The Wrong Kind of Room Service
By: Nathan Tabor
The rise of the internet and the massive expansion of telecommunications networks have allowed individuals access to goods, services, and one another on an unprecedented level. Business mavens and economists hail the technology revolution, while social commentators question note the increase of noise, chaos, and negative content flows. In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman observed that whether considered good or bad, the globalization of information flows is “like the sunrise” – one way or the other, it’s coming.
Unfortunately, this broad spectrum of connectivity has a dark side. LodgeNet Entertainment, which identifies itself as the “leading provider of media and connectivity services” for hotels and hospitals, is also one of the leading providers of hardcore pornographic movies for these same establishments. This material is available with little or no filtering: anyone who can press the buttons on a remote has access to some pretty stomach-turning stuff. Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values estimates that 60% of LodgeNet’s profits come from pay-per-view porn. Unsurprisingly, profit remains a powerful motive in the continuous provision of LodgeNet’s services.
CCV and Family Research Council have led the charge in calling for LodgeNet’s prosecution for distribution of obscene material. Predictably, this has garnered the usual criticisms, i.e., that restriction of pornography constitutes censorship. Fair enough; let’s unpack that claim.
I realize that for many conservatives, this is a closed issue: pornography is a pernicious influence on society, and especially on our children. Therefore, it must be restricted. Many liberals and/or libertarian-minded citizens are equally adamant for reasons dealing with individual liberty and personal autonomy.
Liberals will often invoke the language of “the common good” and “society’s responsibility towards its most vulnerable members” when they are making the case for increasing our taxes or shouldering expansions to entitlement programs for the poor and elderly. To those who prescribe to such an ethic, let me ask: who in our society is more vulnerable, who is in need of more protection than our children? Surely our first responsibility is to them.
While many parents hold differing views over the age-appropriate nature of PG or PG-13 movies, the issue of hardcore pornography is hardly complicated: it’s not something our children should have to confront. Liberals justify government intervention in the name of helping others; that should apply to young children more than anyone else.
Additionally, the charge of “eroding individual liberty” seems pretty thin. There is always a tradeoff between security and autonomy; a precipitous swing to one side or the other could certainly be disastrous; however, the slippery slope argument that begins with tightening restrictions on pornography and ends with America as a police state simply cannot be made with a straight face. In fact, the issue does not even deal with outlawing pornography across the board, but merely whether or not to prevent the ease of access which would expose children to hardcore videos.
In the final analysis, no matter one’s position vis-Ã -vis pornography and consenting adults, concerned, responsible citizens should be able to reach a consensus on keeping hardcore pornographic material away from the eyes of children. It is only through true consensus that ground broken by CCV and the Family Research Council will yield substantive political results.