For example, in yesterday's e-screed from Family Research Council, Perkins charged that "Since President Obama took office, the Justice Department has put a halt to so many projects that attorneys were literally playing computer solitaire last year to pass the time. Under Eric Holder, the workload has gotten noticeably lighter, since the Attorney General refuses to enforce the federal marriage law, investigate Planned Parenthood, uphold Internet gambling laws, or prosecute illegal pornography.
"The latter has caused a lot of consternation among conservatives, who appreciated President Bush's goal of cracking down on hard-core obscenity," Perkins continued. "Initially, the Justice Department had put a hold on pending pornography cases. Then, in 2010, the Obama administration quietly closed the doors on the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, which made prosecuting hard-core offenders more efficient. And it certainly didn't help the public perception when news broke that the administration has its own problems with rampant pornography. The indiscretions at the Missile Defense Agency are just one in a long line of embarrassments for the Obama administration, which was already dealing with prostitution scandals in the Secret Service and porn problems at the National Science Foundation. The bottom line is that the White House has backed off its commitment to protect Americans from a very dangerous and potentially predatory business."
Pretty much everything in that last paragraph is a lie. The Justice Department did not "put a hold on pending pornography cases"; rather, it moved ahead on cases involving Rob Black's and Lizzie Borden's guilty plea to conspiracy, plus the obscenity trials of John Stagliano and Ira Isaacs, a guilty plea for Barry Goldman, and one or two other obscenity-related issues. And while Holder may have disbanded the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, who wouldn't in light of the fact that its prosecutors—notably Pamela Satterfield and Bonnie Hannan—were so ill-prepared at the Stagliano trial that they botched a key piece of evidence, failed to adequately prepare their FBI witness (i.e.), and were even castigated by Judge Richard Leon who described their trial work as "only good enough for government service"?
Finally, the idea that "the administration has its own problems with rampant pornography" is ludicrous. The "indiscretions at the Missile Defense Agency" involved "less than a half-dozen" employees out of 8,000 who were "found to have accessed restricted sites or downloaded inappropriate materials" (and of course, Fox News was right on top of that story!); the "porn problems at the National Science Foundation" involved seven out of NSF's 1,500 employees; and of course, the "prostitution scandals in the Secret Service" had nothing to do with porn.
"Together with more than 120 national, state, and local groups, we have leaned on the DOJ to resume targeting illegal pornography," the screed concludes. "If it won't, then we need an administration that will. For more on the adult industry's devastating effects on individuals, families, marriage, and communities, check out FRC's research here."
Feel free to click the link; all it will get you is a completely unscientific "white paper" by Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D., a Family Research Council employee, composed almost completely of unreliable anecdotal "evidence" and quotations from bogus "scientific" journals that no reputable scientist would take seriously.
Anyway, one might be forgiven for thinking that Perkins' (and the other party leaders') time might be better spent figuring out how poor and middle-class women will be able to access birth control and other vital medical services in the absence of their having defunded Planned Parenthood; getting sane on the issue of abortion, since women will continue to have them, and if they can't have them done safely by a doctor in a medical facility, they will turn to back-alley exploiters and hacks; and dealing with the fact that the most vocal nutbars in their party agree wholeheartedly with Missouri Rep. Todd Akin on what constitutes "legitimate rape" and how the female body supposedly deals with it.