Pornography

The Broader Meaning of the Trad-Cons' New War on Porn

They probably won't succeed in criminalizing Pornhub, but manifesto-wielding conservatives are trying to reshape the GOP into a movement against individualism.

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While the rest of us were gearing up for the holiday season, a small group of conservatives was busy cranking up something a good deal less cheerful: a new war on pornography.

On Dec. 6, four members of Congress wrote a letter to Atty. Gen. William Barr, beseeching him to "declare the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority," and "bring prosecutions against the major producers and distributors of such material."

We've been down this speech-trampling road before, most recently with the Bush administration's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force. It was disbanded in 2011, having been such a debacle that U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon delivered the following lecture when dismissing all federal charges against adult-film producer John Stagliano: "I hope the government will learn a lesson from its experience."

But political memory is notoriously short. Social conservatives have reacted to this latest suggested smut crackdown with a flurry of high fives.

Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh suggested moving toward an outright ban on pornography. New York Post opinion editor Sohrab Ahmari, echoing a prior argument in the increasingly assertive First Things magazine, posited that reality has changed the conditions underpinning the Supreme Court's unanimous 1997 Reno vs. ACLU decision striking down the indecency provisions of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

And at the Trumpy American Greatness website, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry disgorged a long "Science-Based Case for Ending the Porn Epidemic," which if nothing else demonstrates that our public discourse epidemic of pronouncing things "epidemics" shows little sign of receding.

The new anti-porn movement isn't without its amusements. "Conservatives must partner with anti-porn feminists," Ahmari tweeted, then deleted, last month. (He says his tweets are programmed to auto-delete.) "We won't agree on everything, but imagine how powerful such an alliance could be."

But there is a more serious project afoot. Emboldened conservatives are trying to use the Trump moment to steer the GOP firmly away from its commitments to individual liberty.

A manifesto last spring in First Things, "Against the Dead Consensus," helped define the battle lines, arguing that too many in the pre-Trump conservative camp were guilty of "fetishizing" individual "autonomy," which allegedly "yielded the very tyranny that consensus conservatives claim most to detest."

The first item on the Dead Consensus statement, signed by Ahmari, Gobry and a dozen others, would not be out of place at a Bernie Sanders rally: "We oppose the soulless society of individual affluence." The authors dismiss as "dogmas" the notions of "free trade on every front, free movement through every boundary, small government as an end in itself, technological advancement as a cure-all."

But these are the same people who also brought us a whole damn month last year of internecine conservative warfare over drag-queen story hour. They are itching to go on the offensive in the culture wars, whether on abortion or gender pronouns or porn, and they consider your constitutional objections to be about as relevant as stopping a tidal wave with a slide rule.

"The Founding generation," Ahmari wrote last month, "would likely have reacted to [Pornhub] not with high-libertarian nostrums, but with tar and feathers."

So is it time to start preemptively deleting your browser history? Not yet. Four members of Congress are considerably fewer than the 42 senators — including such Democrats as Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) — who objected to the dissolution of the last Obscenity Prosecution Task Force. And the Supreme Court these past two decades has been on a pro-free speech tear, one that has been strengthened, not weakened, by the Republican appointment of judges.

But ideology of all stripes is up for grabs right now, a fact our resurgent social conservative friends grasped more quickly than the rest of us. If and when they can partner up with the puritans of the left — as happened in 2018 with the passage of the speech-squelching FOSTA-SESTA sex trafficking act — the implications will leap from page to prison.

As the anti-porn troops are quick to point out, then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 signed a pledge to "give serious consideration to appointing a presidential commission to examine the harmful public health impact of internet pornography on youth, families and the American culture."

Social cons may be moral scolds, but they are not above a little pragmatism in using a thrice-married consorter with adult actresses to achieve their policy ends. "Whatever else might be said about it," the Dead Consensus manifesto concludes, "the Trump phenomenon has opened up space in which to pose these questions anew."

