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The war on pornography
April 7, 2004 12:29 AM   Subscribe

John Ashcroft's Patriot Games. An interesting article from last month's Vanity Fair on Ashcroft and his revolution inside the Justice Department. Now the Justice Department wants to wage a war on porn, and "are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO's long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains." [Via Boing Boing and Instapundit.]
posted by homunculus (47 comments total)

 
The battle against pornography will be long and hard.
posted by SPrintF at 12:54 AM on April 7, 2004


Not to derail, but if this is "via" two of the most widely read weblogs on the Internet, what is the point of posting it here?

Just wondering...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:55 AM on April 7, 2004


Sure, Steve_at_Linnwood , it makes your party of choice look like a bunch of theistic prudish fucking goons from the 18th century and you just happen to question if its a good post. Post in metatalk if you really give a shit and spare us your "Hi, Im new here" bullshit. Thanks.

A Missourian from slashdot gives us a history lesson:
That is pretty much what happened when Ashcroft was prosecuting cases in Missouri. He would go after small book/video stores. He wasn't going to go after General Motors (who owns a controlling interest in a company that distributes hardcore pay per view material in hotel rooms.) He knew he couldn't win even against the small guys, but he would seize their assets over and over again and hold onto their inventory for a period of time (long enough for them to have to reorder it) to disrupt their business and cost them tons of legal fees till they went bankrupt. He would let them get it back, seize it again... He did eventually bring several of them to trial (and I don't remember him winning though I believe a couple of the stores closed from all of the disruption of their business). Temporary injunctions also work well for business disruption.

I've always thought that this trait in Ashcroft could be put to good use by telling him most spam is advertising pornography and a good portion of it ends up in the in-boxes of kids and teens. Try to get him to go after spammers instead through the back door. Unfortunately that has not happened.

To me it's all kind of silly. Porn wouldn't be a multi-billion dollar industry with exceptional growth rates if people didn't want it. It also wouldn't be the money maker it is without the internet there to let people shop in relative privacy. It's worked out fantastic for the sellers of sex toys as well, eliminating the barrier to entry for customers that would be averse to buying the double ended ... at a retail outlet.

Given his prior history if I hosted a site that sold scat films or beastiality I would probably try to move it off-shore.
"Porn wouldn't be a multi-billion dollar industry with exceptional growth rates if people didn't want it. "

Interesting, yet predictable. What does the right or Ashcroft care about democracy and what people want? They havea "top down" moral outlook, in other words "We tell you want to like, so shuddup or goto jail"
posted by skallas at 1:01 AM on April 7, 2004


Just wondering...

The two articles were published over a month apart. I thouht putting them together would be interesting under the circumstances. I may have been wrong. But I am quite arroused.
posted by homunculus at 1:03 AM on April 7, 2004


Skallas, you are so clever! You've caught on to my plan to cover up "my party's" secret war on porno. You see, even though it is in the major media and was linked on two widely read weblogs, as long it isn't on MetaFilter no one will ever know about it! muahahahaha!

I'd like to discus this with you more, skallas, but you see I have to get back to reading the the Bible, and praying for your soul, you porno watching pervert.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:11 AM on April 7, 2004


No problem. This comes up all too often, usually with the "This was on slashdot." Like I said, if you're not just being an ass then start a thread on Metatalk.
posted by skallas at 1:16 AM on April 7, 2004


I predict a drastic upswing for the outside-of-USA based porn industry.

Where's my camera?
posted by spazzm at 2:17 AM on April 7, 2004


apparently mr. ridge find it much more producutive tracking down photographers of nekkid little kids (news link - no nekkid kids) than osama bin laden. this OBVIOUSLY means the war on terror has been won, in fact won last july9!!!! and in order to preserve all those HSD jobs a war on hairless genitalia will begin. i mean god, look at the way those cadres of pre-mentrual brownies are crashing boxes of fudge-stripe cookies into keebler factories. the murderous little bitches even wear "frenchy-looking" hats. those pornoterrists put em up to it you know. i feel so fucking safe now.
posted by quonsar at 2:39 AM on April 7, 2004


Just wondering...

