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Osama Takes A Back Seat To Jenna?
Jameson, that is. For a moment, I thought I was reading The Onion. But, no, it's a Washington Post story by Barton Gellman on the latest bright move by the party of small government:

The FBI is joining the Bush administration's War on Porn. And it's looking for a few good agents.

Last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a memo from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director," Robert Mueller.

The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

Among friends and trusted colleagues, an experienced national security analyst said, "it's a running joke for us."

Yeah, increasingly, so is our government, for us. It's almost funny, too, for anyone who's never heard of the First Amendment.

There's more:

Applicants for the porn squad should therefore have a stomach for the kind of material that tends to be most offensive to local juries. Community standards -- along with a prurient purpose and absence of artistic merit -- define criminal obscenity under current Supreme Court doctrine.

"Based on a review of past successful cases," the memo said, the best odds of conviction come with pornography that "includes bestiality, urination, defecation, as well as sadistic and masochistic behavior." No word on the universe of other kinks that helps make porn a multibillion-dollar industry.

Excuse me, but if you're an adult who wants to get peed on, and another adult wants to pay to watch, why is that the government's business?

But Gonzales endorses the rationale of predecessor Meese: that adult pornography is a threat to families and children. Christian conservatives, long skeptical of Gonzales, greeted the pornography initiative with what the Family Research Council called "a growing sense of confidence in our new attorney general."

Oh, I get it. When I was a kid, my mom and dad wouldn't let me watch The Three Stooges, Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch, or any of the other shows all the other neighborhood kids got to watch. There's a name for this sort of behavior: it's called parenting. Why can't it be brought back to stop Johnny from watching Shaving Ryan's Privates?

porn nannies story link via Obscure Store

Posted by aalkon at September 22, 2005 7:34 AM

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This is so sad. Ed Meese's office was *directed* to find a link between pornography and violent crime, and couldn't. Logically, sex criminals are a minor sub-set of those millions of people interested in sex.


Posted by: Radwaste at September 22, 2005 2:31 AM

Why no Gilligan?

Posted by: Crid at September 22, 2005 10:38 AM

Seeing all the marketing of Chrisitanity, and how most of it flies in the face of the teachings attributed to Jesus, I have sometimes thought someone could make a fortune doing Christian Adult movies. You know, all the characters are married, but they sneak out between services and do each other in the parking lot... that sort of thing.

Posted by: eric at September 22, 2005 11:31 AM

That's very funny, Eric. And Crid, there was a ban on all TV but Wide World Of Disney or whatever it was called, on Sunday nights. I read just about every book in the Farmington Hills Public Library, but I was at a serious loss when I worked in advertising right out of college, producing TV commercials. (It was the heyday of the old footage in commercials thing. I would have helped if I knew who The Honeymooners were, etc!...but not a big loss.)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 22, 2005 11:34 AM

It's a loving home that stops a kid's brains from draining, one sitcom at a time.

Posted by: Crid at September 22, 2005 12:44 PM

Interesting thread on the porn thing over at Slate:
with one of my favorite female writers (besides you, Amy) Laura Kipnis, who is book club blogging back and forth with a couple right-of-center "social nannies".

Posted by: Jeff R at September 22, 2005 5:24 PM

Wonderful, The poor folks at the wrong end of America's Jihad on the naked body will go to prison just in time to find out what obsenity is all about when they find themselves in a makeshift gimp outfit tossing salads for an extra biscuit.

What kind of self-righteous liberty stomper joins the FBI's anti-pleasure squad anyhow? Man our priorities are scrambled.

We have pictures of Saddam in his whitey tighties...but Osama and pals are on the back burner.

Make way for the "War on Individualism" (Do we really need a Dildo Czar?)

Posted by: Ziontao at September 22, 2005 7:45 PM

I just remembered something I heard the late comedian Bill Hicks say on this subject:

"Sexual thought isn't around because of Playboy, rather Playboy is around because of sexual thought...They are putting the cart before the horse". It's stuck in my head ever since.

Posted by: Ziontao at September 22, 2005 8:02 PM

I'm not trying to be a party-pooper (oops, there's a pun), but I just don't get how hardcore porn is covered under the First Amendment:

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that obscene applies to materials that appeal predominantly to a prurient interest in sexual conduct, depict or describe sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. Material or expression deemed obscene by the court is not protected by the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, © 1996 Merriam-Webster, Inc.

Posted by: Claire at September 23, 2005 3:08 PM

Claire, you could probably take a whole law school seminar on this issue, but here is the CliffNotes version. Yes, "obscenity" may be prohibited or regulated without running afoul of the First Amendment. But the part of the Supreme Court definition either you or your dictionary omitted is that obscenity is determined with reference to "prevailing community standards." In other words, something considered obscene in Peoria might not be obscene in San Francisco, and it can also change over time.

The "prevailing community standards" have changed over the past 30 years or so (in non-Amish communities at least), due largely to the advent first of VCRs, then the Internet. These technologies have been porn-driven to a huge extent. The average consumer might not dream of setting foot in a dirty book store or peep show (might not even have such outlets in his community) - but since he can now get just about anything in the comfort of his own home, it has broadened porn consumption. And as the average consumer becomes more familiar with porn, he becomes less shocked by much of it - and thus what was once considered obscene may no longer be, legally speaking. ("In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking. Now, heaven knows - anything goes...")

Couple the technology trends with the proliferation of raunchier and raunchier porn, and you can see how community standards drift lower and lower, to the point where it is very difficult to find most pornography obscene in the legal sense in most communities - which libertarians would say is a good thing. Child pornography is one major exception - it can be outlawed because of the harm to the children involved, which overrides the First Amendment concerns (except for "virtual" child porn).

But the point is that even if prevailing community standards were to allow Hustler and Maxim to be yanked off the 7-11 shelves, it still doesn't seem to be the best use of FBI resources, particularly in a post-9-11 world.

Posted by: Melissa at September 23, 2005 4:31 PM

Thanks, Melissa.

Posted by: Claire at September 23, 2005 8:22 PM

It's pretty clear that the intent of the 1st Amendment has been redefined over the years.

There's no way that the Founders intended it to protect income; I submit that the intent was to forbid the suppression of speech regarding the conduct of government. Most are happy to forget that the Constitution is a set of limits on government, not the people. Sometimes, people insist that government step in because they aren't getting their way.

I note with some despair that people aren't anywhere near as interested in seeing other Federal Constitutional principles applied to states and localities. They're deliriously happy to have localities seize their property - or infringe upon any of the other rights enumerated - so long as they don't have to shut their mouth.

Posted by: Radwaste at September 24, 2005 6:33 AM

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