Monday, April 18, 2011

Sex Wars (The Beltway Edition): AGUS Holder Whacks Out DoJ Obscenity Task Force; Wingnutters In Congress ERUPT: "Not So Fast, Hombres!!!"

In the midst of all the drama over the Condom Mandate, the Great Porn HIV Scare(s) and .XXX, this breaking story may have slipped under the radar....but it could have almost as big an impact as the other issues.

A major political firestorm is beginning to brew in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill over the degree of priority of whether Federal resources should be used to continue the longstanding "war on pornography" that has been ongoing since the Meese Commission released their cooked-up findings in 1987. Since the Bush era, the US Justice Department has been using its Obscenity Task Force as the main tool for prosecuting and persecuting sexually oriented businesses and performers alike through the court system.

Well....make that was rather than "has been", because current Attorney General Eric Holder just last week decided that it was time to shut down the DoD/OTF for good, both as part of the broader goal of reducing the deficit and shifting resources to more fundamentally pressing issues and concerns.

Quoting from (full article):

The recent move by Attorney General Eric Holder to shut down the Justice Department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force set up during the Bush administration is causing conservatives in Congress to come out swinging.

According to reports, right-wing activists and anti-porn supporters in government led by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch are claiming that Holder and the Obama administration are soft on porn and are calling for a new crackdown on hardcore material.

The Obama team stopped any new obscenity prosecutions when it took over but allowed ongoing cases to continue even though the task force was officially but quietly disbanded earlier this year.

The final blow for dissolving the unit likely came after last July’s trial of John Stagliano when he was acquitted on all obscenity charges for lack of evidence. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon told the Washington Post at that time, “I hope the government will learn a lesson from its experience.”

Problem is...using the DoD to whack porn out of existence has ample support amongst politicians, especially of the Republican/Tea Party/Religious Right variety...and they aren't taking this news lying back.

But the dissolution of the DOJ's porn police is causing a stir on Capitol Hill.

Hatch's resurrected fight against adult began earlier this month when he and 41 other senators — that included some democrats —  sent a letter to Holder pushing for criminal cases against “all major distributors of adult obscenity.”

Hatch told Politico in a statement, “Rather than initiate a single new case since President Obama took office, however, the only development in this area has been the dismantling of the task force. As the toxic waste of obscenity continues to spread and harm everyone it touches, it appears the Obama administration is giving up without a fight.

“We write to urge the Department of Justice vigorously to enforce federal obscenity laws against major commercial distributors of hardcore adult pornography. We know more than ever how illegal adult obscenity contributes to violence against women, addiction, harm to children, and sex trafficking. This material harms individuals, families and communities and the problems are only getting worse.”

To be sure, the AG office is NOT saying that they won't pursue antiporn cases...they would simply transfer administration of them to a different division:

But despite the knocks against its effectiveness, the government said it is not giving up the fight against porn but instead wants local U.S. attorneys and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Criminal Division to handle porn cases.

Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said that the decision to discontinue the task force was made by the department’s Criminal Division, which is headed by Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

 “Re-incorporating the prosecution of obscenity violations into the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, as opposed to having a separate task force, provides for increased collaboration among experienced attorneys and agents, and gives our prosecutors the most solid foundation possible for pursuing their mission,” Sweeney said.

And the Justice Department didn't take Hatch’s letter lying down. In a response it said it “has charged violations of the federal obscenity laws over 150 times since October 2008, and has recently secured guilty pleas from defendants in several cases involving adult obscenity.”

The Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section took over obscenity cases in January but has a carryover pending case against producer Ira Isaacs scheduled for May 17 in Los Angeles. But the Feds said the unit's greater priority is now focusing on the exploitation of children, child porn and obscene depictions of child rape.
In other words, get out of the business of prosecuting adults for producing and consuming adult porn, and stick to the business of prosecuting child porn and exploitation. Sounds reasonable to me, though one could question the notion of how hyperaggressive the child porn laws will be enforced.

But again, the Right wouldn't be the Right without the doctrine of getting into the uteruses and penises of everyone else who don't think like them, and defunding and punishing anyone who dares to question their intervention (see Parenthood, Planned)...and former OTF prosecutor/well known Porn Policeman Pat Trueman gives the game away as to the true motives of antiporn activists:

However, Morality in Media’s Patrick Trueman — a former obscenity prosecutor — disputes the DOJ’s claim of 150 recent obscenity prosecutions and said no adult obscenity prosecutions have been initiated under Obama.

“In various administrations — not just this one — DOJ has tried to sell the notion that it has a vigorous enforcement of obscenity laws underway.  A look at the cases, however, reveals that what are counted as ‘obscenity cases’ are in fact child pornography cases where the defendant is allowed to plead down to an obscenity charge. … To suggest that such cases are adult porn cases is just wrong,” Trueman said.
 And yes, Clones, that would be the same Pat Trueman who hosted that classic Pornography Harms seminar last year on Capitol Hill. the one featuring such antiporn lynchpins as The Ex-Slut Ministeress Lubben and Gail Dines.

