Thursday, July 10, 2008

Child Pornography: Do We Really Know It when We See It?

From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll’s portrait photography of Victorian children to Annie Leibovitz’s Vanity Fair photos of Miley Cyrus. When it comes to child pornography, do we really know it when we see it?


By: Vanessa Uy


If it’s hard to draw a timeline that shows how often free speech is co-opted by despotic political leaders, let alone made impossible to sort it out from genuine out and out obscenity due to the influence of “Aspirational Paedophilia” posing as free speech / artistic expression. Was this “threat” to Western Civilization started in 1998 when Hustler magazine CEO Larry Flynt started the Barely Legal franchise - thus making paedophilia aspirational – back in 1998? Or was it when the Russian teen Lesbian duo Tatu and accused punk poser Avril Lavigne battled for fame in 2003? Though many anti- Avril Lavigne websites still accuse Avril Lavigne of glamorizing the “Dickensian Dinginess” aspects of child pornography, by citing the way Avril Lavigne’s on-stage butt-crack exposure which became sexist humor fodder on the Joe Rogan Dough Stanhope era “The Man Show” is similar to the way Fiona Apple and Sheryl Crow glamorized the "Heroin Chic” in the late 1990’s. This despite the fact that Avril Lavigne will probably be turning 24 this year, thus proving the 21st Century adage that the blogosphere is indeed a fierce and fickle mistress, especially as an art critic. Add to that the recent row over the Miley Cyrus a.k.a. Hannah Montana “controversial” Vanity Fair portraiture by Anne Leibovitz and the Australian child pornography row over artist Bill Henson’s photo exhibition in a Sydney gallery depicting nude pre-pubescent kids that even “Lord of the Rings” and “Elizabeth” star Cate Blanchett managed herself to get embroiled. But the question remains; do we really know child pornography when we see it? Or is child pornography just a manifestation when the most cherished of our sociological constructs like Human Rights and Civil Liberties get trampled upon every time Halliburton and KBR exercises their “right to be greedy”?

When it comes to defining pornography and / or obscenity, the rational among us – which I hope constitutes the majority – always point out the immortal words of the former US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. The famous quote of former US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart goes as: “I know it when I see it.” Some say this highlights his failure to define obscenity during the Jacobellis v. Ohio case back in 1964 which later became a landmark US Supreme Court decision. But to some people – including myself – believes that what US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart meant about his famous quote “I know it when I see it” is that cases of pornography and / or obscenity should be examined on a case to case basis. Especially when it comes to Bill Henderson’s controversial photo exhibitions that the current Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has deemed obscene even though thousands of others have deemed it as mere artistic expression.

Sadly the wisdom of this landmark US Supreme Court decision went on unheeded – even viewed as just a mere US Supreme Court docket - when then President Ronald Reagan spent millions of American taxpayers’ money on a dubious pro-conservative biased study on pornography. Reagan asked then Attorney General Edwin Meese III to head this “commission on pornography”. This culminated into the 1,960 page report titled “Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography Final Report” dated July 1986. Unfortunately, the Reagan – Meese definition of “pornography” is next to useless when used as a benchmark to find out whether the “staged” antics of Avril Lavigne, Miley Cyrus and their ilk are guilty of glamorizing child pornography and / or promoting aspirational paedophilia.

The good news is that level headed folks everywhere now see the 1,960 page “Commission on Pornography Final Report” as nothing more than the Reagan Administration’s attempt at co opting every freedom loving American’s Right to Free Speech back in the 1980’s. Which makes the then President Ronald Reagan’s remarks on the signing of the Child Protection Act of 1984 rather somewhat bunkum. Hell, Avril Lavigne could have uttered those same remarks on Saturday Night Live and everybody would think that it’s one of those retro 1980’s stand up comedy routine.

The bad news is that the legacy of the Reagan – Meese pornography commission fiasco means that every “devout” Anglo-Saxon Protestants around the world now harbor an “eternal suspicion” every time they see those beautiful Victorian era Art Nouveau-like child portrait photography of Lewis Carroll – a.k.a. Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson. And interpret these as “child pornography”. Just like the current fiasco pertaining to Annie Leibovitz’s “Homage to Lewis Carroll” Vanity Fair photos of Miley Cyrus. Although the one where Miley Cyrus’ perky pubescence showing through her diaphanous sports bra might inspire every Vladimir Nabokov wannabes to invent lepidopteral / entomological labels for pubescent teen-age girls.

