For those easily offended by sexually explicit language, New York’s 92nd Street Y was ground zero on Tuesday night. I was part of a panel put on by the Creative Coalition to discuss The Aristocrats, the First Amendment, and the curious chasm between what Americans find offensive and what they don’t.
Also on the panel were Aristocrats director Paul Provenza, the film’s masterfully vulgar Bob Saget, South Park co-creator Matt Stone, Motion Picture Association of America head Dan Glickman (gallantly defending the movie rating system), and our moderator, Lawrence O’Donnell.
My contribution to the debate was a head-scratching bewilderment over the fact that more people are upset by blatantly sexual language than by the blatantly fraudulent language we’re constantly fed by our leaders. Make a joke about people getting it on and the public finger-waggers come pouring out of the woodwork. But let President Bush say that Brownie is doing "a heck of a job" or Dick Cheney say that the insurgency is in its "last throes" and the morality cops on the right don’t raise an eyebrow. Yet that’s the real obscenity.
Don’t forget, it took less than two weeks after the unveiling of Janet Jackson’s right boob at the Super Bowl before the president’s congressional cronies were holding hearings on the matter — but it took 14 months before Bush caved to public pressure and allowed the 9/11 Commission to be formed. Again, you pick the real obscenity.
The latest example of misplaced priorities can be found in the administration’s re-energized War on Porn, which includes the formation of an FBI squad exclusively devoted to cracking down on sexually explicit material involving consenting adults.
That’s right, with the war on terror in full swing, our Commander-in-Chief is going to have a group of G-men doing nothing but working the porn beat when they could be tracking down — oh, I don’t know — terrorist sleeper cells. Good to know he’s got his eye on the prize.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel safer knowing the feds are going to be keeping close tabs on Jenna Jameson and Peter North. Let’s just hope the next round of al-Qaeda terrorists looking to attack the U.S. all have huge penises, an ample supply of Viagra, and enjoy having sex with silicone-enhanced babes.
This blast from our blue-nosed past has been labeled "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Along with the FBI’s anti-porn squad, the AG has also created an Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in the Justice Department that will take prosecutors currently working on organized crime and racketeering, money laundering and computer crime cases, and have them shift their focus to the War on Porn. Real nice use of manpower, Alberto!
Of course, getting obscenity convictions in today’s climate — where Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star is a Times best-seller and GM, Rupert Murdoch, Time Warner, and all the big hotel chains are making a mint off sexually explicit movies — won’t be as easy as it was in Ed Meese’s day.
The indecency of spending precious resources on making it harder to watch the Paris Hilton sexcapade has not been lost on federal and local law enforcement officials, who have reacted to the anti-porn push with a mixture of scorn and anger. The WaPo quotes an experienced national security analyst who calls the culture war initiative "a running joke for us," while the Daily Business Review cites high-level Justice Department sources saying that prosecutors are being assigned porn cases over their objections.
On the other hand, the president’s born-again base is getting turned on by the initiative. For instance, the Family Research Council said it gave them "a growing sense of confidence in our new attorney general." Hmm, could this be the political equivalent of a Cialis Rx, giving Gonzales the boost he needs to become Bush’s next Supreme Court nominee?
For the moral relativists in the Bush administration, the definition of sin seems to depend on whether the sinner can further their political purposes.
So Justin exposing Janet’s boob is a sin, but White House staffers exposing Valerie Plame is a win. Profiting from porn is a sin, but Halliburton’s wartime profiteering is a win. Two men getting hitched is a sin, but Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff playing with each other’s clubs is a win. And telling students condoms can prevent STDs is a sin, but lying about WMDs is a win.
I’m ready to see The Aristocrats again.