Piccionelli explained that because vanilla adult entertainment has become harder to prosecute for obscenity, Brownback and his supporters are trying to find other ways to attack it — and one of them is claiming that adult entertainment is addictive.
A Brownback Commission, Piccionelli said, would probably use pseudo-science in order to promote the theory that adult entertainment, like heroin and cocaine, needs to be regulated as a controlled substance.
"Brownback's desire is to manufacture data supporting his thesis that pornography is a substance that should be regulated like drugs because of its physiological effects on human beings — and as a person with a background in molecular biology, I have to tell you that his thesis is about as absurd as it gets," Piccionelli said. "There is nothing about the visual or auditory images of adult entertainment that, in and of themselves, have any kind of addictive, negative effects. But Brownback thinks that if he can convince people that adult entertainment is an addictive substance, he can regulate it as a substance instead of regulating it as speech and having to worry about the 1st Amendment."
Piccionelli continued, "I think that if there was an honest appraisal of the effects of adult entertainment, the adult industry would come out on top. The problem is that if a government commission on the effects of porn is established at the behest of someone like Brownback, it isn't going to be an honest appraisal — it is going to be a witch hunt. But I don't think that the type of commission Brownback wants is going to come about, and one of the reasons is the Democrats."
Brownback, Piccionelli noted, lost a lot of allies in Congress on Nov. 7, when the Democratic Party regained control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Staunch Brownback supporters like Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum (who shares Brownback's total disdain for adult entertainment) were voted out of office — and cumulatively, Nov. 7 was, as President Bush put it, a "thumping" for the GOP.
David Sutton, president of the Las Vegas-based adult film company VCX, said that Brownback's idea for a Meese Commission sequel probably won't get much support from the Democrats who now control both houses of Congress. Sutton was quick to add, however, that the executive branch of the U.S. government is still controlled by a party that is quite sympathetic to Brownback's anti-sex agenda.
"Having the Democrats controlling Congress doesn't mean that the adult industry will be getting a free pass in the next two years," Sutton emphasized. "Even though there will be a Nancy Pelosi-controlled House of Representatives, there are still a lot of executive powers that the president holds — and Bush still has the power to do a lot of damage to the adult industry without having to rely on either the House of Representatives or the Senate to get it done."
Sutton noted that Bush could conceivably ask Gonzales to oversee a Meese Commission sequel if he likes Brownback's idea. But Margold, who testified before the Meese Commission in 1985 and now heads the organization Protecting Adult Welfare, seriously doubts that Brownback will get his way. The Bush administration, Margold stressed, has more detractors than supporters at this point and would lose even more credibility by going along with Brownback's idea.
"The intent of the original Meese Commission was to prove to the world that the X-rated industry was why everything was fucked up," Margold said. "But so many things are fucked up now that the government can't blame everything on us. They can't blame Iraq on us. They can't blame immigration problems on us. They can't blame the rape of the environment on us. The government has so many other things to tend to, and I just don't think anybody would take a Brownback Commission or Gonzales Commission or mini-Meese or whatever you want to call it seriously.
Another Meese Panel?
"But if there is another Meese Commission, I would be glad to testify again, and I'll say many of the same things that I said at the Meese Commission 21 years ago. I'll tell them that in a society that is drug-infested, violence-racked and polluted by chemical greed, no one has ever died of an overdose of pornography. I'll tell them that we are a nation of hypocrites who jerk ourselves off with the left hand and deny the X-rated industry with the right hand."
Walters emphasized that if adult entrepreneurs want to avoid being the targets of anti-erotica crusaders like Brownback in the future, they need to become seriously politicized between now and 2008.
"I honestly believe that the adult industry has the power to sway the next presidential election," Walters said. "The adult Internet industry needs to decide on a candidate, take political action and put political messages on the front of their adult websites. For example, if you like visiting this website and if you want to continue doing so after January 2009, then vote for this person."
Winklebleck asserted that if Brownback continues to push for a new government commission on erotic entertainment, the adult industry must speak out and make sure that it isn't another hatchet job along the lines of the Meese Commission.
"In truly open hearings, where the adult industry's best scientific evidence could be presented, we could win the debate hands down," Winklebleck said. "We won the debate with the 1970 commission and would also have won the debate if the Meese Commission hadn't been so slanted and biased. I think that the adult industry should welcome a commission on the effects of adult entertainment, but only if it is truly scientific and only if we can have some of our best scientific minds there. Science is on our side."