opinion

XBIZ Comes Under Attack

Stephen Yagielowicz

Well our good friends at Morality In Media (MIM) are at it again, with a recent email plea from chief muckraker Dawn Hawkins, who asks supporters and the general public to help the group of book burning zealots pressure the Radisson Hotel to cancel its generous hosting of the upcoming XBIZ EU digital media industry trade event.

“Radisson is set to host the XBIZ porn conference in London on September 22-25th,” Hawkins states. “We are outraged that they will provide space to an industry that is based on making a profit from brutalizing women.”

This authoritarian foe of free speech encourages corporate censorship by asking folks to visit a web page where they can then email a form letter filled with misinformation and blatant misrepresentations to the Radisson board, entitled, “Stop Exploiting Women at Your Hotel!” as a way to “show your outrage” over this lawfully conducted commerce.

The form letter’s silly stereotypes seem more at home in a “B” grade exploitation film from the 1950’s then they do in a missive from supposedly educated observers — but the toxic allure of power, payment and pedantry has always drawn petty prohibitionists who love (and live) to point out the splinter in their brother’s eye… The lie filled letter reads:

“Dear Radisson Board Members,

I am writing to protest your hotel hosting the XBIZ porn conference in London on 22-25th September. I am outraged that you would provide space to an industry that is based on making a profit from brutalizing women.

Moreover, pornography puts all women at risk by teaching men that women only have value as sexual objects, are always available as willing participants, and are thus legitimate targets of sexual harassment, abuse and rape.

You are [especially] putting at risk all the female employees who work at your hotel during the XBIZ conference because men who sexually abuse women for profit will be staying in your hotel, eating in your hotel, and will be in close proximity to women employees who work at your hotel so they can feed themselves and their families.

Please take this letter as a warning notice regarding these risks. Should a female employee be the victim of sexual harassment or assault, then your knowledge of these risks will increase your negligence and liability. Should you ignore this letter, our campaign could cause serious damage to your reputation and revenue. Please consider this before you provide a venue to an industry that does serious damage to the health and well-being of women and children.”

I’ll note that not only are the attendees of XBIZ EU there to “feed themselves and their families” (a right that Hawkins would deny them), but that the legitimate adult entertainment industry is not in the business of sexually exploiting anyone — female or otherwise.

On that last point, presumably, the hotel’s male staff will not be at risk from the large contingent of gay porn purveyors and practitioners that will be in attendance at XBIZ EU — or perhaps Hawkins cares little about “protecting” gays?

Furthermore, 2013 does not mark the first time that XBIZ EU has been hosted at the luxurious Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel — surely, had any of the hotel’s staff (female or male) been “the victim of sexual harassment or assault” at any previous XBIZ EU event, this gathering of professionals would no longer be welcome in London.

Clearly the hotel’s real world experiences with the adult entertainment industry have been markedly different than the fantasy land fears proffered by Hawkins to her flock of facile followers.

Hawkins’ misguided efforts bring to mind the hate-filled spinsters depicted by master filmmaker D.W. Griffith in his epic film from 1916, “Intolerance,” as they meddled in the personal lives of others — with pious self-righteousness, and the mistaken belief that they were right, and doing good — oblivious to the damage they caused to those around them. 

In an enlightened society, tolerance for all viewpoints is not to be feared, but Hawkins and company would impose their superstitions and will upon the rest of us — with a level of “casting the first stone” that would make The Spanish Inquisition proud.

One would hope that humanity had learned something from history, but MIM and the Dark Ages thinking they represent remain a danger, ready to drag society into the past — with the sort of self-assured religious indignation usually reserved for the Taliban.

Of course, MIM is not alone in its carnal crusade, as any number of politicians seeking to distract voters from governmental policy failures and the day to day pressing problems of society are happy to jump on the anti-porn bandwagon, despite the feelings of their constituents — feelings which are rarely expressed publicly.

That situation may be changing, however, as a growing public backlash against the EU’s Internet censorship initiatives is seeing an up-swell in outcry by consumers over being told what they can and cannot view in the privacy of their own home, or of having to gain “approval” beforehand.

Calling itself a grassroots movement of people working hard to defend privacy, freedom of expression, consumer rights and creativity, the Open Rights Group (www.openrightsgroup.org) says that adult filtering and Internet monitoring and surveillance will affect everyone. The group recently circulated a petition calling for U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to drop his efforts to switch on adult filtering of Internet content by default.

At XBIZ EU, another grassroots effort, the U.K.-based Sex & Censorship campaign, will hold a public meeting, entitled, “Keep Britain’s Internet Uncensored,” to discuss its opposition to media censorship, and the need to counter moral panic with next-step ideas.

XBIZ EU will also devote its “State of the Industry” panel to the U.K.’s War on Porn, where regulatory architect, ATVOD CEO Pete Johnson, will host a special Q&A, in what will doubtlessly be an intellectually invigorating discussion.

Also on the agenda is a look at a controversial new academic research project, where a representative of the Porn Studies Forum will deliver a presentation revealing details of its peer-reviewed journal “devoted to the study of pornography in its cultural, economic, historical, institutional, legal and social contexts,” and which provides a venue for debate that will guide global stakeholders.

If it all sounds a bit heady, well, it is — with nary any fare to cause even the likes of Ms. Hawkins to blush. Heck, I wish she’d attend. She’d look around the room, talk to a few of the folks, and after realizing “THIS is what all the fuss is about?!!?” would take up knitting or some such instead — or would pursue real sources of trafficking and abuse — such as in the restaurant trade. Either way, it would beat minding other people’s business when it comes to the entertainment, ideas and political thought they seek out, or spread.

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