I doubt you were 'just wondering'. The adjenda you have on MetaFilter has little to do with pondering about how many other places a link has been before MetaFilter and more about pimp'n for the Republican party and dis'n the Democrats/others.

Nice attempt to avoid the topic of the post via complaining about WHY the post is here. Next time, try addressing the subject material of the post, m'kay?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:46 AM on April 7, 2004


Next time, try addressing the subject material of the post, m'kay?

I'm sure you've heard the phrase "Don't feed the troll." If you think Steve is trolling (and I'd guess by your earlier paragraph you do) then kindly refrain from feeding him. Comments like yours (and, I fear, mine) just push the thread further off the tracks. If all of you who get annoyed at the commenters who yell "newsfilter" or "Iraqfilter" or whatever would just act like those comments weren't there, the threads would be better off.

M'kay?

(God, I hate that word.)
posted by deadcowdan at 3:21 AM on April 7, 2004


I don't read those other stupid "weblogs". Only Metafilter for me! Thanks for the link, homunculus.
posted by drinkcoffee at 4:02 AM on April 7, 2004


I personally don't think steve was trolling so give the guy a break.

A war on porn eh, your gonna need a lot of mags for that.
posted by johnnyboy at 4:05 AM on April 7, 2004


Steve wasn't really trolling either, in my opinion. But still probably best in MetaTalk.
posted by agregoli at 9:11 AM on April 7, 2004


I don't think he was trolling either.

Now, for something that has been pretty much mainstream since the VCR became common, I'd personally think that the DoJ would have something better to do with their time.

officials are trying to send a message and halt an industry they see as growing increasingly "lawless."

What does this mean? Lawless? Seriously, what are they talking about?

invades our homes persistently though the mail, phone, VCR, cable TV and the Internet

Dunno about anyone else, but I haven't seen any porn flicks crawling through the cable wires, opening the tape slot and forcing its way into my living room. I haven't even gotten any porn forced on me on the Internet (if you don't count spam, which is a different kind of problem, and I don't care if the DoJ goes after people sending out unsolicited hardcore samples). I really don't know how they're going to make any charges they bring stick, although it's possibly and even likely that the point of this is not to win prosecutions, it's to effect a chill in the industry.

Let's get rid of Bush, if for no other reason than to get this chucklehead out of the Attorney General's office. Get him a nice cushy job at the American Family Association where he can have prayer meetings every morning and won't have to worry about niggling details like the Constitution.
posted by deadcowdan at 9:13 AM on April 7, 2004


At the risk of becoming repetitive:

They can have my porn when they pry my penis from my cold, dead hand.

Besides, I only keep teh pr0n around for medicinal purposes.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:21 AM on April 7, 2004


I predict a drastic upswing for the outside-of-USA based porn industry.

Works for me. Europeans make the best stuff anyway.
posted by Cyrano at 9:25 AM on April 7, 2004


Man, this is a hard one for me. The election was going to be a single issue one for me. The War on Terror is very important to me.

... but then again so is porn.

Damn you Ashcroft!
posted by Mick at 9:27 AM on April 7, 2004


Man, this is a hard one for me. The election was going to be a single issue one for me. The War on Terror is very important to me.

... but then again so is porn.


Hey, fanatical Islamic theocrats hate pornography, you know. Listen Ashcroft, if I lose my right to hot sweaty teen lesbian action, the the terrorists have already won. I thought they hated our freedom, but I guess Ashcroft does, too.
posted by jonmc at 9:36 AM on April 7, 2004


invades our homes persistently though the mail, phone, VCR, cable TV and the Internet

The above statement is ridiculous except for one part. I'll admit that getting 100s of emails a day with "horse cocks 4 u" and similar type stuff is a bit annoying, and I feel for folks like my parents that don't have sophisticated spam filters set up. That kind of stuff is just about the only porn that gets in front of you without asking for it.