The intellectual tendency toward leaning hungrily into the wind of power has been with us for all recorded history. So has, as any visitor to Pompei can tell you, the human desire to view sexual imagery. Trump-era manifesto artists, responding as they are to a democratic upheaval, are seeking to use anti-democratic means to criminalize expression enjoyed by tens of millions. A task that herculean will require much more than strongly worded letters.

This article originally appeared in the L.A. Times.

NEXT: No Adults in the Room: From Election to The Politician

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  1. As Governor Lepetomane would say: “We’ve gotta protect our phoney baloney jobs, gentlemen!”

    And what better way than by starting a “War on…” well, something? They can expand or contract at need, and seem to go on for ever.

  2. William Barr is a facist.

    1. William Barr is a fascist (Socialist) like you?

      1. They hate us for our freedom.

        1. They just hate you because you’re a cunt.

        2. 100 million+ were killed for your brand of “freedom”.

        3. Pod hates us for our freedoms.

  3. I don’t recognize any of those names. It seems disingenuous to claim this is a conservative push when the actors are little known. I would have appreciated the article naming them and their districts. To do otherwise is an attempt to broad brush the right when these individuals could be targeted

      1. No. Just gonna keep repeating how bad the writers are at libertarianism and journalism

        1. THIS

        2. Yes, but Welch and Co. are purposefully bad on libertarianism and journalism.
          What he’s doing here with his phoney attack on Trad Cons is intentional and malicious.

    1. The article does link to the letter with signers including Jim Banks, Vicky Hartzler, Mark Meadows and Brian Babin, all GOP. It’s surprising to see Meadows joining this, given his position in the Freedom Caucus.

      Thankfully Trump only promised to “give serious consideration” to a commission to examine the harms of pornography. I’d say this is not an indication Trump intends to have such a commission, let alone criminalize pornography. So far his consideration is to not have it. I see no reason it will change.

  4. Emboldened conservatives are trying to use the Trump moment to steer the GOP firmly away from its commitments to individual liberty.

    Isn’t that what happened to the TEA Party? The GOP has always talked about smaller government but their actions have always belied the truth that they’re just as pro-Big Government as the left, they merely differ on what ends the government should be pursuing.

    Besides, think of the children! They go viewing porn and sooner or later they’re going to want a cigarette – it’s an anti-smoking campaign!

    1. Perhaps we are seeing hints of what the GOP skeleton will look like once Trump disappears from the White House. He’ll linger on from the sidelines, of course, but the remnants will not have his apparent transparency and faux-honesty, and it’s going to be entertaining watching Republicans, Democrats, and Trumpistas flail at his ghost.

    2. It’s a clockwork cycle.

      I caught an interview with Pelosi after the dems had swept all the three branches, and the hubris was palpable. Apparently the republicans are on the same high as the dems trashed their authority, thinking they could do no wrong.

      And libertarian leaning folks will start to distance themselves from the kookier aspects of the GOP where even the promise of a tax cut won’t win them back, look wearily at the left, and hope the whole circus is set ablaze.

  5. So the Republican Party not only wants to turn this country into a primarily white country, it also wants to turn it into a boring country. The only source of entertainment this Republican party seems willing to keep is watching working and peaceful immigrants being snatched from their families while their children cry on camera so white supremacist Trumpista fucks can fap over that sight. That pornography, state violence inflicted on people they hate, i.e. brown people, can go on with their blessing.

    1. Keep it up! I’m…almost…there!

    2. And just like your delusional fabrication of a war on your illiterate sister fucking pig ignorant countrymen, there isn’t actually any war on porn either. I guess life probably is more exciting when you’re completely and totally out of your fucking mind.

      1. Oh there is a war on porn, from neo feminist progressives. That won’t go anywhere. Considering that in the US, the porn industry generates more revenue that pro football, basketball, baseball, and hockey combined.

        1. You don’t see a cultural problem with that? Are you cognizant of the deleterious effects of porn and the industry? You can be opposed to something without wanting to restrict freedom. You can acknowledge societal problems without being litigious. Unfortunately, with the US, every problem is a nail in search of a new law.

