Edwin Meese IV


Federal obscenity charges were brought yesterday against an adult video wholesaler.

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft promised upon taking office that he would crack down on the distributors of adult entertainment material such as movies, magazines and Web sites, much as his Reagan administration predecessor Edwin Meese III did in the 1980s.

With the government's Microsoft Corp. antitrust trial completed and the war on terrorism well underway, pornography has worked its way to the top of Ashcroft's agenda.

NEXT: What Is the Riddle of Steel?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If all you Democrats in Missouri hadn’t been so intent on electing a dead man for Senate a few years ago, Ashcroft would just be some guy in Congress who’s even goofier than Orrin Hatch.

    Instead what we got is Bush giving his fellow Republican the consolation prize of Attorney Generalship, and now we have Ashcroft wandering around in his puritan robes with subpoena power.

    Talk about instant karma.

  2. Douglas,

    Blaming Missourians for preferring a dead guy over General John is absurd. Their decision still seems an eminently sensible one.

    And are we really to believe that Bush would have picked someone any different from General John had he remained in the Senate? IMHO, anyone who subscribes to that view is engaging in self-delusion.

  3. The thing about “community standards” is that, in a free market, a community will have just as much porn available as the community wants. If only a few people in a community want porn, there won’t be much of it — adult bookstores will go out of business for lack of customers. If lots of people want it, more stores will open to serve the need (if left unmolested).

    Resorting to the courts is a de facto sign that the community as a whole is to be ignored while the standards of a powerful few are imposed on the entire community.

  4. Just for the record, Extreme Associates makes some hot flicks. “Gangbang Angels,” anyone?

  5. As I remember it Bush was probably going to nominate the governor of Idaho or wherever up there for Attorney General, then the Ashcroft thing went off with the questionable result that someone who wasn’t on the ballot (Mrs. Carnahan) was given the Senate seat.

    Ashcroft opted not to challenge this, for whatever reasons, and was then nominated by Bush for the cabinet. It seemed relatively clear to me at least at the time that this was a reward to a loyal Republican who was seen to have been shafted out of his seat in the Senate. If that qualifies as delusion, sign me up for the loony bin.

    The Democrats in the past few years have displayed a disturbing willingness to jerryrig elections post-facto (New Jersey, Missouri, dare I say Florida). I think this has come back to bite them (and us) on the ass, first with the appointment of Ashcroft, and now in California with the recall election. The recall is admittedly legal but I wonder if the Repubs there would be willing to go this far if not for the recent examples of Missouri and New Jersey.

  6. Your tax dollars at work.


  7. Douglas Fletcher,

    In the case of the Missouri and New Jersey elections no ballot had been cast when the changes (or lack of change in the case of Missouri) came into effect. Ashcroft lost to a dead guy; even if Jean Carnahan not been appointed to fill-in for her husband, the same thing would have happened. Someone, because Jean’s husband was dead and there was no legal time left to change the ballot, would have been picked to fill his spot for two years until a new election occurred. That’s how Missouri law works. Quit trying to insinuate that the Democrats did something nefarious in this case. If they used the election laws to their advantage, so be it, they broke no laws by doing so, nor did they “rig” the election. Ashcroft had the same chance of winning before and after Carnahan’s death.

    As to the case of New Jersey, the voters of that state were given several weeks to make up their mind about the change in candidates. The Republican had as much oppurtunity to run a good campaign as the Democrat did. Its not anyone pulled the wool over anyone’s eyes Given that the court found it within their equitable powers to accept this change, and the SCOTUS didn’t see a need to interfere, I would say that there was enough hard look at the situation.

    Republicans were also willing to use the election laws of the state of Florida as Democrats were.

    BTW, you come as much as a whiny bitch as Democrats do when they say Bush ‘stole’ the election, or that Bush was ‘selected.’ Jeez, get over it – politics is competitive like everything else in life.

  8. Douglas Fletcher,

    He was going to nominate the then Governor of Montana (Marc Racicot); who is now the Chair of the Republican National Committee.

    Racicot was a major cheerleader for Bush during the Florida election debacle, and thus was due to be rewarded by Bush.

  9. Dead Guy For Senate,

    Resorting to the courts is part of every free system of government. When people attack the courts they attack individual liberty, because the most important and final redress for such will be found in the courts. People don’t like courts because they are anti-democratic, and there is a good reason that they are anti-democratic – if they weren’t, the majority would role over minorities (and I don’t mean races here particularly) like the sneaker waves rolling over and drowning people on a beach.

