Kathryn Lopez

While looking for a good teen magazine ("good" being the ones without hook-up tips) for her daughter, one reader stumbled onto an outdated link on National Review Online. The link was embedded in an old article. But instead of the family-friendly information it originally went to, the link lead to a porn site. The reader's husband called us, not because he was angry with NRO, but because he wanted to spare the next person who clicked the link. He wasn't surprised about the accidental link change since porn is legion on the Internet.

Access to porn is probably in your e-mail account's inbox right now. You're probably used to just manually erasing it as spam or setting up automated filters to block it out, but you know it's out there in a big way. What are you going to do?

The Hoover Institution's Mary Eberstadt calls it the new tobacco. The heights to which porn has been accepted in the mainstream represents "widespread tolerance, tinged with resignation about the notion that things could ever be otherwise." We've taken a "full turn" in the last century in regard to tobacco and porn. "Yesterday, smoking was considered unremarkable in a moral sense, whereas pornography was widely considered disgusting and wrong -- including even by people who consumed it. Today, as a general rule, just the reverse is true. Now it is pornography that is widely (though not universally) said to be value-free, whereas smoking is widely considered disgusting and wrong -- including even by many smokers."

In making the comparison, Eberstadt observes that many people say "consumers have a 'right' to pornography -- possibly even a constitutional right. ... Given the social and political circumstances arrayed in its favor, what would be the point of objecting?"

As horrific as it sounds, the fact is, she's right. It is, sadly, no surprise that porn is the most searched for and most profitable product on the Internet. But unless it violates the sensitivities of even the most desensitized (child porn, simulated rape, things you rather me not write here), pornography is too widespread for many to bother to do anything but shrug or, even, to try to play along.

As with tobacco, this is not going to change overnight. But, as with tobacco, a change in perception wouldn't be bad for our health.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.