g-man's pornographic plans
the fbi is supposed to catch criminals. so why are they fighting erotica?
by jeffrey d. walker
The September 20th Washington Post story, buried 21 pages deep in section "A", led with the headline "Recruits Sought for Porn Squad." This was not to be an elite posse out to relieve sexual tensions throughout the countryside; this was a mandate from U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales for FBI agents to drop their current assignments and focus on prosecuting "manufacturers and purveyors" of sexually explicit material.
This was not to combat child pornography, already illegal under the 1982 Supreme Court case of New York v. Ferber; this new task force is after material created by adults, for consenting adults, and in almost all cases, including consenting adults (I'll explain the almost part below.)
Why, you may ask, is the FBI concerned with pornography? And is this a job that they should be doing?
The second question is easy to answer: No! The FBI should not be prosecuting films made for consenting adults by consenting adults! First off, the FBI needs to be doing its regular old job, which they have been slacking off as of late! For example:
Bank Robberies are on the Rise. Auto Theft - on the rise. These are real crimes that affect us every day in the form of higher bank fees and higher insurance rates. Every time a car is stolen or a bank is robbed, we pay (banks pay for their own insurance for robberies just like fires or earthquakes; robberies are not covered by the FDIC.)
Of course, one could excuse these crime increases because the FBI has had to reallocate many agents to the war on terrorism. And that's fair enough; I certainly don't want another 9/11. But let's be honest with ourselves: in a recent news conference, President Bush stated that only three "serious terrorist plots" within the U.S. have been thwarted since 9/11. Three. In four years. It sounds like the set-up for a joke: How many agents does it take to thwart three attacks? And in thwarting these alleged three plots, the FBI has received hundreds of complaints for harassing non-terrorist Muslim-Americans, and also has been rightly criticized for its persecution of anti-war protestors. FBI agents are violating civil rights nationwide in their grand efforts to thwart a grand total of three terrorist plots, leaving domestic crime rates to skyrocket and all of us to foot the bill. Heck, what a great time to start a new war on... porn!
Which brings me back to my first question: why is the FBI so concerned with pornography? As I mentioned before, the new task force is after material created by adults, for consenting adults, and in almost all cases, including consenting adults. The "almost all cases" part leaves the one exception: bestiality.
God bless the FBI! Let not one more sheep, not one more horse and not one more gerbil face the injustice of having to have sex with a human on film again!
But let's not kid ourselves. The FBI has no interest in protecting animals at all. And this might have been the only possible noble cause in this porn-war. Animals, like children, cannot consent to having sex with a human. And in that regards, this non-consent should create a per-se crime just as sex with children does. But the FBI is not out looking to arrest horsef*ckers: they want to arrest people who sell tapes of horses being f*cked! The motivation here is not to protect animals. So, excluding the exception of bestiality, the FBI is interested in prosecuting adults who make and sell depictions of a sexual nature involving consenting adults, and sold to consenting adults. So again I ask, why is the FBI so concerned with this?
One very possible reason is pressure from conservative, religious-based organizations that have waged their own personal war against sexually explicit material. Groups like Focus on the Family and Morality in Media, who have the ear of the current administration, and who declare that pornography increases the likelihood of a person's desire to commit sexual crimes, and further that pornography "destroys marriages and families." To support these claims, they cite research that, coincidentally... (wait for it)... is complied by researchers who are affiliated with conservative religious organizations!
Unfortunately for those obviously biased researchers and their work, there are many decades of research around the globe that have found no link between pornography and criminal behavior. None! And I fully believe that any study that suggests such a link between porn and crime is flawed. But I'm not going to use a boring discourse on why I'm sure that these suggestions are wrong, I'm instead going to offer a rhetorical question. In my article, sex saturated souk, I mentioned how $79 million was spent on hardcore sex video rentals in 1985, and how that figured had ballooned to $759 million by 2001 (and that's video alone, not taking into account the Internet.) Given this approximate 10-fold boom in video pornography consumption, why aren't sexual crime rates 10 times higher? It simply doesn't add up.
As far as porn's impact on marriage, I haven't seen any evidence to support this assertion. And even if there was, is the FBI now arresting people for breaking up marriages? Are they going to start arresting philandering husbands and nagging wives, too? No, this can't be!