They'll try to frame the debate using porn spam as the only example, extrapolating that all porn in our lives is unwanted, when regular americans spend billions every year on it. Makes me wonder about the administration's committment to helping the small businessman and being "the party of smaller government."
posted by mathowie at 9:38 AM on April 7, 2004


I only keep teh pr0n around for medicinal purposes.

Yeah, that's the ticket! You're a very funny prostate owner!

Some interesting statistics on porn are in order here.

Which state in the US sells the most porn?
Why, the most sexually repressive, of course, Utah!

Which countries in the world are the biggest consumers of porn?
Why, the most sexually repressive, of course, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait!

Want to reduce the influence of porn?
Only open and liberal values regarding sex (honesty and frankness) can do that.
Take that up your bunghole Mr. Fundy Jake Asscraft, you closet pervert
posted by nofundy at 9:40 AM on April 7, 2004


Want to reduce the influence of porn?
Only open and liberal values regarding sex (honesty and frankness) can do that.


Well, that, and everybody getting laid consistently by the being of their choice, which will never happen. I mean let's not forget the original and primary purpose of porn, after all.
posted by jonmc at 9:48 AM on April 7, 2004


Ok people, just tell me what country I need to move to where I can just enjoy my life and be able to do with it what I want.

Seriously. Should I go to Europe? Which country? England is all Big Brotherish, Italy too religious.

South America? At least there, they are too busy putting down rebellions and shit.

Asia is being overrun by extremist muslims, so no go.

Canada perhaps?

?
posted by eas98 at 9:54 AM on April 7, 2004


I mean let's not forget the original and primary purpose of porn, after all.
Yeah! What about the makers of ironic ringer T-shirts?!
posted by chandy72 at 10:01 AM on April 7, 2004


Which countries in the world are the biggest consumers of porn? Why, the most sexually repressive, of course, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait!

Do you have a cource for that? Not trying to call you out at all, I'm just amazed. The sheer possibility of my significant other walking in at the exact wrong moment is enough to give me pause. The risk of having the offending member cut off would stop me cold. Deity of Choice, bless those risk-takers!
posted by yerfatma at 10:05 AM on April 7, 2004


"Which state in the US sells the most porn?
Why, the most sexually repressive, of course, Utah!

Which countries in the world are the biggest consumers of porn?
Why, the most sexually repressive, of course, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait!"


I'm afraid I'm going to ask for some sort of evidence to back up either of those statements, 'cause I live in Utah and there's very little porn available here.

On preview, I see I'm not the only one who's skeptical.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:07 AM on April 7, 2004


Also, please allow me, as a fan of pr0n, to play Devil's Advocate for a moment:

- I'm in favor of taking Real Sex off the air, assuming it's replaced with something in the same vein (if you will) that's slightly less insulting to one's intelligence.
- Life is full of choices, but does Comcast really have to provide PPV crush videos now? It weirds me out that I'm sharing coax with some wack (ha!) -job in my general area. Unfortunately, the signal won't get throguh latex, so I'm stuck plugging directly into the TV until there's an AskMeFi post.
posted by yerfatma at 10:09 AM on April 7, 2004


I live in Utah and there's very little porn available here.
Duh. All those wives keep a fella busy.

I'll be here all week. Whether you like it or not. Your lights are on.
posted by yerfatma at 10:10 AM on April 7, 2004


I guess that some guy from Pr0n Marketing maybe went to visit some friend of Mr.Ashcroft and maybe said..

"Hey man, all this pr0n left and right on the net is ruining our business ! People is becoming smart , they no longer pay for it dammit ! Are we supposed to go back to farming ? My head is spinning !"

