Iceland will ban porn?

Iceland, a Lutheran country, steps up on an issue hardly anyone else is touching:

The government is considering introducing internet filters, such as those used to block China off form the worldwide web, in order to stop Icelanders downloading or viewing pornography on the internet.

The unprecedented censorship is justified by fears about damaging effects of the internet on children and women.

Ogmundur Jonasson, Iceland’s interior minister, is drafting legislation to stop the access of online pornographic images and videos by young people through computers, games consoles and smartphones.

“We have to be able to discuss a ban on violent pornography, which we all agree has a very harmful effects on young people and can have a clear link to incidences of violent crime,” he said.

Methods under consideration include blocking access to pornographic website addresses and making it illegal to use Icelandic credit cards to access pay-per-view pornography.

A law forbidding the printing and distribution of pornography is already in force in Iceland but it has yet to be updated to cover the internet.

The proposals are expected to become law this year despite a general election in April.

“There is a strong consensus building in Iceland. We have so many experts from educationalists to the police and those who work with children behind this, that this has become much broader than party politics,” Halla Gunnarsdottir, a political adviser to Mr Jonasson told the Daily Mail. .  . .

“Iceland is taking a very progressive approach that no other democratic country has tried,” said Professor Gail Dines, an expert on pornography and speaker at a recent conference at Reykjavik University. “It is looking a pornography from a new position – from the perspective of the harm it does to the women who appear in it and as a violation of their civil rights.”

via Iceland considers pornography ban – Telegraph.

Iceland is a liberal country.  It’s significant that Icelanders are seeing opposition to pornography as a “progressive” stance.  And, indeed, isn’t it?  Individual freedom is not so important as the good of the society; protection of the vulnerable; values more important than laissez faire capitalism?

What about in the United States?  Obscenity laws that have been found not to violate constitutional protections are on the books, but they are not longer enforced.  Should they be?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • tODD

    “Iceland, a Lutheran country…” Really? No “nominally”? I mean, 31% of Icelanders said that “they believe there is a God”. Kiiiinda feels like maybe some qualification is in order here.

    From the Telegraph article:

    “At the moment, we are looking at the best technical ways to achieve this. But surely if we can send a man to the moon, we must be able to tackle porn on the internet.”

    (Psst, no one tell the Icelanders that they haven’t actually sent a man to the moon.) And that argument is just as scientifically valid as this one: surely if we can send a man to the moon, we must be able to cure the common cold. But that’s merely a technical comment; they won’t truly be able to block pornography.

  • Gary

    And just as they can’t stop all porn , they will also end up blocking valid sites.

  • Kempin04

    Why the coldness toward the Icelanders, tODD? Neil Armstrong said the moon landing was a giant leap for mankind, not just the USA. Besides, if they can use Apollo technology to bn porn, I’m all for it. I even predict that it will be successful. (Politically, that is.)

    I’m with you on the lutheranism. I have never heard lutheranism associated with Iceland before. It finally makes sense, though, that the influence for pastor Fisk’s videos has been Bjork all along.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Depends on where you go with obscenity laws. A friend of mine pointed out that he would be very uneasy with the banning of porn in the U.S. because he pointed out that the first amendment which allows porn is the same first amendment that allows his pastor to stand up and preach the gospel, and that if you infringe upon one aspect of the first amendment, it’s not that hard to infringe upon other aspects of it as well.

    If you want to stop porn, people need to be fundamentally changed about it, and frankly that’s the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Banning it does nothing but push it underground. It’s like gun control: there are still people in “gun-free” countries that own illegal guns. You don’t rid a country of something by making it illegal.

  • Snafu

    We have some of those filters in Finland for paedophilia. I understand they catch quite a lot of things EXCEPT what they were told to catch.

  • Pete

    What J. Dean said @4. Speech that is truly free makes for awkward alliances – e.g. purveyors of porn and preachers of the gospel. The author states, “..we all agree..” that porn is harmful. But if it’s being produced and consumed in Iceland then “all” obviously do not agree. It may be opined that surely most right-thinking people recognize porn as harmful to society. The rub comes that, at some point, most right-thinking people might decide that public confession of the Apostles’ Creed is harmful to society. I’m with the pornographers on this one – as long as free speech is truly free and permits me to express my opinion that they are low life and a societal blight.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Of Course Lutheranism is associated with Iceland, It is a Nordic country that has been under the influence of Denmark and Norway for almost all of its existence. (actually the one Lutheran Church in Provo Utah (BYU) was started by Icelanders who woke up early to Brigham Young great little place and they are LCMS) As for Iceland being a Lutheran country today? Yes the people may be atheists, and Lutherans have always been a little lax about forcing people to church, so perhaps many of them haven’t been for a long time. My guess is the state still supports a church that recognizes the BOC. I also bet that the culture is still very much influenced by Lutheranism, much the same way I noticed when traveling in other parts of Scandinavia.

  • Kempin04

    Pete and JDean,

    I think your logic is flawed on this one. I can’t think of a single instance in which a Christian should be “with the pornographers.”(Pete) I understand that if you were in America, say, and not Iceland, you could make the whole “freedom of speech” argument, but that is a constitutional question, not a biblical one. Pornography is forbidden by God. Confessing the truth is commanded by God. Protecting one does not insure the other. If the government cannot ban that which is immoral and destructive, then what purpose does the government serve?

  • Kirk

    See, this (and the post about placing legal obstacles in the way of divorce) is where conservatism gets weird for me. Conservatives malign the government’s efforts to tax in order to raise the poor out of poverty, its efforts to regulate industry to prevent the spread of pollution and illness, its efforts to curb healthcare costs and see to it that its citizens have access to medicine. Yet they see nothing wrong with internet filters that limit free speech in the name of preserving sexual purity, or limiting who may get married in order to protect the nuclear family. Either the government can protect and provide, or it can’t. I don’t understand how one could possibly the government has the ability and authority to make people moral, but not to make them prosperous.

    Kempino @8

    That depends on what you feel the role of government is. If you feel that the USG is an arm of Christianity that is out to enforce the laws of God, then yeah, it should regulate porn. If you feel that its a secular institution that protects the rights of those it governs, both Christian and non-Christian alike, then it should preserve the freedom of speech.

    Pete and JDean are absolutely correct. If you give the government in-roads to prohibit certain kinds of speech, you technically give it the ability to regulate any speech that it finds reprehensible. Today, that might be pornography. Tomorrow, it might be LCMS religious doctrine.

  • Cincinnatus

    First, there is some misunderstanding of the First Amendment going on in here. While Justice Hugo Black used to opine that “no law” literally meant no law limiting speech, the Supreme Court doesn’t and never has accepted his hardline interpretation.

    Thus, pornography is not protected speech. It can be outlawed constitutionally in the United States. However, the Court also said that federal government will not be the one to do the outlawing because pornography must be defined by “community standards” (assuming that what constitutes pornography in Appalachia might be standard fare in Las Vegas, for example).

