JESUSLAND—Accusing adult producers of being "those who would destroy [the next] generation's future for personal gain," former Meese Commission general counsel Alan Sears, who founded the ultra-conservative/ultra-religious Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), charged in an editorial on Sunday that the U.S. Department of Justice has dropped the ball on prosecuting porn.
In a sense, Sears' op-ed piece for the Washington Times, founded by the fundamentalist preacher Rev. Sun Myung Moon, was a follow-up to a letter which several major pro-censorship groups like Family Research Counsel, American Family Assn., Morality in Media and Focus on the Family, as well as several hundred followers, had sent to Attorney General Eric Holder, taking him to task for allegedly not living up to certain anti-porn sentiments expressed in a memo he wrote while a deputy attorney general under Janet Reno, to all of the U.S. Attorneys around the country.
In the July 15, 2009, letter as well as the Times op-ed, Sears specifically reminds Holder of his 1998 admonition to the U.S. Attorneys: "Priority should be given to cases involving large-scale distributors who realize substantial income from multistate operations and cases in which there is evidence of organized crime involvement," but that "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." Holder also suggested targeting the adult internet, the investigation and prosecution of which "is particularly suitable for federal resources."
Several knowledgeable First Amendment attorneys have suggested that Holder's memo, from the waning days of the Clinton administration, was written in an attempt to pacify the growing religio-conservative political forces which had played a significant role in encouraging Congress to impeach President Clinton for his dalliances with intern Monica Lewinsky, and to deflect their wrath from Reno, who had not brought a single federal obscenity case (though she had brought several child porn cases) during her tenure as attorney general.
In his editorial, Sears expresses his dismay that the only response to the July 15 letter was a "one short form-letter paragraph two months later from a department official assuring us our input was valued and our concerns were being considered 'carefully' [and] Since then ... nothing but crickets."
But according to Sears, in the 10 years or so since Holder's memo, "the evil has proliferated"—meaning simply that the number of adult DVD producers and webmasters has increased, but that the Justice Department, which targeted just four (arguably) high-profile adult producers during the Ashcroft/Gonzales/Mukasey years—Extreme Associates, Max Hardcore, JM Productions and Evil Angel Productions—has, under Holder, "tak[en] a profoundly laissez-faire attitude toward a criminal enterprise making pervasive use of the Internet to facilitate the efforts of child molesters to infect children with their profoundly warped and perverse ideas about sexual activity and deviancy."
Of course, as a Meese alumnus, Sears sees any company that deals with sexually explicit expression as a "criminal enterprise," but he fails to provide any details for his claim that the mainstream adult industry in any way "facilitate[s] the efforts of child molesters to infect children" beyond simply existing. He gives passing notice to the fact that the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) was struck down by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, but that suit was brought by mainstream artists and publishers, not adult producers—and COPA's demise had nothing to do with Holder's Justice Department.
Sears claims that between the Justice Department's non-interest in prosecuting adult material—he is apparently unaware of this past summer's indictment of Barry Goldman in New Jersey—and the overturning of COPA, "the gates of the mental playgrounds [are] wide open for those who believe, in the favorite phrase of the North American Man Boy Love Association (a major beneficiary of the government's passivity), that 'sex after 8 is too late,' and that every child is 'fair game.'"
Of course, there's nothing in the law (or certainly in the policies of the Washington Times) that requires Sears to be sane in order to publish an opinion article, but the concept that the adult industry is interested in portraying sex with minors (let alone pre-pubescents) or in fact targeting children in any way is in no way borne out by the evidence. And the implicit linking of the (completely legal) adult industry with an organization that encourages pedophilia—NAMBLA—is apparently no longer beyond the pale for religious zealots like Sears.
However, as an attorney, much less one who oversees a large, well-funded legal hit squad like ADF, Sears can't seriously believe that in order to support the constitutional protections for free speech, including sexual speech, "You have to believe that the men who wrote our Constitution despised Christian faith and morals and were indifferent to the concerns of parents for their children's mental and emotional well-being—but were always deeply committed to the protection of deviants and pornographers."
Of course, most of the "men who wrote our Constitution" were Deists, not Christians, and exactly what constituted children's "mental and emotional well-being" was poorly understood at the time, about 100 years before Freud developed the first theory of psychoanalysis, though certainly a topic of discussion—but there's little unclear about the First Amendment, which says, in pertinent part, that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging freedom of speech, or of the press." If the Founding Fathers had intended the phrase "no law" to somehow exempt "deviants and pornographers" from First Amendment protections, the evidence of that is nowhere to be found in the literature of the day. In fact, as Eugene Volokh notes—writing in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, published by the far-right Heritage Foundation (of which Sears is a member)—"There was only one state law banning pornography, and that appears to have been unenforced until 1821." Much more common were anti-blasphemy laws, all of which have now been declared unconstitutional under both the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
"You have to believe that immersing oneself day after day in deviant sexual imagery has no discernible impact on one's mind, morals, habits, attitudes or relationships with children and people of the opposite sex," Sears continues. "You have to believe that—if the government would just leave them alone—young people living in a culture awash with hypersexualized imagery, language, programming, fashion and entertainment and given instant and unlimited access to technology, will deliberately discipline themselves not to send 'sext' messages or lewd pictures of themselves and others over their cell phones, laptops and home computers. In other words, you have to believe the unbelievable to justify defending the indefensible."
Of course, the underlying implication of Sears' statements is that there's something wrong—or, indeed, unexpected—about the idea that once children reach puberty, there's some reason that they shouldn't take some steps to explore their new-found sexuality, hopefully guided by knowledgeable, non-neurotic adults. It's hardly surprising that kids are sexting each other in order to be playful or to attract members of the opposite sex. What's saddening, however, is that Sears would want to thwart kids' natural sexual expression and figuratively, if not literally, dress them in burqas and apply medieval (or in today's terms, Shari'a) moral law to them, possibly stoning adulterers to death and righteously murdering rape victims and "loose women."
Several books have touched on modern religious anti-sex attitudes, from the discussions of religio-conservative authoritarianism in John Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience to Christian paternalism in George Lakoff's Whose Freedom?—and of course, the "bible" of religious anti-sex activism, Dr. Marty Klein's America's War on Sex.
"Of course, the pornographers have the best lawyers and public relations teams billions can buy—and besides, they'll get their money back and then some," Sears concludes. "But their profits, and this Justice Department's passivity, are already costing the rest of us two things a great nation can ill afford to lose: the high moral ground and the souls of our children."
Leaving aside the nostrum that adult industry moguls have "billions" to spend on attorneys and P.R. flacks, apparently, Sears' "rest of us" doesn't include the millions of Americans (some of whom, we're guessing, are church-going Republicans) who rent the roughly three-quarters of a billion DVDs from video stores and on the internet each year, nor the "high moral ground" staked out by prostitute-patronizing Republican Sen. David Vitter, Rev. Ted Haggard and Rev. Jimmy Swaggart; adulterous Republican Sens. John Ensign and John McCain, former Republican Reps. Charles "Chip" Pickering and Newt Gingrich and evangelist Jim Bakker; not to mention child-molesting former Republican Rep. Mark Foley.
Fortunately, despite Sears' alleged concern for President Obama, "a man who so beautifully and publicly demonstrates his love for his daughters," it's likely that Sasha and Malia will grow up sexually sane under the influence of their two sexually normal parents ... who, if the majority of American citizens are lucky, will give Sears' editorial all the consideration it deserves—as bird-cage liner.