  10. A waste of tax money, indeed. Thankfully obscenity convictions are not the slam-dunks they once were.

    On the other hand, the feds probably picked the most vile pornographers around with Extreme Associates. These guys/gals were profiled in a PBS “Frontline” special on porn where the delicate PBS crew left in the middle of filming a disturbing-looking rape scene.

    Rape porn is not solely an American phenominon. I had a Japanese roommate in grad school and he showed us some porn that a friend sent him from back home that depicted pretty scary looking rape fantasies. If these current defendants had any sense (and there’s no evidence of this) they did what the Japanese filmmakers did and put some outtakes at the end of the tape showing “bloopers” during the attack scene where the actress busts up laughing into the camera.

  11. “If a company is wanting to take advantage of the Internet for marketing and distribution purposes, it’s their responsibility to make sure they’re not violating local laws,” meaning they have adopted a delibertate strategy of imposing the laws of the most restrictive villiage in the Bible Belt on all of us.

  12. I heard that before Sept. 11th, the Ashcroft Justice Dept. had big plans to go after porn, big time. And then they had to realign their priorities. If Sept. 11th had any silver lining — that Ashcroft, et al. didn’t launch a wholesale war on porn — is surely one. Let’s just hope the Justice Dept. stays busy with real concerns like keeping this country safe from terrorists, and not from your friendly neighborhood pornographer.

  13. Larry,

    I saw that frontline special. That was a great special. And I think this is where I heard about Ashcroft’s plans to launch a “War on Porn” before Sept. 11th.

    And yes, I remember those two demented producers that make “rape porn” (they were a husband and wife — and the husband was a biker type).

    But as I recall from the special, other stuff, that is representative of garden variety porn — I’m thinking of the Buttman series — was also the subject of obscenity prosecutions.

  14. ah yes, the 4 finger rule.

    has there ever been a standard for obscenity which made any sense whatsoever? purient interests? the evil of thumbs? being arrested for simulated violence?

    isn’t that a bit like arresting ahnuld for murder after the premier of terminator 3?

  15. You’ll get my porn when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

  16. The Supreme Court made a huge mistake when it wrote “community standards” into the law on porn. Community is nothing but a political weasel-word with no place in the law, and until the Supremes fix that error, we’re all going to be held to the standards of John Ashcroft.

  17. >>>You’ll get my porn when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

  18. I did a few minutes of research — under Miller v. California, there’s two prongs to being found obscene. First,

    “(a) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
    (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and
    (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”

    The second prong is that the material must be “patently offensive.” This is yet another subjective criteria.

    “We emphasize that it is not our function to propose regulatory schemes for the States. That must await their concrete legislative efforts. It is possible, however, to give a few plain examples of what a state statute could define for regulation under [Miller]:

    (a) Patently offensive representations or descriptions of ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated.
    (b) Patently offensive representations or descriptions of masturbation, excretory functions, and lewd exhibition of the genitals.”

    So, “patently offensive” seems to mean whatever a jury thinks it means, much like “prurient interest” or “the average person.”

  19. What Ashcroft et al. must wrestle with is that juries – made up of the “community” — are not the sex-averse people many conservatives think they are.

    Case(s) in point: Cincinnati. The citizens of the Queen City are quite conservative on flesh matters. However, local prosecutors — who have brought repeated obscenity cases, including several against Larry Flynt — repeatedly have lost. And we’re not talking about prosecutions over “Lady Chatterly’s Lover;” these were some heavy cases.

    Now, maybe there are juries out there that will convict on a simulated-rape movie. But I suspect the blue noses at the Justice Department may well be surprised at how the juries will respond to their righteous indignation. (Assuming, that is, that the prospect of stiff jail sentences and forfeiture penalties don’t result in plea bargains.)

  20. I have to go behind the building because it “offends” people to see someone smoking, but the “offense” part of the anti-porn bill is being laughed at. Consistency please.

    By the way, could Ashcroft’s concern for porn on the internet have something to do with the acive use of the internet by children? And the sneaky way the porn sites try to get you to visit them?

  21. Ashcroft shouldn’t be wasting his resources on this! He should be fighting terrorists!

    No, wait…

  22. why do you smoke behind a building? is it some sort of local, state or federal law? or just your employer/co-op board’s way of fucking with you?

    on the second note, fuck “the children” – everybody’s goddamn yardstick for everything since the commies went bye-bye as public boogaboo #1. it may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a goddamn parent to make sure the kid doesn’t have unfettered internet access. or if they do, to explain the difference between fantasy, reality and the sexualization of violence for fun and profit.

    or we could just have the children raised in state-run vats…

  23. I’m intrigued. Please tell me more about these “vats” and they will be run.

  24. Will the suburbs have better vats?

  25. *how* they will be run.

