Shaking Off The Fleas

Stephen Yagielowicz
Our industry is at a cross-roads and facing a moment of truth and maturity: A reckoning can be avoided if we can immediately and forcefully take actions to police ourselves and our practices. If we can, then it's profits for the players. If we can't, then it's going to be the end of a long and fun ride for us all...

While many of my readers don't find too many correlations between politics and porn, others do; and some of them might have noticed a recent combination of events that, if we behave ourselves, signals a reprieve from what might otherwise be our collective doom. The first event is the replacement of John Ashcroft with a new Attorney General. While Ashcroft's replacement was predicted before the election, the appointment of a moderate and socially progressive Attorney General will have a calming effect on the perceived zealotry of certain department heads.

With a close election behind him, and no favors to court from either side, Bush is now free to focus on the truly important issues facing us internationally, with "improving the economy" being the primary focus of his domestic agenda - a domestic agenda that does not need to be clouded by taking the porn from the people, or other potentially unpopular policy distractions.

But back to Bush's international agenda. The War On Terror encountered a new wrinkle this week with the death of Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat. Arafat, seen as a freedom fighter by some, and a terrorist by others, was a major obstacle in the mid-east peace process - a process which is responsible in large part for much of what we see as terrorism today. The short course for those who don't follow such matters is that "Everyone except America hates Israel, and since America likes Israel, everyone hates us too..." Sure, it's more complicated than that, but not much more...

What this means is that if a new Palestinian leadership can see beyond old wounds and is likewise met with a new spirit of cooperation from Israel to the point where many of the problems between these peoples can be resolved, then many of the root causes of modern day terrorism will be mitigated, opening doors for US diplomacy - especially in the middle east - that will provide a window of opportunity not seen since the inception of the Jewish state right after World War II, and could result in much needed regional support in the War On Terror.

In case you're not following all of this, let me make it simple: the government has much better things to do right now than baby sit us - but like a good parent fed up with unruly children who can't behave themselves, will be there to give us a hard spanking unless we settle down.

Inevitable Accountability
One of the primary functions of a modern day government is the development and enforcement of legislation designed to curb the excesses of industry. Sometimes this involves ensuring that baby crib manufacturers don't use lead-based paints on their products, or that chemical companies clean up their toxic waste. Other times, it involves requiring that producers, marketers, and publishers of sexually explicit materials be able to identify the age and legality of the models they are portraying, and to make at least a "good faith effort" to prevent a minor's access to these materials.

All of this is reasonable and prudent to the vast majority of folks, yet some with an "anything goes" mentality feel that such a basic level of accountability for their actions somehow poses an Orwellian threat to their freedoms. I'm sure that some folks at the chemical plant thought the government was out of line when it told them to stop dumping poisons into the creek behind their property, too...

Sorry kids, the fun and games are over, and if you wish to do business, then you need to "do business" - and paperwork and record keeping are a necessary part of doing business. As for the folks in Washington trying to keep you from involving children in porn, that's their job, and it's the right thing to do. If you think that child pornography is acceptable, then you will (hopefully) get what you deserve - and the sooner the better.

Other than the two basic issues of ensuring that minors aren't used in the creation of, or exposed to, pornography, what have you got to worry about from the government? Oh, wait, I missed the fearful cries of how "The government wants to kill porn!"

A Government Conspiracy?
For the past four years, and I'm fairly confident that for the next four years, industry doomsayers have and will bemoan the Bush administration and Attorney General John Ashcroft as being our mortal enemies, and how our freedoms are in danger from these so-called "religious zealots" who "want to put us out of business."

Let me tell you something: It would take (in my estimation) no more than 72 hours from the issuance of an execution order to virtually eliminate the domestic adult industry. All the Department of Justice needs to do is a sudden and widespread series of 2257 inspections - using the current - not a "possibly updated" - 18 USC 2257 statute. If secondary producers were held accountable through amendments to the statue, the online adult industry could collapse literally overnight. Sure, "Hustler" and the small handful of other companies with their documents in order would survive, but for the overwhelming majority of us, it would mean explaining our lawlessness to the judge...

The upshot is that all the DOJ has to do is "want to" stop us, and we're done. They "haven't" because they "don't want to" - especially when the War On Terror has them fully occupied elsewhere.

There are folks in every government who would rather not see us free to publish adult entertainment, or consumers free to enjoy it, but the lessons of prohibition still resonate in the halls of power, and as a democracy, government is obliged to fulfill the will of the people - and since the people want their porn, this means that we can operate, within "limits" - limits that focus on the aforementioned issues of ensuring that minors aren't used in the creation of, or exposed to, pornography.

A Delusional Minority
Still, in face of facts and evidence, a vocal minority still blows trumpets of doom over the future of our industry. Some do it out of what I like to call "Pessimism for Profit" - and while out of "political correctness" I will spare you the details, a recent example of this is a spokesman for an industry trade group who was quoted in a mainstream publication spouting a near hysterical view of the enemies we face. Sure, an audience for his rhetoric will easily be found among many of our peers, but I need to point out that without an enemy, there is no battle, and without a battle to fight, there is little support for the warrior - and no warrior wishes to go hungry - so certain elements who rely on industry contributions to pay their rent have a vested interest in keeping us "afraid" - whether there is legitimate grounds for that fear or not.

But back to the minority of folks who think that "People who believe in God are idiots" and "The Republicans are idiots out to kill porn!" I'm willing to bet that most of the folks with that attitude also believe that in a market filled with free porn that "People who pay for porn are idiots." My point with this is that many folks in this business look down on their customers, seeing them as idiots, and treating them that way. These folks use buried 'cancel' links and hidden cross-sells, deceptive marketing and fraudulent billing practices, all in between rounds of spamming and adding 'Teletubbies' to their META tags in the hopes of landing one more visitor to their site. These consumer abusing folks are the enemies of our industry, not the folks in Washington, and we can do without them. Why? Because the folks in Washington wouldn't be bothering us if it weren't for the thousands of consumers who have been screwed by unscrupulous webmasters complaining to their Congressman that "Something needs to be done about this!" Just because we're pornographers doesn't mean we get to "fuck" everybody...

There's one message I want everyone to take from this article: "Big Brother isn't coming - unless he has to - but it's up to us to determine whether he has to or not." This industry is like a big, dirty dog that's been lying in the dust for too long; it's time to get up, and shake off our fleas. Trust me, a dog without fleas gets petted and fed treats - even if he isn't "loved" - but flea-bitten mutts only get kicked by passersby and chased by the dog catcher, who takes them off to be gassed, fleas and all. Let's not be exterminated just because our flea problem is out of control - better for us to take a nice bath instead... ~ Stephen