The more likely reason that the government now wants to prosecute pornography companies: Money! Look at that above 2001 dollar amount: $759,000,000 on porn videos alone. A story last year by CBS estimated that if you add in the Internet and other forms of adult entertainment, Americans spend an estimated $10 billion a year on pornography. How much would the government like to get their hands on a piece of that? Fines for those convicted of dealing in child pornography are standard. The fine for CBS for the Janet Jackson Super-bowl booby-gate was $550,000, and her boob was only onscreen for a few seconds. What do you suppose the possible fine for a full-length sex film might be?
Yes, the motives of the FBI are obvious: cash in on porn! But before the government can count its winnings, they'll have a few hoops to jump through. In this war on porn, the FBI is counting on a 1973 Supreme Court case, Miller v. California. In that case, Mr. Miller had sent unsolicited material through the mail that depicted sexual acts in the form of advertisements for more sexual material. When a restaurant owner received Miller's solicitation, he complained. Miller was prosecuted and convicted for distributing pornographic material. In upholding Miller's conviction, the Supreme Court created a three part test to determine if something is obscene: (1) the average person, applying local community standards must find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to sexual interests; (2) in a patently offensive way; and (3) the work lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
But things have changed a lot since 1973. How can a "local community" standard be applied to videos and Internet clips distributed worldwide? Moreover, an intentional downloading of sexual material on a computer, or the watching a VCR tape at home (something not so prevalent in 1973), or ordering a pay-per-view from your cable or satellite provider is a lot different than someone getting "nasty" pictures in the mail without warning.
Further, recent case law favors so-called "pornographers." In 2002, the Supreme Court stuck down a ban on "virtual" child pornography that appeared to, but did not in fact, depict children. The 6-3 ruling said such a ban violated the first amendment. Then, In November 2003, federal prosecutors launched their first large obscenity prosecution in a decade: U.S. v. Extreme Associates. The government said that tapes sold by Rob Zicari's company that depicted sexual acts and some simulated rape were "obscene." U.S. Federal District Judge Gary L. Lancaster dismissed the case, ruling that people have a right to view sexual material privately in their home (citing the U.S. Supreme Court's June 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas that struck down a state ban on gay sex as an unconstitutional violation of privacy.) Lancaster wrote, "the federal obscenity statutes burden an individual's fundamental right to possess, read, observe and think about what he chooses in the privacy of his own home by completely banning the distribution of obscene materials."
The Feds are appealing this decision. No word on if the Supreme Court is taking this one up yet. But if they do, and if they agree with Judge Lancaster's assessment of the issue, it would be very hard for the FBI to prosecute any more cases that aren't strictly child pornography cases. Which, or course, would make this newly formed porn task force an even bigger waste of time and money than it already is!
Still, under Alberto R. Gonzales' directive, the FBI marches on, using our precious federal tax dollars that should be used to catch real criminals.
A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.
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10.19.05 @ 8:06a
Repuglican philosophy: Do not enforce laws which would clean up our air and water and preserve our wilderness areas, or keep corporations from selling fraudulent or dangerous products. DO enforce unconstitutional laws against what we do in the privacy of our homes. Only part of why I'm a Democrat, which has its own set of cute ironies.
10.19.05 @ 3:21p
I wonder if conservative Republicans even think about the contradictions inherent in the concept of advocating small government except when it comes to legislating morality.
10.19.05 @ 4:20p
The government legislates morality because it has been taken over by the religious right wing nutjobs who believe that they must evangelize through the body politic. And hey, if you can make a buck off of it on the side then that's just icing on the cake. When the onservatives began courting the religious right in the 1970s they added a volitile element to the existing uneasy alliance of Republican businessmen, libertarians, John Birch society nuts and the like. Now the lunatics are running the asylum and the law follows suit. Porn? How about something worthwhile like, I dunno, protecting chemical plants...
10.20.05 @ 9:39a
I think it's hard to generalize that religious people don't like sex. I've actually thumbed through Christian-based sexual enhancement manuals and they're quite explicit and focused on pleasure.
And Russ is pretty religious, and we all know what a hound he is.
But in the cause of "witnessing," the lines of morality and pleasure become blurred and hypocritical. Come on - would we really care about TV ministers having sex with hookers and call girls if they weren't up there telling the rest of us how wrong it is and that we'll be punished? No.
This isn't a morality issue as much as it is a political issue. The extreme right-wing groups are looking for control of the government AND your soul.
10.20.05 @ 11:38a
Sexual pleasure is a moral imperative. As with most controversies, it's the periphery on either side of the issue that's (sorry, can't resist) fucking things up.