    Second, while I’m sympathetic to the concern, both in Iceland and in America, banning pornography would be quite literally impossible. It is, currently, impossible to censor the internet effectively without turning it off completely. Not even China remotely succeeds, and they employ many thousands of lackeys whose only job is to police the web. Combine that with the fact that many people want to view pornography and you have a situation that makes Prohibition look easy. Pornography is only a problem that can be solved by eliminating the market for it–which isn’t going to happen via coercive state intervention.

  • Cincinnatus

    Kirk@9:

    Expanding on my first point, while I tend to share your libertarian interpretation of the First Amendment, your fears are a bit simplistic. If there has ever been a case when the government’s longstanding opposition to pornography has stifled legitimate political discourse (the original intention of the First Amendment), I have yet to see it.

  • Joe

    The reason porn laws are problematic in the US is that they can and sometimes do run afoul of the First Amendment which means that you have laws that are enforceable sometimes, in certain circumstances. “Obscenity” can be outlawed but not regular old porn and so you get wonderful pronouncements like this from the Supreme Court:

    I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["obscenity"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.
    —Justice Potter Stewart, concurring in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 .

    The reality is that when you have a legal standard that cannot actually be articulated or applied with any degree of certainty but instead requires a pronouncement from an appellate court or even the Supreme Court of whether the activity is a crime or a valid exercise of a Constitutional right you have lost liberty.

  • Pete

    Dan @8
    I hear you. The whole free speech thing is a tough one – particularly when it comes to certain forms of speech. My mother-in-law and I go round and round on this over a sort of related issue: flag burning. She’s of the opinion that burning the American flag is a despicable act and ought to be illegal. I’m of the opinion that it’s a despicable act and that it (our orientation towards unfettered expression) is precisely what makes America so great – that we are willing to permit people to say things freely.
    So, in terms of your criticism above, I agree that porn is forbidden by God and that confessing the truth is commanded by God. I am not optimistic about the State’s ability to eradicate porn by making it illegal but States have in the past made confessing the truth illegal and could certainly do so in the future. I’m more fearful of that than of having to teach my children that porn is bad.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    Every empirical study of which I’m aware carefully analyzing the impact of porn on men’s view of women, divorce rates, sexual abuse, attitudes toward homosexuality, etc. indicates the devastating impact of pornography on all areas human sexuality and marriages. It is an absolutely plague on modern culture.

    And this is all true quite apart from the horrible consequences for a person’s eternal soul by way of sins against the sixth and ninth commandments.

    Kudos to Iceland

  • Cincinnatus

    Joe@12:

    You’re wrong. Justice Stewart’s infamous pronouncement (which is actually kinda valid if you think about it: what distinguishes a racy, but artistic, film from pornography that ought to be banned?) no longer applies. According to Miller v. California, the government absolutely can ban or regulate pornography. The case provides a test for deciding what constitutes porn: it must be prurient; it must have no artistic, scientific, etc., value; and it must offend community standards. This is why the federal government can’t regulate pornography, but your city council can. Anyway, you’re wrong. Just wanted to point that out.

    But to Paul McCain and other cheerleaders here–have we learned nothing from Prohibition? Yes, pornography is pernicious. Yes, it’s immoral. But good luck controlling the internet.

  • Joe

    Cincy – I have to disagree with you a bit. Even if I were to agree that the main purpose of it was to protect political speech (think it was broader and included religious speech, scientific speech, philosophical speech, etc.) that does not mean it is bounded by whether something is or is not political speech. The best way to protect a category that is a subset of something is to protect the larger category as whole.

  • Cincinnatus

    Joe@16:

    That’s not the statement of yours with which I disagree. I rather side with Justice Black (see above) on the so-called “limits” of the First Amendment.

    But facts are facts. According to the Supreme Court, it is completely constitutional to ban pornography. And many communities try–always unsuccessfully. For the record, it is also constitutional to ban libel, slander, “fighting words,” direct threats, protests (at certain times and places), certain artworks, and so on.

  • Joe

    Cicny – Obscenity is term for what can be banned and the Miller test is nothing more than an attempt create a standard but in reality it leaves you exactly where Stewart was. I can’t tell you what it is but we can look at it later and then i’ll tell you if you are a criminal.

    The test is:

    1. Whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards”, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
    2. Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law, and
    3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

    If it fails all three prongs it can be banned. But again you can’t apply this in any realistic way to give guidance on what is illegal and what is free speech. I am not sure it would be possible to create a standard with more subjective elements in it. Any subjecting speech rights to a standard that is determined by the “contemporary community interests” is entirely the wrong approach for protecting speech. The entire point of free speech is to ensure that unpopular speech is not made illegal.

  • Joe

    Cincy – I think there is the potential for a good conversation here, unfortunately I have to bow out and get some work done. I have leave town this afternoon.

    Perhaps we’ll get the chance to discuss is further at some point.

  • kerner

    You know, I’ve always wondered what it was about pornography that makes it “speech” (and thus protected by the First Amendment)? If speech is communicating, what is being communicated?

    I do not have the same question about flag burning. Our flag, any flag really, communicates certain principles, and burning a flag is an expression of contempt for or rejection of those principles.

    To produce pornography, people are paid to have sex with other people. We have no problem with making it illegal for people to have sex for money in any other context. I mean, not all states actually do, but nobody has suggested that they can’t make it illegal. But because in the case of pornography the same person is paying both people to have sex with each other, and he is miles away having sex with himself, that turns the entire transaction into constitutionally protected speech? I don’t see the logic in that.

  • kerner

    Cin:

    “For the record, it is also constitutional to ban libel, slander, “fighting words,” direct threats, protests (at certain times and places), certain artworks, and so on.”

    Attempts to “ban” all of those kinds of speech are always unsuccessful also, if by “successful” you mean “gone entirely”. No activity we ban ever goes away entirely.

  • dust

    Pete, you said……

    “I’m of the opinion that it’s a despicable act and that it (our orientation towards unfettered expression) is precisely what makes America so great”

    Well, tolerance towards burning the flag and legal porn any time, any where are pretty recent developments relative to our entire history, so the jury is still out on the actual long term effects of these extreme forms of free speech, in my humble opinion?

    We’re going to have to wait a generation or so to see if it lives up to it’s advertising and indeed makes us “great” or ends up aiding and abetting a slow decay of our civil society, perhaps even a collapse into who knows what?

    It does not look good to me right now, frankly, but am sure the day will come, somehow, and once again we will be great :)

    cheers!

  • Abby

    “San Francisco lawmakers outlawed public nudity last November in response to the increased presence of naked people on city property, especially within a specific plaza at the epicenter of the famous Castro neighborhood. The ban officially took effect Feb. 1.

    Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes the area in question, introduced the measure to quell growing complaints from neighbors and merchants who claimed their businesses were suffering. “Freedom, expression and acceptance does not mean anything goes under any circumstances,” he said at the time. “Our public spaces are for everyone and as a result it’s appropriate to have some minimal standards of behavior.”

    Opponents of the ban, which narrowly passed in a 6-5 vote, argued it would tarnish San Francisco’s reputation as a progressive haven. “I’m concerned about civil liberties, about free speech, about changing San Francisco’s style and how we are as a city,” said Supervisor John Avalos, largely considered to be the city’s most liberal leader.. . .