And Mr.Ashcroft maybe said

"Indeed. I have bills to pay as well, plus a sizable part of my voting base is so scared of porn...wait a minute ! I'll tell you. I'll start a "war against porn" which will buy me some good votes..the bill is on the taxpayer as usual. Rather then banning pr0n entirely I'll push it underground, make it more taboo and less easily accessible if you don't pay somehow. I guess the guys at RIAA and MPAA want p2p and internet dead as well, we could bring them in."

"Hey but don't push too much we don't want to be demonized"

"Don't worry, the terrorist scare is the mother of all scares, I'll not play that card on you, rather I'll not forbid the production of pr0n, just make it "adult only" ..then you find a way to make it leak for extra money."

"Sounds goods. You rule !"

"Shut up ! We're supposed to hate each other !"

on preview: eas98: italy too religious ? Nah the fact that we got the Pope doesn't mean italians care about what he's saying. Indeed much of our TV is full of sexual innuendos that would cause apopletycs fits in any contemporary U.S. viewer (used to "polished" U.S. Tv)
posted by elpapacito at 10:14 AM on April 7, 2004


This seems like a good place to pass along the following image of John Ashcroft by Ethan Persoff. Courtesy Mack White's site.

Pass it on, as they say.

REGIME CHANGE IN 2004, whoop whoop.
posted by Peter H at 10:52 AM on April 7, 2004


Which countries in the world are the biggest consumers of porn? Why, the most sexually repressive, of course, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait!"

I've got to go with Crash and yerfatma about wanting some sources. Especially for the Saudi Arabia claim. Unless the royal family is buying an assload of porn, I don't see how that would be possible (considering you'd have to smuggle it in. Which I know the US military does to a fairly great extent, but that wouldn't really count towards the porn consumption of the repressive country, would it?)
posted by Cyrano at 11:14 AM on April 7, 2004


It's the new American Taliban's "War on Having Fun!" Coming soon will be the dismantling of all night clubs, casinos, liquor stores and soda bottle companies (there might be caffiene there - think of the children!). Soon aftwards, all non-religious self expression will be banned followed quickly by a global ban on Joy.
posted by Fantt at 12:10 PM on April 7, 2004


jonmc: The above statement is ridiculous except for one part.

Tell me about it. Sounds like the other goons in Congress who want to stop P2P not necessarily because of copyright infrginment, but because it give kids porn, viruses, and somehow aids terrorists.

I think we've reached the point where Bush knows he's a one termer so they're going to do as much damage as possible, be it international relations or domestic business. They're cashing out.
posted by skallas at 12:16 PM on April 7, 2004


Here's my favorite evidence that Utah likes to consume that which it detests.

It's a screenshot I took of amazon.com in 2000, when Utah was the biggest buyer of the new Orgazmo DVD.
posted by mathowie at 12:22 PM on April 7, 2004


Ashcroft, a religious man who does not drink alcohol or caffeine, smoke, gamble or dance, and has fought unrelenting criticism that he has trod roughshod on civil liberties in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, is taking on the porn industry at a time when many experts say Americans are wary about government intrusion into their lives.

Strangely enough, the Bible (the Book(s) on which Ashcroft claims to base his life) depicts King David dancing, and Jesus turning water into wine for a wedding... you don't really think he was the designated driver, do you? In fact at one point Jesus referred to himself as being called "a glutton and a drunkard."

This being the case, I'm not sure whether he spends too much time with the Bible, or too little.

Darn straight Americans are wary about government intrusion into their lives. Show me some evidence this isn't the kind of guy who would close an art museum for showing Greco-Roman sculptures of boobies, then push to arrest any parent that took their kid to that museum.
posted by ilsa at 12:34 PM on April 7, 2004


This article bugs me in that it never defines porn. What is porn? The author (and Ashcroft as well, it seems) leaves that question open to interpretation. How are we supposed to fight an enemy we haven't defined? Oh, but maybe I'm asking too much from an administration already at war with "terror."
posted by squirrel at 12:50 PM on April 7, 2004


jonmc: The above statement is ridiculous except for one part.