  26. You all are missing the two silver linings in all of this.

    First of all, it’s not likely DOJ is going to get any convictions.

    Second of all, even if there is a conviction, Lawrence v. Texas gives grounds for appeal. Under Lawrence, morality and tradition cannot be a justification for state action. A sharp lawyer might even raise the issue on a summary judgment motion.

    Therefore, obscenity and public lewdness statutes, and a whole lot of other laws based on community values and preferences should be struck down.

    Whether the courts manufacture a new doctrine out of whole cloth as they did in Lawrence, but this time to uphold local laws, is anyone’s guess.

  27. the vats will be perfectly equal. everyone will receive the same amount of gruel, the same amount of information and the same amount of points on all tests. so no one feels bad, you see…

    of course, if this did happen “what about the children?” would change to “what about the vats?”

  28. You guys forget – porn funds terrorism! Well, they haven’t said that yet, but if doobie and pirated cd and dvds fund terrorism I’m sure the one-hand industry does in one way or another.

  29. I find myself torn between my hatred of children and my love of everything vat related.

  30. Dead Guy For Senate,

    Well, community standards determinate what is obscene or not. If the community uses the courts to make this determination, so be it.

  31. Jean Bart,

    You seem to have serious problem engaging in civil discourse. Maybe you should do a little studying on the subject in your beloved philosophy books. Look under “A”, for ad hominem. Maybe you could give all us here on this a little report on the subject.

  32. Jean Bart:

    Before going into a knee-jerk defense of courts that has nothing to do with the subject at hand because you detected the phrase “resorting to the courts” in a post — note that in obscenity cases we are talking about criminal courts and prosecution brought by agents of the state, not the use of civil court to enforce individual rights. We are talking about Ashcroft resorting to the courts to cutrail rights, NOT to protect them.

    Enforcing the judgement of a single judge or of twelve people unable to get out of jury duty as a supposed “community standard” is absurd compared to the judgement of entire community as shown in the free market. This has nothing to do with a pro or anti-democracy stance as markets are not mob rule.

  33. This has been expected. 9/11 merely delayed the inevitable.

    The bible-thumpers and freedom-haters were holding secret meetings with the Justice Department just weeks before the September 11th terrorist attacks. A new wave of federal persecutions were considered to be forthcoming, and those in the adult film industry were warned beforehand that they needed to be prepared for the coming attack.

    Now that wave of persecution has arrived.

    This is just the beginning. The most extreme and most explicit is always the first to be attacked. They will set the stage for future persecutions.

    Do not expect the courts to step in and save the day! Ashcroft is putting pressure on them as well.

    Ashcroft needs to be shut down, but he is only the figurehead. The religious groups are behind this attack. They are as big a threat to freedom as any Islamic terrorist group in the world today, and they must be put in their place now before they can start their own jihad.

    This is only the beginning.

  34. In other words, Prohibition On Porn. You know, because it’s worked SO well for drugs, and it worked SO well for alcohol, that we just have to do it all over again!

    *sigh* Screw up a societies schools and primary educations, and screw up their judicial systems (primarily in how juries are picked – which is to say, how the most intelligent, successful, and informed of individuals are intentionally and obviously selected against for jury duty), and you will soon enough screw up the whole damn society.

    The only upside is that sex always bounces back. That’s what’s incredible about it, really – it is just so evolutionarily valuable that it’s damn near impossible to illiminate, and hell on earth to successfully curtail in any way; illegalize sex for money, and you get pure sex-trade clubs and organizations (where sex is traded for sex, with no money changing hands, etc). It has to tell you something that with all “Forbidden!” signs that the Catholic Church has put on all sorts of sexual acts, that it took the invention of birth control and economic development to actually bring about major change in birth rates.

    I suppose the battle cry here is “There’s always Singapore!”

  35. EMAIL: krokodilgena1@yahoo.com

    DATE: 12/10/2003 06:33:25
    To be a human without passion is to be dead.

  36. EMAIL: krokodilgena1@yahoo.com
    URL: http://big-penis.nonstopsex.org
    DATE: 12/20/2003 10:20:52
    We are as God made us, and often a great deal worse.

  37. EMAIL: pamela_woodlake@yahoo.com
    URL: http://hair-loss.hair-loss-cure.net
    DATE: 01/09/2004 04:38:20
    It’s never right to say always, and always wrong to say never.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.