    “Come see our gay pride parade,” Pelosi said. “It’s fabulous; you’ll love it. It’s a lot of exposure, shall we say.”

    I didn’t want to post the link because it contained some photos. But if you really want to find it yourself, I’m sure you can. Personally, I wish all porn COULD be banned. I just don’t think it can. Also, unintended consequences.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner@21 (and Joe):

    I agree. I just wandered into this thread to correct two misunderstandings.

    1) Some people in here were suggesting that, in the United States, pornography is currently legal, and there’s nothing we can do about it, constitutionally. This is simply incorrect.

    2) Some people in here–often the same people as were guilty of #1–were suggesting that we ought to ban pornography because it’s immoral, etc. This is, as you and I agree, a naive assertion. Next we should ban premarital sex, right?

    Then, a third error came up–a pendulum-like reaction to #1:

    3) Some, like Kirk and maybe Joe, suggest that, if we try to ban pornography, the government will then try to ban all sorts of other speech that ought to be protected. In other words, we have the “all-or-nothing” thesis, the idea that if the government bans one thing, it’s only a matter of time before the feds start knocking on my door for some comment I posted on a right-wing blog somewhere. Frankly, I think this suggestion too is naive. And the proof is that porn is already illegal in many jurisdictions in the United States and has been for many decades. No one has put Paul McCain in jail for something he said from the pulpit during that time.

    Oh, and I’ll just throw in a fourth:

    4) Actually, the Founders did intend to restrict the First Amendment to political speech. All sorts of non-political speech was illegal (and remained illegal for decades thereafter) at the time the Bill of Rights was drafted: blasphemy, obscenity, libel, and so on. The First Amendment was intended to protect your right to petition and critique the government, not to say whatever you want. As I’ve noted, I don’t necessarily support this position. But it was the position of most of the Founders.

    Oh, what the heck:

    5) Kerner, I think the assumption is that pornography isn’t speech–because it has no “message” according to the Miller test. So the question is this: what separates, say, an R-rated film with lots of nudity and sex but still possesses artistic value from porn? Is there a meaningful difference? The Supreme Court thinks so, but declined to say what, exactly, constitutes the difference.

  • kerner

    Cin:

    “Next we should ban premarital sex, right?”

    Whaddya mean “next”? Pre-marital sex was a misdemeanor in Wisconsin on the books until the 1990′s. It is the idea that we can’t ban premarital sex that is novel, historically.

  • kerner

    Incidentally, adultery used to be a felony in Wisconsin…oh wait…not “used to”:

    944.16  Adultery. Whoever does either of the following is guilty of a Class I felony:
    (1) A married person who has sexual intercourse with a person not the married person’s spouse; or
    (2) A person who has sexual intercourse with a person who is married to another.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    Addressing this as a free speech issue fails to come to terms with the arguments of the preceding article. The point of the proposed ban is that the act of pornography – its filming and distribution – is exploitative of women. Bold (and depraved) is the one who argues that child pornography should be covered by free speech. The Iceland Doctrine (better copyright that) insists that the pornography industry is essentially and unalterably exploitative. Anyone who has been involved with ministering to those involved in this industry knows that this is absolutely the case.

  • fjsteve

    The point about only being able to ban pornography on the basis of “community standards” is exactly why something like this might fly in Iceland but not in the United States. Iceland is a pretty homogeneous community itself. The size and diversity of Iceland is about that of the Lincoln, Nebraska metro area–actually, Lincoln is probably a bit more diverse. So, not only would there be a constitutional issue to some degree, there would be such a large portion of the population against it in certain areas of the country that it not would be politically expedient. Throwing the internet in the mix makes it so much more difficult because very few legislators want to go on the record as promoting internet filters–even though, as others have mentioned, there are already certain types of filters in place, albeit mostly voluntarily.

  • fjsteve

    I would put this in the level of banning soft drinks or transfats. While they might sound like a great way to make people healthier and reduce state healthcare expenditures, these laws are not born out of morality but the type of technocratic pragmatism that says the government knows better than you how to live your life. Thus, while eliminating porn or unhealthy foods may seem laudatory, this is the same type of thinking that has lead to forced abortions and sterilizations.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Let’s be straight about this: from a personal standpoint, I would love nothing more than to see pornography banned. It is indeed filth, it is indeed ruining our culture, and it is indeed worthy of nothing more than fuel for a bonfire.

    But I think some of you here are a bit naive to believe that there aren’t politicians (and other prominent people) who would not hesitate to infringe upon religious speech on the grounds of “obscenity,” “hate speech,” etc., much in the same way that people on our side want to ban pornography. If pornography can be shown as being “obscene” (and it is, let’s be clear on that), then that same lawmaking body down the road can just as easily say Christianity is “obscene” for preaching against the culture.

    I believe there are already laws in Canada and in Europe forbidding speaking against homosexuality, even for Christians.

    The point is that, whenever you have a legislative move borne out of good intention, there is often an unintended consequence that accompanies such a move sooner or later. Government and government members are not infallible, and not all of them see the world the way that we Christians do.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    For reference, Iceland has also banned strip clubs.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strip_club_ban_in_Iceland

    Although a famously liberal society, like San Franciso, they are (again like San Francisco) finding that “anything goes” is a nasty way to govern expressions of sexuality. And, for the record, the name of the supervisor who proposed banning public nudity in San Fran is hilarious–just like the name of the Congressman who had to resign after that infamous tweet. Why do some people get to participate in all the awful puns? (and I’m glad I don’t!)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Well, I think the argument that because banning something doesn’t make it stop means that we shouldn’t ban it is a little bit ridiculous. On the strength of that argument, we should never ban anything, including, murder, rape, theft……

    The question is whether we can make a meaningful impact on the damaging behavior / act / industry. In a country like Iceland and some other similar countries where people have a higher respect for “the rules”, it might actually have a meaningful impact. It won’t eliminate it, but it will likely reduce it.

    In general, yes, people will find ways around obstacles. But enough obstacles will eventually lead to more and more people abandoning the attempt because it is too much trouble. Only the determined depraved folks will continue.

    That is why I think this is a great effort. We have banned obvious exploitative behaviour (slavery for instance), and even then m,any, with pious expressions of freedom, balked. And yes, slavery has not (yet) disappeared of the face of the earth. Pornography and related vile things should go the same road.

  • Kempin04

    JDean, #30,

    I just don’t get your logic on this. You hold that banning pornography would open the way to banning religious speech, yet in the very same post you acknowledge that religious speech IS being incrementally encroached, without any such ban on pornography. I think you are going too far in equating free religious speech with pornography. By doing so you compromise the value of religious speech rather than protecting it. I mean, really, its not much of an argument is it to say “We are tolerating pornography, so YOU ought to tolerate Jesus.”

    Fot the rest of the sophisticated pragmatists who think that any attempt to ban porno on the web is naive because it would be difficult to implement, I offer the timeless words of Doug McKenzie:

  • fjsteve

    KK, @32,

    Well, I think the argument that because banning something doesn’t make it stop means that we shouldn’t ban it is a little bit ridiculous. On the strength of that argument, we should never ban anything, including, murder, rape, theft…

    I agree. That has been one of the oft used arguments against banning abortion and for legalizing recreational drugs over the years. We’re told, for example, that the war on drugs isn’t working and rather than criminalize it we should legalize it for personal use, tax it, and use the revenue to help reduce the demand and help those addicted to, or otherwise harmed by it. Do you think the same could be done with pornography? Or would it be better to pursue those producing it or obtaining it illegally and distributing it?

