The Talking Lion

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Come on, Obscenity squads,,,

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

Early last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director." That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

Mischievous commentary began propagating around the water coolers at 601 Fourth St. NW and its satellites, where the FBI's second-largest field office concentrates on national security, high-technology crimes and public corruption.

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 the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

And we're not talking about kiddie pr0n; the FBI is already working on that stuff. This FBI squad is going after and prosecuting pr0n that they deem obscene. So basically Al Gonzo (which is what we should call him from now on) has turned the FBI into pr0n critics who happen to carry sidearms.

Now I've never watched a second of pr0n so this won't affect me. But my good friend "not me" is devastated.

I can't see how any of the arrests will stick. This seems like a clear First Amendment stuff and any lawyer worth his attache case will be easy-off. But we're wasting the resources of the FBI and the federal judiciary on something as fucking trivial as consenting adults fucking on film when we have so much more to worry about.

It seems horribly medieval for our government to legislate and prosecute "obscenities" that are legally produced. It smacks of providing the initial inertia that eventually leads to playful activities like book burning. But we already do prosecute this stuff.

Obscenity laws are to be put in place to appease conservative Xtians, and the Miller Test seems to be just that. The problem with prosecuting using this test seems to be that its so undefined that any lawyer can make any film fit those standards. The test outlines three criterion to determine obscenity:
Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,

Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law,

Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

This average person mentioned in the first bit is the average person from the community in which the porn was made. So the holiest roller in Alabama doesn't get to decide what is not allowed. And with the movement to the mainstream of hardcore pornography to the point where porn-stars have legitimate celebrity status makes satisfying the first bit harder and harder (pun most assuredly intended).

The second bit seems harder to wriggle out of no matter how much legal lubricant used. State laws made to prohibit certain types of pornography makes it incumbent on the person defending the pornographers to outline why the whole law should be overturned. This is more difficult than arguing that your porn is legal, I imagine.

It's the third where the Miller Test drops the ball(s). Artistic merit/value is something that can never be defined quantitatively or qualitatively. It's fucking art. And as in the first bit, any lawyer can argue this point effectively.

As I've said, it is a waste of money that we could be spending on , say, victims of Katrina; and a waste of time that FBI agents could be spending finding who put anthrax in those letters 4 years ago or, you know, sniffing out terrorism.


  • OK FBI reluctant forces: Let's think about this a little: Porn does not treat women as people, but as objects--not even usually obejcts of desire, but more often objects of subordination and domination by men (or occasionally vice versa). I just watched the movie Hotel Rwanda. The first thing the thugs did to remove the civil rights of those they wanted to kill was to start getting everyone to call them "cockroaches". This dehumanization is an effective tool. Porn is exactly the same type of tool. What if porn showed nothing but Hispanic people or freckled people or people with Mississippi accents as subhuman objects. Then you could allow that since they are not as human as you, an acceptible purpose for them would be to be chainsawed, or tied voluptuously to a large piece of equipment, or maybe raped multiple times--all for the enjoyment of others who wanted to watch and play along in their seats. If the "us" and "them" were not male and female but black and white, or how about retarded or handicapped people, perhaps people would "get it" why this kind of subhumanizing portrayal of any group is unacceptible in a civil and just society.

    If you read the biography of a highly successful porn actress "Deep Throat" (Linda lLvelace) you realize that she was no more happy than an abused animal as she was doing her well-known films. These are not a different species of people who secretly like to be treated as an animal. Heck "animals" don't even like to be treated like animals in that way. THey hate it but do it because others are willing to pay and they have kids to feed or other compelling reasons. All the smiles in Linda's films were a load of crap. Men are believing a fantasy if they think women want to be treated like this or portrayed like this.

    Did blacks like the mockeries made of their intelligence in early movies and Vaudeville shows because sometimes they were being paid well? Of course not. But those who enjoyed watching them didn't think much about it at the time. Those depictions were just like to pornography because the fact that there was a wide audience for the depictions willing to pay in the name of entertainment which seemed to make it all right-even natural. The audience was protecting themselves.
    It's important that our media, including publishers of erotica, not get away with a double standard. You can't separate a person's soul from her body onscreen. The law must protect a woman's right to be portrayed with respect just as it protects the right of any ethnic or other group to be portrayed with respect.

    It's not rocket science, gentlemen. It's American dignity and it must be protected by laws that you in law enforcement will be willing to enforce. Maybe the answer for the FBI is to have more female agents on the team to remind the rest of the guys that these girls on the screen are people for you to deal with as equal human beings, not objects primarily created for your use. I disagree that this has less place in the FBI than racketeering or terrorism. If we don't uphold real rights to be portrayed as people, we aren't much different than the philosophies we're fighting against.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, 22 September, 2005  

  • Ok. You raise a few good points about why pornography is bad. That’s fine, and I generally agree with you that porn isn't the highest of institutions.

    But your argument is geared toward what should and shouldn't be. I am saying that legally speaking, porn has a right to exist. And the current push by the admin. has nothing to do with your views on why porn should be stopped and everything to do with appeasing tight-assed curmudgeonly holy rollers, aka his base.

    Minstrel shows are examples of horrible racism and this countries racist past. But I can't, nor should I get arrested, if I decided to put on black-face (thought, if I got beat up I wouldn't be too surprised). Racist, misogynistic speech isn’t illegal.

    You can't legislate respect (that's much like fighting a war against terror, for that matter). And I strongly disagree that porn is responsible for the lack of respect of women. Porn is a symptom at best of the over-arching patriarchal paradigm that pervades our society and treats women as secondary to men. That paradigm is a problem. But fighting against porn is misallocation of resources if the end goal is to raise women equal to men.

    Also, porn doesn’t kill people. Terrorist attacks do. Therefore it's ridiculous to say that collaring legally produced porn creators and participants after they create is anywhere near as important as apprehending killers before they kill.

    As much as you think porn hurts us, it's an act between consenting adults. And the second you successfully curtail sexual relations between adults you push the nation down the slippery slope of regressive anti-“immorality” laws (like anti-gay legislation).

    So, Anon., thank you for your thoughtful comment. Your grievances against porn are mostly justified, but as far as the 1st Amendment is concerned, your grief doesn’t justify restricting pornographers’ rights.

    By Blogger Arun, at Thursday, 22 September, 2005  

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