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Rick Santorum: Porn Warrior

It would seem that Rick Santorum’s list of the problems that afflict America may be a little bit different from yours and mine:

The Daily Caller flags a little-discussed position paper on Rick Santorum’s campaign website—his pledge to aggressively prosecute those who produce and distribute pornography. Santorum avers that “America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography.” He pledges to use the resources of the Department of Justice to fight that “pandemic,” by bringing obscenity prosecutions against pornographers.

I would note that this is very different from what the Bush Administration did. The Bush DOJ did establish an Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in 2005, but this body focused on bringing prosecutions against small-time producers who made porn with extreme content. (Even so, it faced significant pushback from U.S. Attorneys, some of whom viewed such prosecutions as a distraction and a misuse of resources.) Many social conservative groups were disappointed with the task force, contending that more mainstream hardcore porn violates obscenity laws, and they urged the Bush Administration to bring obscenity cases against major producers.

Santorum promises that he would do exactly this. His statement references going after pornography that is distributed not just on the Internet, but also “on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV.” Perhaps I am not staying in the most interesting hotels, but my impression is that porn distributed through such channels is almost definitionally not extreme. Santorum’s statement also touts his work on this issue with “groups including Morality in Media, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Family Association”—many of which were among the groups calling on the Bush Administration to prosecute mainstream porn producers in 2007. And he says he “proudly support[s] the efforts of the War on Illegal Pornography Coalition,” which advocates the use of obscenity laws against mainstream porn.

Because, of course, there is no greater threat to America than an insurance salesman staying overnight in a hotel room looking for something more interesting to watch than Greta van Susteren

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. JerryY says:

    Just when I thought Republicans couldn’t get any loonier, Santorum steps forward with some new, wacko idea to distract the public from realizing he has no plan for the future. He has no ideas about how to deal with unemployment, the diminishing middle class, Afghanistan, Iran, the price of gas, education, foreign policy, national security.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  2. DRS says:

    Why does he want to be president? Why not Ayatollah-in-Chief? I know he doesn’t want to be pope – you can’t be married in that job.

    This sex obsession is beyond parody.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  3. Robert in SF says:

    Republicans for small government: small enough to fit in your pants, or your uterus…..

    It’s a position statement, light on details. He has not supported or demonstrated that it is such a rampantly dangerous concept, activity, or economic driver of destructive actions to people or property, that porn has to be regulated beyond its current regulations.

    America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography. A wealth of research is now available demonstrating that pornography causes profound brain changes in both children and adults, resulting in widespread negative consequences. Addiction to pornography is now common for adults and even for some children. The average age of first exposure to hard-core, Internet pornography is now 11. Pornography is toxic to marriages and relationships. It contributes to misogyny and violence against women. It is a contributing factor to prostitution and sex trafficking.

    Porn is a private, wholly personal decision about what you choose to watch as an adult, of other adults, doing things they consented to doing.

    And the small-business supporting members of the Republic Party should be calling for removing barriers to entry for those interested in starting up a small business of this nature.

    And note who supports this “War on Illegal Pornography Coalition”:

    Morality in Media, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Family Association, Cornerstone Family Council of New Hampshire, Pennsylvania Family Institute, Concerned Women for America, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a host of other groups.

    I wonder if they really only care about focus on gay porn, and later, maybe, eventually, if all goes well, supposedly they will get around to straight porn…maybe.

    And shouldn’t porn be a State matter, not Federal?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  4. @JerryY: That doesn’t matter to the people that Santorum is courting. To these people, this mortal coil is just a prerequisite to eternal afterlife. What happens here, so long as they please their “God”, is irrelevant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Vast Variety says:

    Welcome to the United States of Santorum Reformation (USSR)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  6. Fiona says:

    One has to wonder why Santorum is so obsessed with all things sexual. It’s more than a little creepy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  7. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Actually the Daily Caller’s concerns are unfounded. (BTW, what exactly is the Daily Caller?) Whomever wrote that piece didn’t read the position paper, or they misinterpreted it to a degree that’s puzzling. It’s not even ship-to-shore close to being accurate. Santorum is calling for a DOJ that prosecutes existing laws against illegal (i.e., obscene) pornography if and when said illegal pornography is distributed across such interstate commerce-related items as the Internet, satellite TVs, cable TV, etc. Democrats voted in favor of those laws. Nearly everyone in Congress did. Bill Clinton proudly signed major pieces of that overall legislative scheme. Hell, Clinton signed the key federal anti-illegal porn law. That was in 1996. You can look it up.

    Nowhere in the position paper does Santorum even insinuate, much less declare, that he wants to prosecute the regular pornography that one would expect to find on a hotel TV’s menu. The reporter for the Daily Caller is seeing things that aren’t there. Or they’re pushing a specific agenda without regard to the facts.