  • Abby

    @33 That was hilarious. Let’s do it.

  • Cincinnatus

    KK:

    That’s a fair point, but I come to exactly the opposite conclusion. It might be possible to make an impact on the production of pornography, but good luck banning the consumption of pornography. But I’m more inclined to equate attempts to ban pornography (either production or consumption) with our failed attempts to ban drugs. The War on Drugs has not only failed to reduce the harm and exploitation associated with drug use, but has actually exacerbated both.

    Let that be a lesson to us.

  • Cincinnatus

    fjsteve@34: People say the war on drugs doesn’t work because it doesn’t work. Seriously. Read up on the results of the many billions of dollars we’ve spent on the effort.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    “I just don’t get your logic on this. You hold that banning pornography would open the way to banning religious speech, yet in the very same post you acknowledge that religious speech IS being incrementally encroached, without any such ban on pornography.”
    Apples and oranges to my point. The reference to the banning on religious speech in Canada and Europe was mentioned for the purpose of reminding people that there is a real possibility of politicians attempting to subvert the public display of Christianity, which lends to my point (if you read a little more carefully) that the banning of Christianity in the name of “obscenity” is a very real possibility, and that it’s not out of the realm of reality to use the same precdedent for the banning of pornography as an excuse to ban public proclamation of Christianity.

    I think you are going too far in equating free religious speech with pornography. By doing so you compromise the value of religious speech rather than protecting it. I mean, really, its not much of an argument is it to say “We are tolerating pornography, so YOU ought to tolerate Jesus.”Again, you’re missing the point here. You are making the fallacious assumption that those in government see this argument the same way that you do, and that they will not abuse the principle of banning speech. This isn’t about me or my views; obviously pornography is not morally equal to the gospel: no Christian should EVER think that. But again, you’re assuming that every legislator and figurehead in our bureaucracy is going to view this in the way we do without any possibility of abuse. This is about the danger of something well-intentioned being twisted and perverted to the point of hurting citizens instead of helping them.

    Again: if you want pornography to stop, then the solution is to change hearts about it. The solution is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • fjsteve

    Cincinnatus, #37, don’t you think a ban on porn would have similar results? Albeit, not similar in proportion of violence but similar in real versus desired outcomes?

  • DonS

    Kirk @ 9 claims that he doesn’t get conservatism because conservatives see nothing wrong with government-imposed Internet filters, but oppose government healthcare, high taxation for the purpose of funding social programs and over-regulation. First of all, Kirk, you imply that by opposing these latter things, conservatives don’t want clean water and air, don’t want universal access to healthcare, and don’t want the poor to get the assistance they need. That’s a typical liberal straw man. In actuality, as I think you know from spending as much time as you do on this site, that is clearly not the case. We just don’t believe government-imposed solutions to these problems are effective. There are far better ways to get to the asserted goals. Moreover, when government does these things, it necessarily robs individuals of a certain degree of liberty, and corruption, waste, and cronyism become the order of the day, all at the expense of the hard-pressed taxpayer.

    As for this Internet filtering effort, where do you get the idea that conservatives “…see nothing wrong…”? We’ve got 40 or so comments already, most of which are hashing out all of the potential problems of such an approach, most particularly the potential to rob citizens of their liberties to use the Internet. Most conservatives have a paramount interest in protecting individual liberties from the inexorable efforts of government to infringe upon them.

    Regarding freedom of speech, the context of the First Amendment indicates that political speech was at the fore of the Founder’s concerns, with religious speech running a close second. Of course, many today want to turn this on its head, railing at Citizens United because it protects political speech, resisting the notion that political speech should be sharply curtailed to keep money out of politics. Other types of speech are protected for the reasons Joe explains — because trying to curb undesirable speech, like pornography, is very hard to do without also curbing desirable speech, and it is very hard to define, ahead of time, acceptable speech to the extent necessary to provide adequate guidance. Vague laws are almost always unconstitutional, because they don’t provide adequate notice to citizens as to what is unlawful behavior.

  • kerner

    Maybe this is a pipe dream, but it seems to me we can “define” minimum parameters for pornography in concrete enough ways. As just a suggestion, let’s say, hard core pornography. People actually having sexual intercourse or contact as those terms are usually defined for purposes of prostitution. We’ve managed to figure out workable definitions for those kinds of offenses. And then we could prosecute anyone who does those same things (or procures anyone else to do so) for money on film. All the actors, producers, camera and sound techs, anybody who works on a film where that is going on has committed a crime and goes to jail. The evidence is the videos themselves, and the money trail. Since distributing this stuff over the internet requires public exposure, particularly for the actors, it becomes very easy to round everybody involved up who lives in the USA or any country with which we have an extradition treaty. At the very least we would force anyone who was making this stuff to move to Uganda or some other remote place with which we DO NOT have an extradition treaty, which would, again at least, cost the industry a bunch of money. High cost equals scarcity. There would be less porn. And, the producers, wary of prosecution, would make it more difficult to view without lots of background checking on customers. Marketing, like the “Adult” film expos in Las Vegas would become public admissions of guilt. Again, the volume goes down, and there is more scarcity. Porn would become harder to find, as it was before the internet.

    But taking Cin’s point, what effect would that actually solve? Would thiose who are inclined to, er, fantacize in private still find some other object to fantacize about? Yeah, certainly. But there would be some delay before children totally lose whatever innocense they possess. Adults with consciences about this kind of thing would hesitate to reveal all the personal information necessary to satisfy the purveyors that they were customers and not the police, much the way customers have to satisfy prostitutes. And of course the customers will be worrying that the internet invite is a sting with the cops on the other end as well.

    So, can we not conclude that, if we treated all pornography the waay we treat child pornography, that a whole lot fewer people would be exposed to it? Which leads us to another question that Cin raises. Given that we cannot eliminate the activity, but only reduce its volume and drive it underground, does the benefit of having less of it around justify the expense of doing that? I think it would be.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kerner, you have voiced my thoughts here. One should, as in the Icelandic case, emphasize exploitation, abuse etc in these issues.

  • Kempin04

    JDean, #38,

    “You are making the fallacious assumption that those in government see this argument the same way that you do, and that they will not abuse the principle of banning speech.”

    Actually, no. I don’t trust those in government at all to not abuse their power. I just don’t see that a porn ban would open the door for abuse any more than it currently is.

    “if you want pornography to stop, then the solution is to change hearts about it.”

    Would you fill in that blank with all other crimes as well? The solution to shoplifting, say, is to change hearts? The solution to drunk driving is to change hearts? I mean that is technically and theologically a true statement, but surely you would not conclude that the shoplifting and traffic laws should not be enforced, much less not be IN force.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Kempin04@43,
    As it is now, there is no immediate move being made by either political side to ban porn, so for the moment this is a theoretical argument. As far as the other crimes you listed, how far do you go when it comes to turning a sin into a crime?

