The Nation's High Court Fondles The Idea of Web Censorship.
By Jeff Smith
SOMETIME THIS SUMMER the U.S. Supreme Court is going to render its decision on whether the Internet is going to continue being the free and unruly forum for grassroots interchange of images, information and ideas it now is, or be muzzled, like a dog whose bark disturbs the slumber of a nation that seems determined to nod-off and dream about the Good Old Days when Ozzie and Harriet slept in separate beds and ruled a roost where Ricky hadn't yet begun to pack his nose with coke.
We, the People, through the agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, have argued to the Supremes that the Communication Decency Act of 1996 should be upheld and allowed to impose its penalties of up to two years in prison and a quarter-million in fines against anyone found guilty of making indecent materials available to children via the Internet. Them, those Godless Others, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and various webmasters, have contended that trying to censor the Internet violates the First Amendment, and is tantamount to outlawing private conversation in public places, or over common carriers such as the telephone.
Justice Department lawyers, conceding the letter of the law in question does extend this broadly into our private lives and habits, contends nonetheless that this is a small price to pay for protecting the tender and pliant minds of youth from potential corrosive exposure to images of penises, vaginas and poop.
Statutes already exist, and have for some time, and have been upheld as constitutional by earlier Supreme Courts, that regulate the availability of so-called indecent materials, be they photographic, non-photographic, aural, oral or literary. Some of us perverts have trouble even with this degree of censorship, but the emergence of the Internet has brought the problem and the porn potentially into every living room, bedroom and rumpus room on the planet. For the purposes of our discussion--and the Supreme Court's deliberations--we will restrict ourselves to the rooms of the United States of America: Other nations seem not to get lathered up over pornography and the problem thus is rendered moot.
The reason the Internet proves so problematic is its very power and wonder: It's wide open and democratic. True, one needs a computer to access (not a verb, but a ubiquitous computer term notwithstanding) the Net, the Web, the chat rooms and e-mail and whatnot, but used computers are cheaper than paperweights, and available free through libraries and schools. The most wonderful thing about the Net and the Web is that one can log on and gain almost immediate access to the archives of the entire planet.
Which, it should not surprise us, catalog not a few snapshots of red snappers.
Were this wonderful electronic library purely a domestic resource, someone would already have blacked-out the private parts at their source, but the Web is the World Wide Web, and getting the French to airbrush pubic hairs, be they Botticelli or Bardot, is ticklish.
Since the Communication Decency Act (CDA) came before the high court, lots of public jawing has taken place over how we might maintain some semblance of free speech while protecting our impressionable youths from the clear and present danger of pornography. To my learned peers of the free-speech, free-love, flower-powered '60s, I would offer the following:
First, the Supreme Court is not going to brainstorm some artful dodge or technical trick to weed out the underage when pictures and words of an adult nature are accessed over the Internet. The court is simply going to decide whether the CDA is constitutional. If the court says yes, then anyone who stocks his web site with feelthy peectures is going to be liable for big fines and jail time. That ought to pretty well resolve the issue of how to keep kids from seeing irritated warheads and wide-open beavers on the home computer:
Don't put them there in the first place, so nobody can see them.
But wait, you say, that means I can't look at private parts either, and I'm a certifiable dirty old man. The emphasis here being on old.
Well that's a small price to pay for protecting our children, Congress, President Clinton, and the Justice Department tell us.
Want to know what I think? Of course you do. I think any kid old enough and smart enough and full of enough guile to lie about his age and borrow his old man's credit card number is beyond being harmed by any images of private parts or bodily effluvium he may encounter on the Internet. And any connections and combinations imaginable thereof.
And forget about the Internet and the World Wide Web, the porno book stores, titty bars and peep shows: If any kid in America wants to see 50 percent of all the scary stuff available through the pornographers, all he has to do is drop his own pants and look. If he or she wants to see the other half, it's a simple matter of offering a quarter to a sibling, or walking in on Mom or Dad in the convenience.
Is this pornography? Are we to have our children believe the tools their parents used to make them, their port-of-entry into God's Green Earth, their own little cuties, are indecent? Notwithstanding the propaganda of many generations of tight-assed hypocritical grown-ups:
Sex is only dirty to the dirty-minded. Enlightened parents raise enlightened kids, and the freer the access to any and every thought, word and image, the freer, cleaner, more open and sunny the young mind will grow to maturity and wisdom.
Yes, I know a large chunk of the child population today is virtually feral, untended and untutored by responsible parents. And you know what? That's a damned shame, but shit does happen. The state cannot take responsibility for every accident of birth visited upon the planet by those who care nothing for their acts nor the consequences of them. It's the job of families to teach their children about right and wrong, love and sex, penises and vaginas, and wiping and flushing.
Just because some families are too twisted or embarrassed to recognize love and sex and the tools of these trades for the beautiful and wholesome things they are; or because some kids don't have folks around the house to impart these words of wisdom and joy to them, does not and cannot mean that an entire nation should be muzzled like dogs and shackled like slaves.
Hell, my dog barks all night and my slaves have the run of the house.
Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Cinema | Back Page | Forums | Search
| © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth