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April 06, 2004

MISPLACED PRIORITIES: With a war on terror underway, the Justice Department is planning a war on porn.

I blame John Ashcroft. No, really, this time I mean it. And if the Administration thinks that this is a good use of their "computer forensics" experts, then they must have decided that terrorists aren't a threat any more.

This is so ham-handed and sure to blow up in the Administration's face, making them look like stooges for the religious right while accomplishing nothing, that one almost suspects a Democratic mole in their ranks.

UPDATE: More on this lousy idea here and here. Lots of background and links.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:

I voted for Bush and donated to his campaign and have been looking for reasons to support his reelection. But when I saw your post, I snapped. I just made a small donation to the Kerry campaign...and, living in Massachusetts, I have no reason to be thrilled about Kerry.

Somebody commented somewhere on the Web that never had he seen a President so contemptuous of his supporters as GWB.

While Bush is my first choice to prosecute the war (on terror, not on pornography), McCain's comments reassure me that Kerry would do an adequate job.

As I said, this is a big mistake. Though I wish I could be as confident about Kerry regarding the war on terror, notwithstanding my praise of him today.

UPDATE: Reader Jorge Del Rio thinks the emailer above is bogus:

Do I think its stupid what the justice department is doing? Probably. What's even more scary are the other stupid things the government does that we don't know about. However, I'm writing about the email comments you posted on the issue about the former Bush supporter who's mad at this and will now support Kerry, thanks in part to McCain. Now, this guy may be legitimate. However, I'd be care about some emailers using the Moby trick. It just sounded to perfect. A guy who knows Kerry and voted for Bush but was swayed by the media darling McCain. Again, you may know him and he may be legit, but it seemed a little too perfect.

But the original reader emails back: "I saw your cautionary comment about Kerry and the war. Point taken. This is an important election and a symbolic donation to Kerry doesn't determine what I'll do in the future."

Take it from me: This is a dumb move by the Administration.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Harvard Republican blog observes:

The Baltimore Sun article quotes Attorney General John Ashcroft saying that porn "invades our homes persistently though the mail, phone, VCR, cable TV and the Internet." No, Mr. Ashcroft, that's incorrect; Americans persistently invite porn into our homes through the mail, phone, VCR, cable TV and the Internet. According to Eric Schlosser's Reefer Madness, Americans spend between $8 and $10 billion per year on adult entertainment, about as much as on first-run (non-porn) movies. Show me a videocassette that forces itself into an American's home at gunpoint, ties him to the couch, and plays itself, and I will concede that your claim makes sense; otherwise, you're wrong.

Indeed. Justin Katz, on the other hand, thinks I'm wrong to be concerned.

Jeff Jarvis has a roundup of blog reactions, all negative.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Clark Taylor emails:

Wow, if you don't delete this e-mail right away, I'll be impressed. I have to agree with you that if the FBI is spending serious resources going after regular porn, it is probably pretty stupid. However, my guess is they are going after things that are truly illegal, such as child porn. Chances are, from my take on things, this is a non-story, i.e. what the Justice Department has been doing for a while anyways, but the reporter really needed a story.

The story says they're making a big across-the-board anti-porn push, even going after soft-porn in hotels and on cable TV. I suppose it could be wrong, but it's pretty straightforward. And I seldom delete email, though given the firehose quantities I receive it often goes unreplied-to, or even unread, depending on how much time I have.

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