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House Republicans Call For War On Porn In Letter To Attorney General Barr

A group of House Republicans sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr over the weekend, calling for an end to porn.

Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, and Texas Rep. Brian Babin called on Barr to enforce U.S. obscenity laws and prosecute those who produce hardcore pornography in the letter obtained by National Review.

“We write to you today out of concern for the rule of law as well as the welfare of our people,” the letter begins. “The internet and other evolving technologies are fueling the explosion of obscene pornography by making it more accessible and visceral.”

“This explosion in pornography coincides with an increase in violence towards women and an increase in the volume of human trafficking as well as child pornography,” they go on to say. “Victims are not limited to those directly exploited, however, and include society writ large. This phenomenon is especially harmful to youth, who are being exposed to obscene pornography at exceptionally younger ages.”

“Fortunately, U.S. obscenity laws exist that, if enforced, can ameliorate this problem,” the letter continues. “As you well know from your previous term as U.S. Attorney General when you effectively shut down the porn industry and dramatically decreased child pornography in America.”

The Washington Examiner wrote a piece in 2018 saying that Barr’s appointment to Attorney General meant a crackdown on porn was soon to follow:

Pornographers are bracing for the first major obscenity clampdown in three decades under President Trump’s new pick for attorney general, William Barr, a strident social conservative whose views threaten the lucrative industry.

Anti-porn campaigners were thrilled with Trump’s selection of Barr, previously attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, noting his enthusiastic obscenity prosecutions in the early ‘90s….

Barr, described by one Washington attorney as a “staunch Catholic conservative,” isn’t shy about his views, warning in a 1995 article that “secularists” were targeting “laws that reflect traditional moral norms” and that “we are seeing the constant chipping away at laws designed to restrain sexual immorality [and] obscenity.”

The letter from the GOP congressmen goes on to point out the 2016 pledge then-candidate Donald Trump had signed, promising to use the laws that exist to put a stop to internet pornography:

If elected President of the United State of America, I promise to:

  1. Uphold the rule of law by aggressively enforce existing federal laws to prevent the sexual exploitation of children online, including the federal obscenity laws, child pornography laws, sexual predation laws and the sex trafficking laws by:
    1. appointing an Attorney General who will make the prosecution of such laws a top priority in my administration and,
    2. Providing the intelligence community and law enforcement with the resources and tools needed to investigate and prosecute Internet crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children.
  2. Aggressively enforce the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requiring schools and public libraries using government eRate monies to filter child pornography and pornography by requiring effective oversight by the Federal Communications Commission;
  3. Protect and defend the innocence of America’s children by advancing public policies that prevent the sexual exploitation of children in a manner that is consistent with the government’s compelling interest in protecting its most vulnerable citizens, within the limits set forth by the First Amendment.  
  4. Give serious consideration to appointing a Presidential Commission to examine the harmful public health impact of Internet pornography on youth, families and the American culture and the prevention of the sexual exploitation of children in the digital age.
  5. Establish public-private partnerships with Corporate America to step up voluntary efforts to reduce the threat of the Internet-enabled sexual exploitation of children by the implementation of updated corporate policies and viable technology tools and solutions.  

“Given the pervasiveness of obscenity it’s our recommendation that you declare the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority and urge your U.S. attorneys to bring prosecutions against the major producers and distributors of such material,” they conclude.

Of course, it’s expected that folks on the left would come out and defend pornography, but Sohrab Ahmari at the New York Post is disappointed to find the amount of supposed “conservatives” who are supporting it.

Then came the dismaying reaction — not just from the usual suspects on the left, but from many on the right, where access to porn has bizarrely emerged as a touchstone of “conservative” orthodoxy.

Online porn isn’t that bad, the Twitter libertarians insist. Plus, there is no way to restrict access to online porn, and even if there were, such regulation would sound the death knell for our ancient liberties.

All nonsense.

Online porn is that bad. For starters, there is the clear exploitation and links to human trafficking, which belie the libertarians’ glib slogans about “consenting adults.”

Given the billions of videos and images, there is simply no way to rule out that the average porn consumer doesn’t watch images of women who are trafficked, coerced or otherwise exploited.

When the subject is guns, folks say that the 2nd amendment needs to be adjusted, but when we are talking about porn, suddenly people become “constitutional originalists”, citing the intention of the founders to keep “speech” protected. The thing is, porn isn’t free speech.

The justice department says:

Obscenity is not protected under First Amendment rights to free speech, and violations of federal obscenity laws are criminal offenses. The U.S. courts use a three-pronged test, commonly referred to as the Miller test, to determine if given material is obscene. Obscenity is defined as anything that fits the criteria of the Miller test, which may include, for example, visual depictions, spoken words, or written text.

So, what is the “Miller Test”?

The Miller Test is a three-pronged test used to determine if something falls into the category of “obscene”. They are:

  • (1) whether the average person applying contemporary community standards would find 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 the applicable state law; and
  • (3) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Ahmari points out that “it’s still possible to restrict access. Schilling suggests requiring Internet service providers to create opt-in systems, whereby the default version of the Web is porn-free, with adults permitted to request the unfiltered version. Another possibility: corralling all porn into an adult “zone” that requires age verification to enter, while banning it ­everywhere else.”

Both of those seem like great ideas, but that doesn’t get to the issue of some conservatives seemingly defending porn.

There’s the whole “slippery slope” argument coming from people who are totally fine with the LGBT “slippery slope”, yet feel the need to speak out now that porn is the target. To that, we can respond with the same answer folks on the left gave when gay marriage was passed, “we just want to ban porn.”

Conservatives, real conservatives, should not be defending porn in any way. We should be supporting this end to pornography.

Critics of this position will say “that will lead to exploitation,” to which I respond “you mean the exploitation already going on?”

Prohibition creates a black market, but I’ll be honest, teenage boys don’t have the money to afford black market porn. You’re not going to have some older guy sitting around a high school selling old playboys. There might be some file sharing (distribution, which is illegal) but the ability to easily access porn online will be a lot harder if it’s barred (pun intended) from the internet.