    3. Libertarians want to fuck kids

      Libertarians want everyone to recive a weekly/monthly check from the federal government to povide a guaranteed basic income.

      Libertarians want universal background checks for firearms purchases and a 20 round magazine limit.

      Libertarians are racists. Libertarians revere dictators like Augusto Pinochet.

      Libertarians want to make vaccines, psychiatric drugs, and coreced drug treatment mandatory.

      Libertarians want the government to impose a carbon tax, and once again, send everyone a regular check from portions of the proceeds.

      Libertarians support a foreign policy of wars for humanitarian purposes.

      Libertarians support legal marijuana but wish to prohiit the sale, possession and use of other pyschotropic and therapeutic substances

      Libertarians endorsed Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Evan McMullin as well as Gary Johnson.

      I could go on forever…

      1. “I could go on forever…”

        Kind of like the first amoeba.

    4. So the Republican Party not only wants to turn this country into a primarily white country,

      No offense, but this country has been a primarily ‘white’ (accepting that what ‘white’ means has changed significantly over the course of its existence) country . . . well at least since the Indian genocide.

      1. I hate it when people say we mass murdered the Indians… I’m part Indian, and that shit never happened.

        Add up ALL the deaths of Indians in wars and it’s literally nothing. In most years in the 1700s/1800s Indians were killing more of each other than white people were. Almost all the Indians that died died from disease, which was out of our hands.

        Additionally, the population in north America was pathetically small to begin with, because most of the natives here were stone age hunter gatherers still and couldn’t support large populations.

        What really happened is white people out immigrated and outbred the natives… Kinda of like we’re allowing to happen to white America now. When this country is a 3rd world toilet with no freedoms and a tangle of Latino/Black/Muslim/Asians warring with each other politically… It won’t be that white people got wiped out, it will be that we got out immigrated and out bred. Honkies will still be here, probably in nearly as great of numbers as today, we’ll just be outnumbered, just like the Indians.

        BTW there are about as many people who identify primarily as Native America today as when white people showed up here. Again, out immigrated and out bred, not slaughtered.

        1. Citations? That’s a novel view. I should have paid better attention in public school.

    5. What do you have against white people?

      1. Haven’t you heard. It’s most definitely not OK to be white.

    6. OM, I hope that we can deport you someday. You’re clearly one of the shitty Mexicans we don’t want in this country.

  6. Poor Matt Welch. He uses a picture of Trump to TDS this piece about Social Conservatives.

    We’ve been down this speech-trampling road before, most recently with the Bush administration’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force. It was disbanded in 2011.,…

    This would have made it OBAMA’S Obscenity Prosecution Task Force.

    1. It started as Bush’s task force, was disbanded by Obama. How does that make it Obama’s task force?

      O I C … because it extended into the Obama administration. By that logic, every single thing Obama did which extended past Trump’s January 2017 inauguration was Trump’s fault.

      Much easier to have one person to blame. Good thinking.

      1. By that logic, every single thing Obama did which extended past Trump’s January 2017 inauguration was Trump’s fault.

        You’ve been saying literally that every single day since Trump got elected. You also spent 8 years blaming every failure of the Obama administration and every annual budget deficit on George W. Bush. Maybe you shouldn’t use retarded arguments if you don’t want them turned back on you?

        1. I’d like to see some citations for that. I wonder who you think I am, especially because I haven’t been on here for the last 11 years.

        2. Its alphabet troll so you wont get citations and its retarded arguments throughout.

          1. Back to your old trick of responding to the parent, eh? Good for you! The old tricks are the best tricks.

            But hmm, mayhaps you lost the thread there, I was asking for the citations showing how I had an 11 year history starting before I started posting.

            Then again, you promise things you never deliver, so maybe you are just trolling yourself.

            I wonder if you will respond to the parent of this comment, meaning yourself, or the grandparent, meaning me, or great grand pappy.

          2. poor alphabet troll.