    That said, however, there’s no doubt there are far better uses of federal dollars than aggressive enforcement of federal smut laws. If I were in charge I would make that priority No. 101 out of a 100-item priority list. There’s also the obvious issue of federalism, and whether this even should be a federal matter in the first instance (I say no, but other people and unfortunately Congress have disagreed).

    There are plenty of issues on which Santorum has jumped the shark and against which the media and the Internet blogs legitimately can throw their darts. This really isn’t one of them. It’s either a case of poor reading comprehension, or it’s a case of an agenda-based and unnecessary attack.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  8. legion says:

    @DRS:

    I know he doesn’t want to be pope – you can’t be married in that job.

    No, but you get all the young boys you can handle. And Santorum is so deeply closeted he’s in the next apartment. Bet on it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  9. mantis says:

    BTW, what exactly is the Daily Caller?

    Tucker Carlson’s rightwing “news” outfit.

    Santorum is calling for a DOJ that prosecutes existing laws against illegal (i.e., obscene) pornography if and when said illegal pornography is distributed across such interstate commerce-related items as the Internet, satellite TVs, cable TV, etc. Democrats voted in favor of those laws. Nearly everyone in Congress did. Bill Clinton proudly signed major pieces of that overall legislative scheme. Hell, Clinton signed the key federal anti-illegal porn law. That was in 1996. You can look it up.

    I assume you are talking about the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The anti-porn part of that act was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 1997 (Reno v. ACLU). There’s also the Child Online Protection Act of 1998, which never took effect. A permanent injunction in 2009 put that unconstitutional piece of crap to bed forever.

    Maybe you should look some things up once in a while.

    Nowhere in the position paper does Santorum even insinuate, much less declare, that he wants to prosecute the regular pornography that one would expect to find on a hotel TV’s menu.

    Well, it spouts a bunch of nonsense about enforcing laws long since deemed unconstitutional, so who knows what he really wants to do? We do know Santorum believes it is the government’s place to regulate all of our sex lives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  10. Tlaloc says:

    You know I sometimes wonder if porn (an enormous industry by any measure) actively lobbies the way other big businesses do, and if why not? Frankly they have the kind of money that makes politicians sit up and beg.

    I apologize for that last image given the topic du jour.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. They can have my porn when they pry it from my sticky, severly dehydrated fingers!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. merl says:

    @legion: His obsession with gay sex gave it away.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. merl says:

    @legion: His obsession with gay sex gave it away.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. Gulliver says:

    more porn, more porn!

    What an admirable rallying cry. Meanwhile, I can’t take my children to the local public library without having to constantly be on the alert for some guy surfing pornography on the public computers, because the ACLU fought for his “right” to view it in public.

    To hell with the kids and their innocence. After all, hardcore porn is just normal and to think that a 6 or 8 year old little girl should be shielded from it is just plain old fashioned prudishness.

    You all should be proud.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 12

  15. Doubter4444 says:

    @Gulliver:
    Piss off. That’s not true. I take my kids (5 & 8) to the library in gasp! Southern California and never, not once have I encountered it.
    That’s the kind of petty, whining, lying victimization that really gets under my skin.
    You want to complain about the homeless hanging out all day that’s one thing, but your comment is horse manure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  16. Franklin says:

    @Gulliver: Yeah, I’m a bit curious also as to what library you visit. I don’t think the problem you cite is common, but I certainly don’t have data to back it up.

    Regardless, it’s not relevant to what most people do with porn. I have no problem with it being banned in public libraries. If indeed the ACLU thinks otherwise (need citation), then I’d kindly disagree with them on that point, but civil liberties are usually good things.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  17. Denise says:

    Finally ! A leader willing to lead on an issue that others will not talk about. It may not be international war, or economics but it is CRIPPLING our nation. Maybe because so many of the other “leaders” are on the other side of this issue or fear the backlash of porn supporters. It affects us to the core. Anyone who thinks otherwise only needs to open their eyes and look around. Scandal not only in politics, but our schools, our communities, our families. It can not be denied. Wow.. imagine that a moral leader..leading on moral issues !

    I was on the fence, but now a Santorum voter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

  18. merl says:

    @Gulliver: Bring your kids to the King County libraries in Washington. They have web filters. No porn at all. I think you’re making things up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  19. Denise says:

    @Robert in SF: @Fiona: Creepy??? How about respectable, noble, courageous !

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  20. Denise says:

    @legion: How slanderous

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  21. Denise says:

    @Stormy Dragon: spoken like a true degenerate

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  22. Denise says:

    @Doubter4444: I must disagree with you it is accessable even in libraries..and everyone, including children, are exposed to this even in the cleanest, most reputable convenience stores. Oh of course the nipples and genitalia have a black strip across them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  23. Gulliver says:

    @merl

    Bring your kids to the King County libraries in Washington. They have web filters. No porn at all. I think you’re making things up.

