NEW YORK CITY—As fans of adult material may be aware, there's been plenty of "news" recently around the fact that some patrons of New York City's libraries are shocked—shocked!—to find that any adult can watch hardcore material on those libraries' computers.
"Shakespeare's plays, Einstein's theories—and porn queen Jenna Jameson's steamy online sexcapades," began the article in the New York Post (a Newscorp publication) by Douglas Montero and Bob Fredericks, who apparently are unaware that Jameson retired from porn over two years ago. "New Yorkers can take their pick at the city's public libraries, thanks to a policy that gives adults the most uncensored access to extreme, hard-core Internet smut this side of the old Times Square."
The article goes on to quote Brooklyn Public Library spokesperson Malika Granville, who said that "customers can watch whatever they want on the computer," as well as 60-year-old patron Daisy Nazario, who was "grossed out" while sitting next to another patron who was watching a threeway scene on his adjacent computer. Of course, Daisy couldn't actually see the scene, since the library's computers have library-provided extensions on the sides of the screen to prevent unwanted viewing. "But I could still hear the voices," a "disgusted" Nazario told the Post.
Somehow we're reminded of the old joke about the woman who called police, complaining about being able to see, from her bathroom window, the couple in the next house having sex "right out in public!" However, when police arrived and the woman showed them her vantage point, the cop said, "What do you mean, ma'am? I can't see anything from here."
"Stand on the toilet!" the woman exclaimed. "Stand on the toilet!"
But of course the guardians of New York City's morality were quick to brand such "whatever they want" access as outrageous, and even against the law.
"What they're doing is publicly funding an appetite for the most debased fare available," Catholic League President Bill Donohue told the Post, without identifying who the "they" doing the public funding is. "It's not like a Playboy centerfold anymore—it's far worse."
But Morality in Media's CEO Patrick Trueman took the criticism a step further.
"The New York City Public Library System is more than ten years out of date and wrong on its porn-on-every-library-computer policy," Trueman said. "In 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), clarifying that public libraries are free, and encouraged, to ban porn from computers. The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees CIPA, provides a great explanation of the law: www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cipa.html."
Indeed, it does! While the FCC's explanation of the law notes that it does require all publicly owned computers at schools and libraries (and other institutions that receive public funding) to install filtering software to block (or at least filter) access to images that are "(a) obscene, (b) child pornography, or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors)"—which would include all sexually explicit content—any agency wishing to install such filters "must provide reasonable notice and hold at least one public hearing or meeting to address the proposal."
But here's the kicker: "An authorized person may disable the blocking or filtering measure during any use by an adult to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes." And since it's legal for adults to look at non-obscene sexually explicit material, an adult wishing to do so at a library is engaging in an "other lawful purpose."
"There is a limit, you see, to the extent to which the federal government can directly regulate local libraries," wrote First Amendment attorney Clyde DeWitt in 2003, shortly after the Supreme Court's decision in the CIPA case. "If it did so, any such regulation would be vulnerable to a claim that it was not an exercise of any enumerated power of Congress. The closest one would be interstate commerce, which is an extremely broad power; but the Supreme Court has been contracting it of late. ... Accordingly, Congress used the power of the purse, as it did when it threatened to cut off federal highway funds (which all states receive in large quantities) to any state that failed to enact the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. The federal government does this kind of thing with great regularity."
But Trueman's not about to let the Constitution stand in the way of his push for MIM's brand of morality.
"The New York library authorities seem too much influenced by the pro-porn American Library Association which unsuccessfully and unwisely challenged CIPA," said Trueman in a press release issued today. There is NO First Amendment problem in blocking porn at libraries, the U. S. Supreme Court said in upholding the law [challenged in] United States v. American Library Association, 539 U.S. 194 (2003).
"What is the message that the ALA and the New York Library System are trying to convey to patrons, particularly to children?" he asked. "Porn is demeaning, depicts violence, particularly rape, and portrays girls and women as mere sexual objects with no self worth. Parents should storm library board meetings demanding protection from the scourge of pornography and, until a policy change comes, keep their kids away."
Yeah; 'cause the last thing religious conservatives want today's moving-media-saturated kids to do is, like, read.