The entire statement is ridiculous to a degree, it was a humorous exaggeration to make a point. Just making a point, that although porn is used by people who do have regular sex, there it functions as seasoning or an occasional escape into fantasy. For people outside of the sexual arena (for a variety of reasons, unattractiveness, shyness, age, hang-ups), it's the meal, and that's the people who make the porn business the most money. And no matter what the socio-political/cultural climate may be, there's gonna be a large portion of the aforemnetioned people out there.
posted by jonmc at 12:50 PM on April 7, 2004


This article bugs me in that it never defines porn. What is porn?

Porn is love, squirrel. Just the sort you watch other people having!
posted by Peter H at 12:56 PM on April 7, 2004


or re-enacting.
posted by Peter H at 12:57 PM on April 7, 2004


you don't really think he was the designated driver, do you?

I'm going to go out on a limb and say He didn't drive home. Maybe they had a Designated Ass back then. And I do so love how Defending Us from Porn involves stopping those wicked P2P programs that get on your computer and bring porn to you unasked. Kiddie porn, mostly.
posted by yerfatma at 1:04 PM on April 7, 2004


Matt, Orgazmo is very popular in Utah because it is a rather over the top farce involving Mormon missionaries. If you've seen the movie, you'll know there's no content within which you would find even remotely erotic. Its a movie about Mormons and the porn industry which has no nudity and not much sex.

My Mormon friends here love any pop culture reference to their religion and culture, even when it makes fun of them. I can't tell you how many times I received the South Park "The Mormons were right" clip in my email.

So your screenshot is a reflection of Mormon culture and how it can sometimes be self-deprecating but its not indicative of Utah's lust for porn.

Now Utah does have a very strong desire for porn. My Mormon friends seem (I don't know what demons lurk on their hard drives) to be good abstainers, but my jack Mormon friends consume it like its going out of style. The Jacks (which I've known) have also become raging alchoholics, after leaving the church. Considering Jack Mormons and closet-Jacks are near majority status where I live, thats a lot of porn and booze being sold.
posted by pandaharma at 1:12 PM on April 7, 2004


Yeah, I'm almost with eas98 on this...the religous right has just got too much power for this libertarian to be comfortable with it. I shudder at the thought of living in a culture where my son or husband could be prosecuted for buying a Playboy, or gods forbid having my child taken away because I've taken him to see a classical scupture exhibit. You know, like the one Ashcroft had put in a burka?

I used to think that this regime was taking notes from Orwell...but I think Ashcroft may be whacking off to the whole idea of The Handmaid's Tale.
posted by dejah420 at 1:27 PM on April 7, 2004


Be kind of ironic if Ashcroft got prostate cancer......
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:05 PM on April 7, 2004


Try to get him to go after spammers instead through the back door

Oh, come on.. The man doesn't even dance! Like he'd ever go for that wily maneuver!
posted by Old Man Wilson at 3:05 PM on April 7, 2004


Sadly you can't discuss anything on BoingBoing so I've often thought of re-posting things here just for the discussion.
posted by jeblis at 5:02 PM on April 7, 2004


Living in the city that has the most 'adult' businesses per capita in the US, porn is a fact of life here due to it being constitutionally protected from directed zoning requirements.

In fact, the owner of the most successful chain in opening a controversial new store in the suburbs showed the demographic data of his customers. The vast majority were in the very safe, very conservative neighborhood he was building in.

With 'community standards' as the benchmark for prosecution, the DoJ faces a difficult chore in getting guilty verdicts.
posted by karmaville at 9:28 PM on April 7, 2004


John Ashcroft porn mosaic (NSFW.)
posted by homunculus at 3:58 PM on April 8, 2004


Volokh has some predictions.
posted by homunculus at 8:40 PM on April 8, 2004


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