LOS ANGELES - The philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
To which we might add, "Those who forget the lessons of great literature are condemned to have such works quoted at them."
In particular, one might recall John Donne's immortal words, from the poem beginning, "No man is an island": "Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
We were reminded of Donne as we scanned the excellent article by Steven Mikulkan on the LA Weekly site regarding the Ira Isaacs trial.
"EVERY GENERATION OF FILM censors has looked at the shattering of an old taboo as though that taboo were the face of Medusa - a monster so hideous that its appearance would spell the end of civilization," Mikulkan writes. "Four-letter words, partial nudity, full nudity, penetration, homosexuality - each of these escalating provocations on movie screens was met with outrage and police raids before eventually becoming more or less acceptable. Antiporn groups see prosecutions of such tiny, niche porno creators by the federal Anti-Obscenity Task Force as a waste, however, when other obscenity, such as child porn, is more widespread."
Mikulkan's last point should not be overlooked - but the anti-porn groups, rather than calling for the Justice Department (DOJ) to prosecute more child porn, are in fact calling for the prosecution of more "mainstream" adult producers, since to them, there is no substantive difference between a movie containing explicit sex that also has a compelling script, good art direction and decent acting ... and Mako's First Time Scat, one of the movies involved in the Isaacs obscenity trial.
Hence, it was with some dismay that we read further into Mikulkan's article to find:
"Don't look for creators of this stuff to win support from the mainstream adult-entertainment industry."
"'We at Vivid applaud his prosecution,' said Vivid Entertainment's Paul Thomas of Isaacs. Thomas, a veteran film director for Vivid whose porn acting credits stretch back to the 1970s, added, 'Freedom of speech carries with it responsibility. It was never intended for there to be videos of people shitting in each other's faces.'"
Sadly, it appears that it's been a while since Thomas read the U.S. Constitution, whose First Amendment says nothing about "responsibility," nor contains any exemption from that freedom that would allow government suppression of scat videos. Indeed, Mikulkan's article references several uses of feces in the history of art, including the shit-eating scene from John Waters' Pink Flamingos, and the even more elaborate ingestion in Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom.
Isaacs wrote AVN to respond to Thomas' sentiments.
"What Mr. Thomas fails to realize," Isaacs wrote, "is the US government is not only coming for me, but will soon becoming for him and Vivid as well as others in the adult industry. This is made evident by the obscenity prosecutions of Extreme Associates, JM Productions, Max Hardcore and most recently John Stagliano from Evil Angel. Vivid may feel they're safe in Los Angeles; however, community standards in places like West Virginia, Utah and Mississippi may not be so understanding of his brand of porn - and I'm sure Vivid's product and Websites go to those places. The Internet goes everywhere; no one can hide from these ultra-conservative venues."
"I guarantee that if the government comes for Vivid and Thomas, he will be screaming 'First Amendment' and 'freedom of speech' louder than anybody," Isaacs continued. "He most likely will cry, 'Why me? Why not someone else?' Mr. Thomas would serve us all much better if he took a couple of art classes rather than jerking off to his own movies for the past 30 years. I say 'jerking off' only because I suspect Mr. Thomas can relate better to porn terms rather than more complex ideas like 'postmodernism' and 'shock art.'
"So, Mr. Thomas, I applaud you for distancing your porn from my art. How does it feel to be the new poster boy for the DOJ and anti-free speech advocates?"
It was probably an earlier version of such a question that inspired Donne to write his poem - and that's a sentiment well worth considering.