  7. When this small coterie of GOP congressmen starts getting the same publicity and recognition that the Dem’s Squad gets, then I’ll start to clutch my pearls.

    1. But still, fucking moralists to the left, fucking moralists to the right, what’s a free-minded person to do?

      1. You can start by saving your porn to your hard drive instead of streaming it. Other than that I’m clueless as well.

        1. I’m old enough to have some actual dvds.

          1. I prefer having an actual sex life.

            1. Oh, a hipster, eh? I bet you like to listen to vinyl records and read print books, too.

  8. “It was disbanded in 2011, having been such a debacle that U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon delivered the following lecture when dismissing all federal charges against adult-film producer John Stagliano: “I hope the government will learn a lesson from its experience.”

    If there was a lesson to be learned from what happened in the 00’s regarding obscenity cases was to not thumb your noses at the government because just the trial alone could ruin you and Stagliano, while he has balls of steel for not rolling over, got off extremely lucky because even if he had won the toll on his company would have been monumental. That case wasn’t a win and didn’t set any kind of precedent because of all of the wins that preceded it. It was a botched trial and if the prosecution didn’t screw up they would have won. (They didn’t know how to operate a DVD player and saved the online videos as links to their desktop and didn’t save the actual videos IIRC)

    Unless the government is willing to try an obscenity cased based on something as tame as anal sex then I don’t see this as a concern. US companies aren’t making extreme material that was the target of such cases anymore. The content they target for easy wins is on the free websites uploaded by users or by foreign companies. There are other methods they can use to accomplish their goals and obscenity cases seem risky for them. That is, if they go about it in a traditional manner. A site like Pornhub isn’t in the US, but they operate companies and have a presence in the US. Back in the day when they were buying up every US company we had discussed it could lead to one obscenity case destroying the US industry. Maybe that’s what they’re thinking.

    1. Join the Reality Kings website
    2. Watch video from website in Utah and content owned by them posted on Pornhub in a religious-populated county in Ohio
    3. Raid RK offices in Florida
    4. Take the owners of Pornhub to trial
    5. Get them for both the RK site and the advertisement clips they posted on PH in two separate trials
    6. Seize properties and assets

    I imagine the only thing the company has in Cyrpus is a PO Box and paperwork stating a company exists there.

    When you keep your shit behind a paywall and don’t openly flaunt your company everywhere the government tends to look away. One should be able to thumb their nose, but given that we already know what can happen you probably shouldn’t. We can hope for a perfect world, but we have to acknowledge that we don’t live in one and adjust accordingly.

    If I were Trump I would do this. Not for America, but because I own hotels and if everyone is watching porn for free on their mobile devices they aren’t buying PPV that I get paid to provide.

    1. I mean Trump has to watch his back on this issue. That pee pee tape is coming out any day now according to the Reason Retard brigade.

      1. And since it would contain urination would be an easy obscenity win.

        1. Urine a lot of trouble.

          1. Uh oh, you responded to yourself, not the parent! Slipping up there, bub.

            1. Oh fuck off you shitweasel.

      2. Isn’t that with a Capital “P”?

      3. That pee pee tape was directed by I.P Freely

      4. The reason retard brigade is a little wet behind the ears.

      5. reason retard Brigade= Yellow Bastards

      6. Pee pee tapes are just not my cup of pee.

        1. They just piss me off.

  9. As the anti-porn troops are quick to point out, then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 signed a pledge to “give serious consideration to appointing a presidential commission to examine the harmful public health impact of internet pornography on youth, families and the American culture.”

    Are the anti-porn troops pointing that out as criticism of Trump? We don’t know whether he gave it serious consideration, but he hasn’t done it in 3 years. What are the chances he’d do so now?

    1. They could offer to build him a statue. I’d do all kinds of things if people promised me a statue.

      1. That’s not how it works. You do something, then they build a statue (see Jayne Cobb, “Hero of Canton”). No promises: action (perceived heroism) then reaction (build a statue whether you want one or not).

