GOP Candidates Promise to Revive War on Porn

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Oh thank God. Three of the leading contenders for the GOP presidential nomination have come out strong—against porn.

The nation’s men may be suffering from high rates of unemployment, but Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have pledged to ensure that those men aren’t spending their involuntary down time surfing the web for smut. All three have pledged that if elected, they will revive intensive federal prosecutorial efforts to enforce the nation’s obscenity laws.

The nonprofit Morality in Media has been hounding GOP candidates since October to go on the record with their positions on porn, in part because the group and its allies in the evangelical community are deeply unhappy with the Obama administration on this front. They believe that Obama has abandoned the nation’s women to exploitation and even trafficking by disbanding a Justice Department obscenity task force and failing to initiate a single new obscenity prosecution since Obama was inaugurated. MIM didn’t have to work hard, it seems, to get a couple of GOP candidates to go on the record against all things X-rated (especially the leading prude of the field, Santorum). After all, what candidate is going to run on a pro-porn platform?

But enforcing obscenity laws is a lot harder than the MIM pledge makes it sound. For all the fury the group has leveled at the Obama administration for failing to go after pornographers, it has also failed to acknowledge that many of the obscenity prosecutions begun during the last Bush administration were a huge bust. Obscenity prosecutions tend to create thorny First Amendment problems that prosecutors would generally rather avoid. Meanwhile, MIM hasn’t noted the hypocrisy rooted in Gingrich’s promise to enforce obscenity laws. The former House speaker is partly responsible for enabling the explosion of online porn, thanks to his successful opposition to a 1995 Internet censorship law introduced in Congress.

Nonetheless, Patrick Trueman, the president of MIM and the former chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section at DOJ during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, issued a statement congratulating the GOP candidates for taking a stand. “Vigorous prosecution of those who violate our nation’s obscenity laws is critical now,” Trueman said. “Our nation is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography that is readily available—even to children on the Internet and in other venues. Addiction among adults and even children is now widespread. Pornography is a common cause of the destruction of marriage. It leads to misogyny and violence against women and is a contributing factor in sexual trafficking.”

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