Jewish World Review Feb. 18, 2005 / 9 Adar I, 5765

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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For censorship |
There was a time, dear readers, when I seriously considered closing my e-mail account. Though I love your e-mails, there is a limit to the number of Viagra offers, horny housewives and penis enlargers that one can cheerlessly delete before going into complete meltdown.

Thankfully, I have found a program that helps to keep the wolves from the Internet door — temporarily. The vermin will inevitably design new ways to get around the blocking technology, and the cycle will continue.

One feels a bit like Mr. Dursley in the first Harry Potter book, attempting to keep Harry's letters from infiltrating his house. When he blocked the mail chute, they flew in through the windows. When he nailed the windows shut, they shot down the chimney.

Pornography, and its close cousin, sexual obsession, has infected more than our computers. In hard and soft versions, it is simply inescapable in modern America. Even our historians are not immune. Pick up the morning paper and read that Lincoln was gay. He's the just the latest. They're already said it about Eleanor Roosevelt, Alexander Hamilton, Emily Dickenson, Alexander the Great, and the Biblical David and Jonathan.

The penguins at the Bremerhaven zoo in Germany are into same-sex frolics, reports The Associated Press. And efforts to get them to mate with females led to protests from German gay-rights groups. Good grief.

Look, we don't need to be told that some of our heroes were gay in order to be convinced that homosexuals can be fine people. We already know that. But we resent this rooting around in the letters of the dead looking for terms of endearment to people of the same sex. It's tawdry, unfair and unseemly.

We know that Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest geniuses in human history, was almost certainly homosexual. That is also the least interesting fact about him. And times change. The loving words men used with one another in the 19th century are out of style today.

Besides, one hears the unmistakable sound of an ax grinding when all of these figures are declared gay. It sounds less like scholarship than advocacy.

But I digress. I was on the subject of pornography — the heterosexual kind. A federal judge in Pennsylvania has declared that federal obscenity laws are unconstitutional. Judge Gary Lancaster ruled that "public morality is not a legitimate state interest sufficient to justify infringing on adult, private, consensual sexual conduct, even if that conduct is deemed offensive to the general public's sense of morality."

The judge did not rely on First Amendment jurisprudence, but rather on the Supreme Court's recent Lawrence vs. Texas (the sodomy case) to rule that the Constitution guarantees a "right to sexual privacy, which encompasses a right to possess and view sexually explicit material in the privacy of one's own home."

And what material! Extreme Associates, the defendants in the case, did not produce garden-variety porn. No, as Lizzie Borden (her professional name), owner and "actress" acknowledged, Extreme Associates films actual beatings of women. Favorite plot topics are gang rape, torture and murder.

In short, as their promotional material boasts, they plumb "the depths of human depravity."

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Judge Lancaster is at least clear (if out of sync with the law, which has always excluded the sale and distribution of obscenity from constitutional protection). Public morality is obsolete. Freedom to indulge one's twisted delight in watching gang rapes or slow torture is absolute.

This is unsurprising, considering the tenor of the times, but nonetheless disturbing. Opponents of pornography and obscenity often couch their objections with the disclaimer: I'm not for censorship, but ...

Well, I'm for censorship. Community standards (remember those?) should determine what is obscenity and what is not. The First Amendment was never written for the likes of Extreme Associates and will survive very well, thank you, even if they do not.

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