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Gonzales' Strange Priorities

by TChris

Why is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales making the FBI's new "anti-obscenity squad" a top priority?

The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

The war on corporate crime must also have ended in victory. Is there nothing left to vex the Justice Department but dirty movies?

Porn prosecutions will be difficult to bring nationally. Obscenity is measured by "contemporary community standards," a test that makes little sense in the age of the internet. Naughty pictures may be viewed as tame in San Francisco but scandalous in Topeka, yet they're originating from the same server. And a good bit of porn is made in the valleys near Los Angeles where community standards are more forgiving than they are in the Bible Belt.

Obscenity (as opposed to child porn) prosecutions have fallen into disfavor as more and more households partake of titillating movies that are easily accessible via satellite tv and video stores. Jurors in some jurisdictions may still be unwilling to admit they've viewed porn, but in much of the country jurors think that your personal viewing pleasure is your own business, not the government's.

Obscenity prosecutions also run into constitutional barriers as courts become more willing to conclude that what consenting adults do (or look at, or photograph) in the privacy of their own homes (or studios) is protected conduct. Is crowding the courts with difficult constitutional questions the best use of the Justice Department's resources?

The Bush administration usually dances to the tune of corporate supporters, but porn is big (and legitimate) business.

Explicit sexual entertainment is a profit center for companies including General Motors Corp. and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (the two major owners of DirecTV), Time Warner Inc. and the Sheraton, Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt hotel chains.

Will Gonzales take on Rupert Murdoch for distributing obscene materials? Not likely.

Gonzales surely knows that obscenity prosecutions are a waste of time. Could he be pandering to religious extremists, hoping they'll view him as a favorable Supreme Court nominee?

(As a tangentially related aside, this article explains why naughty words are here to stay. Don't tell Alberto. He might set up an anti-cursing squad.)

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  • Re: Gonzales' Strange Priorities (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:04 PM EST
    Must be that Ed Meese is back. He brought in SC nominee Roberts and is working with Rove to clean up NO. He is the porn king. because no one has pored over as much porn as him, ever.

    Re: Gonzales' Strange Priorities (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:04 PM EST
    simply put, it's easier, and makes better headlines, to arrest someone on obscenity charges, that are usually never seen or heard from again, than it is to do the hard work that anti-terrorism entails. or white collar corporate crime, for that matter. just arrest someone for renting "the tin drum" and there ya go, you're on the front page! the media morons will jump on it like a fly on stink. hmmmm, come to think of it, there is more than a vague resemblance.........

    Re: Gonzales' Strange Priorities (none / 0) (#3)
    by Al on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:05 PM EST
    Well, those agents will have to watch all those horrible movies, won't they? I mean, how will they know if it's porn otherwise? I can just imagine those FBI agents slobbering all over their popcorn while J. Edgar Hoover smiles approvingly from on high.

    Re: Gonzales' Strange Priorities (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:05 PM EST
    The FBI is making a virtue of necessity. They can't stop agents from downloading it, so they might as well get paid doing it.

    Re: Gonzales' Strange Priorities (none / 0) (#6)
    by Steven Sanderson on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:05 PM EST
    Such irony: Abu Gonzales, promoter of torture and eviscerator of the Geneva Convention(s), is suddenly concerned about obscenity. Will he prosecute those responsible for the televised obscenity called "Shock and Awe" in which thousands of innocents were vaporized or any of the mediawhores openly plying their trade on behalf of the Bush administration? From what I can see, the real purveyors of filth are those who willingly desecrate out Constitution and it's Bill of Rights.

    Re: Gonzales' Strange Priorities (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:05 PM EST
    What is more obscene than war? I say make some admin. officials the first anti-obscenity prosecutions. Judging by how much porn is produced and purchased in this country, this is akin to banning apple pie. Our govt. is nuts.

    Re: Gonzales' Strange Priorities (none / 0) (#8)
    by Pete Guither on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:05 PM EST
    There has been some major grumbling from aspects of the extreme social conservative right that they were promised a porn crackdown and haven't gotten it yet. I doubt that even Gonzales is thrilled about this. The courts still support the 1st amendment, and he's going to have a tough time getting porn convictions. But it's a political move to be able to claim to the social conservatives "See, we tried."

    Re: Gonzales' Strange Priorities (none / 0) (#9)
    by The Heretik on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:05 PM EST
    Re: Gonzales' Strange Priorities (none / 0) (#10)
    by jen on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:05 PM EST
    What is more obscene than war?
    Blaming the poor for their poverty? Allowing children to go hungry lest their single mothers gain one penny they didn't earn? Allowing a prosecuter to try a 15 year old as an adult for something they did while antidepressants at the age of 12?

    Re: Gonzales' Strange Priorities (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:05 PM EST
    This sounds like a job for agent Mulder!

    Re: Gonzales' Strange Priorities (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:05 PM EST
    Back in Aug of 2001 wasn't the FBI more concerned about prostitutes in New Orleans than the security of our nation? Please tell me history is not about to repeat itself.

    Re: Gonzales' Strange Priorities (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:05 PM EST
    Justice Dept. List of WMD's 1) Blown Glass Bongs 2) "Amatuer Housewives # 16" 3) Rap Videos 4) Howard Stern 5) Birth Control Nuclear warheads didn't crack the top ten.