    Who’s making things up?

    __________________________________________

    King County libraries allow porn on computers
    By ANDY HOBBS
    Federal Way Mirror Editor
    OCTOBER 19, 2011 · UPDATED 5:17 PM

    When surfing the Internet at King County libraries, adult patrons have the right to access anything they wish – including porn.

    “Pornography is a subjective term, and what may be porn to one person may not be to another,” said Julie Brand, King County Library System spokeswoman. “We in no way try to censor or monitor what anyone deems appropriate for themselves.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  24. Gulliver says:

    @ Doubter4444

    Piss off. That’s not true.

    Sorry if you’re uninformed. Don’t blame the messenger.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  25. SL says:

    @legion: Are you implying homosexuals are pedophiles?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. SL says:

    @legion: @DRS:

    I know he doesn’t want to be pope – you can’t be married in that job.

    No, but you get all the young boys you can handle. And Santorum is so deeply closeted he’s in the next apartment. Bet on it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. mantis says:

    Porn filters block a lot more than porn, and are not very effective at blocking actual porn. For instance, a porn filter on your library computer would likely prevent you from viewing anything with the word “breast” in it. So if a student is trying to do research for a paper on breast cancer, she’d be out of luck. If you were looking for recipes that included chicken breast, you’d be out of luck. If someone was looking for medical info on a huge range of issues, it would be blocked. However, you can still find porn even when filters are on, because they block sites based on keywords that porn sites might not have in their code.

    Is it worth it to block massive amounts of non-offensive material from the web in order to prevent people from possibly accessing offensive material, especially when there are other ways to enforce no-porn rules? I would agree with the ACLU and say no.

    more porn, more porn!

    What an admirable rallying cry.

    Strawman. No one is calling for more porn. Just opposing censorship from religious busybodies who think every citizen’s body and mind should be regulated and controlled by the government.

    After all, hardcore porn is just normal and to think that a 6 or 8 year old little girl should be shielded from it is just plain old fashioned prudishness.

    I think parents should be responsible for shielding their children from things they don’t want them to see. Why are you such a crappy parent that you can’t do that?

    You all should be proud.

    Proud to live in a (mostly) free country, yes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  28. Gulliver says:

    @ mantis

    I think parents should be responsible for shielding their children from things they don’t want them to see. Why are you such a crappy parent that you can’t do that?

    I see. So you admit that the subject at hand is harmful to children and they need to be shielded from it, and you say that parents need to be responsible for protecting their children in these situations .

    In other words, the support of this issue by folks like you is the reason children need to be protected, but rather than withdraw your support, you find it more reasonable to wipe your hands of it and say essentially that ” I support the right to create in a public place a situation where children should be shielded from behavior because its harmful to them. But they’re your kids, its your fault if they get exposed.

    Now that’s what you call civic responsibility right there…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  29. @Gulliver:

    There’s lot of things in the world children need to be shielded from: firearms, alcohol, spicy food, the news, etc. And it’s too bad if you’re tired of having to do the shileding, because it’s your job as a parent. I’m sick of people who want to turn the entire world into a nerf padded playpen because they’re too lazy to do their job and want to push their responsibilities onto the rest of society.

    I’m not six years old, and I’m not really interested in living like a six year old.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  30. @Denise:

    @Stormy Dragon: spoken like a true degenerate

    Are you aware of the origin of that term?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degenerate_art

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  31. mantis says:

    @Gulliver:

    So you admit that the subject at hand is harmful to children

    No, I didn’t. I leave that to parents to decide, as I stated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  32. mantis says:

    @Gulliver:

    I’ll also note that you completely ignore the many problems with porn blocking software. It blocks a lot of non-porn, and doesn’t effectively block all porn. Why doesn’t that matter to you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  33. Doubter4444 says:

    @Gulliver:
    I actually just asked – I was at the library about 15 mins ago returning a book overdue by my kid.
    I asked the librarian.
    There rules:
    1) Filters on sights. No hard core or any site with a provocative name is accessible.
    2) If for some reason a sight is accessed that is not filtered and gasp! Boobies are shown, and the staff see it, or it’s brought to their attention, the user is told to close it immediately.
    3) If that person does not they are booted out the door.
    4) It’s a small place if the person is a repeat offender, he’s not allowed to use to computers.

    So really, this is a bullshit non-issue, brought up to somehow make a point about the badness of the secular world or some such nonsense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  34. legion says:

    @SL:

    Are you implying homosexuals are pedophiles?

