Porn and Censorship


Porn and Censorship
The People
August 16, 1986

With the publication of the report by the Meese Commission on Pornography, the same capitalist political state that thinks nothing of slashing programs to feed hungry people at home, and spends millions to plant land mines in Nicaragua and bomb villages in El Salvador -- that state has declared its intention to help us all lead more moral lives.

This will be done by calling upon all levels of government and vigilant -- or is it vigilante? -- groups of "right-thinking" citizens to limit what we are able to read or view.

The ostensible reason is to prevent "violence against women." The lack of scientific basis for this reasoning has been exposed elsewhere and need not be repeated here. Suffice to say that if a man views a picture and then assaults a woman, it is obvious that other social forces - from a social system that degrades women in countless ways -- must have been at work already to create such a disturbed individual.

As a voice for socialism, we neither condemn nor condone "pornography" as a general category -- assuming one can even define the term, which points to part of the problem. Granted, the framers of the First Amendment didn't have Hustler in mind when they sought to protect freedom of the press.

But permitting or encouraging the state to determine what is "dangerous pornography" and what is "legitimate" erotic art or or "legitimate" literature nonetheless transgresses freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and the capitalist state will need little encouragement to cross the sometimes hazy lines between "deviant" sex-related material, "deviant" social commentary and then "deviant" political literature.

Indeed, this report doesn't exist in a vacuum. The religious right is also crusading to purge sex education materials, certain science texts and other literature from schools and libraries. The administration has issued an order requiring that articles for publication by many federal employees be reviewed by a censor. The CIA has recently issued threats to two publishers over the contents of books not yet printed. And these are by no means the only examples of capitalist and state efforts to stifle the free communication of ideas.

In condemning the commission's report, we do not thereby defend porn merchants. Rather we urge workers to defend freedom of the press and freedom of expression. If society is to advance to a higher morality, it can only do so by creating a healthy, nonexploitative social system. It cannot advance by succumbing to the dictates of self-righteous defenders of a system predicated on exploitation, deprivation, dehumanizing relations, oppression and violence.