The converse of Tracey's example works as well: We might be paying more attention to TV ministers (and the clergy in general, helloooooo Catholicism!) if they weren't busy hypocritically trysting the night away. Set a good example, and people will follow it. Encourage the healthy pursuit of sexual pleasure rather than castigating masturbation or oral sex or birth control as WANTON EVIL and people might play along.
As it is, the restrictive, prohibitive, sex-is-naughty approach only fuels the furtive fucking; the tighter the constrictions get, the wilder the rebellion becomes. It's moralistic BDSM, with each side pushing the envelope.
In an ideal world, we wouldn't need porn. Everyone would be so deeply satisfied with their partner's body and their own that outside stimulation would be unnecessary. But whether Adam had E.D. or Eve got fat, or they both heard the couple in the next cave going at it and thought "Oooh, I wonder if they do it any different?" the need was created.
Look at it this way: In countries where porn is illegal, young people instead pass their time by blowing themselves up in public. Moms, dads... wouldn't you rather have your kids happily diddling away in their rooms? Give them porn! It could save their lives!
10.20.05 @ 4:16p
In an ideal world? Obviously you've never been single.
10.20.05 @ 10:13p
Tracey and Russ, you're mixing up the act of sex and Pornography. Christians "not liking sex", is not implied or in any way generalized in the story. Pornography is not sex: it is the act of looking at others engaging in sex and or in sexually provocative poses in a photo or film format. And I'm sorry to say, Tracey, that Christians, or at least those who preach Christianity, are very much against Pornography. The Bible says how Job "made a pact with his eyes not to look wrongfully at a woman" (Job 31:1). "If a man looks on a woman to lust after her, he has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). And don't make me start linking to sites of the hundreds of Christian organizations engaged in the war on porn from a time way before the FBI got involved.
And the amount in which your partner sexually satisfies you has nothing to do with porn. Porn is not a replacement for sex. And whether it would exist "in a perfect world" is a non sequitur; in a perfect world, we wouldn't need an FBI! And we wouldn't need Christians constantly trying to guide our lives in a direction that they believe is righteous, while condemning all others as sinners!
The simple question of this article is, should the FBI be engaging in trying to stamp porn out, at the behest of Christians and this administration? And the simple answer is: no.
10.20.05 @ 11:17p
I was only responding to Tracey's post. There's an article on this page, too?!
(For the record, I agree...the FBI should be pursuing criminals and/or threats to national security. With a handful of exceptions, there are no laws against the production or sale of adult erotic media; attempting to prosecute purveyors is a ridiculous pursuit, right up there with Prohibition.)
10.20.05 @ 11:22p
And re: the last paragraph of your 10.20 @ 11:38 post, and in following with my standard devil's advocate principles, I'm not sure that not having porn is what drives kids to become suicide bombers, though I am wholly intrigued by this theory.
10.21.05 @ 12:14a
I totally agree with all points, especially with what the FBI should do with time and resources - except one.
Often, pornography -is- a replacement for sex - it just depends on the classification of sex. Is masterbation sex, or is sex only intercourse of some sort? If someone likes to watch S&M films, but does not have intercourse, yet still climaxes while watching the films, is that sex?
Which is why I stand by the fact that many members of the extreme right like Focus on the Family who are probably pushing the anti-porn agenda have sexual issues that other religious people do not have and yet their stance against pornography is not about the morality of it. It's about power and control.
10.21.05 @ 12:16a
Oh - one other thing: child molesters and kidnappers do have a documented history of child pornography aquisition, distribution and production. They are also the least likely of criminals to be thoroughly rehabilitated. So unfortunately, that is a sticky link between porn and crime.
10.21.05 @ 11:09a
Tracey, there is no documented basis for any link between porn and child molesters. There are many people who look at the same material and never commit any sexual crime. It's not porn that makes them act. You're making up a link!
And if you read the story: child porn is already illegal AND prosecuted often. This new task force is not about child porn - It's after adult porn.
Which, whether it's the "morality" or "control", it's all Christian religious groups who are pushing to stamp out porn (not just some). Some may not be as vocal, but there are none who support the rights for those making pornography. Prove me wrong: Find me one Christian group who is openly standing up for the rights of adults to make and watch XXX films and standing up for the rights of internet porn sites.
10.21.05 @ 1:15p
The thing is, Christians (and anyone, really) who believe that other people should be allowed to make up their own minds about what is and is not "immoral" behavior don't generally coalesce into "groups" the way extreme right-wing moralizers do. So, lack of pro-porn Christian advocacy is not, in itself, an anti-porn stance.