  • Cincinnatus

    KK:

    Let me preface this comment by, again, reminding everyone that I am opposed to pornography. It is a vice; it is immoral; it is corrupting to both private and public virtue; it can destroy families; it corrodes our expectations for sex. And so on.

    But your opposition to pornography as primarily exploitative is misguided (and so, apparently, is Iceland’s). I can understand why this alternative justificatory logic would be necessary in a liberal democracy where liberty in speech is sacred by violations of consent are heretical. But here’s the thing: pornography isn’t very exploitative. Many, if not most, pornographic actors do it voluntarily: it’s big money, and it can come with rewards of fame. The pornography industry even has it’s own version of the Academy Awards (the Adult Film Awards). As for consumption, while I think pornography is far too accessible on the internet–it’s too easy to stumble across it accidentally–the fact is that most people view it voluntarily; no one is literally forced to watch pornography.

    The sorts of pornography that would involve outright exploitation are already illegal or regulated. Child pornography is highly illegal. Forcing a woman or man to participate in pornography is highly illegal. And, in places where filming pornography is permissible, it’s highly regulated, just like coal mining and other dangerous, potentially exploitative professions.

    I just can’t see outlawing pornography on the grounds that its production is exploitable. That doesn’t wash with the (regrettable) facts.

  • kerner

    J. Dean @44:

    This IS a theoretical argument, but my old criminal law professor argued, theoreyically, that ALL crime basically starts out as sin. In a criminal case the plaintiff is not the victim, but the community (or the king, back in the day). The victim does not come into court saying, “this person has harmed me and I must be compensated for that harm.” That would be a civil lawsuit.

    In a criminal case. the “state”, or “the people” are the plaintiff, and we collectively come into court and say, “What the defendant has done is so morally wrong that nobody should be allowed to do it to anyone; it damages the community as a whole when this happens; we demand that justice be done by punishing the wrong-doer sufficiently to deter him or anyone else from doing this kind of thing again.”

    That’s the simplified version, but it is an accurate summary of the legal theory behind a criminal law system, in my opinion.

    Our own rule of thumb for making a sin a crime in the United States has always been harm to somebody in particular or harm to society in general. In my early days in practice we put in the complaint not only the staute that was violated, but that the defendant had violated “the peace and dignity of the State of Wisconsin.”

    So, I guess the question is: “Does porn (or any other sin) disturb the peace and dignity of the community?” I don’t know how much dignity we have as a community anymore, but I still think an argument can be made that any sex-for-money business negatively impacts our “peace and dignity” in the sense that it negatively impacts the way men and women relate to each other, and the community would be better off if it were minimized and/or driven underground. Not everyone agrees with me. Many have believed that a well run red-light district with safeguards to prevent exploitation of the sex workers and health safeguards etc. is a better way to go.

  • Cincinnatus

    Actually, kerner, I would go back further. If our notions of criminality are rooted in sin–a hypothesis I’m not sure I buy–our notions of sin and guilt are rooted in questions of taboo. For example, “primitive” cultures had no notion that incest could be harmful, or even that it was a sin against god(s). But it was taboo.

    Why is this important? Maybe it’s not. But I’m not sure the origins of criminal law are rooted in a harm principle: some things that have classically been considered capital crimes, like blasphemy or hunting on the king’s land or entering the temple in an unclean state, can’t be justified as “wrong” because they harmed the community. Rather, they violated taboos that are connected with some other moral sensibility. Relating everything to harm–abuse, exploitation, etc.–seems so very modern and liberal.

  • kerner

    Cin:

    I see that you and I seem to be mindful of the same facts and impacts on society and the people in it caused by pornography. In fact, you have been more articulate than I have in describing them.

    I respect your opinion on this issue a lot because clearly you have thought it through. I hope we can find some further commonality in another point we both made, which is that pornography is not speech. It is sex for money. The ubiquitous availibility of porn on the internet is, in my opinion, like having a prostitute ready at hand with a mouse-click. Complete, as you have said, with free samples that can be encountered accidently.

    As I said at the end of my last comment, the problem of the sex-for-money industry has been treated differently by different cultures at different times. Some made it part of their religions; others tried to control and contain it; still others tried to suppress it as much as possible. But I know of no culture that had sex-for-money almost literally waiting at the bedroom window of every man, woman and child in the country. And the equivalent of that is what we have in most of the industrialized world today with internet porn. Is there really nothing anyone can do to change that?

  • tODD

    Are we talking about porn consumption or production? I would think that might be possible to make a sizable dent in banning production in Iceland — at least, the professional stuff.

    Of course, as no small number of “sexting” stories in the news have reminded us, there’s a lot of porn out there that isn’t professionally made. Indeed, it’s not clear that when a couple (or, heck, an individual) takes pictures of themselves for their private use, it’s even really porn. But, as we know, those pictures have a way of not staying private for long, at which point they clearly do become porn. But then, should the laws against porn production apply to the guy holding the camera phone? I know in several cases in the US, they have (I think I remember reading about someone who was charged with distributing child pornography for texting a photo of his same-age girlfriend), but I really don’t think those are very good decisions.

    But even if Iceland did somehow not only ban but eradicate local porn production, do we really think that it would make a dent in porn consumption? Near as I can tell, all of that takes place online these days, meaning that it (1) overwhelmingly happens in private and (2) could be sourced from any country in the world, so long as one of them hasn’t made it illegal to serve up porn files.

    Sure, Iceland could try the cat-and-mouse game of banning sites, keywords, and so on. And it would have some effect, at least on the technologically incompetent.

    But you have to do a cost-benefit analysis. How much would all that banning cost (not just technology, but people paid to constantly be on the lookout for those doing end-runs around the technology)? How effective would it be (what percent of porn would it block)? What legal Internet use would be hindered as a result (collateral damage)? And how much better would society be as a result of that fraction of people who were prohibited from seeing the porn they wanted to?

    In the end, I just don’t see it penciling out.1:48 PM 2/15/20131:48 PM 2/15/2013

  • Trey

    @ Todd

    So your suggestion results in nihilism (I thought you were Lutheran)? You could say the same about any law. That it will have collateral damage and that it won’t stop the diehards. The concern is future generations especially kids. It shouldn’t be readily available to them. I like what the UK proposed or enacted where you have to opt-in to viewing porn.

  • kerner

    Cin:

    You are correct that our modern concept of harm as a basis for sin came after taboo. It developed in English common law over time. Crimeswere originally offenses o the “King’s peace and dignity”. Very Romans 13. The king was expected as a responsibility of his office to keep the peace. The better ones did.

    When the concept of harm, or a breach of the peace developed, I am not sure. But I know itwas in ful swing by the Elizabethan era. Take this quotation from Romeo and Juliet, Act I Scene I, as the prince breaks up a fight between the Capulets and Montagues in the streets of Verona. The Prince says:

    “PRINCE
    “Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace…

    Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word,
    By thee, old Capulet, and Montague,
    Have thrice disturb’d the quiet of our streets…

    If ever you disturb our streets again,
    Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.”

