November 5, 2010

WRAP Week: We Must Enforce Existing Laws

This week, during White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week, we are highlighting a few Enough Is Enough®® blogs that highlight the harmful impact of pornography.  If you regularly read our blog, you are aware that in our work at Enough Is Enough®®, we feel as though our children's access to harmful to minors (HTM) content and illegal adult pornography, a.k.a. obscenity, is one of the key Internet dangers today. 

As we reflect on WRAP week, we thought it would be helpful to share the comments from our Congress briefing about the harmful impact of pornography by former chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, Patrick Trueman about the need to prosecute obscenity.


*  *  *

Remarks of Patrick A. Trueman

During and since my years as chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, I have had occasion to review everything the U.S. Supreme Court has said about obscenity or hardcore pornography. Some of the essential things the Court has said on Federal Obscenity Laws include:

In Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957), Justice Brennan, who is revered for his views on the First Amendment, observed that "this Court has always assumed that obscenity is not protected by the freedoms of speech and press" (at 481).  In Roth, the Supreme Court went on to hold that obscenity is "not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press."

In Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 34 (1973), the Supreme Court said: "[T]o equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial                  exploitation of obscene material demeans the grand conception of the First Amendment and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom is a 'misuse of the great guarantees of free speech'" 

NPR carried a story on our briefing for Congress regarding the need to enforce existing obscenity laws, and rather than interview any of the panelists, NPR interviewed someone from the porn industry.  That person remarked that the people involved in our event want to take away our First Amendment rights.  NONSENSE!  Obscene pornography has NEVER been considered protected material by our U.S. Supreme Court and the Porn criminals do not have a right to pollute America with such material.

Federal obscenity laws, which are not being enforced, prohibit distribution of hardcore obscene material on the Internet, the majority of the pornographic material that is available on the Internet; on cable/satellite or hotel/motel TV, the pay-per-view porn that most cable/satellite companies and hotels carry; and in sexually oriented businesses, porn shops and other retail shops that trade in hardcore porn.  

The role of the Federal Government should be, as it has been in the past, to prosecute the major producers and distributors of obscene material.   However, rather than aggressively enforcing federal obscenity laws against large-scale distributors of obscene materials, for several years the Department of Justice has targeted primarily small operations that trafficked in the most extreme hardcore pornography and prosecuted very few of them.  Thus, illegal, obscene material is flooding our nation and the harm is great.

I want to note that the Department of Justice has been bringing a few cases over the years, in the Clinton and Bush Administrations AND THEY HAVE WON THEIR CASES.  When obscenity cases are prosecuted they are won!

I am not suggesting that obscenity prosecutions are easy, no federal prosecutions are but you would be hard-pressed to find many obscenity cases lost in the history of the Department of Justice.  When juries are asked whether hardcore pornography meets their community standards, few will say yes.   The same would happen today.  Congress needs to assure that the laws it passed on obscenity are enforced by the Department of Justice.

Our efforts to demand the vigorous enforcement of our Federal Laws against illegal adult pornography are not partisan, because the protection of children, violence against women, addiction and sexual trafficking are not partisan issues.  The harms of pornography that we are talking about would, to a great extent, NOT be present if we were vigorously enforcing the law.  

I want to highlight one of those harms.  When I left the Department of Justice, 17 years ago, the Department could say that that the problem of child pornography in America was under control.  Yes there were child pornographers but relatively few.  No law enforcement agency today could say that child pornography is under control in America.  It is a widespread and growing problem.  

One reason is that the Internet is, in a sense, "creating" child pornographers.  Those who look at pornography first begin by viewing mild material but because of the way the human brain works, they seek out harder and harder material.  The brain cannot be satisfied ever with pornography that is consumed, it demands more and more.  Viewers deviate down to fetish material and some deviate to child pornography.  Many who are arrested for child pornography, and some of these are parents with young children, will admit that they never thought they would enjoy child porn.  But, they will say, they started with adult porn and the excitement wore off and then moved to child porn.  Now we have a child pornography crisis in the U.S. and in the world.  You will NEVER solve the problem of child pornography unless you vigorously prosecute adult pornography.

There are many things that Congress can do.  We are not asking for new laws.  We have all we need.  We are asking Congress and the Administration as well as society at large to reconsider the impact illegal pornography is having now nearly 20 years into the Internet age. The U.S. Department of Justice has a Criminal Section devoted to the prosecution of obscenity and there are 93 U.S. Attorneys spread throughout the country whose job is to enforce federal law.  When they enforce obscenity laws, they help the community to establish community standards.  All people throughout America would like to live in a community with high standards.  

When the prosecutor refuses to prosecute, the community standard becomes, "ANYTHING GOES."  America has had enough of Anything Goes from the pornography criminals. Now is the time to enforce the law!

*  *  *

Visit us for more about the harms of p-rnography,  information about protecting your children, and for a list of filtering and monitoring software that can help protect your children from exposure.



About Enough Is Enough®


 Enough Is Enough®® (EIE) is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which emerged in 1994 as the national leader on the front lines to make the Internet safer for children and families. Since then, EIE has continued to pioneer efforts including the widely acclaimed Internet Safety 101SM program, which educates, equips and empowers parents, educators and other caring adults with the knowledge and resources needed to effectively protect children from p-rnography, sexual predators, and cyberbullies as well as how to keep kids safe on social networking sites, gaming and mobile devices. Contact Us for more information.  Media can contact us here.