Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Has Larry Flynt Been Upstaged by the NY Times and NY Post Pro-Pornography Stance?

(NYT)(NWS)

Interview with Robert Peters, President of Morality in Media http://www.moralityinmedia.org/

Why are the New York Times and the Washington Post pro-pornography?

On today's show Mr. Peters shares his response to a New York Times Aug. 10 article by Neil Lewis, “Federal Effort on Web Obscenity Shows Few Results,” and an op ed article by Stephen Bates, “Outsourcing Justice, That’s Obscene,” which appeared in the Washington Post on July 15.

Statement by Morality in Media President Robert Peters:
Morality in Media (MIM) should be honored that a project it launched to combat Internet obscenity has been criticized in short order by two of our nation’s leading left-leaning daily newspapers. We must be doing something right; or perhaps the fear is that we may do something right in the near future, if the liberal press doesn’t come to the rescue of hardcore pornographers.

MIM launched the ObscenityCrimes.org website in June 2002 to provide citizens with a convenient means online to report possible violations of federal Internet obscenity laws. The site is patterned after http://www.cybertipline.com/ which was also launched by private citizens and which allows citizens to report possible violations of sexual exploitation of children laws. Complaints submitted to ObscenityCrimes.org are forwarded to each U.S. Attorney where a report originates and to the Justice Department in Washington.

As of August 2007, over 66,000 reports had been submitted to ObscenityCrimes.org, despite very little funds to promote the site. In 2002, MIM also retained the services of two retired law enforcement agents (with extensive experience investigating Internet pornography cases) to follow up on complaints submitted by citizens to ObscenityCrimes.org and to prepare their own investigative reports which describe in detail the promotional material and sexual conduct that the agents observe on various “adult” websites.

Most Internet pornographers provide free teasers that any child can view without providing proof of age, and many of the complaints submitted to ObscenityCrimes.org mention that a child easily could have been or was exposed to pornography or ads for pornography. The Supreme Court has also held repeatedly that the First Amendment does not protect obscenity. One might think, therefore, that the Times and Post would have long ago published articles highlighting Morality in Media’s fine work in combating pornography, urging citizens to make complaints and urging the Justice Department to enforce Internet obscenity laws. Instead, on July 15 the Post published an op ed article by Stephen Bates attacking Morality in Media for its views on a wide variety of subjects that have nothing to do with the ObscenityCrimes.org project and the Justice Department for delegating its authority to an “outfit” like Morality in Media.

If the Justice Department had in fact delegated to Morality in Media the authority to determine which cases will be prosecuted, Mr. Bates would have a point. But the Department hasn’t done that. The Justice Department determines which citizen complaints (if any) it will investigate and ultimately prosecute. Like it or not, Morality in Media has no say in those determinations.

Mr. Bates also implies that MIM’s two investigators “place the Bible over the Constitution.” That isn’t true. The Supreme Court has set forth a three-part test to determine whether sexual material is obscene and therefore unprotected by the First Amendment, and the investigators’ determinations as to which complaints to pursue are guided by that test. If they weren’t, we really would be wasting our time.

In the N.Y. Times article of August 10, Mr. Bates again bad mouths ObscenityCrimes.org. In particular, Mr. Bates says that MIM’s “religious cast, the…constitutional issue of free speech and the outsourcing together made a mockery of the First Amendment, chilling freedom of expression.” While not all of our nation’s founding fathers were devout Christians, most were certainly “religious.” Abraham Lincoln and Rev. Martin Luther King were also “religious,” as is Barak Obama. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were “religious,” as is Hillary Clinton. Many African Americans who work for government agencies or nonprofits that combat racial discrimination are “religious,” as are many Jewish Americans who work for agencies and nonprofits that combat anti-Semitism. Should all have been or now be suspect? Or is it just a particular “religious cast” that irks Mr. Bates?And if obscenity is unprotected by the First Amendment and if the determination as to what is or isn’t obscene is ultimately made by the Courts, how can a project that forwards information to the Justice Department make a mockery of the First Amendment and chill “freedom of expression?”

Mr. Lewis’s article in the Times repeats another of Mr. Bates’ misstatements – namely, the Justice Department is “outsourcing a search for obscenity.” ObscenityCrimes.org provides citizens with an opportunity to report websites that they believe are or may be violating obscenity laws. Except for complaints that lack necessary information or are obvious mistakes or hoaxes, all citizen complaints are forwarded to the Justice Department. Yes, two trained investigators do provide additional information about some websites that citizens complain about, but they are guided in their determinations by the Supreme Court’s obscenity test. Individuals who are not law enforcement agents perform a similar task for the Congressionally funded http://www.cybertipline.com/.

Mr. Lewis’s article did get two things right. First, I am concerned about the explosion of hardcore pornography viewed only by “consenting adults.” Viewing pornography is linked to variety of harms, including sexual addiction, the breakup of marriages, the breakdown of morality, and sexual crimes against adults and children. The Supreme Court has also held that there is a “right of the Nation…to maintain a decent society” and that “consenting adults” is not a defense to an obscenity prosecution. And second, I am troubled by the fact that Justice has publicly praised ObscenityCrimes.org on a number of occasions, but to my knowledge has not initiated a single prosecution in response to a citizen complaint submitted to the site. I am hoping that will change soon. During the Reagan & Bush years, pornographers complained if a prosecution wasn’t the result of citizen complaints; now the Department is getting tens of thousands of complaints, and appears to be ignoring them. Headquartered in New York City, MORALITY IN MEDIA works through constitutional means to curb traffic in illegal obscenity. MIM operates the http://www.obscenitycrimes.org/ website, where citizens can report possible violations of federal Internet obscenity laws.

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