    There you have it. The foundation of the criminal law in iambic pentameter.

  • fws

    Trey @ 50

    Why not regulate it then, like cigarettes, booze and other stuff that seems, pretty conclusively to be harmful, but society as not seen fit to prohibit? “Must be 18 years or older to purchase”.

    Oh. Yeah. We already do that.

  • tODD

    Trey (@50), um, that’s not what “nihilism” means. Or, at least, there’s no way that my plan “results in nihilism”. So you clearly meant a different word.

    And, again, my suggestion (which I’m going to go ahead and say you didn’t read very closely) isn’t that any law with “collateral damage” must therefore be overturned. The suggestion was that these unintended consequences be weighed in concert with the cost of the intended law, as well as its potential benefits.

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but that’s kind of how lots of societies do things. There are lots of things that are bad/sinful/immoral that still remain legal. And yet, there is no example I can think of in which a society declared everything legal.

    There is a reason that, at least in the states, laws against adultery are either non-existant, or very rarely enforced. It’s not because everyone thinks adultery is awesome, or that it never harms anyone involved. No, it’s the result of that cost-benefit analysis. That same analysis is why nearly every society ever has seen fit to criminalize murder.

    I like what the UK proposed or enacted where you have to opt-in to viewing porn.

    First, yeah, that didn’t happen. Second, for the most part, people already opt-in to view porn. You do have to search for it. It doesn’t turn on your computer for you and automatically start downloading, you know.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner:

    Cool Shakespeare quote!

    Anyway, I don’t know if I’ve thought as deeply and carefully about this subject as you think. I agree broadly with tODD’s conclusions. If we are going to make attempts to tackle pornography legally, I think it should be done locally, so I’m actually not opposed to the Miller test: where Joe sees useless subjectivism/relativism (a common trait of constitutional tests), I see the only responsible way to deal with the subject in our system.

    What I’m opposed to is some sort of national campaign to “ban” pornography at the federal level, like Iceland is attempting. The costs, both intended and unintended, are too high, and the benefits, which would likely be nugatory, too low. Even attacking the production, rather than the consumption, of pornography would likely be fruitless. First, while it may be possible to shutter professional porn producers, attempts to ban “amateur” pornography would be about as successful as the attempt to ban moonshining or personal marijuana grows. Second, again, the internet: absolutely nothing would prevent the porn industry from moving to another more “liberal” jurisdiction and purveying their wares in exactly the same fashion as they do now.

    As usual, porn is a cultural problem, not a legal problem.

  • kerner

    Further notice that the prince, in Romeo and Juliet, was not primarily concerned with what the combatants were doing to each other. Rather, his primary concern was that they were disturbing the peace and dignity of the community around them.

    Applying this to the question at hand: Does the sex-for-money industry disrupt our community? As Frank points out, some things that harm the community can be contained and controlled by means other than outright prohibition. Applying a cost/benefit analysis, outright prohibition may not be the answer. But again, think about porn as it is: sex for money. We may decide not to prohibit prostitution outright, or to only enforce such prohibitive laws as do exist only occasionally. But if prostitutes were walking down every street in every residential neighborhood of your community, including where your children worship and go to school, would we not conclude that some additional controls might be in order? Would we really fall back on the truism that every act of prostitution is a voluntary one between willing parties?

    The internet IS full of children all the time. I have been involved in a number of cases in which children have gotten onto adult sites by simply clicking on “yes” when asked if they were over 18. We have, right now, the functional equivalent of prostitutes at the bedroom windows of every person old enough to use a computer. This is not alarmism, it’s just a fact. I do not relish the further intrusion of the government into the internet, but we already have police cruising the internet looking for child predators and kiddie-porn exchanges. For them to check out porn-sites to make sure they were complying with restrictive regulations should certainly be possible. At least as possible as it is to develop all the anti-spyware anti-malware programs that we already have.

    We also could, as I said, punsih the people who actually work in the industry in this country (or in countries with which we have extradition treaties), or who send their images into this country. As Cin points out, the sex for money industry has its equivalent of the Academy Awards for goodness’ sake. But believe me, nobody is going to want to win that oscar if it means 1 to 3 years in prison. Iceland has little clout if it were to try something like that, but the USA would have a lot of clout.

    Now, it would take a lot of legal evolution to get to the point at which we would be willing to try something like that. But I believe it would be effective. But lacking something that drastic, something merely regulatory could still be effective. Require porn sites to:

    1. Demand checkable identifying information from potential customers prior to access to the cite, such as name, address, birthdate, and social security number and perhaps a skype photo. Children gaining access would become a lot more rare, and a lot of adults would balk at the prospect of turning all that over to a porn site operator and just say no.

    2. Completely cease and desist the practice of imbedding spyware into every computer that connects with the porn site, and the practice of sending avalanches of follow up e-mails to those computers. Frankly, I’m not too thrilled when non-porn sites do that. But the way I hear it, porn sites are by far the worst offenders.

    Law enforcement can check on compliance with regulations like those by simply trolling the internet and going on porn sites. Those that let the investigators in without proper ID or that imbed all those tracking cookies lose could licenses, get fined, or go to jail. Yes, I know some will find ways to get around some of this, but some will get caught, and some will give it up as too much trouble for a shrinking profit margin, and both volume and availibility will decrease.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner:

    I think you and I and tODD agree that it’s simply impossible to outlaw prostitution outright with any effect. Even St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas agreed. It is possible to manage the problem: local ordinances can restrict brothels to the outskirts of town (currently the case in most American towns), for example. Forbid outright streetwalking. Best of all, maintain social conventions that denigrate prostitution (bah humbug to those who now decry “slut-shaming” and attempt to depict prostitution as a respectable profession).

    But internet pornography is, as we all know, a much more difficult problem. It’s placeless, and to that extent it doesn’t even involve real people. It does, of course, but not in a way that enables its prohibition: the people involved are mostly anonymous with respect to their names, ages, location, etc.

    I would be in favor of outlawing the professional production of pornography. It should not be legal for pornographic movie studios to incorporate, hire employees, and sell their wares with impunity. This is easily enforced: don’t grant business licenses to porn studios! Of course, outlawing professional porn isn’t likely to stem the tide, but it would delegitimate the “profession.”

    Let me stress again that this won’t do much to solve the problem, though. And I’m chary of both your proposals. Solution 1 would seem to open the door to enormous potential for privacy violations. It’s bad enough that I have to enter my credit card number and address at Amazon.com; I can’t imagine mandating that private institutions collect highly sensitive information. I mean, we’re talking about porn sites, so maybe that’s the point–to discourage people. But something strikes me as problematic about the whole thing.

    Solution 2 is less objectionable from a principled standpoint, but would be about as effective, I think, as trying to shut down porn websites outright. For a better analogy, consider online pirating. It’s illegal to download torrented music, but…well, good luck with that. So yeah, it would be nice if porn websites–indeed, all websites–were forbidden from embedding tracking cookies in my computer, but this is one of those, “when cookies are outlawed, only outlaws will have cookies.”

