Jonah Goldberg
The American Library Association filed suit in federal court this week to ensure that every man, woman and child in America has a right to unrestricted access to porn. I’ve been the editor of a very successful Web site for about four years. This means that I’ve spent a great deal of time writing about, thinking about and just plain using the Internet. These facts alone don’t make me an unimpeachable expert, but you don’t need an advanced degree to say that there is some profoundly disgusting and disturbing stuff on the Web. One can find, quite quickly, pedophilia, coprophilia, necrophilia, bestiality, rape and, of course, such (sadly) conventional things as rough, group, oddball, kinky, erotic, exotic, goofy, dopey, sneezy and grumpy triple-X sex on the Web. When I ran a Google search (the best search engine) for “bestiality,” it came up with 743,000 pages. Google found more than 60,000 pages when looking for pedophilia. Necrophilia “only” resulted in 23,900. Obviously, many of these sites don’t reflect people doing unspeakable things with, well, you know what. But there’s no denying that lots of these sites are precisely what people are looking for when they type in the appropriate sweaty search words. (In case you’re curious, “porn” yielded more than 20 million pages.) Now, I’m not particularly prudish when it comes to porn (I once fancied myself an aficionado on the women’s prison movie oeuvre), which may be why I see nothing wrong with censoring it where we can, when we can. The Supreme Court, the marketplace and the culture have more or less decided that adults can have access to content depicting people getting jiggy with just about anything or everything. The Internet, pay-per-view TV, the VCR and the DVD are just the latest developments to make access to smut (er, sorry, marital aids) more convenient than at any other time in human history. There’s also the rapid pornification of the mainstream culture. There are scenes in R-rated movies that would have been considered hardcore 30 years ago. As my fearless leader William F. Buckley recently discovered to his dismay, customers need a valid photo ID proving they’re over 18 years old to buy an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog because, as a clerk explained to Buckley, “Well, uh, it’s kind of porny inside.” In short, when it comes to pornography, Pandora’s box will never be fully shut. We will never be able to completely tune out the bawmp-ditty-bawmp-bawmp porn soundtrack from the public square. But wouldn’t it be nice if there were a few places where we could? Members of the American Librarian Association might answer yes, but they don’t think that place should be the public library. They argue that filters — mandated by the Children’s Internet Protection Act — which block out porn sites constitute “censorship,” as if censorship is always a dirty word. “There are some 5-year-olds whose parents do not want them to know where babies come from and there are some that do,” testified Ginnie Cooper, director of the Multnomah County library, in Portland, Ore., and a plaintiff in the case. “We don’t try to presume the values of parents.” This is outrageous. If kids want to learn about “where babies come from,” they can do it through books — which are still at the library — or better yet, from their parents. Last I checked, 5-year-olds don’t have a constitutional right to learn about baby-making from the Internet. Before the Internet, most libraries did not subscribe to Playboy or Penthouse, let alone Hustler, Swank, High Society, Juggs, etc. Even among those that did carry such “literature,” few left the smut out in a stack for little kids or randy old men (or worse) to peruse in plain view. But now, just because even more filthy and in some cases illegal images can be piped in digitally, we’re supposed to believe it would be better to reverse such moderate restrictions. “Instead of relying on filtering technology, we should be educating children to develop an internal filter that serves them throughout their lives,” explained Judith Krug of the American Library Association. Imagine what would have happened to a librarian who offered such pie-in-the-sky blather to your parents if, when you were a kid, you came home with a magazine full of pictures of women and men and horses and electrodes and lord knows what else. The librarians also complain that the filtering software blocks some non-porn sites. But that’s a practical problem. The librarians aren’t saying “fix the filters” or “improve them.” They’re arguing as if the filters are the cyber equivalent of book burning. I think this defies logic. But if the librarians are right, the Department of Education should call Larry Flynt and order as many dirty magazines as they can for schools and libraries without Internet connections. Lord knows, we don’t want to deprive victims of the digital divide a moment longer.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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