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Jewish World Review / July 22, 1998 / 28 Tamuz, 5758

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

The 'Net sex hoax
... and us

SO IT TURNS OUT THAT www.ourfirsttime.com was a hoax. It was advertised as the first deflowering to be computercast live on the Internet.

According to their web site, two 18-year-old virgins ("churchgoing honor students") wanted "to show that the act of making love ... is ... beautiful and nothing to be ashamed of." On Aug. 4, voyeurs were invited to log on and witness the teenagers consummating their acquaintanceship.

Rush Limbaugh believed it. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., believed it, too, and introduced legislation to keep offensive Internet material off computers in schools and libraries.

Why shouldn't they have believed it? It fit so comfortably with the spirit of the age, when cultural icons are as obscene as they wanna be, when the Jerry Springer Show is watched by a million children every day, when notions of reticence and modesty are utterly alien and when most of the discussion about the president of the United States concerns his extra-marital flings.

Still, this particular tumble toward the decline of Western Civilization turned out to be a massive hoax cooked up by a pornographer named Ken Tipton. As part of the publicity for the site, he included an outraged letter from a minister denouncing OurFirstTime. The letter was a fraud, too, added only to gin up interest. After titillating the public for several weeks, Tipton planned to pull the rug out from under them on sex day by a) charging a $5 dollar admission fee to the site, which had previously been free, and b) showing nothing.

For the purposes of this prank, Tipton was styling himself "Oscar Welles," a reference to Orson Welles, who broadcast the most famous hoax in radio history with "The War of the Worlds" in 1938. According to IEG, the "adult-entertainment" Internet company that was, until it discovered the deception, planning to host the deflowering on its network, Tipton was planning the stunt to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Welles' trick, to get rich and to "get back at" the religious right. The Washington Post reports that Tipton had gone broke in the 1980s battling obscenity charges after selling X-rated videos from his stores in Missouri.

But the resignation with which this bit of degradation was greeted shows just how feeble our outrage reflexes have become. A Scripps-Howard news story about the site, published before the scam unraveled, offered inane comparisons. A Brown University professor of American civilization was quoted as follows: "I think (people are shocked by) all new technologies when they first come. There certainly were fears all about sex on film when the cinema developed. There were huge censorship issues. ... I like to say that the Internet is in about at the same place as radio was in about 1922."

How reassuring. It's just new technology that's upsetting us, don't you see? The Washington Post focused entirely on the scam aspect of the story, leaving readers with the tag line "Trust no one," apparently unaware of the implicit insult this delivers to readers, who are presumed to be interested in logging on.

In none of the stories about the cyber-sex act was there a whisper of disapproval. Why? Because American adults fear nothing more than seeming to be grown-ups. If you object to children listening to music that glorifies violence, degrades girls as bitches and applauds killing police, you stand in the shoes of those who objected to Elvis and the Beatles.

The reasoning, such as it is, amounts to this: standards must always give way because censorship is the greatest risk to human happiness. Marilyn Manson can tear up a Bible at his "anti-Christ" concerts and mutilate himself with a broken wine bottle and the approved adult response is one of mild amusement.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the official organ of overgrown adolescents, even objects to McCain's bill limiting Internet access on school computers. "This is nothing less than Big Brother in the classroom," warned staff attorney Ann Beeson.

It is with guidance like the ACLU's that we have reached the point where we cannot distinguish between obvious pornography and innocent youthful self-expression.

The scam never materialized, but it nevertheless revealed us as chumps.


7/20/98: Disappointed by Cosbys
7/15/98: Feelings, not morality, rule
7/10/98: Guns as the solution?
7/8/98: Teacher preacher
7/6/98: The China behind the headlines
7/1/98: What is the First Amendment for?
6/26/98: The Republican city
6/24/98: Poison pen
6/22/98: Clinton: inventing his own reality?
6/16/98: Senator mom?
6/12/98: Wisconsin: a trail blazer?
6/9/98: These girls say no to sex, yes to excellence
6/5/98: Lewinsky's ex-lawyer would feel right at home as Springer guest
6/2/98: English? Si; Republican? No!
5/29/98: The truth about women and work
5/27/98: Romance in the '90s
5/25/98:Taxing smokers for fun and profit
5/19/98: China's friend in the White House
5/15/98: Look out feminists: here comes the true backlash
5/12/98: The war process?
5/8/98: Where's daddy?
5/5/98: The joys of boys
5/1/98: Republicans move on education reform
4/28/98: Reagan was right
4/24/98: The key to Pol Pot
4/21/98: The patriot's channel
4/19/98: Child-care day can't replace mom
4/15/98: Tax time
4/10/98: Armey states obvious, gets clobbered
4/7/98: A nation complacent?
4/1/98: Bill Clinton's African adventure
3/27/98: Understanding Arkansas
3/24/98: Jerry Springer's America
3/20/98: A small step for persecuted minorities
3/17/98: Skeletons in every closet?
3/13/98: Clinton's idea of a fine judge
3/10/98: Better than nothing?
3/6/98: Of fingernails and freedom
3/3/98: Read JWR! :0)
2/27/98: Dumb and Dumber
2/24/98: Reagan reduced poverty more than Clinton
2/20/98: Rally Round the United Nations?
2/17/98: In Denial
2/13/98: Reconsidering Theism
2/10/98: Waiting for the facts?
2/8/98: Cat got the GOP's tongue?
2/2/98: Does America care about immorality?
1/30/98: How to judge Clinton's denials
1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?
1/23/98: Bill Clinton, Acting Guilty
1/20/98: Arafat and the Holocaust Museum
1/16/98: Child Care or Feminist Agenda?
1/13/98: What We Really Think of Abortion
1/9/98: The Dead Era of Budget Deficits Rises Again?
1/6/98: "Understandable" Murder and Child Custody
1/2/98: Majoring in Sex
12/30/97: The Spirit of Kwanzaa
12/26/97: Food fights (Games children play)
12/23/97: Does Clinton's race panel listen to facts?
12/19/97: Welcome to the Judgeocracy, where the law school elite overrules majority rule
12/16/97: Do America's Jews support Netanyahu?

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.