    Unfortunately, I don’t see any effective way to prevent internet pornography at the institutional or legal level without ceding enormous power over the internet to the government (such as China possesses–and even China is relatively ineffective in its attempts at censorship–or such as might be the case on the company computers on your work network). The internet has in many ways radically individualized our capacities for information-gathering, entertainment, and so on–but this also means it’s radically individualized responsibility. Institutions can no longer effectively control what music we listen to, what information we access, what videos we watch; porn is the flipside of that phenomenon. Because they can’t control it, you and I and each individual has to do it for him/herself.

  • Joanne

    I went to a conference in Iceland a few years back in January. I felt so brave, but I was sure I would be killed by the cold and the dark. Still, I survived. It’s the 4th Nordic country, if you don’t count the Finns who are both in language and in a bit of their ancestry a Uralic peoples. And they are all nominally Lutheran. Iceland only gained it’s independence from Denmark in the 1940′s I think when the American’s took Iceland militarily to keep the Germans from getting it after the Germans gained control of the Danish government. It’s just history, don’t be afraid.

    The conference was held in English and all of Europe was invited, but as you might guess not many were as keen to be in Iceland in January as I was. Still, it was we non-Nordics that laughed at the jokes as in Library Science, Nordic Humor is given the subject term of “mythology.” Ha, ha, ha.

    I didn’t notice any porno while there, but we were there just the same week that the US officially pulled out of Iceland and turned over complete ownership of Keflavik airbase over to Icelandic ownership. Keflavik is now the main International Airport of Iceland. The have a separate internal airport in Reykjvik about 30 miles away.
    As is my want, I and my friends attended Divine Services at the historic Icelandic Cathedral (which is not that Giant concrete church one see in all the post cards. There was a baptism and the priest wore a ruff and changed his vestments between preaching and the sacrament of the Altar. We chatted with him after the service and learned that the Bishop of the country was on the opposite side of the island that day. Shucks, I’d this grand notion to have my picture taken with the Bishop of Iceland.

    Returning to this uninteresting subject of porno and vice in general, Hamburg and other cities have solved the problem in the old fashioned way of designating a vice district in each city, like the St. Pauli neighborhood in Hamburg. New Orleans had the famous vice dictrict call Storeyville. Vice laws are enforced everywhere else except in the vice-district where the police make money by containing the vices and keeping it from scaring the horses.
    And, no, 19th and early 20th century America which were very aware of the 1st amendment had no compunction about subdueing porno, they knew by instinct that the 1st admendment had nothing to do with porno and other foul things. It was the ACLU in the 1960 that go us all those porn shops with the papered over windows.

    But, I have family who have been at university in SW China for several years now and communiation with them over facebook is almost impossible. Whenever they can find a work-around we get a few quick messages before it goes dead again. That, I don’t like.

    Oh, and Iceland itself is a beautiful country and January was a great time to be there is you like lots and lots of white and you don’t actually need to know you’re on a road when visiting tourist sites. And the closer you get to a glacier the colder it gets. Bring two good sets of long johns and woolen sock 5 or sex pair. I loved Iceland and would go again in a heart-beat.

    My only hesitation is the Trolls. They’ve unionized, the Trolls have and have taken over toll collection, prison guarding, and parking ticketing. The do baggage handling at Keflavik too, so don’t bring anything easily broken or stolen that will be out of your eyesite for any significant length of time.

    Oh, and one last thing. While the human population is nominally Lutheran, the Trolls are almost to a man rabid Jehovah’s Witnesses converts. Avoid conversations with the Trolls unless you like talking about eschatology. Traveling outback in tiefest winter will bring the end of the world to mind on many occassions, but just pursevere and a tiny tourist shop will appear out of nowhere in the blinding white to let you know you really have been on a road and really have found the geisers or waterfall or whatever.

  • Joanne

    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the 5 or 10 year experiment when Iceland turned over it’s banking industry to the Trolls. Horrible outcome on that one, but they’ve just about got a handle on their banking now, with some of the Banking Trolls in long term lock-up, and some sent to Greenland to do mercy work with the Polar bears.

  • kerner

    Cin@56:

    This conversation is so very theoretical, because I seriously doubt that any politician is even remotely concerned about it. But I have far fewer misgivings about idea one than you do, because we subject ourselves to that kind of scrutiny every time we do anything that only adults are supposed to do.

    You live in Wisconsin so you must be aware of how strict we are about checking IDs wenever alcohol is purchased. I am a grandfather, and I look old enough to be one, yet every time I buy a bottle of bourbon I chuckle as the twenty-something cashier demands to see my ID as required by law. And all that personal info except SS# are right there on it, including my photo. And of course my photo is recorded in the store security system as i enter the store and head for the whiskey aisle. And why does the cashier demand all my personal info despite my obvious age? Because the law requires it and the store wants no trouble. And if I want to keep drinking bourbon, I risk the world finding out that I buy a bottle of booze now and again. Oh well.

    Also, there is a big on-line market for firearms. The hoops one has to jump through, including having the gun shipped to a local FFL license holder who runs a background check on you in person before handing the gun over to you, are incredibly burdensome and pretty scary. But if I ever want a gun that is physically in Waco TX, and I can’t find that model locally, I’ll have to submit to it. And people must be doing that in large enough numbers to keep the FFL gun dealers in business.

    Requiring similar safeguards to screen adolescents from hard core porn don’t seem unreasonable to me. If people don’t trust their porn dealers enough to give up their personal info, that’s their problem. Enforcement would be no more difficult than finding the most economical way to troll for porn sites and trying to get on them. Allowing anyone on the site without proper, verifiable and recorded ID becomes a punishable offense, including hefty fines that defray the cost of enforcement. The actual distributors of porn can be traced by the IP addresses of the computors they operate, which would also lead enforcement to the physical locations. After all, the whole internet seems to know that I am in Milwaukee, even when I DON’T type in my address very much.

    This idea would have an effect similar to “pushing the vice purveyors to the edges of town” in cyberspace. I can think of no reason not to do it except that nobody cares and nobody wants to spend the money. But I see no reason why it would be any more impossible than occasionally raiding or stinging the physical porn shops around the state (which I, from professional experience, know goes on).

  • sg

    Iceland is a pretty homogeneous community itself.”

    Erm, uh, community? How about family? All Icelanders are related.

    http://www.icelandreview.com/icelandreview/daily_life/?cat_id=16539&ew_0_a_id=262375

    This actually matters because we do care more about family than strangers.

  • http://www.lesbiansinmysoup.com/ Katy Anders

    Obscenity law in the states is a mess.

    Essentially, the Supreme Court’s Miller standard says that to be obscene (and therefore fall outside free speech), it needs to lack any literary, artistic, political, or scientific value AND it needs to violate community standards.

    When dealing with the internet, this gets complicated – because you can download things off the net anywhere! In the Nineties, this meant that the feds would go to the most conservative county in the country – somewhere in Tennessee, as I recall – and say it violated THEIR community standards.

    There isn’t much cracking down on internet porn here these days. Until we clarify our obscenity laws, I don’t know how we would do it.

