The FBI has no better idea today who sent anthrax through the mail than it did the first day it happened.
The administration can put infants on no-fly lists, and gun down mental patients who lose it on aircraft, but can't seem to find actual terrorists. After four years we still don't have a uniform national communications standard for law enforcement and fire departments.
I guess I know why now: because the FBI is busy protecting me from pornography
The choice of targets, Web sites with sadomasochistic content, reflects the low animal cunning that links law enforcement from the end of Prohibition to the present. When you need a target, for whatever reason, choose a group you are sure won’t fight back. There were no “vice” squads before Prohibition ended, because Prohibition provided two required ingredients for successful law enforcement: moral rectitude and bribery. More often than not, “vice” meant homosexuality, and that's what replaced liquor law enforcement. Stonewall ended that racket as far as gay people went.
Gloriosky, what a sweet target for the law! The right wingnuts hate sadomasochism as they hate all sexual “vice.” But in this case, many left wingnuts hate it with equally irrational fury because they are convinced that it’s all about oppression of women, gratuitous violence, and yadayada. Gonzales (easily the biggest brown-noser ever to hold Cabinet office) and the FBI are doubtless sure they’ll have a free hand to get their headlines.
So, are the owners of the sites in the FBI crosshairs all exploitative oppressors of women? Hmm...some are, no doubt. If we proscribe every form of expression that includes a portion of exploiters, we won't have much left. Still, it appears a number of them are women, and women on the giving end of the sexual equation. A determined left-wing ideologue can certainly perform some fascinating intellectual gymnastics to account for that fact and resolve it
with a contrary ideology. Why not? That's just what Alberto and Minions are doing from a different angle.
One could also accept the obvious, that rough sexual conduct between consenting adults is fun for some people. We could further suggest that those people, and not curious kids or prurient adults, form a significant part of the audience of such sites. If that be so, who is the FBI's target? The offending Web sites, or a what they hope is a socially outcast population? Since this new group of sexually different people popped out of the closet, law enforcement has been right there, nightstick in one hand and an open palm in the other. They’ve been standing there for years on the local level: the FBI is a bit late getting its piece of the pie.
What we're discussing seems to be neither casual prurience nor domestic violence, but the primary way some people (givers and receivers) enjoy sex, just as sex with someone of the same sex is the primary expression for gay people. The left gave up equating gays with child molestation 35 years ago. Liberals have accepted consent as part of the gay equation. So far, it has been impossible for most liberals to do the same when it comes to consensual sadomasochism. Despite this popular animosity, when the psychiatric profession brought out DSM-IV
around ten years ago, this principal diagnostic tool of psychology opened the door a crack to the idea that sadomasochism was not always vile and evil, and could form part of a healthy sexual life. When the fifth edition comes out in a few years, it is likely that the profession will throw that door wide open.
A few years back I interviewed a therapist who, as it turned out, had made sadomasochists a lifetime study. His experience was that they were a prudent, responsible, and badly misunderstood group of people, not abusive, not dangerous, and no more deserving of their stigma than gays.
One reason I maintain my independence from the left as much as from the right is my distaste for what I call “The Phil Ochs Liberal
.” This issue is a classic example. Raise the topic of such Web sites with a Phil Ochs Liberal, and you will soon drill down to something like “I’m for free speech, except
….” Raise the issue of sadomasochists in our midst and you’ll get to “I’m for freedom of sexual expression, except
….” I don’t admit either exception, making my lefty credentials somewhat flawed. I loathe Nazis from the depths of my soul, for personal as well as ideological reasons, yet I admit that even they must have the right of free expression or there is no free expression at all.
Now, we wonders, just how carefully did Alberto choose his target this time? Apart from the doctrinaire of either wing, and those directly affected, does anyone really care about this latest Bush crusade? Does anyone else even know? In 2002, media stories disclosing the sadomasochistic activism of UN weapons inspector Jack McGeorge became the biggest flop of the year. McGeorge acknowledged his orientation. No one could prove any connection between what he did in public and what he did in private. The rest of the world, unimpressed, yawned, and so did most of the American public. The story had no legs and was dead even before the bloggers got to it.
Apparently the administration has forgotten that. This lot claim to act on moral principle, but actually move only when there's some change to be made with the media or the "base." Well, the "base" is shrinking lately, and in any case (oops!) there are Christian practitioners
of consensual sadomasochism, with their own strange twist on the question. The media? Well, it's been a tough slog finding anything to link to, let's just say that. No legs and, perhaps, no convenient target of social outcasts. Sorry, Alberto: it's another Bushie fuckup.
Sadomasochists are definitely in our midst. Studies over the past decade indicate that as many as one third of all adults have at least experimented with consensual sadomasochism. One tenth of the adult American population reportedly practises it regularly. If you compare that statistic with those for domestic violence, you’ll discover that the abusers are far more numerous. That therapist told me it’s because consensual sadomasochists, being acquainted with the topic of control far more closely than most people, are exceptionally vigilant against domestic violence. They don’t buy the denial that the mainstream does. It could be time to think about what that therapist has to say: he might be right.
When Alberto the Wimp finds it necessary to move from perverted Web sites to perverted people, where does he intend to jail 27 million people? Will the NSA monitor suspects? Will they be held without trial? Oh yes, Phil Ochs liberals, this is
your problem: The FBI's next target may live next door, and because of that, they may want to monitor your
sex life. (Act now and get your story straight ahead of time. That blindfold in the nightstand just helps you fall asleep on summer evenings, right?)
At any rate, the idea of regulating the Web in this fashion is absurd to anyone at all familiar with its construction. This is like grabbing a rope of smoke, not raiding a bookstore. Anything on the Web is there because it has a market, or it would not survive. What's happening now? The sites with the most artistic merit have obligingly self-censored. The more extreme sites seem to be moving offshore. Will we invade the countries that host them?
Pornographic material existed online before the Web, and the means of transmission still exist. Such media are formless and centreless, shifting day to day. The FBI could spend its entire budget trying to legislate Internet morality and be no nearer success than it was when it started. Extreme pornographic material was well-regulated by the price of admission before Alberto and the stooges stepped in, and it is paid sites that inspire the Bureau’s wrath. Any kid who could fake identities, or crack Web portals, well enough to get onto a smut site has been doing more profitable things with the skills. Now paid sites are closing, copyright protection offshore is shady even for legitimate business, and all that content is floating around cyberspace. Know what? The extreme smut will shortly become available to any 12-year-old with enough technical wit to use a decoder-enabled newsreader, and we can thank the FBI for that.
It is no surprise that an agency that had to be dragged against its will away from longhand memos fails to understand how little they’re accomplishing, and how much of that is bad.
Oh yeah: how much is this costing? Can the FBI honestly justify the expense when so many far more urgent priorities are being neglected? The era of the vice squad is far behind us, but that is lost on men who still like white shirts and fedoras.
Web porn doesn’t threaten my life. Hurricanes do. So does white powder in the mail from a source still unknown. So does a government drunk on power and out of control. As the bumper sticker says, “enough is enough.”