Blind to the Law
November/December 2000 Family Voice
Eight-year-old Joe was a normal, well-adjusted child, his parents thought. He came from a Christian family. Then they discovered he was viewing pornographic files on the Internet. This had gone on for six months. Shocked, they immediately added computer features that blocked the porn and monitored sites viewed. But Joe could still access it at the library and his friends’ homes.
His struggle has continued for two years. Joe increasingly lives in a world of sexual fantasies, and he has begun to act them out. His schoolwork and friendships have suffered. His parents have punished him and issued consequences. Each time, Joe cries and says he wants to stop. But he feels powerless.
|* Name has been changed. Gene McConnell Ministries is the source of this true story.|
He is addicted, and Joe has begun what will be a life-long battle with pornography.*The Forgotten Crime
Sad stories like this have become commonplace as pornography becomes more widespread. The pornography industry has defamed the Constitution by claiming “free speech,” while it holds familiesincluding childrenhostage. Tragically, our own federal Justice Department has let the pornography industry get away with it.
As a lawyer, I have devoted my professional life to the pursuit of justice. I served in the Justice Department under President Bush. In 1997, during President Clinton’s second term, I left Justice. Because of its decline in prosecuting obscenity, I concluded I could do more for children and families outside the government. The U.S. Department of Justice is on life support. Can it be saved? Or will the pornography industry continue to profit from its blindness?
Americans once widely recognized pornography as immoral and crime-related. But in the last decade, the commercial sex industry has grown into multibillion–dollar international corporations. As pornographer Paul Fishbein stated in Adult Video News (AVN), “Fresh new adult magazines generate big profits. ... It’s a great time to be an adult retailer.”
Despite connections with organized crime, today the pornography industry feels free to hire lobbyists to influence politicians. We must tell the truth about this dirty “business.” We must make sure that pornographers, sex club operators, pimpsand the criminal organizations they controldo not write the final chapter of this sordid story.Right Way to Battle Porn
When the Clinton administration took office, the Justice Department had just finished its most successful blitzkrieg ever of adult and child pornographers. Working together, federal prosecutors and state U.S. attorneys obtained more than 125 convictions and more than $24 million in fines and forfeitures for breaking obscenity laws. Every prosecution from 1989 to 1992 resulted in convictions. Some defendants also received prison terms.
The Justice Department held criminals responsible for their actions and forced the industry to change. Distributors and producers removed movies depicting the most graphic pain. Retailers pulled videos with themes such as rape, incest and pseudo-child pornography, which uses teens of questionable age to depict child abuse. Finally, the industry stopped some marketing strategies, such as sending unsolicited, hard-core mailings. These often fell into the hands of young children.
While the industry remained strong, it had many roadblocks. More pornography producers obeyed the law because they understood they could be severely punished. Just as important, porn users also faced an extra stigma: These materials were illegal. The industry could no longer claim a nonexistent constitutional right.
Sadly, the Justice Department threw away this momentum.What Law?
In 1993, the United States began a staggering decline in obscenity prosecutions. During the Clinton administration’s first six years, federal enforcement of obscenity violations plummeted more than 80 percent. In fiscal 1997, only six prosecutions included a lead charge of federal obscenity law violation. In 1998, those cases totaled only eight. Further, no prosecutions against major interstate distributors of hard-core porn have occurred for the past several years, according to a report by Morality in Media, a New York-based decency organization.
The last eight years have been “peaches and cream as far as prosecutions have been concerned,” said Paul Cambria, a “First Amendment” lawyer whose clients include Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. Cambria spoke at a pornography trade show in September. “We’ve had some state prosecutions, but by-and-large no federal prosecutions” under the Clinton administration, he said.
To remedy the situation, pro-family groups, including the National Law Center for Children and Families and Concerned Women for America, pressed for meetings with Justice Department officials. They ignored our requests to meet with U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno for nearly eight monthsalthough we represented millions of children and families. When I pressed inside contacts for the meeting, officials said we did not merit a meeting with Miss Reno and offered us Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder instead.
At that May 1998 meeting, Mr. Holder seemed genuinely concerned with our requests. But he had little understanding of the obscenity industry. Afterwards, he contacted all 93 U.S. attorneys in the states to remind them that the prosecution of obscenity producers and distributors was still a priority, and they were responsible to act.