  • Monimonika

    To pete @ #13 and kerner @#20,

    Obviously, neither of you (nor pete’s mother) have read up on how an unserviceable U.S. flag is supposed to be properly disposed of. There are 2 ways:

    1) Take the flag to an organization that will dispose of the flag with proper ceremonies at your request for no charge. (However there’s no guarantee such organizations are located nearby, nor that all facilities of organizations that typically do this service are equipped for it.)

    2) Do It Yourself! Find a safe (and legal!) location to build a bonfire/campfire. Respectfully place the triangularly folded flag into the fire and watch it burn completely. Cleanup after the fire.

    Those “patriots” who go around wearing U.S. flag shirts and waving those little flags around in abandon are much less respectful of the flag than those who silently refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag.

  • Joanne

    The almost total lack of wit on this thread leads me to think that there are entirely too many Nords talking here. Ole’ and Sven and Tina and Ole’ jokes are the only way to understand Nordicism. How can you talk about something so rediculous without addressing the humor in it all?

    I find there is a total disregard and no sympathy for the plight of the Trolls here. One can’t even refer to them as 2nd class citizens because their near-humaness isn’t even recognized. And they greatly outnumber the human population of Iceland by 230,000 humans to more than 800,000 Trolls. If Trolls were allowed human/citizen rights and sufferage, you would see a very different Iceland within the next three Althing elections. When I mention how the banking Trolls were thrown to the Greenland Polar Bears, there wasn’t even a “poor things” coming from you co-threaders.

    (I would mention here the recently discovered huge undercounting of the Greenland Shark and its depredations on northern sea life, but that would take us too far afield for this discussion. Sufficeth it to say, we have recognized a super-numeration of these much more aggressive than previously believed, sea sharks. On can practically walk to Greenland from Iceland on the backs of the huge mass of Greenland Sharks now known to be a top super-preditor of the wild life of all the Arctice reagions.)

    Lighten up, for pete’s sake. Can’t you tell that such a headline is the truthy, humor of the joksters at “A Prairie Home Companion.? Oh, and that family thing. Yes Iceland is a family, but the men are more related to the men and the Women not so much. (The national founding fathers apparently raided the western Scots and Irish coastlines to obtain women who were not in a position to say “hell no” when the subject of “let’s all go live in happy little Iceland” came up in the 900s.)

    But there’s no point in using humor on you lot of Nords, you just can’t get it. Besides they all look just alike and are the same height given averages for men/women separately. I mean to Icelanders, the reality of Icelandic made pore would be like looking at nude pictures of your wife and sisters. It just wouldn’t be as “exotically hot” as non-Icelanders imagine. They’d have to import it to take that icky sense of incest from home-made Icelandic porno.

    I bet you didn’t get that one either did you? Well, imagine this, with a huge population of in-thralled Trolls, it’s only a matter of time before horrible news stories come out of Iceland about sex slavery on the glaciers. Judy Tenuda is right about this, and history will support the inevitability of, “it could happen.”

  • Noel

    One does not have to use religious reasons for banning porn. Read the book The Brain that Changes Itself and see what this neuroscientist says about the damage causes to the brain. It can make you stupid as well as impotent. Japan has 20% of the worlds porn and their population is dropping. Looking always at a photoshoped image will distort your brain. Your partner may have stretch marks and not so beautiful boobs. Women often feel hurt when they find their partner has been viewing porn. It can be addictive

  • Noel

    The author the book The Braiin That Changes itself is Norman Doidge is on the faculty at the Columbia University Psychoanalytic Center in New York.

  • Kristen inDallas

    J Dean and others.
    The problem with equating porn wih free speech is that you blur the lines between *speech* *artistic expression* and *taking one’s clothes off.* There are lines between those things and defining them can help make sure we don’t lose free speech protections by banning porn. One big line – your pastor, whose speech is guaranteed, is not allowed to disrobe in public or in front of your children. Why not? Because doing so is not speech, and while it is a form of “expression”, it’s not artistic expression, it is offensive expression. It is an expression that would cause much harm by being allowed, and very little harm by being restricted (to a different venue and audience). Internet porn should be viewed the same way. People can express themselves how they like in private. They can also have that type of expression limited in public spaces. No pornographer would demand he be allowed to display his movie on the jumbo-tron in times square or durring a football game. If we wanted to view the internet as a public space (which it is) the laws can be applied without violating the constitution as it is already being interpreted in other spheres.

  • Cincinnatus

    Kristen in Dallas,

    If the matter were that simple, we wouldn’t need to have this discussion–there would have been no Supreme Court cases necessary to carve out definitions of what constitutes pornography.

    But the fact is that there are some forms of artistic expression that include disrobing and nudity. What separates Michelangelo’s statue of David from a pornographic image? What separates a movie or television show that includes nudity (e.g., mine and kerner’s favorite: The Wire–or, heck, Schindler’s List) from a pornographic film? And where precisely is the line drawn? I think there is a line, of course, and I think there is a distinction, but that line isn’t between clothed and unclothed. Ultimately, porn isn’t illegitimate because it features nudity.

    Moreover, the internet is not a public space, and here’s why: by definition–the Supreme Court’s definition, that is–you have to choose to enter the internet, usually with money. You can effectively opt out of the internet, but you can’t opt out of a true public realm. This is why the Supreme Court has ruled that it’s constitutional for the FCC to regulate network television–which is free, and can enter the home “without permission” (by their reasoning)–but unconstitutional to regulate cable television (which must be consciously purchased; it’s thus a private sphere). Similarly, private shopping malls can, in most cases, control what sort of speech happens inside–they can ban Christian solicitors, for instance–but a town square cannot. You opt into the mall; you don’t opt in to the town square (i.e., you theoretically must enter a true public realm like the town square simply by virtue of existing; you don’t have to enter the shopping mall–or the internet).

    Make sense? I’m on your side with regards to whether porn ought to be regulated. But the issues isn’t nearly so simple as you make it seem.

  • chicago dyke

    /looks around, hopes for Christian tolerance

    um, atheist here. in favor of banning porn. it is harmful. to children, at least. adults can consume it, i guess, if they want. but children should not, it gives them a warped view of sex and love and relationships that are often unreasonable and violent. and porn addiction is real. the internet has totally seen to that.

    the funny thing is, i’m “sex positive” meaning i don’t believe in government banning most things when it comes to sex and i don’t believe people who work in the sex industry should be ashamed of their jobs.

    but internet porn is a whole new animal. i’ve read some really, really scary stuff about what happens to addicts of internet porn, and/or what they do. children must be protected from it.

    anyway, yikes this isn’t my blog at all, heh. i just noticed the topic on patheos front page when i logged in. i hope you don’t mind me chiming in. come on by and visit us on the atheist channels some time. this is what makes patheos a fun site and great idea in blogging.

  • kempin04

    Chicago,

    I don’t know if you will check back here, since the thread is mostly dead, but just in case you do, I’ll throw in an “I agree with you.” I’ll even add that while you and I disagree fundamentally on the whole “sex positive” viewpoint, I think you have drawn lines and reasoned this out very clearly. Mainlining porn through the internet is scary destructive and needs to be addressed. I think you clarify that we can agree on this, and for the same reasons, without implying that we need to agree on everything to discuss it.

    Thanks for chiming in.


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