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 uncover.
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 to pornography.
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 on the 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 sexually-expressive speech.
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 opium.
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, rational control.
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.