Despite of the political demagoguery that has become part and parcel on our attempts of defining what constitutes pornography and / or obscenity, to me, we may be misleading ourselves. Let along completely missing the point every time we examine the problem from the very narrow and somewhat limiting perspective of Abrahamic Theology / Judeo-Christian Morality. And everyone can now freely hate me as I say Darwin and Nietzsche could be right on the mark.

After reading the main article of the February 2000 issue of Discover Magazine about how Mother Nature utilized beauty as a survival trait. It began to dawn on me that as a society Western Civilization has yet to sort out what falls under “Slave Morality” and what falls under “Master Morality” in order to accept the true nature of ourselves. Babies, young kids, even pubescent teen-aged girls are genetically designed to be beautiful because it has a better chance of survival every time grown-ups with means (i.e. money, food, power, WMD s etc.) feel obliged to take care of them. We should be thankful to Mother Nature for delaying the manifestation of the "ugly gene” (usually this gets full-blown when one reaches 18) in each and every one of us for as long as humanly possible.

Though some might label my Darwinian embrace of aesthetic beauty as mere demagoguery, well, that’s their loss. Although in a perfect world, scantily clad perky pubescent teens do make great superheroes. Bad guys and everyone’s “Uncle Phil” would be “too distracted” to be evil. Someone should send a memo to Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee about this. But in the end who would you trust as the final arbiter when it comes to what constitute pornography and / or obscenity, yourself or an “organization” who thinks that the decision for one of their founders to burn alive 3,000 Jews is a good thing?

27 comments:

Cadiz said...

Henson's stuff is CP as per PoCA and SOA 2003 in Britain.


If child pornography is art, then it's legal ( in Oz) even for school outings.

I went to Bill Henson's latest exhibition with my school today and the pictures he displayed of 11-15 year old girls having "sexual intercourse" with 18year old boys was disgusting. Most of the girls didn't even have breasts yet or pubic hair which made me feel ill in the stomach that people actually like this. One particular photo of a teenage guy probably about 19, had a strong grip around a little girl who had no breasts at all or even 'nipple fat' or pubic hair and he had his penis inserted in her from behind. I do NOT on any account think that is acceptable. I do not call them "works of art". I am not against all of his artwork, as I think he has taken amazing landscape shots that really grabbed my attention. He definently has talent for photography. But I only saw 3 photos in the whole exhibition of adults and of course they were not alone, but with children. I will once again state he does beautiful landscape shots, but I do NOT like his portrayel of the human "childs" body, very disappointed.

Judith said...

Appaently not! The child-molesting polygammist cult Yearning For Zion existed for more than a hundred years before the FBI got wind of Warren Jeffs "eccentricities". The Bush Administration and his Neo-Conservatives probably think anything is allowed if you do it in the name of their Anglo-Saxon God like killing Muslims, putting Jews in unnecessary danger etc.

April Rain said...

If Paris Hilton was redeemed by Sen. McCain's ill-conceived anti-Obama ads, then Avril Lavigne could redeem herself to by writing better songs instead of being a slave to the almighty dollar.
P.S. What's your stance about Halloween costumes being labelled as risqué and even as child porn?

Ferdinand said...

Do any of you find it strange that the Republican Party / GOP has been America's arbiter of what is pornography. From Pres. Ronald Reagan's Meese Commission on Pornography to the latest Hustler Magazine CEO Larry Flynt's porno video based on the GOP's 2008 VP Pick Gov. Sarah Palin. I have no interest of seeing it, but I still wonder how the US domestic crude oil exploration song "Drill here, Drill now" sounds when sung in ethnic Ukranian with a balalaika ensemble.
Basing on that February 2000 headline article on Discover Magazine, I wonder if Republicans have always had a knack of legislating oppressive laws designed to protect children that end up imprisoning them in their own "legislative protection". Does anything that is beautiful have to be pornographic? Whimsical, REAGANISM-influenced laws will never solve the global problem or end the worldwide scourge of child pornography.

Hirum said...