  10. Yes, yes, the real adults in the room are the cumbrains having a temper tantrum because somebody suggested you should have to show ID to get your online porn the same way you do to get your old-fashioned glossy mags, smokes and beer. Porn and voting: the only two things that shan’t ever require identification in Reasonland.

    1. You forgot: entering the country

  11. Also if you want to avoid lubricating the slippery slope to Pat Robertson busting down your door while your pants are at your ankles and yanking your ethernet cable out of the wall, you might consider not rah rah rahing for censorship and meddling in content distribution when it comes to ””””’hate speech””””” and ”””””fake news”””””’ and every other form of online content you don’t like. It’s hard to put that bunny back in the hat once you’ve normalized fascist thought and content control. The tech monopolies you worship might just take up a position you disagree with eventually. Although it’s highly unlikely since they’re run by the same Marxist pieces of shit as you.

  12. Brick and mortar establishments must ensure that pornography is not openly displayed for minors to see. The same rules should apply to online sources.

    1. If the websites would have made sure of this or at least created a minor hurdle then there wouldn’t be any fear of regulation. Seeing as brick and mortar establishments can face massive penalties a website either hiding behind CDA 230 or the 1A with arguments like “Freedom of speech and expression is hindered if we stop children from viewing it” is going to look bad to anyone they’re making it to. That’s an uphill battle you don’t want to be in. Best to avoid having to make such an argument.

      1. Difficulty being it is impossible to keep ANY content off the web, from pirated media, unsavory opinions, or what ever moral panic is in play today.

        Try banning an entire class of media, like movies, from the web, or keeping them behind something like a subscription service (essentially ID), and let me know how well that works for ya. Analogies to brick and mortar establishments is completely facile and dumb. You might take a look at how many record shops are still around.

        Nevermind the same firewall will eventually be used for a more nefarious purposes.

        Kids still found porn in the woods. You aren’t protecting anybody.

        1. I agree with you. They can’t stop porn. This isn’t something that the gov should require, but those that host the sites do. In the adult industry you always want to go out of your way to avoid having the gov come after you. These companies operate inside and outside of the US. Since they weren’t already doing this on their own the gov could get sneaky and bust them. When a company that hosts a popular free website overseas starts buying up US production companies and keeping them in the US they make themselves extremely vulnerable. If the gov goes after the foreign company and the company doesn’t surrender they can seize the assets they have in the US. To protect themselves from this should it start to happen is to block access to countries like the US. That’s horrible for business.

          All the gov has to do to begin an obscenity case is to view material on your website somewhere inside the US. They consider that you transmitting it. If you don’t play ball they always have this option to fall back on.

          Only in porn do people wait for something terrible to happen and then figure out how they could have prevented it. Many of us pointed this out about a decade ago.

    2. Those are parent responsibilities.

      Businesses should be under no state obligation to prevent a paying customer (minor or otherwise) from buying a legal product.

      All these rules do is make it harder for me (an adult) to purchase smokes, compressed air, guns, ammo, porn….

      Customers should never be required to show their National ID to purchase some legal product. Since all products should be legal in the USA and there should not be a National ID, cash should talk.

      1. “Businesses should be under no state obligation to prevent a paying customer (minor or otherwise) from buying a legal product.”

        Back when I owned a strip club I made the same argument because paying a guy to sit by the door all night cost me money.

  13. Just for the record; there cannot be a ‘porn epidemic’, porn is not contagious.

  14. This is obviously a Russian plot to … stimulate the Russian porn industry.

  15. The Republican Comstock law in 1873 made French postcards a federal “misdemeanor” (10-years on the chain gang) and a fine worth $290,000 of today’s dollars in gold. If a mother wrote her daughter a letter on using the rhythm method, that was cause for asset forfeiture. These fanatics literally used book-burning imagery on their emblems ans seals, and the coercive meddling in the portal monopoly triggered a major financial Panic. This is what God’s Own Prohibitionists want to bring back! Every major crash resulted from GOP religious fanatic laws driving money out of banks in a fractional-reserve banking system. “Republicans banned ALL birth control.”

