Where’s the obscenity threat level?
With all the peril W. sees at home and abroad, his new attorney general has declared a war on – of all grave dangers – obscenity! Not domestic violence or child abductors or corporate fraud or industrial polluters. Or gay bashing or voter fraud or government corruption. Some people refuse to pay taxes because some of the funds go to family planning clinics or the National Endowment for the Arts. Some Americans don’t want their money going to programs in which condoms are handed out to high school students or syringes given to junkies. Well, I don’t want to fund Alberto Gonzales’ war on obscenity. I don’t want to pay the salaries of the prosecutors assigned to this task force. But it seems Janet Jackson’s naked breast has traumatized the nation as deeply as Sept. 11. Sure the stunt was low class. Sure it was reprehensible. Now America has Uncle Alberto to put his hands over the nation’s vulnerable eyes and say, “Don’t watch!” when we accidentally – or purposely – tune our TiVos into some late-night cable smut. Uncle Alberto will send us to our rooms when our “Girls Gone Wild” video arrives in the mail. He’ll send us to jail when we download the latest celebrity sex clip that all the other sexual deviants in the office and at the gym have been chattering about. And how soon before the Department of Justice debuts its color-coded obscenity warning system so FOX News can run updates on its news ticker? So parents can be alarmed out of buying rap albums or frightened away from Abercrombie and Fitch ads? How are we to know which definition of obscenity Abu Ghraib Al is going to use? After all, he condoned torture and helped bring the world that famous series of photos: “Totally Twisted Sex Acts From An Iraqi Prison.” Well, this AG has apparently defined obscenity despite the fact that some of the stars of his smash-hit snuff film are either serving long prison sentences or headed there. He’s OK’d the profound sexual humiliation of Muslim prisoners of war but doesn’t want Americans to see silly but willing college students taking their shirts off. In another example that words are far more important than deeds in this administration, his rough record on torture is blotted out by some easy pandering to the religious right. We’ll forget the piles of naked, hooded, black-and-blue Arabs as long as even the suggestion of a woman’s breasts are banished from the airwaves and all media made wholesome and holy.But just who is our top culture cop protecting us from? The legal porn industry rakes in billions, and not by inflating government contracts, like Dickie’s Halliburton. The porn industry rakes in billions because real-live Americans pay for pornography, even the red Americans who voted for W. and don’t dig gay marriage or Michael Moore movies or gun control or abortion rights. These same red Americans insist they like small government. But here’s their administration telling them what they can watch in the privacy of their own homes. And “Saving Private Ryan,” a blockbuster movie about one of the nation’s greatest military victories, made by one of America’s favorite directors, starring perhaps America’s most beloved movie star – yes, Forrest Gump himself (he also won an Academy award playing a lawyer with AIDS) – was deemed obscene and therefore unfit for prime time by some television channels. War? Obscene? Too violent for the children? Hey, obscene war is Alberto’s area of expertise. But there’s probably no chance he’ll take himself off the air, or at least off the case, and devote his time to actual problems and real threats to children. City Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or firstname.lastname@example.orgVail, Colorado