Republicans indeed had become America's foremost expert on anything to do with Pornography. From former president Ronald Reagan and his Pornography Commission led by then Attorney General Edwin Meese to the latest Gov. Sarah Palin flick created by Larry "Barely Legal" Flynt.
I really do believe that child pornography is a crime and offenders should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but the US Government should stop legislating whimsical laws to stop pornography. Maybe Pres. Reagan was just looking out for her daughter Patti Davis after she posed for Playboy back then.

Maribelle said...

I too hold a cherished belief that child pornographers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The problem starts - like your very excellent example about former US president Ronald Reagan underwriting his somewhat ill-advised commission on pornography headed by then Attorney General Edwin Meese - where objectivity was lost in legislating laws to curb the proliferation of child pornography. I too have seen that Discover Magazine February 2000 edition and their headline article about the "Science of Beauty". Ex-president Reagan's definition of pornography is somewhat overarching in my opinion. Maybe the legal experts of America should reexamine the ramifications of that Jacobellis v. Ohio obscenity / pornography case presided over by former US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart.

Pantaleon said...

President Ronald Reagan's supposed commission on pornography is probably the worst malfeasance in the US Government's history. The then Attorney General Edwin Meese haven't solve the problem of child pornography that - unfortunately - still continues till this day.

Jovie Jane said...

When it comes to malfeasance of the American taxpayers' money, former US Attorney General Edwin Meese's Pres. Reagan sponsored Commission on Pornography probably tops the list. The millions of dollars spent on the 1,960-page final report would have been better spent on enforcing existing laws and statutes on child pornography. To me, those millions would have been better spent on Federal-level law enforcement and the rest on America's ailing educational system which the former president Ronald Reagan conveniently overlooked or is it the "standard operating procedure" of a GOP-run US Government.
On the Republicans and pornography, they do act like their the foremost experts. Just look at the latest Larry "Barely Legal" Flynt's video on his take on GOP VP pick Gov. Sarah Palin. It even includes an "orgy" with Hillary Clinton. Too bad Larry Flynt haven't included a lesbian scene between Gov. Palin and Democratic political analyst Liz Chadderdon.

Marie Lynne said...

The Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, Final Report July 1986 became a very good example of US Government malfeasance when data from scientists conducting the study were manipulated under the behest of then US president Ronald Reagan to fit in his view that pornography is harmful and funds organized crime activity. The bad news is Pres. Reagan conveniently overlooked during his term in office that organized crime in the 1980's were lining their pockets via illegal chemical/industrial waste disposal.
On the latest Gov. Sarah Palin porn flick by Hustler magazine CEO Larry "Barely Legal" Flynt, I do agree that he missed out on including a Liz Chadderdon look-alike as a token rich aloof lesbian character after including a Hillary Clinton look-alike (hopefully not Amy Poehler) in the "orgy scene". Republicans really are pornography experts. Or maybe Pres. Reagan was just looking out for his daughter Patti Davis, after all she posed for Playboy.

Danica said...

Looks like censorship doesn't work. The objectification of women as a social problem has it's roots in poverty. If there is no poverty, then pornography and it's ugly unkle prostitution will just peter out. Our policymakers should not forget George Orwell's warning when formulating solutions to pressing social problems.

Ian said...

Speaking of "Organized Crime" as pertained to in the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography Final Report of July 1986, then US president Ronald Reagan completely - or is that conveniently - overlooked the Organized Crime's involvement in the illegal dumping of toxic chemical / industrial wastes. Reagan have never pressured the FBI or other Federal Government agency to tackle this problem with the eagerness of the ill-conceived Meese Commission. I wonder if the Mafia ever used Patti Davis as a bargaining chip? That will probably be the best X-Files movie ever.

Michelle said...

The former US Attorney General Edwin Messe's "Final Report" is probably the most apt example of the Reagan-era media manipulation criticized in the Heavy Metal band Queensrÿche's attempt at Rock Opera "Operation: Mindcrime" album. The question now is, has censorship ever fed the poor and hungry, stopped wars and civil strife - especially the one now raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo? Using censorship to solve the problem of child pornography is an utter farce, and the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography Final Report July 1986 proves it beyond the shadow of a doubt. To me, enforcing existing laws will suffice as opposed to protecting Bush Administration cronies like the polygamist / child molestation in the name of God cult Yearning For Zion.