    Not at all. I see now that I worded that poorly – my apologies. In fact, the majority of convicted pedophiles self-identify as heterosexual, even when their victims are primarily (or entirely) male.

    No, I’m just implying that about Santorum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. Doubter4444 says:

    @Denise:
    See above.
    There is no problem of children being exposed to Porn at the local library.
    I can’t speak for every place in every town, but I’d be astonished it it was – maybe a perv here or there, but it’s totally made up and a non issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  36. Gulliver says:

    @ Stormy

    I’m sick of people who want to turn the entire world into a nerf padded playpen because they’re too lazy to do their job and want to push their responsibilities onto the rest of society.

    Please, who’s being childish about this, really? I don’t want to have to worry about my daughter being exposed to pornography on a computer monitor as she’s wandering around a public library, and you want to whine about me trying to turn the world into a nerf padded playpen?

    Look, if you are so in love with your porn that you can’t stand to be away from it even at a public library, that’s your issue not mine. To make the silly claim that my concern is akin to treating adults like children is … well… pretty childish.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  37. Gulliver says:

    @ mantis

    [So you admit that the subject at hand is harmful to children]

    No, I didn’t. I leave that to parents to decide, as I stated.

    So the concept that pornography is harmful to little children is up to the parents, eh? Try selling that notion to any decent person, or the courts. That activity is still – thankfully – considered child abuse in this country. Or do you want to change that as well – make it so that a parent can decide its OK to expose their little children to pornography and who is anyone to say whether that’s right or wrong?

    Dude…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  38. @Gulliver:

    Because Santorum is not proposing internet filtering at libraries. He’s preposing internet flitering EVERYWHERE. I’m not letting you redefine the issue into some strawmen (even if it is a ridiculous strawman anyways) with your cliched “won’t somebody please think of the children” bullshit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  39. David M says:

    I seem to have been out of the loop again. When was it decided that public libraries should only contain material suitable for young children?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  40. I picked up a copy of Choke from my public library, barely giving it a glance at the time … I was a little surprised …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. @Robert in SF:

    Republicans for small government: small enough to fit in your pants,

    That’s a pretty good line.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  42. bains says:

    You know Doug, if Santorum were actively campaigning on this issue, I’d share your concerns. But because this is a fabricated story mined from the depths of Santorum’s web site, it seems more a result of oppo research. Planting the story in the Daily Caller has the stench of Media Matters, but I wouldn’t discount it coming from Gingrich or Romney’s staff.

    Either way, until Santorum starts making this catch-all (and mostly meaningless) policy stance as part of his active campaign, I’m thinking a whole lot of folks just got played – as anticipated by what ever Journolister, to the intended detriment of Santorum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  43. @bains:

    I tried to trust you on that, bains. I went to the front page to see if I could get back to the porn page. I wan’t hard. Front page, click “issues,” and scroll down to the bottom.

    one click.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  44. (This isn’t to say that rampant porn consumption, or pornification of mass media, is a good thing. Not at all.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  45. bains says:

    @john personna: I am not trying to decieve. It is in under the issues tab, at the very bottom. But you are missing my point which is Santorum, while he has this listed on his issues page, is not actively campaigning on this. Obama, and every other politician has listed similar planks – most are merely planks – things offered to assuage a component of the base (for Obama think gay marriage) – statements meaningful only to a few of the hopelessly faithful, but of little consequence to the candidate.

    Unless oppo research can make a big deal out of it, which seems to me this tempest is a result of. My comment to Doug is merely a comment on his being taken in by this ploy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  46. @bains:

    I think that Santorum, if he were not campaigning on this in some sense, could pretty easily have left it off the “issues” tab.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  47. mantis says:

    Quoting a candidate’s positions from his website is oppo research! Hilarious.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  48. @bains:

    You know Doug, if Santorum were actively campaigning on this issue, I’d share your concerns. But because this is a fabricated story mined from the depths of Santorum’s web site, it seems more a result of oppo research.

    Mined from the depths of his website? Up until this story broke, the VERY FIRST THING mentioned on the Issues page at his campaign site was “Enforcing Laws Against Illegal Pornography” (although since this story broke it’s been moved to the bottom of the issues list, although still on the main issues page). This wasn’t some minor off hand thing he said one time, this was one of the core focuses of his campaign.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  49. An Interested Party says:

    Who could have guessed that public libraries, of all places, are such dens of iniquity…the next thing you know, librarians will be wearing S&M gear…oh, the humanity…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  50. merl says:

    @Gulliver: They must go to different libraries. The libraries in the King County system are porn free. Maybe it’s different with city libraries.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  51. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    the next thing you know, librarians will be wearing S&M gear

    That would be kinda hot – but only if they still wore the cat’s-eye glasses on a chain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0