No censorship is good censorship

Posted in Society at 16:38 by RjZ

A friend highlighted me to the following:

Online erotica sites are being targeted for prosecution and obscenity thanks to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. I am hoping that my readers can fill me in as to what is going on here.

“News of [Red Rose Stories] closure comes just days after the offices of Max Hardcore’s Max World Entertainment were raided under the authority of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Justice Department, and little more than a week after the FBI launched an anti-obscenity squad at the behest of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to increase obscenity prosecutions throughout the country.”

I don’t have any experience with these sites but my friend is a contributor and it is difficult for me to see how erotic stories without pictures could be hurtful to anyone. No one is forced to read this material; you have to click on it to get there. I’d never even heard of these sites even though I might have been quite interested in them, so it’s unlikely they’re well marketed.

The definition of pornography is often broad and perhaps impractical. The National Crime Prevention Council says pornography, n : any sexually explicit writing and/or picture intended to arouse sexual desire. Apparently most advertisements and music videos are pornography.

The fact is, censorship is almost always wrong. We must pursue and punish the perpetrators of crimes, particularly abhorrent crimes such as abusing a child, or anyone for that matter, for the purpose of creating pornography. We must pursue the perpetrators vigorously and punish them severely for we do not want to to encourage this abuse in our society. However, and here’s where I start losing readers, it doesn’t make sense to punish the consumers. If I have “dirty” pictures on my computer I haven’t hurt anyone. The damage was done by the creator of these images and not by me.

The argument goes that by cutting off the market for these materials we will deter the creation. So we censor the very possession of pornography in an effort to eliminate it. Unfortunately, market forces are nearly equally strong whether the activity is legal or not. The drug war is a perfect analog. Legislators have made a wide range of drugs illegal but there has been little correlation between these laws and the consumption of these drugs. Driving pornographers under ground has succeeded only in making it more difficult to catch the ones that are really abusing people.

Abusing people should be and is illegal. Writing an entertaining erotica story that is offensive to someone constitutes no abuse and cannot be illegal. I don’t like hearing Pat Buchanan rattle on about the homosexual agenda but he has a right to his opinion and some people even think he’s entertaining. Free speech, or better, protected speech, is not as clear as we often think. Indeed, obscenity has been addressed by the Supreme Court on multiple occasions and mostly it has failed to be “protected.” While this is currently the law of the land, I still can express that I do not agree with that interpretation.

The Roth test – from Roth v. U.S. (1957) defined obscenity as material calculated to debauch the minds and morals of those in whose hands it might fall. The impact upon the average person must be determined. The test is the effect of a whole work (not one picture or passage) on the average person applying contemporary community standards (not national standards) to determine if the work is without redeeming social importance or patently offensive.

While I can see how these sites satisfy Roth, I could as easily argue that they don’t. And that either way, deciding what “debauches the minds and morals” of individuals hardly seems like something we want our government doing for us.

I don’t know enough about the contents of either these closed down websites or even the law under which they are being prosecuted but if these articles could really be conceived to be causing harm, I can understand the action. Still, I doubt it. Ultimately, I am concerned about yet another example of this administration’s continued attempts to legislate morality.

I hope others can shed some light on this issue.


  1. M. Simon said,

    October 16, 2005 at 18:03

    I can tell you about market forces in the illegal drug market:

    A well known secret

    The War On Unpatented Drugs

  2. tim rohrer said,

    October 19, 2005 at 14:25

    Death by a thousand cuts is the real strategy again I think. Rather than try to go after pornography outright, they passed laws and made onerous regulations (the socalled 2357 regs) that, although likely to be thrown out in court, will cost the defendants time, money and probably many business failures. This from the party that was supposed to be liberating businesses out from under their regulatory bondage… er, straitjacket.

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