Tallulah said...

I do agree that the child prostitution and child pornography industry is driven by poverty. Just look at those Christina Noble Children's Fund adverts. Censorship won't solve a thing. The former President Reagan and his "REAGANOMICS" team was even too blind to stop our current global financial meltdown in it's track by allowing Washington and Capitol Hill lobbyists to "green light" risky credit derivatives. Lets blame Reagan on this!

Kim said...

Yesterday, Jim Gamble chief executive of UK-based Child Exploitation On-line Protection Centre or CEOP announced on the Beeb that their war on child pornography, child molestation, and child exploitation had already gone global with a recent arrest of active paedophiles using Thailand as a safe-haven. I just hope that the ill-conceived Reagan's war on pornography is well behind us because given it's idiocy, paedophiles can easily slip through again.
Also, an education campaign would be a better way to eradicate pornography. But sadly, an "educational offensive against pornography" is proven to be quite an anathema to Recent Republican Party / GOP policy creation strategies. To the GOP, censorship is way easier to implement compared to education.

Michelle said...

From my point of view, you probably made this blog without checking out other landmark US Supreme Court cases that happened way after the President Reagan and Attorney General Meese's legal debacle on the definition of pornography. Like the Child Pornography Act of 1996 or that Ashcroft v. Free Speech - which if anything to go by, would make that 1996 Romeo And Juliet film that stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as "Child Pornography". An examle of laws designed to protect children that seldom work in practice. The paedophiles are laughing at us - again.

April Rain said...

From then US President Ronald Reagan's Pornography Commission - which was headed by then US Attorney General Edwin Meese back in the 1980s - to the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, add to that the Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, I think the US Government's attempt of controlling / policing child pornography will never work if the legislators keep on making "unenforceable" and "illogical" laws. A survey was conducted back in 2008 showing an increase of child molestation cases by the Catholic Church which "illogical" anti-pornography laws are powerless to stop. "Let the eagle soar indeed." as Ashcroft would then sing.

Fayme said...

Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996? More like "Perversion" don't you think?

Sherry Rashad said...

The only pornography reference to former US President Ronald Reagan is Stephen Colbert showing on the Colbert Report a naked - and apparently pregnant - airbrushed photo of Ronald Reagan. On the question of whether Ronald Reagan ever did a porno movie, If he slept with Bonzo the chimp before, I think Ronnie Reagan doing porn is not that unlikely. After all every actor in America has to start doing parts that they don't like.

Josie Lynn said...

If during his B-Movie acting days Ronald Reagan really did sleep with Bonzo the Chimp, then I guess he is the type that goes to the New York Metropolitan Museum points to those naked ladies by the Great Masters and shouts "pornography". I think Ronald Reagan's perception of what is pornography easily makes this former US president a fodder of Stephen Colbert's antics - i.e. the naked -and apparently pregnant - photo of Ronald Reagan.

VaneSSa said...

Remember kids, July is Ronald Reagan Pornography Month.

Ringo said...

Ronald Reagan Pornography Month? Well. its been 25 years since Reagan published his "final report" on the matter.

Kat said...

Ronald Reagan Pornography Month? It should have been 2011 Ronald Reagan Year of Pornography given that a statue of the famed "Cold Warrior" was unveiled in Central London back in July 4, 2011 to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of his birth.

May Anne said...

The late, great comedian Bill Hicks once poked fun at the Ronald Reagan administration Supreme Court's definition of "pornography", which goes: "anything that doesn't have artistic merit that causes sexual arousal." Isn't this the very definition of a TV commercial?

Ringo said...

The late, great Bill Hicks has every right to poke fun at Ronald Reagan's rather whimsical definition of pornography.

Angel Dove said...

Maybe then US Attorney General Edwin Meese III should have called it the "Ronald Reagan Pornography Initiative".

Letiche said...

Given that he's a former actor, has Ronald Reagan ever appeared on the original Hawaii Five-O TV series?

Ringo said...

I've seen all episodes of the original 1960s era Hawaii Five-O and Ronald Reagan never appeared in a single episode, Letiche. Though no word yet on the real Ronald Reagan sex tape that might suddenly go viral any day now.