Also, that's the same Pat Trueman who just last month sent a form letter to Congressmen and Senators urging them to sign up to his latest campaign blasting the Obama Administration for not beefing up antiporn activism and cracking down hard with more prosecutions. Although their media lists "over 100" legislators as signees to the letter, only 42 actual signatures are shown in their petition; mostly the usual Religious Right/GOTP figures and the typical right-wing Democrats like Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor, Joe Lieberman...however, a couple of head-turning Democats did sign as well: Senators Amy Kloubohar (MN) and Diane Feinstein (CA).

Interestingly enough, some of the signees are attempting to crawfish their way back from this attempt at adult speech censorship...particularly DiFi:

One of the signers of Hatch’s letter was [D]emocratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California whose constituents make up the bulk of adult production in the country.

In response to Feinstein’s surprising support of Hatch, Duke told Politico, “I have a feeling she’s going to be getting a lot of letters from our area. It’s political season and we’re an easy dog to kick, but Dianne Feinstein needs to understand that a good portion of the economy in California comes from our industry, and we pay taxes and we’re voting members of the community.”

When asked about her interest in the obscenity issue, a spokesman for Feinstein pointed to her support for several measures targeting child porn in recent years.
Actually, it's not so surprising to me, since DiFi has been trending more Rightward for years, and her current husband is the founding editor of Newsweek, which is also tacking hard Right as well.

The real issue here, once you cut through the BS, is that what Hatch and the Right are ticked at is that one weapon in their arsenal to regulate adult behavior and wipe out sex they don't like has been liquidated..and they just can't stand that. Oh, and also, one more brick to be launched against the Dems and President Hussein Obama of Kenya/Sharia/Moscow as "anti-Christian" and "anti-American", too. And...a nice way of squeezing folk for funding, too.

Focusing on abuse of children and prosecuting child porn might still allow for more obtuse attempts to silence more legal adult material under current child exploitation and "trafficking" laws (and keep in mind the current case involving Lupe Fuentes allegedly hiring underage girls to shoot vids; as well as the current brohaha involving Reality Kings and the lawsuit against them by the mom of the alleged 16-year old they shot videos with); but it would preclude the kind of hyperactive prosecution of adult that Trueman, Dines, Lubben, and others would prefer.

Either way, this could get pretty nasty soon. As always, we'll keep you informed with updates as needed.


  1. I think there's less here than meets the eye. Bill Clinton dissolved the DOJ anti-obscenity unit assembled under previous Republican administrations when he took office.

    The G.O.P. has actual voters who give rat's ass about adult obscenity prosecution. The Dems, by and large, don't have such voters. Federal obscenity prosecutions cost about four million bucks each on average and, as the Stagliano case demonstrates, don't necessarily end in victory for the government. In a time when money is short for even the most vital public services, not to mention for the public itself, frivolous moral crusades are luxury items that even those who would like to undertake them recognize as a hard sell for both politicians and the electorate.

    On the other hand, though Dems may be dubious of criminal proceedings with First Amendment implications, they tend to be regulation-friendly and that's one reason why I've been so outspoken regarding the attempt to legislate mandatory condom use in porn. Beyond the uselessness and absurdity of the idea on its own merits (or lack thereof), it's ultimately a tool to control content that works around constitutional protections by pretending to be about something other than hammering porn, which it very much is.

    I wouldn't expect any support at all from this administration, traditional free speech constituencies and organizations or much of anyone else in challenging the prohibition-by-regulation approach currently being jammed down all our throats.

    In part because short-sighted porn biz bosses didn't understand the threat posed by enemies on the left like Gail Dines and Bob Jensen, they lost support from liberal pundits like Chris Hedges, Don Hazen and Bob Herbert, who are sympathetically disposed toward arguments, however specious, based on "protecting" performers and opposing "sexual exploitation."

    Porn never had many friends in the political world and it's let the few it had be peeled away over time by a flanking move from the left.

    I warned long before the election that anyone hoping for an easier time of it in the world of porn under Obama would be disappointed.

    Instead of putting us in jail one at a time, the anti-porn contingent in the new crowd would rather just put us all out of business at once through regulatory processes.

    They'll fail, of course, because porn has always been here and always will be, but they can make the conditions under which it's made restrictive enough to essentially drive it underground, guaranteeing the abuses its detractors have falsely trumpeted become real and widespread.

  2. If the aboliton of the Obscenity Unit holds up, then President Obama deserves credit for doing something good that he didn't even promise to do, and that some of us thought he wouldn't do, due to his appointment of Cass Sunstein.

    At least he's not behind the Clinton curve on this matter.