Still, nothing happened. The porn industry’s trade publications reported the Justice Department had sent this letter, but pornographers obviously didn’t fear prosecution and continued “business as usual.” In 1996, the industry endorsed President Clinton for a second term, stating in AVN, “There have been fewer federal prosecutions of the adult industry under Clinton than under Reagan and Bush. ... [W]ith no reason to change his hands-nearly-off porn policy, vote for him.”
Last March, again AVN addressed this issue. “How likely is it ... that we are going to enjoy the same benevolent neglect [under the next administration],” it asked, “that the industry has enjoyed under Janet Reno?” In fact, the Gore/Lieberman campaign also received the industry’s endorsement in September.Shifting the Focus
Pornography producers and attorneys have tried to shift the focus from illegal obscenity to child pornography. “The Clinton regime has not prosecuted any adult obscenity at any time,” said porn industry attorney Cambria. “[Its] focus has been on child pornography, and [its] focus should be on child pornography.”
But studies show that soft porn leads to hard porn, including illegal obscenity. And pornography use leads to child abuse. According to a 1983 report to the Department of Justice, 87 percent of those who molest girls and 77 percent of those who molest boys admitted to regular use of hard porn.
Understanding this, members of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee grilled Deputy Assistant Attorney General Alan Gershel in a May hearing. Gershel tried to address only the prosecution of child pornography. When Rep. Steve Largent (R-Oklahoma) asked how many convictions of obscenity violations have occurred since 1996, Gershel could not recall one. The Justice Department spent money intended for obscenity prosecutions, Gershel said, to prosecute child pornography, noting a “dramatic increase” in such cases.
“A culture of obscenity leads to a greater culture and exploitation of children,” Rep. Charles Pickering (R-Mississippi) replied. “They contribute to each other. And until you address both, you are going to see a dramatic increase.”
Last April, pro-family groups met with new Assistant Attorney General James Robinson for the Criminal Division. Once again, we had to educate him about the issues, prosecution needs, and the poor record of the Justice Department and U.S. attorneys. Even today, indictments are not being announced.Pornography’s Stranglehold
All progress made during the Reagan and Bush years has been undone. The lack of any credible effort to hold this industry to the law has enabled the commercial sex industry to grow without challenge. Companies that the Reagan and Bush administrations successfully prosecuted placed much of the pornography on the Internet.
Millions of children have now been exposed to the most violent, deviant and accessible pornography ever. It reaches them in schools, libraries and homes. The “Dangerous Access” report found 668 incidents of children exposed to pornography in libraries. Today, most people first see pornography as young children.
The pornography industry has become fixated on “young teen” material, which though advertised as over 18, depicts girls with the body types of prepubescent or adolescent children. The Internet version of unsolicited mailings has returned in the form of pornographic “spam,” which is unwanted electronic mail, and obscene banner ads on Web sites.
The Clinton administration has furthered the industry through a calculated strategy of nonenforcement. Users think porn is legal and protected by the First Amendmenta lie, but effective propaganda.Time for Zero Tolerance
The new administration will face a daunting challenge if it takes on the porn industry, which is now better financed and enjoys a wider appeal. It has enslaved so many of our friends and family that any effort must be aggressive. The new president must lead the battle by appointing law-respecting U.S. attorneys and judges. It’s time to wipe the smirk off the porn industry’s face.
- Encourage the new U.S. Attorney General and U.S. attorneys to uphold the law.
- Return the stigma to porn; speak out against it in your community or church.
- Support ministries reaching out to porn addicts and former porn-industry workers.
The Clinton administration loosed a dangerous predator on our communities, and for the present, we are left to confront the danger. America has become like the frog in the pot of water that allows himself to be cooked alive because the water’s temperature rises so slowly.
Pornographers will continue to raise the temperature. Will we feel the heat and finally jump out?
J. Robert Flores, Esq., is Vice President and Senior Counsel for the National Law Center for Children and Families (NLC) in Fairfax, Virginia. NLC’s mission “is focused on the protection of children and families from the harmful effect of illegal pornography by assisting in law enforcement and law improvement.” Mr. Flores formerly served as the Acting Deputy Chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice. He was a federal prosecutor in this section for eight years.
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