The latest generation of Internet pornographers has found a strange ally
in Clinton's Justice Department. The number of new hardcore video titles
to hit the market annually has more than quadrupled since Clinton took
office according to the porn industry itself. And what has the Justice
Department done while ever more degenerate forms of illegal pornography
invade our homes and our lives? They just turn and look the other way.
"President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno are proving to be
the best friends the hardcore, illegal porn industry ever had," said
Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, a non-profit organization
that has fought obscenity since 1962. The porn industry agrees.
"President Clinton is a total supporter of the [porn video] industry and
he's always been on our team," said David Schlesinger of Vivid Video,
quoted in the Sept. 28, 1998 edition of TV Guide. "It's not that Clinton
has been outwardly supportive of the adult industry, but rather that he
hasn't tried to quash it the way Republicans did back in the 1980s."
And Kat Sunlove, a lobbyist for the Free Speech Coalition, a pornography
advocacy group, said in the March 2000 issue of Adult Video News, "How
likely is it, would you say, that we are going to enjoy the same
benevolent neglect that the industry has enjoyed under Janet Reno?"
"The Justice Department's own data indicate that the level of federal
obscenity law enforcement dropped more than 80% during the first six
fiscal years of the Clinton Administration," said Peters.
The explosion of the Internet has done much to fuel the proliferation of
hardcore illegal pornography. The online porn industry brought in $1.5
billion in 1999 according to Forbes (April 10, 2000). Although all
pornography is disgusting, much of it pushes the limits of comprehensible
Consider the opinion of Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who was
quoted in U.S. News & World Report's Feb. 10, 1997 issue as saying "Some
of the stuff out there, I mean, I wouldn't even publish it." Is it
possible that we have finally found the moral boundary of the notorious
And yet the Justice Department remains silent. "Their inaction is
especially frustrating because effective prosecution is one of the best
ways to fight pornography," says Bruce Taylor, president of the National
Law Center for Children and Families and a leading obscenity prosecutor.
When Congress began asking question last year, they found a significant
decline in prosecutions since the Bush Administration.
In fact, Taylor says that many of the Justice Department's "obscenity"
cases are actually child porn cases that are plea-bargained down to adult
obscenity. And adult obscenity convictions carry much lighter penalties
than child porn convictions.
Bob Flores, vice president and senior counsel of the National Law Center
for Children and Families, says that the Justice Department has yet to
prosecute a single case of substance against this industry. In addition,
there have been zero prosecutions against the triple-X-rated 'dot coms'
for distributing illegal hardcore adult pornography over the Internet.
Under the leadership of Reps. Billy Tauzin (R-LA) and Steve Largent
(R-OK), the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and
Consumer Protection held a hearing on May 23, 2000 to confront the Justice
Department with these facts. The response was simple; we are under
funded, we don't have the resources to prosecute.
But ironically, there is no lack of "resources" to prosecute everything
from tobacco to Elian Gonzalez to Microsoft. In response, Largent has
introduced HR 4710, a bill that would authorize $5 million earmarked to
the Justice Department for specifically prosecuting obscenity. The bill
is scheduled for a vote this week.
But prosecution is not the only problem. According to Bruce Taylor, the
Justice Department has to do a better job in defending challenges to
federal laws in court. It was embarrassing that the Justice Department
lobbied against the Child Online Protection Act while Congress was
considering it, saying that it would be unconstitutional.
Most recently, the American Civil Liberties Union won a preliminary
injunction to prevent enforcement of the COPA in federal court, which
would have made it illegal for online pornographers to knowingly provide
porn to children.
Now that the COPA case is going to a final trial, the Justice Department
should call the most knowledgeable Internet experts in the world to
dispute the witnesses of the ACLU, and win a big one for our children.
According to Patrick McGrath, director of media relations for Morality in
Media, the next presidential administration will have a tough job fighting
the porn industry back into submission. "The other guys have enormous
capital on their side," he said. McGrath cited everything from plenty of
cash to a friendly media and Hollywood who are working hard to mainstream much of the porn industry's work.
Both the Gore and Bush campaigns have expressed their intent to enforce
the federal obscenity laws. But how committed is Gore to enforcement
considering his bosses record? If his commitment level parallels that of
his boss, we should be concerned. Bill Clinton has talked the talk, but
he has not walked the walk.
In 1992, Clinton wrote a letter to Morality in Media saying, "Like most
parents, Hillary and I are concerned about the effects of exposure to
violence, explicit sex, and mixed moral messages on America's
children-themes all too often depicted on television, on films, and in
print. Be assured that aggressive enforcement of federal obscenity
laws-particularly by the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section [of the
Justice Department]-will be a priority in a Clinton-Gore administration."
The Internet will certainly play a large role in the legacy of Bill
Clinton. Unfortunately this legacy is marred by the reality of an out of
control illegal pornography industry.
Note: Rich Shipe is managing editor of the Crosswalk.com Youth Channel.