10.21.05 @ 1:29p
Jeff, in psychology, there is most certainly a link between child molesters and child pornography.
In law, you cannot say, beyond the shadow of doubt, that continued viewing of child pornography does not contribute to deviant behavior in those particular individuals.
(And I think the majority of us can agree that child molestation is, indeed, deviant behavior).
The psychosis is already established. True - you can't prove one way or another that pornography is the absolute catalyst for the behavior, but indeed, it does contribute to it. Intertwined with psychosis is addiction, and whatever feeds the addiction manifests the psychosis to unmanagable heights.
I did read your story quite well, but a generalized statement that porn does not instigate more crime is unstable, as we're not talking about children viewing child pornography. Now, if you mean there is no proof that adult porn does not cause adults to commit sexual crimes, again, perhaps in law, there is not, but in psychology, with some individuals, there are levels of extreme personality that may indeed react strongly to a snuff film and choose to act it out.
So while there may not be actual proof that Ted Bundy was a fan of certain types of porn and that's why he did what he did, there is also -not- reasonable proof against the theory that in times he could not kill, he relived his experiences through snuff films.
You're right - the extreme Christian groups are more than likely against all forms of nakedness, think Larry Flynt is the Devil himself and shield their children's eyes whenever Pamela Anderson comes on TV. And you're right - there are no religious groups at all wearing W.W.J.F. bracelets.
Support for sex does not have to include support for pornography. To each their own. But the extremist religious groups in particular have not as much desire to stamp out pornography as they do the desire to steer the political agenda. To try to reinforce an entire country through forced morality is asinine - but to establish a legal platform on certain forms of media is one step closer to obtaining power of the church in government, especially when the government is blindly helping out.
We're saying the same thing - I'm just taking it a step further by saying that I don't believe it's this issue is simply about the morality of and rights pertaining to pornography, but more the hammer by which these groups want to dismantle the wall between church and state.
10.21.05 @ 1:44p
Oh and Jeff? I'll make the shout out for you:
Will someone hire this lawyer, please? His debate skills are unmatched!
10.21.05 @ 5:25p
We miss you in the Brooklyn Courts! The place is in shambles. Anyway the Christian right picks and chooses which passages from the bible it deems worthy of using to steer the social debate. It isn't politics but theology that is the real danger. Political disagreements can be debated and discussed. Once you hit the wall of faith all discussion ends. I'm right because the Bible tells me so. A three thousand year old collection of poorly written stories is used by the leaders of this nation as some kind of governance handbook. And we differ from the jihadists how exactly?
10.21.05 @ 5:47p
This is thought provoking. I think those Bible versus indicate at least one thing: The writer recognized that adultery, consensual or not, directly contributed to a variety of societal problems including alienation and even crimes like murder.
I think the word link is as useless here as it is when debating the 'link' between Baathists like Hussein and Al Qaeda. The fact is there is a positive correlation between certain types of porn-viewing habits and certain types of behavior. No doubt. Causation is a different issue, and seems impossible to prove with 100% certainty for any given human behavior.
But it's a complete over-generalization to blame this on religious people when there are plenty of people concerned about it for non-religious reasons, such as the fact that it is impossible to control porn on the Internet. The FBI is aware of one absolute fact: No one has made parental controls that haven 't been defeated, and there is an amplitude of proof that children can and have defeated them. Protection does not exist any more than reliable age authentication for a web subscriber, and it likely never will. And distributing porn to minors, much like distributing copyrighted materials, even in the privacy of the home, is immoral and illegal. The reason it is immoral is because they are not mature enough to rationally deal with it. It's illegal because that bit of morality has long been legislated. So that may be why the FBI is targetting these glorified slumlords of the internet, but to be honest, I can't see them beating the Bill of Rights.
One last thing, porn does not seem so harmless to those addicted to it, and though I'm not a big fan of psycho-babble, there's a bunch of people who claim to have struggled with porn addictions which were ultimately as disruptive to their well-being as a drug addiction or any other disorder.
10.21.05 @ 5:53p
Double-post for this gem: And we differ from the jihadists how exactly?
We don't brainwash our kids so we can strap bombs on them so they can commit mass-murder, for one.
And you can knock the religious right as much as you want, many are true head cases. But liberal humanists have the exact same platonically diseased notions, and are not in any better off. They are certainly in no position to judge, and their political agendas have caused at least as much harm.