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Bush Backlash on Porn

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Nov 3, 2003 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – It's no surprise that President George Bush has been accused of having a Christian fundamentalist bent to his politics. But last week's "Protection from Pornography Week" was right in step with what many Bush critics have been calling a concerted effort on the part of his administration and Attorney General Ashcroft to rid the world of pornography, regardless of that little old thing called the First Amendment.

The recent backlash against Bush's strongly scented moral politics came last week on the heels of a declaration by the White House that the week of Oct.26-Nov.1 was officially deemed a porn-free zone for the American people.

"Pornography can have debilitating effects on communities, marriages, families, and children," President Bush said in a statement from the White House. "During Protection From Pornography Week, we commit to take steps to confront the dangers of pornography."

Many critics of the administration say that Bush and his aides are once again on the warpath to crack down on manufacturers of pornography by enforcing federal obscenity laws, which could soon spur a witch-hunt if not monitored carefully.

"We challenge Bush to find one shred of reliable scientific evidence that directly links pornography to "debilitating effects" on marriages, families or communities," stated the Oregon Daily Emerald. "Say, for instance, a higher propensity for broken marriages, or that pornography directly leads to worse communities, a higher crime rate or more unemployment. We're guessing he won't find it. But then again, evidence isn't something much needed when morality is the driving policy."

Just last month, the Department of Justice brought about the nation's first obscenity case in ten years against two Texas pornographers, and two adult entertainment producers from the San Fernando Valley were arrested for producing and distributing adult movies considered "obscene" by federal standards.

Some critics say that the Bush administration is first cracking down on the most extreme pornographic material so that it can build a record of obscenity prosecutions, along with public approval, and over time the definition of "obscenity" will gradually become more and more expansive.

In his statement, Bush called on public officials, law enforcement officers, and the American people to confront the "dangers of pornography." Although how the White House intended to actualize that effort and what precisely they were targeting remained vague.

Bush's broad-sweeping stance also blurred the lines between child pornography, which very few people will rightly defend, and pornography content provided for and by consenting adults.

The president outlined some of the efforts his administration has made in recent years and months to obliterate child pornography and aspects of the hardcore adult industry, including a Congressional amendment on federal obscenity laws to include the Internet, the Department of Homeland Security's launch of "Operation Predator," and the enactment of the PROTECT Act of 2003 which strengthens child pornography laws, establishes the Federal Government's role in the AMBER Alert System, and increases punishment for the distribution of child pornography.

"We find it hard to believe that the '70s classic "Debbie Does Dallas" is going to break up any marriages or terrorize any communities," stated the Oregon Daily Emerald. "Sure, we acknowledge that children can be harmed by porn exploitation and that curbing child pornography is a noble and legitimate goal for the federal government. Declaring a day to protest all pornography and creating a misleading link between exploiting children and catching the newest "Girls Gone Wild On Campus" on widescreen, however, is not."

The push for the government to take a firmer stance against pornography was helmed by a non-profit organization called Morality in Media.

Morality in Media assembled 120 signatures in a letter to the president that included national, state, and local leaders who all agreed "hardcore pornography harms individuals of all ages and undermines the right of every American to live in a safe and decent society."

Morality in Media feels that the Clinton administration was far too lax in enforcing federal obscenity laws against hardcore porn and that Bush has simply not done enough during his presidential term to curb the onslaught of pornography.

Morality in Media began its anti-porn war cry in 1987 with the White Ribbon Against Pornography campaign and outreach programs with state governors.

"Bush's rhetoric toward all pornography hurts the administration's successful efforts to rid the United States of child pornography," the Emerald continued. "The subtle comparison Bush draws between child pornography and other pornography is, truthfully, insulting to those who lawfully use porn in the inviolate privacy of their own homes."

A recently formed coalition of family groups is also taking the anti-porn stage by demanding that Congress step-up its efforts to arrest distributors of illegal pornography.

The coalition is calling for a resolution that would give the Justice Department a boost in its pursuit of pornographers, although once again the term is used generally and does not in any way focus specifically on child pornographers.

"What we want is to have Congress go on record to say: 'the laws on obscenity are still on the books.' The Supreme Court has upheld those laws, and if Attorney General John Ashcroft will begin to prosecute vigorously those who are violating federal obscenity laws, Congress is backing him up,'" said a representative for Morality in Media.

This so-called resolution was introduced by Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and already has about 40 sponsors in the House. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is preparing to introduce a similar measure in the Senate.

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