Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Keeping Porn from Children, without a Government Role

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Keeping Porn from Children, without a Government Role

Article excerpt

Legal scholars are breaking their heads over a clash of rights: the right of children to be sheltered from pornography and violence vs. the right of adults to choose to watch what they want when they want it.

Last month a federal appeals court struck down government regulations that permit "indecent" broadcasts only between midnight and 6 a.m., when children who know all too well how to work the videocorder are presumably asleep. The court's reason: You cannot take away an adult's First Amendment rights of free speech to protect children. The Federal Communications Commission promptly announced it would continue to threaten broadcasters of porn outside those wee hours with the loss of licenses. Its reason: Clinton administration appointees do not want to be tagged "soft on porn."

In this confrontation, the government regulators will ultimately lose. The FCC's ability to regulate the broadcast media rested on the finite nature of the spectrum, and that has been mooted by the infinity of cable. Electronic media will enjoy the same freedom as the print medium, and should.

How to prevent our offspring from locking themselves in the bathroom for hours on end with a portable television set? How do we "disincent" the producers and distributors of moving images from meeting the market demand for sex and violence?

First, set aside the issue of nudity. The naked human body is as innocent on the screen as it is on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Nudity is already losing its shock value to advertisers; we need not worry about the "boob tube" gaining a second meaning.

Violence is a related but separate issue. The glorification of crime on the screen leads to crime in the street; not enough shame is attached to those who make their living inciting violence. Everyone who makes a buck in sociopathic fiction should be accurately identified, vilified, picketed and ostracized.

I'd like to see a system that points an accusing finger at individuals not based on their ideology, but on their abuse of free speech in commercial exploitation of the worst in human nature. Treat the profiteers of violence to a countervailing social consequence. …

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