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11.12.2005

 

Memo from a First Amendment-loving Prude

It's not very often that I disagree with Jeff Jarvis. Today, I do. He dismissed an expert's testimony on pornography because she was "prude" from Utah. I'm offended, and not just because I could be classified in the same category.

Jill Manning, a sociology professor at BYU, testified before Congress this week that pornography is addictive. That makes her a prude. Forget that she's a tenured professor citing scientific research--BYU's not a party school.

Look, pornography's addictive. And just like addiction to alcohol or drugs or gambling or sex, addiction to porn makes people selfish, deluded and myopic. So what? Pornography may not present the same public health risk as drugs and alcohol, but it can have a devastating effect on relationships. I know of marriages that were ruined and families that were torn apart because of it.

I respect and admire Jeff's passion for freedom and the First Amendment. I'm going to go out on a pretty strong limb and guess that he's afraid that Congress is going to try use these hearings to limit speech. Here we agree; that would be a bad idea.

But the current situation is untenable. I don't want to see pornography. I want to protect my children from it. I want to vote with my feet. I can easily avoid movies and television shows and magazines that show nudity and portray sex. But it's not as easy with the Internet. How can I make an informed choice if I don't know what I'm getting before I click through?

The Web needs a rating system. Spare me the arguments about feasibility and censorship. We have the technology. Search engines have indexed just about all the content out there. Google already has an algorithm for safe search. I don't think Google or anyone else should decide for me or anyone else what's indecent. But I want to have the tools to decide for myself. There's a way to make a fair, open source, libertarian rating system. But is there a will?

Comments:
Amen Brother!
 
I agree. Not only is Pornography addictive, but historically is not protected under the first ammendment. This is the third type of speech that isn't protected (the other two being libel and slander). People tend to forget that.
 
hmm, didn't Larry Flint, the Hustler dude, win some court case a while back that made him a poster child for the First Amendment?
 
Hadn't thought about that. I was just thinking about my freshman political science class. I think that those rules apply to public forms of free speech like radio, television etc. The fact that pornography is treated much the same as alcohol of tobacco (you must be over 18 to purchase it), is a good indicator that it's not considered to be completely free speech. A lot of it also has to do with what the public will accept.
 
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