    1. Fuck off you demented bigot. You add nothing to the conversation.

  16. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon delivered the following lecture when dismissing all federal charges against adult-film producer John Stagliano: “I hope the government will learn a lesson from its experience.”

    I think I saw this guy open for George Carlin back in ’81.

  17. “Emboldened conservatives are trying to use the Trump moment to steer the GOP firmly away from its commitments to individual liberty.”

    Conservatives were NEVER about individual liberty, only the freedom to do what they feel is acceptable.

    Much like progs, they (socons in particular) believe individualism is good, but only as long as we all do it together.

    1. The thing about conservative BS though is at least their ideas make for a less dysfunctional and stable society.

      Boring perhaps, but functional. All of the libtard moralizing actually just ruins civilization. I’d rather have a nice an-cap world, but if I have to choose between the 2 I’ll take 1950s America over 1950s Soviet Union ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

  18. Who is the babe in the photo?

    1. Brandi Brandt, a playboy playmate from the ’80s. Trump appeared on a cover with her.

      1. Trump has the best girls!

        1. That was then. After serving time for cocaine trafficking, I doubt she’s that hot now,

          1. Maybe the drugs helped keep her figure nice?

  19. I’m all for the culture war against porn but keep the govt out of it.

  20. Unlikely to gain traction. If you think it might, just check the like-to-dislike ratio on that Matt Walsh “ban porn” video. And that’s among his overwhelmingly conservative viewers.

    Anyway, this “individualism running amok” trope isn’t new in the social conservative movement. Just a decade ago, Rick Santorum was going on about the more libertarian conservatives of the Republican Party for whom “anything [went].”

    I mean, they can try. But the way public opinion has been shifting for the last 30 years isn’t making things easier for them. Gallup has been tracking public sentiment on a range of social issues, and on basically every single one of them, the public has been growing more liberal: homosexuality, alcohol consumption, marijuana, divorce, teen sex, premarital sex, animal cloning, having a kid out of wedlock, and yes, that includes pornography. Even the one that are disapproved of by majorities like suicide, polygamy, and extramarital affairs have seen a decrease in the rate of disapproval. The decreases have been very slow, typically by one percentage point a year, or sometimes none, but it’s been steady nonetheless for pretty much all of these issues.

    In 2011, 30% of Americans said pornography was acceptable; in 2019, 37% did.

    So yeah, I just see it as social conservatives throwing a tantrum at them having lost so much in the last decade. But whattaya gonna do! Peaceful and prosperous societies tend to loosen up and become more liberal, for better or worse.

    PS: Some of the personality leaning towards puritanism have been proven to be hereditary. So, naturally social libertarians out there, pretty please consider leaving a bunch of descendants. The liberty lovers in future generations will thank you for it!

  21. There is an epidemic of porn addiction in this country. I know, I’m one of them. I’ve been an addict since the 80s and even in my wildest fantasies NEVER thought porn would be as instantly available (and discrete) as it is today.

    I ain’t sayin’ government regulation/bans are a good solution.

    But I am sayin’ there’s a whole lot of people like me out there who are fucked up by porn.

    1. But I am sayin’ there’s a whole lot of people like me out there who are fucked up by porn.

      You know this, how? Is there some kind of convention you attend?

      Also, what do you mean by “fucked up”? ’cause, if you’re going to toss out something like “…unable to form intimate attachments because of porn”, that’s just putting the cart before the horse.

      1. I don’t know if you’d call our meetings “conventions”, but we call ourselves addicts.

        Sexaholics Anonymous
        Sex Addicts Anonymous
        Recovering Couples

        You can probably find us in your town and you don’t even need to buy a convention ticket to be admitted.

  22. A war on porn in the age of the internet? Sounds like a way to waste endless tax dollars for no results at all.

    -jcr

  23. FROM MY COLD, DEAD HAND!

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