Addicted to Repression
Alberto M. Gonzales,
President Bush's nominee to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General of the
United States, committed to enforcing federal obscenity laws during his
questioning by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is the first
public statement of his views on adult material that anyone has been able to
The topic first arose when Senator Mike DeWine asked the candidate what he'd
like to be remembered for, four years from now? Gonzales replied, in part,
I think obscenity is something else that very much concerns me. I've got
two young sons, and it really bothers me about how easy it is to have access
That statement led to a later exchange that was as revealing about the plans
of committee member Senator Sam Brownback as about Gonzales' views on
sexually explicit material. Brownback urged Gonzales to investigate the
hypothesis presented before his Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and
Space that pornography was an addictive commodity, suggesting that perhaps
the DOJ could prosecute porn on those grounds.
Brownback’s request is repeated in full onthe issue of obscenity
laws and enforcement: I held a hearing last session of Congress on the
issue of these -- not obscenity laws, but on addictions to pornography. And
there was an amazing set of experts that came forward, talking about the
addictiveness of pornography.
It's grown much more potent, much more addictive, much more pervasive, much
more impactful. You cited teenage children you have and that I have, and in
our private conversation. There's been criticism of the Department of
Justice for not enforcing obscenity laws, work on these issues on community
standards. I would hope that this would be something that you would take a
look at, maybe make some personnel shifts within the Department of Justice,
to address this from the law standards, on community standards, look at the
addictiveness in the nature of it.
There are certain, obviously, guarantees of First Amendment rights, but
there are also these laws that have been upheld by community standards,
upheld by the Supreme Court, that can be, and I really think should be,
enforced, given the nature of this very potent -- what one expert called it,
delivery system, of -- in this country. And I hope you can look at that.
Gonzales replied, I will commit to that. I will look at that, Senator.
Beyond Gonzales' "commitment," Brownback's statement contains several
troubling elements, not the least of which is his description of the
witnesses who testified at the aforementioned panel on the addictive
qualities of porn. As noted in the January AVN, this "amazing set of
experts" were in fact not experts at all, according to most of the world's
top sex researchers, but agenda-driven ideologues who hate
There is no scientifically credible evidence for her ideas, said Dr.
Daniel Linz, co-author of The Question of Pornography, of the claims of
witness Dr. Judith Reisman. In fact, the notions of 'sexual addition'
generally, including 'pornography addiction' as well as the recent concern
with 'on-line sex addiction' are highly questionable to most scientists.
But though Dr. Linz had submitted his opinions to Brownback's subcommittee,
the senator obviously ignored Dr. Linz's testimony, and described adult
material in drug terms, as having grown much more potent, much more
addictive – as if the sexual speech were some new strain of marijuana or
Brownback also spoke of maybe making some personnel shifts within the
Department of Justice, which suggests that he has new duties in mind for
former DOJ prosecutor/anti-porn crusader Bruce Taylor, whose job duties have
been unclear since his rehiring early last year. Andrew Oosterbaan, the
current head of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, has been the
main target of the criticism of the Department of Justice for not
enforcing obscenity laws
Further, Brownback's recommendation that Gonzales address this [obscenity
laws] from the law standards, on community standards, look at the
addictiveness in the nature of it, recalls Reisman's claim in her
testimony that pornographic visual images imprint and alter the brain,
triggering an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail,
arguably, subverting the First Amendment by overriding the cognitive speech
process. This is true of so-called 'soft-core' and 'hard-core' pornography.
This suggests that the government's new strategy will be to attempt to place
all sexual speech outside the protection of the First Amendment by claiming
that it creates effects over which the viewer will have no conscious,
At the judiciary committee hearing, Brownback mentioned that he hoped to
"recruit" Gonzales' wife "on this topic" because she "had some interest in
this." Could a patronage job for Mrs. Gonzales be in the offing – at
substantial salary, no doubt – if the new attorney general agrees to target
adult materials as Brownback thinks he should? Only time will tell.